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About The Place…
Here’s a recipe for a great day out with the kids: Hike up Winchesterâ€™s St. Catherineâ€™s Hill at Twyford Down to reach its Mizmaze; and then around its top before heading down the other size to stroll along the Itchen River.
(an alternative day out: walk into town via the River Itchen)
If you have a pushchair, then instruct your mother-in-law to take the babies in the push-chair along the path beside the river and meet you at the bottom of the steps (about 1/2 mile along, near the waterfall). Tell her that you’ll only be about two hours
First, walk through the pedestrian tunnel from the car park off of Garnier Road and through the weighted gate (kids will love to see the mechanism in action). Hike up a steep path to get to a long straight bit lined with trees. Let your kids climb some of them! There’s one in particular that is fantastic for taking some good photos of your kids in.
Aside: Its worth noting that there must be a kiddie-magnetic force buried at the top of this hill – not once in our many visits did our kids ever ask us to carry them up the hill. No other hill in Hampshire has had this effect on them. Its probably the air, the trees, the gentle slopes, the …who knows, magic enchantments left by elves?
Count the steps…there’s probably over a hundred. Thankfully, there is a bench to rest on half-way up. This whole place made it into the top 10 list of Britain’s spiritual places in 2003. Soon, you’ll know why: you’ll be praying the stairs come to an end!
The Mizmaze is not really a maze – its more like 624m of footpath cramped into the space occupied by a small house.
Technically, I guess it is a labyrinth, not a maze. There’s a sign nearby that tells you a bit about the history of the thing; and shows you its path.
If you’ve regained your balance from doing all the twists and turns in the Mizmaze, then find your way into the nearby woods. In there you will find a couple of sticks attached to very long ropes that have been thrown over very high-up branches on the trees. They’re great fun to swing from! You can also walk along some of the logs that are lying on the ground – how good is your balance?
Walk on a bit and come to the chalk path, “Dongas”, around the top of the hill to overlook some pretty countryside…and the M3 cut-through (see a photo elsewhere on the web of the protest at the time).
There are fantastic views of the city, including Winchester Cathedral.
Around the other side of the hill, there is a very long staircase that leads down to yet another footpath: one that goes along the old railway line (oh, how convenient it would be now to have a train that ran from Oxford, through Whitchurch and down to Winchester).
Take a ball with you (football, not tennis ball!), and toss it down the hill from the top of the stairs. Just watch your kids gape in awe as it bouces down the steep hill. Then catch yourselves watching your kids rolling down the hill as they chase after it. Bring plenty of plasters (mostly for yourselves – your kids will escape unscathed we’re sure!).
Walk to the left (after you come down the stairs) and you will eventually find yourself near the old, disused train viaduct -
you can climb up a few stairs to it and have a peek over the side: the M3 to the left and a beautiful valley to the right.
Return down the steps and follow the long, straight road to arrive at a footpath (look for the sign about keeping your dog under control because of worried sheep). This footpath will take you along a different river, and past St.Cross hospital that has a field with some cows, bulls and a horse in it.
This path is suitable for push-chairs, except for two styles which your mother-in-law will have to help you lift the buggy over! Both are within about 20m of each other.
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LocationSt Catherine’s Hill Wildlife Reserve OS Map no. 185 Grid reference: SU 484 276 +44 (0) 1489 774400
The car park is off of Garnier Road, Winchester, Hampshire.