City of Winchester Trust
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Summer Walks 2004 - TrustNews Dec 2004

We have had a very active walking season, with a total of thirteen different venues. Thirteen must be a lucky number for the Trust - the weather has been generally kind despite the fact that we've had one of the wettest summers on record! One of the advantages of Trust Walks is that, because they are led by people who are experts in their fields, considerable dialogue occurs and this can be carried out in concentrated form when the group is sheltering from the rain. As luck (or was it Divine Providence?) had it, we were able to take full advantage of this facility this year, so that periods of walking were broken up by conversation "halts".

Elizabeth Proudman led the first walk, on 10th June. Her knowledge and professional presentation skills were much appreciated. Winchester's waterways were well described and fortunately the sun shone.

Michael Carden's annual tour of the Hospital and Chapel of St Cross started in sunlight, ended in sunlight and when the rain came we were inside either the Chapel or the Brothers' Hall. Michael's long experience and great depth of knowledge of this timeless place were demonstrated yet again and we were inspired by his youthful enthusiasm.

Our next walk, on 24th June, was in celebration of Architecture Week. Led by Richard Baker we revisited buildings, which had received Design Awards from the Trust over a period of some twenty years. By the end it was evident that although tastes and technologies have changed a little, the quality of strong architectural design is fairly permanent.

On July 1st Andrew Rutter invited us to explore the St John's area. This was one of the strangest and most enjoyable of all the walks, mainly because we were invited into three houses, which enabled us to discover their interior detail. We were grateful to all the owners, particularly in the case of the magnificent St John's Croft, where we were all afforded shelter from the downpour!

Huw Thomas led us on an exhaustive - and exhausting - excursion on 8th July when we examined some of the more interesting modern housing schemes in central Winchester. Much debate took place on this outing and the real power of the individual architect and the RIBA was called into question. The way in which small details make or mar different schemes was pointed out and Huw showed clearly how the architect can so easily lose control of the project after the initial planning phase.

On 15th July we were led on a tour of Winchester College's new Music School by the Works Bursar of the College, John Wells. The new building is a fine example of modern design and is site-specific and wholly appropriate to its function and use of space. Unexpected views of the rear of Kingsgate Street houses and the School's relationship to St Michael's Church were felt to be particularly successful.

Barbara Hall took "some steps back in time" the following week. This involved the story of the removal of Alfred's bones from New Minster in 1110 together with those of his wife and son, Aelswith, and Edward the Elder and their formal transfer to the site of the then new abbey church at Hyde. Hyde Abbey Garden, which marked the end of our walk, is today a sensitively landscaped interpretation of the east end of the great monastery building.

Phil Yates is always a lively performer and on 29th July he led us on a detailed factual tour of the cinemas of Winchester. Ingeniously he managed to combine the general history of 20th Century cinemas with particular examples en route and we were all entertained by his on-site reminiscences.

"The Devil in the Detail" was our next theme. Robin Freeman, local studies librarian and architectural historian, met us at St. James' Terrace on Romsey Road where we considered the architectural detail of the adjoining buildings, then progressed into St. James' Lane and finished the walk in Christchurch Road and St Cross.

Chris Webb had organised a fascinating evening walk to view the impressive Hockley Viaduct, which once carried the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway from the Midlands to Southampton. We are very grateful to Chris and the Friends of Hockley Viaduct for their expertise and enthusiasm.

The eleventh walk took us back to Winchester College, but on this occasion to view the 19th and 20th Century boarding houses. Michael Morris was able to demonstrate many of the finer points of these large brick buildings, and also reminded us of the context and educational setting of the entire college complex.

The penultimate walk involved looking at the exhibition in the Cathedral's Triforium Gallery to mark the 450th anniversary of the marriage of Mary Tudor with Philip of Spain. We then proceeded to the Williams Library in the South Transept whereJohn Hardacre, the Cathedral Archivist, gave an expert interpretation of the Winchester Bible. Finally we visited the Jacobean Library, with its two thousand ancient books of Morley's collection.

At the end of the summer we enjoyed a magnificent evening at The Grange, Northington. Our guide was David Brock of English Heritage and, because of the number of people attending, we had to divide into two groups to view the interior. David Brock's informed enthusiasm made the final walk of the season a truly memorable occasion, and we all came away feeling that we had enjoyed one of our best sequences of Summer Walks.

Attendance at the walks this year was high. Donations made by walkers, taking into account two additional pre-season walks, have raised nearly £500 for the work of the Trust.

Nick McPherson