|Just to the east of St. Catherine's Hill (SU 492277 and surroundings) are what remains of the Dongas, the ancient trackways leading down off the South Downs into the valley of the River Itchen and either to ford the river at what became Winchester or to the main entrance to the hillfort on St Catherine's Hill. I've posted a few photos of that area on this site, though they could deserve one of their own. Thankfully a strip of nature reserve is preserving this landscape, though the western end of them was chopped off in the infamous Twyford Down motorway cutting. Easily found (he says - I only recently discovered the main part of them after walking past them oblivious for many years). At the top of Plague Pits Valley, cross the footbridge over the motorway, pausing to make out the faded 1990s Donga Tribe graffiti. The noise pollution here is terrible! You can also come up a path from Garnier Road opposite the St. Catherine's park & ride car park, which is more direct but less interesting. On the other side of the M3 chasm, go through a gate on your right and then look out for gaps in the bushes to your left, before you reach the top of the slope and another gate. The dongas are waiting for you through there! You get a real sense of the land opening up into a dry plateau, real Thomas Hardy stuff, with a big sky where you can get caught by rain clouds sweeping in off the Channel. Whenever walking about here with my mother, she often commiserates with the ancient folk who did their daily grind up here "without any Long Johns"!
Posted by UncleRob
12th October 2007ce