Day 3 started at Winchester Cathedral. We were welcomed by a cheery soul at the reception desk who was clearly intrigued and enthused by our venture – plenty of pilgrims to Canterbury, but clearly few committing themselves as far as Rome. There must be a good reason for this.
We made our way quietly to the Shrine of St Swithin, where we pondered a while and lit a candle.
With the organ playing and the place more or less to ourselves, we sat for a while in the Quire where we listened, prayed and thought about our journey ahead.
Light rain was falling as we left Winchester Cathedral, reminding us of the St Swithun’s Day folk lore, depicted in the cover of the shrine. Forty days of rain? But this is February, not July! Route finding through the city proved a minor challenge until we found familiar territory at the Nun’s Stream. We followed this to Abbott’s Barton and the Hampshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve. Here the restored meadows were doing just what they say on the tin: holding the flood water across the valley, and, no doubt, helping to prevent Winchester from flooding.
A quick stop at St Mary’s Kings Worthy was followed by quite the muddiest few hundred metres so far. By ploughing his field uphill and down the farmer has encouraged all the fine soil to move to the downhill side of his field where it was little short of treacherous to walk across! What was the name of the quicksand bog in the Hound of the Baskervilles?
By the time we reached Martyr Worthy the rain had properly set in and we were grateful for the shelter offered by the lovely little 12th century Church of St Swithun. Here we tarried a while enjoying some hot soup from a flask and waited for the rain to ease.
The muddy slog continued along the north bank of the Itchen through Chilland to Itchen Abbas where we stopped briefly at St John’s.
On crossing to the south side of the river, the rain started to ease and by the time we reached Ovington it had actually stopped! What a pity we couldn’t find our way into the delightful little Church of St Peter at Ovington. However builders had clearly been busy working on the tower roof and the entrance had been made a prohibited area.
What a delight it was to see an informative interpretation board set up close to the river at Ovington, where Tom used to fish, by who else but the Wessex Rivers Trust! Well done, team!
With a a brightening sun, albeit low in the sky, we headed on to Bishop Sutton, our destination for the day. Sadly we found the pretty 12th century St Nicholas Church locked with a steel gate!