With a cross-country half-marathon coming up in only four weeks’ time, I decided to hit the trails again last weekend.
Last week’s run around Sherborne was a bit of a disaster, so I was hoping that this one would go a bit more smoothly. I planned a circular route from Upper Swanmore near Bishop’s Waltham on the edge of the South Downs National Park. If I didn’t get lost, the route was around nine miles long – about two miles longer than last week.
I parked the car at the top of a hill with far-reaching views out to the Solent and Southampton Water. It was a gorgeous day and was already pretty warm even though it was only just past 9am. I wasn’t here to admire the vista though.
The first part of the run was the stony “Green Lane” – a track that snakes along the hill then ducks into a shallow valley. After around a mile, I found my way onto a quiet country road. This would have taken me down into Droxford. However, I wanted to do as much as trail running as I could. So, after around half a mile on tarmac, I clambered down some steps and across a freshly cut cornfield to pick up the “Wayfarer’s Walk” footpath, which took me the back way into the village past the school.
Once in Droxford, I crossed the A32, ran past the church and over the crystal-clear River Meon, and clambered down an embankment onto the Meon Valley Trail – part of the old railway line between Fareham and Alton. This should have been the simplest part of the route. But I left the trail by mistake at the old train station. I then disturbed a gent who was enjoying his morning cup of coffee in the sunshine when I mistakenly used his garden as a shortcut back onto the old railway.
After he directed me back onto the trail, I continued until I reached Corhampton where I cut through edge of the village and crossed the A32 again into the adjoining village of Exton. I bridged the River Meon once more and took a left at the junction by the Shoe Inn pub. From there it was up a rocky bridleway past some stables to the “Punch Bowl” and across another road into “Littleton Copse”. This small wood is a great place to come to see the autumn leaves. Today though it was lush and green and full of pheasants, toddling around and looking panicked by my presence.
I crossed Corhampton Lane and then the B3035 Bishop’s Waltham road into some more woods that led past a quaint cottage sheltered in the shade of some tall trees. The logging track led me through to the valley between “Galley Down” and “Shepherds Down”. I jumped over a gate into a grassy field and hopped over a stile and into a corn field. Then it was through a gap and into the woods that lined the valley.
As I ran through the woods, I managed to resist the urge to take the five-minute Detour to the Hampshire Bowman pub (I didn’t have any cash on me) because I was almost back at the car – there was just one more hill to conquer.
At the top, a shocked horse rider asked me if I’d just ran “all the way up the hill”. “Yep”, I replied. I was too knackered to also say, “and then some…”
Info: The top of the hill at Upper Swanmore is a great place to begin a run or country walk. There’s room for a couple of cars to park on the side of the road at the T-junction at the very top. The approximate postcode is SO32 2QQ.