Sunday Walk 25 March 2018 Easton to Itchen Abbas
There was a real feeling of spring as supporters of The Watercress Way set off from the Chestnut Horse in Easton for a 4 mile guided tour, led by trustees of the charity which has set up a new marathon length trail just outside Winchester.
After a basic briefing in the car park, we traversed the beautiful River Itchen floodplain up to the mile-long stretch of the disused Watercress Line which shut in 1973 but opened for public enjoyment in 2016.
Walking from Martyr Worthy to Itchen Abbas we had a competition to find artefacts of the old railway as well as fungi called King Alfred cakes used as portable tinderboxes in the past.
The children and dogs had a great time looking out for mouse and badger holes but no Gruffalo’s were found.
We did find an original telegraph pole shrouded with creepers, however!
The trustees, Kim Adams, Jackie Porter and Mike Collis pointed out the great work clearing the overgrown sections by the South Downs National Park volunteers recently.
The boundary of the park partly follows the old Watercress line.
We used modern technology to delve into the past, with smartphone soundtracks of the old steam train for the children to understand the significance of the trail and photos of the old Itchen Abbas station shown by archivist Chris Cornell.
It was easy to imagine the thundering steam trains taking Watercress to London to make ‘poor men’s breakfasts‘ in Victorian times.
After admiring the 1883 viaduct near the Plough pub, another sponsor of the Watercress Way, we headed for home along the Itchen to find out where ‘the lights will go out across Europe‘ saying was coined.
The tranquil setting of the ruins of the fishing hut frequented by Lord Grey, the Foreign Secretary during World War 1, belies the horrors of the war unleashed by his government.
The view we could see of Avington Park, and its recently cleared floodplain was probably as it would have appeared in Edwardian times.
We could also imagine Nell Gwynn and Charles II love nest just the other side of the glittering river.
So the landscape detectives of all ages returned to Easton, full of historical and geographical facts but also inspired by the unspoiled beauty of the upper Itchen.
The next event planned by the Watercress Way is the Dawn to Dusk Day on April 29th, 2018 which will take place along the disused Watercress and Didcot – Southampton lines between Sutton Scotney, Kings Worthy and Alresford.
Our Facebook and webpage will have details of the 4.45am bird chorus walk, and later mouse house hunt, guided walk and ecology talk with a live owl!
Report by Kim Adams
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