For its relatively modest length, the Clarendon Way, punches well above its weight in terms of opportunities to go wrong. I briefly alluded to some of these in my last post, but rather than fill that one up with the full details, I thought I’d stick them in a separate post.
It’s my hope that this post won’t age well, and will become redundant in the not too distant future: it will become clear why. Nothing here should really be treated as definitive, as the path will no doubt change, and the mapping of it too, in coming years. Some of the issues I found were also due to my own errors, and in places the line between what was my own error and an actual mapping/routing issue blurred somewhat.
The key takeaway from this post is that care is needed to navigate this trail, whether you place faith in the waymarking, the OS mapping, or indeed the Nick Hill map (which although possibly the best resource out there and especially useful for reconciling old and new routes, won’t give you a gps fix of where you are at any moment, and may conflict with what you see on the ground – as I’m sure old waymarking survives still too).
The Core Issue
At the heart of the navigational challenges on this trail is a recent route change, that hasn’t yet been reflected on much of the material you’d come across in planning the walk.
So, the OS map still shows the old route, the LDWA still shows the old route, the Hampshire County Council website still shows the old route. Yet the signage on the ground has, largely, been updated to show a new route.
The only resource I’ve found that records all of these changes is the map by Nick Hill, available from Amazon (you could go to Nick’s website: nickhillmaps.co.uk but that just directs you to Amazon anyway to buy the map). Nick’s map not only shows the new route, but also where the old route was, which is very useful in reconciling what you see on the ground with what all the other resources are telling you. It is clear from the other maps that Nick has produced that he is somewhat of a local expert.
Leaving aside for the moment that Nick’s is the most accurate and useful map of the Clarendon Way, it’s a beautiful piece of artwork in its own right.
Planning the Walk
I planned the walk in Memory Map which I have with an OS maps subscription. This gives me the latest version of the OS 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 maps while I subscribe. I also keep the previous versions.
Initially I plotted the route, using a downloaded GPX from the LDWA site (Members Only), which I then padded out with a closer fit to the route shown on the 1:25,000 OS map – the GPX downloads as a track, which isn’t editable, and on conversion to an editable route, loses points and therefore refinement, requiring additional waypoints to be re-inserted.
So I enriched the rough LDWA plot of the route with extra points following the trail as shown on the 2021 OS 1:25,000 map, which was the version I had already downloaded on my PC at the time. I’ve since activated the 2022 and 2023 versions of the map, and they are the same in terms of the line of the path shown.
The downside of this approach is that where you have multiple paths marked on OS maps meeting, sometimes it’s difficult to tell which path is which. A certain amount of deduction, or even guesswork is needed. Without time to check every single such decision, I’d have to hope I’d got it about right and deal with any issues on the ground – little did I realise how much of that I’d need to do.
Satisfied with the plot, I synched the route to the cloud so that I could pull it down onto my phone for navigation on-trail. This makes it very easy to see where I am and where I have to go, without getting out a paper map and working out where I am. (Naturally, all the usual caveats about navigating with a phone apply – although, I was in lowland close to good signal and with good battery strength the whole time). As a paper map, I took the Nick Hill map rather than a paper OS map, or printout. This would have been an excellent decision as it would have helped reconcile the differences, but for the fact that I was using the paper map as the backup, as you would often do when primarily navigating by phone, and consequently it spent most of the time in my pack. But in part this was also because it’s such a lovely piece of work, I wanted to avoid getting it scuffed, torn, creased or wet.
Before walking the trail, I also watched a few You Tube videos of the walk, and one memorable video featured someone losing the trail waymarks because they were following the route as shown on the OS map. This is what happened to me, although forewarned about that particular incident, I instead went wrong in other places.
I set off on the walk, knowing about the re-routing to the west of Middle Winterslow (where the hapless You Tuber went wrong), but unaware of the others. Even on the Nick Hill map, the old route is shown in quite small dots where it differs from the current route, so you don’t necessarily spot them unless looking for them.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was in not thoroughly reading the Nick Hill map before setting off, which would have armed me with knowledge of all the dodgy bits where OS and actual route don’t agree.
Incidentally, the only other people I encountered walking the trail, who were heading in the opposite direction, were using the Nick Hill map, apparently as their main means of routefinding.
Route Discrepancies and Cock-ups
These are presented in order walking from Winchester to Salisbury. I’ve included all the places where I went wrong as well as the known route changes. They’re all places you could go wrong.
- Lack of Clarity: Winchester Cathedral to back of Winchester College
- Route Change: Olivers Battery estate to Kilham Lane crossroads
- Cock-up: The A3090 roundabout at Pitt
- Cock-up: Farley Mount Country Park
- Cock-up: Hoplands Estate to King’s Somborne
- Route Change: Middle Winterslow to Pitton
I’ll go into the full details of each of these navigational challenges in turn below…
Blue – OS Maps route (old route)
Pink – Current route
Black – What I actually walked – this includes any to- and fro-ing, such as me grabbing lunch in Winchester and finding a park to sit and eat it in! It also includes my walk from the coach stop to the start of the trail.
Winchester Cathedral to back of Winchester College
The route drived from the GPX and manually enriched from the OS map (shown in blue) heads straight from the cathedral to the River Itchen and then follows it south, essentially aligning it with the South Downs Way. This may not be entirely correct, as the problem when you have multiple trails in a built-up area is that they tend to coincide and also not be labelled, so you never know which set of pink or green diamonds the trail actually is.
