The Water Babies walk from Micheldever Woods to Itchen Abbas is a 6.5 miles/10.2km loop. It takes about three hours, and takes you around the area Charles Kingsley settled in and was inspired to write The Water Babies. This is mid-Hampshire farm land and countryside at its very best.
It’s a circular walk that climbs high over the chalk downs. The walk ultimately drops into the valley where the pub, The Plough is situated. This is where Kingsley wrote the classic children’s literature. The route also crosses some of the Mid-Hants Railway that’s no longer in use.
If you want to quickly feel far from it all, then this is the walk for you.
📍 Main Road, Alresford SO24 9TZ
The Water Babies walk from Micheldever Woods to Itchen Abbas is a 6.5 miles loop that takes about three hours.
I will say that it’s really easy to extend this walk around Micheldever Woods, Itchen Abbas and Avington Park if you want to and feel like you’ve got a few more miles in you.
It’s worth noting that the walk includes some slow, long inclines and it’s not flat. Nothing steep to worry about but certainly enough to get the heart pumping.
Park in the Micheldever Woods car park this is your start and end point
Things you need to know…
I’d recommend taking a map– Ordnance Survey Landranger 185 or Exporer 0L32. There’s so many trails in this area, it would be easy to end up on an entirely different route.
Taking your dog? Lots of this route is through actively managed farm land, and crosses a couple of roads. I’d recommend keeping dogs on the lead.
Perfect for bluebell hunting – keep your eyes peeled in May for bluebells along this route. You can also explore the trails around Micheldever car park and woods as they’re good for bluebells too.
It’s a muddy and wet route – make sure you’ve got good footwear especially if it’s been raining.
The Water Babies
The Water Babies, if you’re not already aware, is a tale set in the Victorian era of a young child chimney sweep. The little boy discovers a magical underwater world where children are enslaved by a shark and an eel. And, the story is of their adventures.
The book is well known as as a children’s classic and has been made into movies, television shops and more since its creation. This area of Hampshire, where Kingsley lived is said to be the main inspiration.
Map of the route
Walk the Route
1 – Your starting point is Micheldever Car Park which can be accessed by heading to SO24 9TZ. Turn left onto the main road. Walk a couple of hundred metres and on your right you’ll see a track.
2 – Take the track that goes under a metal barrier. Follow the trail up into the fields, though a tunnel of trees.
3 – It will drop downhill to a fork, take the left. Stay on the left and ignore a turning into a field on your right. This is where you’ll regain this first part of the track at the end of the walk.
You’ll know you’re on the correct path when, at the top of the hill, you see an old rotting wind pump on your left hidden in the trees.
Not far from here you’ll reach another fork, take the left again, it’s marked with The Watercress Way signage. You’ll then drop down to Northington Road. Cross here and keep going on this path until you reach a five way junction. It’s clearly marked with Three Castle Path signage.
The five way junction
4 – At the five way junction, turn 90 degrees to your right onto a narrow path. It’s in between hedges of hawthorn and dog rose.
In late April and May keep an eye out for golden fields full of rapeseed crop.
Keep on the path until you cross the old tracks of the Mid-Hants Railway. It then curves to the right and hits the B3047.
5 – Be careful of the main road and turn right. On your immediate right you’ll see a Watercress Way marked kissing gate. Follow this path up over the stile, and turn left into a field towards the houses.
At the edge of the field you’ll reach a metal kissing gate. It was locked when I walked the trail but you can also take the wider wooden gate next to it. Walk through the houses to the T-junction and turn right.
You’ll quickly come to a fingerpost and narrow path up a couple of steps to your left. Follow this path until a housing access drive and then turn right.
Follow the road, on your left you’ll see a primary school. Then you’ll hit a T-junction in the middle of some very cute looking cottages and houses.
6 – This T-juncton on School Lane is key to the route…
Turn left to visit The Plough pub and explore Itchen Abbas and the area around Avington Park House and Trout Fishery. This area is where The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley was based on, apparently he finished a lot of the manuscript in this pub and liked to go fishing here. By going exploring you will be adding on to the 10.5km/6.5miles of the route loop.
OR, turn right to continue the trail.
If you choose to go and explore Itchen Abbas, you will still need to come back to this point to continue the trail.
Continuing the trail
7 – From point 6, School Lane, turn right and be careful walking up the road to the railway bridge.
After the bridge is a wooden gate on your right leading to another kissing gate. Follow the edge of the farmer’s field up past some holiday homes to your left and then through the hedge gap.
Keep hugging the edge of the field until you reach the second large hedge gap at the top of the hill. The hedge will be on your right. You’ll see some farm buildings in the distance at the end of the next field.
Turn left and follow with the hedge on your right and there will be a gap about half way along. Go through the gap and follow the edge of the field round to the right, and you’ll find a gap onto Rectory Road by a finger post.
8 – Go left on the lane and walk along the road until you reach the cross roads by Spreadoak Cottages. Continue following the path straight over. It’s a slow steady climb with great views so don’t forget to stop and take a look behind you.
The path winds, passes a metal gate and soon reaches the field before the route rejoins the first path that guides you back to Micheldever car park.
Completing the walk
9 – At this point you can extend the walk again by walking across this path to explore Micheldever Woodlands on the left. And, you can walk down through the woods to the road which returns to the car park or…
10 – When you pass a second metal gate and reach this T-junction turn left, then right and retrace the start of the route back to the car park.
- No toilets.
- Micheldever Car Park is free but isn’t very big and gets very busy.
- No food or drink places, except for The Plough pub. But The Yard at Chilton Candover is less than 10 minutes drive away from the start point.
- This is not an accessible walk – parts of the path are muddy, steep, uneven or extremely narrow.
The Water Babies walk from Micheldever Woods to Itchen Abbas
The Water Babies walk from Micheldever Woods to Itchen Abbas walk is perfect for bluebell hunting, stunning fields of rapeseed and taking in Hampshire literary history and farmland.
I’ve never explored this area before and it is glorious, definitely one to add to your list, especially in April and May as the bluebells really are second to none!
Plus, there’s enough inclines to get your ticker pumping and your lungs full of fresh air.
If you liked this, take a look at these other great walks to try in Hampshire…