With all the heritage steam railways still closed as well as all the museums I had to think of something different to do for Father’s Day this year. We’re still keen not to travel for hours at the moment so I did a bit of googling last week and came up with an idea that would work for all of us. So we made up a picnic, packed the suncream and our water bottles and headed down to Winchester for the day to spend time exploring the Hockley Railway Viaduct Walk.
Parking in Winchester city centre is free on Sundays and we easily found parking available close to the Cathedral and started our walk by the Winchester City Mill. In normal days we’d have managed to get my son another stamp in his National Trust passport, but sadly it’s not open at the moment.
We followed the path alongside the River Itchen, there are benches along the route and plenty of room to keep your distance from other walkers and cyclists too.
I’ve not been into Winchester city centre for years and had forgotten how much history it holds. We enjoyed finding points on interest as we walked in the sunshine.
At points, you follow the Itchen Navigation alongside the river which was so tranquil and you could imagine life taken at a quieter pace.
From the Navigation, you cross one small road, head round the side of a car park and then you’re back onto the trail.
It was lovely and cool under the trees and the shade was definitely welcome on a warm summer’s day. There are some interesting benches along the trail too.
By exploring the Hockley Railway Viaduct Walk we also got to see St Catherine’s Hill and the surrounding nature reserve. We did think we might walk back the way we came so we could climb up the hill, but we ended up walking back through the meadows on Keats Walk. Always good to have a reason to return though.
Just passed St Catherine’s Hill we reached Hockley Viaduct which was built in 1891 and was part of the Didcot to
Southampton railway. It was closed in 1960 as part of Beeching’s cuts. The viaduct is 614 metres long and offers views across the countryside.
We found some artwork along the viaduct and there are painted dandelions to spot on the floor of the viaduct.
We’d heard that there was a restored railway signal on the viaduct and we also found another signal post as we walked along the pathway.
When we reached the end of the viaduct we followed the path to the right around the top of a field which gave great view back across to the viaduct itself.
To reach Keats Walk heading back into Winchester you cross over a railway bridge on the mainline and we timed it perfectly to actually see a train thundering along the line.
Walking back along Keats Walk feels like a totally different experience to the main Hockley Viaduct Walk, we got to see the water meadows, fish in the river and lots of butterflies darting around. All too quick for me to capture on film.
We also passed Hospital of St Cross (which normally would be open to visitors) and Winchester College before arriving back in the centre of Winchester. We said hello to King Arthur as we enjoyed an ice cream in the park (toilets are open and I found them to be very clean) and admired the cathedral from outside as we wandered past, and back to our car.
Exploring the Hockley Railway Viaduct Walk and walking back along Keats Walk was just under 7km and was an easy walk for all the family to enjoy. We will definitely be returning to Winchester again in the future to explore more of the city’s treasures.
Have you been on a railway viaduct walk you could recommend we should try?