The 3rd Annual Dawn to Dusk Day on the Watercress Way


The trustees of the Watercress Way celebrated their 3rd annual event to advertise the use, ecology and heritage of the route based on two disused railway lines and ancient sheep droves.

In addition to our organised event 6 intrepid members of Worthy Runners ran a marathon on the complete 26 mile route. Congratulations and thanks to all concerned.

  • 4.45am Dawn Chorus walk from Couch Green, S021 1EA.
  • 10.00am Short walk to the Station at Itchen Abbas and talk on its use and closure.
  • 12 to 1pm Mouse House Hunt for families at Couch Green, S021 1EA
  • 12 to 2pm Exhibition of the Watercress Way Charity at The Wonston Arms, SO21 3LS
  • 2.30 – 3.30pm Meet a Barn Owl talk by Kim from the Barn Owl Conservation Trust  at  Kings Worthy Scout Hut, Wesley Road, Kings Worthy, SO23 7PX
  • 4.00pm Ecology and Heritage walk on the line with Jim Thompson, trustee and ecologist. A circular route starting from Worthy Down Halt, SO21 2RR
  • 6.00pm Meet the Trustees at the King Charles, Kings Worthy, SO23 7NU

Our events commenced with a Dawn Chorus walk at 4.45am from Couch Green along the old railway at Martyr Worthy and then through the Itchen Valley.

26 enthusiastic walkers, including one six-year, old set off ably led by trustees Bruce Graham and Clive Cook.

Expert advice was also provided by Phil Jeffs and Wilf Simcox.

Although it was not as sunny as last year it remained dry and all enjoyed the tranquil surroundings and abundant bird song.

In all, 35 different species were heard or seen.

Highlights were reed warbler, Cetti’s warbler and sedge warbler.

For a full report and list of birds go to Dawn Chorus 2018.

The Itchen Abbas station walk 

There was a real team spirit as 10 people led by ex-archivist of the Watercress Line, Chris Cornell, discovered new artefacts including original track bed ripped up in in the 1970s between Couch Green and Itchen Abbas station: did you know…

  • Railway line Telegraph poles were constructed to have their top cross bar facing London
  • Jane Austen’s nephew Edward Knight was very important in setting up the railway between Alton and Winchester in the 1860s

Perhaps the strangest fact is that many agricultural products were transported by the Mid Hants Line but the name The Turnip line just doesn’t seem to have the same resonance as Watercress.

For a fuller report go to Itchen Valley Walk

Mouse House Hunt 

8 children (plus parents) entered into the spirit of dormice house hunting at Couch Green.

They searched along the old railway line at Martyr Worthy to find a number of Mouse Houses designed by local artists each containing a mouse!

They also enthusiastically entered our Name the Watercress Lamb competition and critically sampled Watercress flapjacks, designed for entering the Watercress Festival cooking competition

Exhibition at the Wonston Arms
Trustees Clive Cook and Tony Langridge met many interested people over the lunch time.

They displayed maps of the route and discussed our project to open up the old railway bridge in Sutton Scotney to walkers which has been closed for many years.

Barn Owl talk 

Kim Boog from the Barn Owl Project, Hampshire entertained a group of enthusiastic children plus some interested adults.

Kim gave an interesting talk on the type of owls resident locally and their habitat and threats to their livelihood.

The average barn owl in the wild lives for just two years compared to 14 years in captivity.

Most excitingly she brought her barn owl for the children to see at close quarters.

Wisdom was a perfect advert for the rare wildlife found along and near The Watercress Way.

Kim explained the habits and challenges facing barn owls to the mainly children audience who were stunned into almost silence at being so close to such a statuesque  raptor.

We learnt how we can all play a part in saving this threatened species by leaving a little bit of rough in all our gardens especially tussocks grass to encourage invertebrates and mice – and at least 4 a nice day are needed for an owl!

Barn Owls are dusk and dawn low light hunters, therefore appear at dusk and dawn, although wisdom seemed happy enough in the bright Scouts Hall in Kings Worthy – although he kept an eye on the rafters in case an escape was needed !

BOPH Barn Owl nest boxes have proved successful in the Itchen valley in offering protected nest and roost space where once old buildings and trees were enough.

The Watercress Way trustees will be investigating further how to fund a few along our local disused railway lines

Ecology and Heritage Walk

Trustee and ecologist, Jim Thompson, led the walk with able assistance from Phil Allen, Bruce Graham and Chris Cornell.

14 walkers and 7 trustees spent a pleasant hour looking at the work done at Worthy Down Halt and along the cutting to improve biodiversity.

Much of this work has been done over the last 10 years by Worthys Conservation Volunteers and has led to a wide variety of plants inhabiting the area of the old station.

The Watercress Way volunteers are now involved in brush-cutting and maintenance along the line.

We also saw considerable evidence of the railway heritage in the variety of equipment which still remains beside the old line.

We then repaired to the King Charles in Kings Worthy (one of our sponsoring pubs) for a well deserved drink at the end of a long day starting at 4am.

It had been very rewarding and a number of the participants in the walks were amazed that despite living in the area for many years they had not walked these paths before.

The Watercress Way trustees are continuing their work in opening up the line and improving knowledge of the route.

We are grateful for the over £100 in donations collected during the day.

We are totally dependant on grants and donations, so, if you would like to support our walk please use the mydonate button on our webpage.

If you would like to receive our newsletters please sign up as a Friend of the Line.

Reminder: If you are an existing member you need to confirm that you still wish to receive our newsletters by signing up again.

Mike Collis
Secretary, The Watercress Way

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