Romantic walk in the South Downs. Check.
Border Terrier straining at the lead, desperate to chase some sheep. Check.
A picnic in the drizzle. Check.
This may not be many couple’s idea of a nice wedding anniversary. But, for us it was perfect – well, it would have been if the rain had held off and the sun come out. Oh well.
After a lazy breakfast of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels and coffee, we packed a simple picnic and took the short ride out through Bishop’s Waltham, Corhampton and Warnford to East Meon near Petersfield. We parked at the car park by the village hall.
The weather was cloudy yet dry when we set out. But the sky in the distance didn’t look too friendly. We walked a little way through the village to pick up a footpath that goes through a few fields up to “Small Down” – an imposing ridge that overlooks the valley.
The first field we entered was full of sheep. Cue Tilly causing a commotion as she made a beeline for them. With more sheep on the hill we were aiming for, her lead was going to be taking a pounding today.
Once on the hill, we headed south on a flat stretch and then followed the footpath west up a very steep bank. We stopped every few moments to take a rest and enjoy the views over to Butser Hill and down the spine of the South Downs into Sussex. Half way up, there was a stone bench where we took a longer break. However, Tilly had other ideas – with sheep baaing in the adjacent field, she was desperate to continue our climb. She got her way in the end.
At the summit of the hill, we continued south and admired the 360 degree view of the surrounding area when we got the chance. This is where the weather turned – the odd drop of rain soon turned into “that fine rain that gets you soaked”.
We had some respite from the rain when we picked up the more sheltered South Downs Way path that took us down through some overhanging trees from “Salt Hill” to “Combe Cross” on the opposite side of the ridge we’d just walked up. There, we crossed the road and continued along the South Downs Way desperately looking for a picnic spot now the rain had eased slightly.
The drizzle picked up again as we spread our blanket on the edge of a cornfield. We stoically unpacked our food – I’d had soggy sandwiches before but soggy Valencia Salad was a new one on me.
We hadn’t seen a soul on our walk before this point. Now, a few groups of ramblers and dog walkers, who were kitted up for the prevailing conditions better than us, popped out of nowhere to look on at us with a mixture of sympathy and curiosity.
Tilly was displaying some curiosity too, for a clump of grass across the path from where we were sat. That curiosity turned to hostility as two pheasants decided to fly off somewhere where there wasn’t a blood-thirsty Border Terrier in attendance.
Fortunately, it wasn’t too much of a walk back to the car from here. We went through the field and picked up a farm road that led back to a quiet country road on the edge of the village. We were soaked through, but happy.
Info: East Meon is signposted from the A272 at Langrish near Petersfield and from the A32 at West Meon. The car park is signposted from the road once you reach the village.