The river Itchen, one of Hampshire’s beautiful chalk streams (as such rivers are known), flows from its source in the chalk downs in mid-Hampshire to Southampton Water. It is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its high-quality habitats which support a range of protected species, including the water vole. Broad, grassy water meadows and pastures flank the river, surrounded by rolling chalk downland. A long-distance footpath, the 31-mile (50km) Itchen Way, follows it from its source - near Hinton Ampner, a few miles south of Alresford - to the mouth of the river where it joins Southampton Water. Initially the river flows northwards, then west passing the village of Itchen Abbas, continuing its journey south via Winchester. Along the river are many attractive and unspoilt villages, each with its own distinctive church.

Great British Life: St Mary the Virgin's Church in Avington was completed in 1771St Mary the Virgin's Church in Avington was completed in 1771 (Image: Fiona Barltrop)

This walk, which starts from Itchen Abbas, situated on the northern bank of the river Itchen, a few miles north-east of Winchester, takes in a few of these varied churches. As well as that at Itchen Abbas itself, the church of St John the Baptist (Norman, rebuilt in the 19th century), there is St Mary the Virgin’s Church at Avington (a red brick church, virtually unaltered since its completion in 1771, with an exceptional Georgian interior), St Mary’s at Easton (late Norman, restored in the 19th century) and St Swithun’s at Martyr Worthy (12th century nave and doorway).

Great British Life: This Norman doorway can be seen at St Swithun's in Martyr Worthy This Norman doorway can be seen at St Swithun's in Martyr Worthy (Image: Fiona Barltrop)

Avington was originally an estate village which grew up around Avington House, as it then was. When the estate was sold and split up in the early 1950s, Avington House was renamed Avington Park, incorporating the house, lake and land. The 16th century country house, set in its own parkland bordering the river Itchen, is privately owned, but hosts weddings and events. A small area of parkland, which was once part of the estate, is open to the public and passed on this walk. (The car park here is an alternative starting point.) From here there are good views of the house across the lake, and it also makes an attractive spot for a picnic.

Starting from Itchen Abbas, this gentle walk crosses the river Itchen, then heads along the southern side of the valley through Avington, continuing along a quiet lane to Easton. The refurbished Chestnut Horse pub here is due to open in January 2024, with a village shop and deli, too. Joining the Itchen Way, the river is re-crossed for the return leg, with the Plough awaiting you at the end.


1. (SU534328) With the church on your right, follow the lane across the river Itchen (the route of both the Itchen Way and St Swithun’s Way), thereafter passing the entrance gates to Avington Park on the right. At a forked T-junction bear left for a short distance to the entrance drive to Avington Park Golf Club on the right. Doubling back, turn right through a gap in the fence along a field path parallel to the lane on your right. Further on go through a kissing gate to continue along the lane, passing Avington church on your right (well worth a look inside). Beyond it the lane bends left leading past some cottages to a junction.

Great British Life: Keep an eye out for Easton Lodge with its distinctive white trellisworkKeep an eye out for Easton Lodge with its distinctive white trelliswork (Image: Fiona Barltrop)

2. (SU531319) Turn right here (signed for Easton and Winchester) and follow the quiet lane to a cattle grid and the open grassland of Hampshire County Council’s Avington Park land. Pass the car park on your right and continue up the lane crossing another cattle grid. Heading gently down you’ll pass yellow-painted Easton Lodge on your right with its distinctive white trelliswork. Originally built in the 18th century, it was the lodge at the western end of the former Avington estate. Continue along the lane to Easton and look out for a gravel drive with a public footpath sign on your right, to the left of a property called The White House. The walk turns right here after a diversion to visit Easton.

Great British Life: Avington Park is privately owned but available to book for weddings and eventsAvington Park is privately owned but available to book for weddings and events (Image: Fiona Barltrop)

3. (SU515323) Continue along the lane, which bends left and take the next enclosed footpath on the right (signed Itchen Way), adjoining the Chestnut Horse. The path continues across grass to another lane. Turn left, then right up Church Lane to the church, which has a Norman south doorway.

4. (SU509322) Head back down Church Lane and turn right, then follow the road round to the left and round to the left again further on, thereafter retracing steps to waypoint 3. Turn left along the gravel drive/footpath (signed Itchen Way). When the drive bends right, keep ahead through the gate, and follow the field path that bends right and then left to a footbridge over a channel of the river Itchen. A short distance beyond cross another longer footbridge over the Itchen and continue up the path to join a lane. Carry on ahead to Martyr Worthy church on the left, which also has a Norman door.

5. (SU516328) Opposite the church turn right along a rough access road/public footpath, keeping ahead at the end through a gate into the field. Follow the path through further gates to another lane. Turn left for a few paces then right along an enclosed path, continuing through pasture. Keep ahead at a crossing track still following the Itchen Way, which leads back to the start.

Great British Life: St John the Baptist in Itchen Abbas has Norman originsSt John the Baptist in Itchen Abbas has Norman origins (Image: Fiona Barltrop)


Start/finish: Roadside parking near Itchen Abbas church, just off B3047 (SU534328). Alternatively, Hampshire County Council’s Avington Park car park along the lane between Avington and Easton.

Map: OS Explorer OL32

Distance: 4⅔ miles (7.5km)

Terrain: Quiet country lanes and field paths, very gentle gradients.

Time: 2 hours

Refreshments: The Plough, Itchen Abbas (01962 779191); Chestnut Horse, Easton (01962 391500); Cricketers Inn, Easton (01962 791044)

Public transport: Stagecoach bus 67 between Winchester and Petersfield via Itchen Abbas,