Tuesday, 22 July 2008

St Catherine's Hill

I first walked to, but not up, St Catherine's Hill almost 5 months ago. Yesterday I finished the "up" part of the journey, though the further I went the more I realised there were still more places to explore.

St Catherine's Hill was a settlement over 3,000 years ago, long before Winchester was in existence. In 3 BC it was ringed by the ramparts of an iron age hill fort. In the 12th century, a chapel was built at the top. Nowadays it is a nature reserve, with butterflies and birds everywhere.

The picture of St Catherine's Hill which I took last February. The greens looked rather dull at that time.

St Catherine's hillIf you click on the picture to open up a larger size you can just about see the stairway up the hill. This is what I am heading for, so that I can get to the top.

A little brighter this time as I make my way up the pathway.


Until I get to the fork in the path. Two apparently equally used paths and not a signpost in sight. Which one to take? I choose the right hand one.

And I rapidly realise it isn't the right one. I am faced with what seemed like a vertical wall of grass. But I am intrepid. Up I go, attempting to appear dignified at all times, even while sliding back down.

A view of the Hospital of St Cross, but not really in the direction I am expecting. Taking photos gives me a chance to regain my breath.

A view of Winchester, the more modern part. On the skyline from the left: the hospital, the prison, and Hampshire constabulary. The prison is called Winchester Community Prison. I'm still unsure what the "Community" part is supposed to mean. We can all go in for a look?

The copse at the top of the hill. A mystical, magical atmosphere, perhaps because it is the site of St Catherine's chapel (12th century), though there is no longer any sign that it was there.

People often meet at the summit to celebrate the solstices, or for no particular reason. There are quite a few places where fires have obviously been lit.

The path along the upper rampart, with the underlying chalk showing through.

Looking down at the lower rampart with a ditch in between. Rabbits all over the place.

Eventually I reach the stairs I thought I would be coming up, but I am by now clearly on the other side of the hill from where I started. There must be two sets of stairs.

I eventually make my way right around the hill, back to where my starting point, but still no sign of the correct route. I end up having to scramble back down the bank, through some more trees and clamber under a rail that goes along the correct path.

This was the way I should have gone. Pretty looking steps with a convenient bench half way up. If this stairway seems shorter than the other, it's only because the path itself climbs before reaching the stairs, and the route is more direct and quite a bit steeper here.

The pathway continues along the ditch between the rampart earthworks. But I stop here and turn back, because I'm running out of time (and breath). I'll save the rest for another day.

On the way back, I notice another path, this one running along the Itchen Navigation Canal. I believe it's part of the Itchen Way, and looks like a good route for a future walk.

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16 comments:

  1. Wow, just wow. Breathtaking photos, A. Really makes me want to be there taking it all in.

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  2. Thanks Redbeard! I appreciate that. That's what I would like, people to come along with me and see what it's like. It was a wonderful afternoon.

    If you do manage to do your UK trip, Winchester is not to be missed! Or else!

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  3. Those photographs are great.

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  4. Thanks Solomon. I took around 100 so you can work out the number of rejects :)

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  5. What a fantastic place to explore - I'd love to do it myself :)

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  6. It *is* a great place LadyB, but what surprised me was that there were hardly any people around.

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  7. It most certainly looks like a peaceful place, once you have made it to the top, that is. Nice photos with a nice story well told.

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  8. What beautiful pictures of a beautiful area of countryside.

    ps, hope you got the boiler fixed!

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  9. Great photographs of some great views. I'm jealous. :D

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  10. Very lovely and serene. I love nice little path ways with natural tree arbors.

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  11. It is peaceful Sailor, yes. And thanks.

    Thanks too Elaine, it is beautiful around here, when you can get away from it all. And no, the boiler isn't fixed. The plumber is here as I type this, for the third or fourth time.

    Don't be jealous Solomon :) You're welcome to share.

    L.A. yes it is quite serene. Though the one thing I didn't mention, mainly because it didn't bother me, was that the M3 motorway goes past. There is a constant drone of traffic but I find that easy enough to block out.

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  12. What a peaceful space, I wish there was somewhere like that around here. I love the history you mentioned, it is really cool.

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  13. What a great place to be - really on historical ground. Thanks for taking us with - both up and down - and for all the interesting information - fascinating.

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  14. What beautiful, historical and scenic walk you did have. I would like once to do the same walk.

    Have a great time

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  15. It looks so beautiful. There are so many lovely places in the UK, it makes me wonder why anyone ever wants to leave. Fantastic picture too!

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Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.

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