Here it is on the 1:25,000 map:
Running through this part of Winchester you have the South Downs Way, St Swithun’s Way, Allan King Way, Itchen Way and the Clarendon Way – all with diamond markings and not a single label.
The correct current route appears to go around the south side of the cathedral, and through a set of quiet lanes to Winchester College and then skirt that on the way out to the water meadows. Knowing I needed the water meadows I initially followed fingerposts for them, and this worked.
My conclusion is that the OS map may not actually be wrong, but it is certainly difficult to follow because of the mélange of green diamonds mixing up the various trails in the centre of Winchester.
Olivers Battery estate to Kilham Lane crossroads
Here, right underneath the words Oliver’s Battery the old and new routes diverge. A waymark stuck on, I think, a piece of utility infrastructure close to the ground points the way north along the residential street. The OS map shows it heading closer to west. This is the route I took, and I followed the OS map route closely – at least until my second meet with the A3090.
After that it was damage limitation – I knew I’d erred by choosing the map over the waymarks, and the question was then a matter of when I would rejoin the official trail. The paper map being in my pack, I didn’t know for sure, and hoped it would be at the roundabout, but it is, as you can see, someway up the road beyond the roundabout.
A3090 roundabout at Pitt
At that roundabout, having not found the true trail, I decided to try to get back on the route shown on the OS map and stick with that until the two re-aligned. This was easier said than done. From the roundabout there was no obvious way shown on the map to break through .
In the end I decided to head north west into the area of trees next to the parking area for the housing estate to the north of the roundabout, and see if I could see a way through. Worst case I’d have to head through the estate to the yellow road in the top corner of the map below. Having not looked at Nick’s map, I didn’t know this was the actual current path, or I’d probably have done that. Walking up the B3040 didn’t look like an attractive option.
As luck would have it, I found a path through the woods that brought me out without any fuss into the field where the old route lies. Clearly the sort of informal path locals use on dog walks and the like.
The one positive I got from all of this was the lovely boundary stone you can see marked on the map.
If you go wrong and find yourself at the roundabout, there IS a way through the woods behind the boundary stone.
Middle Winterslow to Pitton
The video I watched, had the walker follow the route shown in the map extract above. Coming the other way I never really fell into that trap as the path routed me to the Post Office / Central Stores. It was then a matter of finding the alleyway opposite which led me across a playground / recreation area to the church.
However, at the point the above shows the two routes diverging just to the south of the church, I had a moment of indecision and nearly took the byway.
Here it becomes a right mess: the blue line is actually correct, but the pink is wrong.
Partway along the route – at the south eastern corner of the access land shown, I encountered a local who told me that the Clarendon Way heads down the track you can see. The stile even had a Monarch’s Way badge on it (the two paths coincide in this area). He also said the path we were both on had only recently got permissive access. I’m pretty sure he was wrong on all counts.
The Clarendon Way actually follows the byway (blue line) in this case.
Just be careful in this area.
Farley Mount Country Park
This is a minor one. I noticed at one of the car parks that the Clarendon Way actually leads a little way off road. It took me a while to pick up on this but I did eventually follow it. At the end of the day, I was confident walking along the road that I was going to the right place, so didn’t sweat it. This is only one to worry about if you are fanatical about sticking rigidly to the exact path and nothing but the correct line of the path.
Hoplands Estate to King’s Somborne
Somehow coming down the lane towards Hoplands, I missed where the trail turns off to the right to head across fields into King’s Somborne. By the time I realised I was at the junction with the byway heading south, and although I could see in practice a way through the field to rejoin the route, I chose not to. There was also no way I was retracing the best part of 1km to recover the route.
I’m not showing a map for this one. I managed to follow the correct route, although was puzzled why it follows a road rather than a footpath parallel to it at one point. The issue with Salisbury is the usual one – path waymarks disappear once you get into a town or city. It’s here that GPS phone mapping really helps as you need to see where you are as well as were you need to go. Having the tallest church spire in England certainly helps with finding it.
The routing issues, plus my own cock-ups took the shine off this walk a bit for me. I hope that the Ordnance Survey do update their maps to show the route revisions, otherwise this tale is going to be a common one.
All along it has felt weird that one bloke with a hand drawn map has a more accurate idea of the actual trail than the local authority, Ordnance Survey, LDWA and a host of other blogs and walking sites.
I would encourage anyone tackling the Clarendon Way to keep their wits about them. This is not a trail you can either blindly follow the waymarks (because they aren’t always where you need them), nor is it a trail to navigate by map alone (except Nick’s map, possibly). You need a combination of maps, trail markers and prior research to not go wrong on this trail. You will see plenty of broken waymarks, and possibly even some out of date ones – leaving you wondering if they actually point the current route.
It is also worth mentioning that the Clarendon Way coincides with other trails in places – most notably the Monarch’s Way between King’s Somborne and Winterslow, and this means that sometimes the waymarks seen on signposts aren’t the ones for your trail. It is always worth having an awareness of what other trails your one shares parts of its route with, as the waymarks for those other trails may in places take precedence. In particular, very local trails often seemed better waymarked than trails passing through a particular local area. The same goes for marked “walks” in country parks vs long distance paths passing through them.
Just take care – it’s not as easy as it looks.