Winchester is a really beautiful city. It’s very scenic and historical, and there’s lots of old bricks that make the buildings look glamourous. The reason it’s so pretty is because they shoved all the ugly buildings that sell a lot of things about twenty minutes further down the road. The Winnall industrial estate is hidden far enough away for no tourists to find it, and there’s only one sign leading to it. I know this because I had to learn how to get there on my first weekend of university.
The reality of student living is that I need a job, mostly to fund my food and alcohol (both essential), so the walk to Winnall has become second nature to me. I go there every Saturday, rain or shine, to go work in a supermarket. I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you exactly which one – but it rhymes with al fresco.
Usually I get the bus, because I start work at 11am and I’m lazy. Occasionally though, I make the journey on foot (usually when I miss the bus) and it’s not a terrible walk, in the sunshine, anyway. I did the maths; I’ve done this walk one hundred and twenty-two times – at the time I’m writing this I’ve only got five left. My time in Winchester is over so I’m going to commit this walk to memory.
Wandering down Stanmore Hill is easy enough. Usually nobody is awake at 9am on a Saturday, and if it weren’t for a pay-check at the end of the month, I wouldn’t be awake either. From Stanmore, you get back into Winchester town centre. Winchester’s market stalls will be one of the things I miss the most about this tiny city when I leave. From vintage knick-knacks that probably came from the skip behind Waterstones, to the CD, DVD and vinyl stall that sits around the corner from CEX, there’s always something to look at on the walk through.
Once you leave Winchester behind it all goes a bit downhill. I wish I could tell you about all the pretty views and the exciting people I come across in my walk to work, but I’ll be honest: nothing like that exists. You follow the road past Winnall Moors, which is arguably the prettiest part (a river infested with blood sucking midges and passive aggressive swans), and then you’re back to more roads.
The industrial estate is made up of hardware stores, car garages and then finally a big complex full of more hardware stores, a Pets at Home and a Tesco. The glamourous alley that leads to my place of work is inhabited mostly by rats and the stray cats that hunt them – so remember, if you’re walking down there in the early morning and you see things moving, chances are it’s just a rat ready to steal your shoes.
It’s a boring walk. There’s nothing to look at that draws your eye and it ends in a nine-hour work shift. But it’s familiar, and it’s been part of my life for three years. My lighter is the very first lighter (accompanied by the first and only pack of cigarettes) I ever bought, prompted by a particularly horrendous shift. It’s as familiar and drab as the Winnall Industrial estate itself.