5 August 2018
When I left Winnal Moors it was well after ten o’clock. Commando was due back from his run at around eleven. This didn’t really give me time to explore much further although I didn’t want to just go back to the car park and wait around. Basically I had time to kill and, in Winchester, this is never a bad thing. Dawdling, I walked along Durngate Terrace, stopping to admire the painted bollards at the end of the street, then I headed along Eastgate Street towards the centre of the city.
There was no real plan except to keep within easy reach of the car park and maybe revisit a few of my favourite haunts. When I reached The Broadway I crossed to the central island to have a closer look at King Alfred. He looked very magestic on his stone plinth holding his sword aloft but the sun made getting a decent photograph difficult.
From King Alfred’s statue I crossed the road to Abbey Gardens where I took a closer look at the city crest on the gate. The moat like, culverted stream at the edge of the Gardens was filled with green weed and the gardens themselves were not at their best. The long hot summer has taken a toll on plants and gardens everywhere, including my own. Everything is dry as dust and the flowers seem to wilt almost as soon as they open.
There were a few bright splashes of colour in the little garden behind the Mayor’s Offices but nothing to hold my attention for long. Besides, I thought I probably ought to check the car park in case the runners had returned early. Commando wouldn’t want to wait around for me after running thirteen miles or so.
A quick peek through the gateway from the alleyway behind Abbey Gardens told me the runners were not yet back so I thought I’d have a quick dash around Dean Garnier’s Garden. The passageway from Colebrook Street around the back of the cathedral is one of my favourites. The high stone walls and intriguing gates always make me smile, as does the view of the secret garden.
There are some interesting graves in the area behind the eastern end of the cathedral but, at least from the passageway, there seems to be no way to get close to them. Maybe with a little more time I could have explored further but time was in very short supply.
Instead I walked through the covered passage beside the cathedral walls and into Cathedral Close. From the end of the passageway I had a wonderful view of the flying buttresses of Curle’s Passage, although not quite as evokative as the view through the arches themselves. Today there was no time for those though.
The gate to Dean Garnier’s Garden is just to the left of the passageway. Today I discovered the beautifully weathered old wooden gate has been replaced. The new gate, in my opinion, is not a patch on the old one. The square top is not as pleasing to the eye as the previous arch but the wood is nice and will surely look even better once it’s weathered.
From the garden there is a marvellous view of the south walls of the cathedral and today, with the bright sun shining on them they looked especially lovely. The garden looked a little dry and sorry for itself but this was no more than I’d expected. The grass beneath the medlar tree was brown but the tree seemed healthy enough.
Although there were less flowers than there would normally be at this time of year there were a few Japanese anemones and a spike of acanthus growing along the southern wall. As I passed the Dean Garnier’s plaque I paused to look at his kindly face and then again in front of the lovely little bakehouse. This fabulously dilapidated old building is one of my favourite things in the garden. It always feels as if it has jumped right out of the pages of a fairytale.
Unusually, the gate just beyond the bakehouse was open and, despite the rather emphatic sign saying ‘Private’ I couldn’t resist a peek inside. Unfortunately for me, I was caught in the act. The area is actually used as a small nursery for plants and a lady and man were inside watering seedlings. Thankfully they didn’t seem too annoyed at my trespassing and even let me take a picture of the side of the bakehouse. Even so, I was a little embarrassed and didn’t hang around long.
Before I left the garden I did complete a full circuit but, just as I suspected, there was not a great deal in bloom and I had one eye on the clock. The runners would soon be returning and I really ought to be making my way back to the car park.
As it happened, the car park was still empty when I got back so I decided to walk along the alleyway and have a quick peek at the Nunnaminster graves. The abbey known as Nunnaminster was founded in 903 by Ealswith, King Alfred’s wife, roughly on the site of Abbey Gardens just beyond the passageway. In the early 1980’s this group of stone coffins were uncovered during archeological excavations and one is thought to belong to St Edburga, King Alfred’s great granddaughter.
My detour to look at the graves was a short one. At the end of the passage, I turned left and headed back towards Colebrook Street, thinking I might see if I could get around the back of the Catherdral to look at the old graves there. In the end though, this wasn’t to be. I turned down another passageway behind the houses but, just as I got within sight of the cathedral, I heard the runners voices and had to quickly dash back to Colebrook Street to meet them.
Time was always going to be my enemy on this walk but I’d had a lovely morning exploring Winchester, even if I didn’t see everything I wanted to. Maybe next time I’ll start with the Cathedral… then again there’s St Giles Hill… that’s the problem with Winchester, there so much to see and there never seems to be enough time.
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