Conservationist Chris Packham treated TV viewers to a scenic treat as he walked alongside one of the country’s oldest waterways in BBC2’s ‘The Walk That Made Me’ this week.
From Eastleigh, Hampshire, along the River Itchen and on towards historic Winchester Cathedral, TV presenter and campaigner Chris shared childhood memories and revealed how the trail had helped inspire his love of nature.
As well showing how walking the path helped boost his mental health, the programme – which aired on Wednesday, and is now available on iPlayer (https://bbc.in/3zRubyO) – also offered glimpses of the sights, sounds and wildlife that can be spotted along the route.
Winding through Shawford, Twyford Down and St Catherine’s Hill, a wildlife-rich chalk grassland nature reserve with an abundance of wildflowers and butterflies, the televised route finished outside the Cathedral in the heritage city of Winchester.
Along the way wildlife given a mention included reed buntings, otters, and kingfishers, while the river and banks are also rich habitats for the water vole, white-clawed crayfish, butterflies, and dragonflies.
A classic chalk stream which flows for around 28 miles from mid-Hampshire to Southampton, the River Itchen has international importance and designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI),
For much of its length it is divided into two or more separate channels running parallel to each other, including the Itchen Navigation, constructed in the late 17th century to allow the transport of cargo on barges, which runs for just over 10 miles from Wharf Bridge in Winchester to Woodmill in Southampton.
As well as tackling shorter routes along the river, for a longer walk, follow the whole of The Itchen Way, a 30-mile waymarked trail that tracks the river (https://bit.ly/3zwrkuM).
As well as the wildlife, other attractions along the Itchen include Winchester City Mill, a rare surviving example of an urban working corn mill, which is powered by the fast-flowing river.
Rebuilt in 1743 on the site of a medieval mill, flour has been milled on this site for over 1,000 years. Now a National Trust property, it was restored as a working mill in the 1980s, and every weekend, as well as midweek during school holidays, the mill uses medieval technology to produce fresh wholemeal flour.
Although in the centre of Winchester, the site is also alive with wildlife, including otters. Their regular adventures are captured by a series of motion activated cameras and visitors can enjoy recorded clips and view a live feed (http://bit.ly/2nSH2Rw).
For general tourist information about Hampshire, see www.visit-hampshire.co.uk