From its source near Hinton Ampner, the river Itchen flows west towards Winchester, creating one of the loveliest of Hampshire's many river valleys. The clear water divides into several streams as it meanders through fertile watermeadows which have attracted settlers from earliest times. So as you walk through the valley today you discover villages with clusters of thatched, half-timbered houses and churches where people have worshipped for over 900 years.
This walk follows the river to explore three delightful villages and enjoy the wildlife which flourishes in these peaceful surroundings. Besides the fish for which the river is famous it is home for a wealth of waterbirds including swans, wild ducks, coots and moorhens.
1. Leave the front of the Trout Inn on your right, cross the road and turn down the lane ahead, signed 'To the Church'. The church, on your right, was rebuilt in Victorian times but original 11th century stonework can be seen in the porch and chancel arch.
2. Just before the churchyard gate, turn right to leave the church on your left. Walk up a grassy path then follow the narrow path through a small wooden gate to continue over a meadow which slopes down to the river on your left. Go through a gate to cross a drive then through another gate opening to meadows. If you look downhill you will see a small copse close to the river. A plaque states that this was the site of a cottage owned by Viscount Grey of Falloden, Liberal Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916. He found the cottage 'a lovely refuge'. Beside the plaque we found a wreath of flowers in memory of his friend, the naturalist and author W.H.Hudson, who recorded happy hours spent in the cottage in his book Hampshire Days.
3. Go through a gate and follow the path as it runs closer to the river, continues beside the hedged gardens of Chilland House and becomes gravelled. Descend steps to a lane.
4. Turn left for a few yards then turn right, following the footpath sign. A clearly signed path leads through gates and over meadows to a lane opposite Martyr Worthy church. Turn left down the lane then continue along the footpath ahead to cross the long footbridge over the river. This is a place to linger. The river flows wide and free between banks of flowers and rushes, shadowed by willows and alders full of birdsong. Keep to the narrow footpath which winds on over a smaller bridge and through a gate.
5. Cross the meadow ahead, aiming for a large thatched house. Just before the house turn right to leave the house on your left then go through a gate on your left and follow a gravel track to a lane.
6. Turn left and follow the grass-bordered lane for about 1/3 mile to a footpath sign on the left. Follow the sign left along a track which recrosses the Itchen to a gravel track which passes Chilland Mill (notice the old iron hitching ring on the wall) to the foot of Chilland Lane. Walk up the lane to meet the steps on the right leading to our earlier path at point 4. Turn right to retrace your route to Itchen Abbas and the Trout Inn.
The trails starts at the Trout Inn. Itchin Abbas is beside the B3047 between Winchester and Alresford. The Trout Inn stands prominently beside the main road. Patrons may leave their cars in the pub car park while walking provided permission is requested.