Yesterday morning, Tiff and I took a short drive down to Wickham to take a trip along the Meon Valley Trail – part of the old railway line that used to run from Alton to Fareham.
The trail used to be uneven and muddy. However, Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority have recently upgraded the surface. Unfortunately, this has reportedly made it worse for the horses and their riders who regularly use the trail. I was keen to see if the new surface was any good for running and cycling.
We left our car at the old station car park on the edge of Wickham. It was early but there were already a few cars parked up. As part of the council’s upgrade to the trail, the car park has been extended.
Then we headed north, with Tiff and I taking turns holding onto Tilly – she can’t be trusted off the leash with so many distractions to lead her astray. There were quite a few people out and about on the trail – walkers, cyclists, horse riders and other runners. It was nice to see so many young kids enjoying the old line away from motor traffic.
The River Meon hugs the route until the trail passes under the A32 after a mile or so. Mature trees line a lot of the path, so we had some shade from the morning sun. I was impressed with the new surface, which is good for hybrid and mountain bikes as well as for running and walking. Unlike the North Dorset Trailway, which is another old railway line, the path is pretty much completely flat.
After about 3 miles or so, I ran on while Tiff waited with Tilly so she could rest her paws and have a bowl of water. I jogged up to Soberton and then turned around to meet them on the way back so we could run back to Wickham. Traffic on the trail had been light near Soberton but it got busier again as we approached the car park. Tilly struggled a bit with the last few hundred yards – she’d been pulling hard at the lead on account of some squirrels in the trees, so she had worn herself out.
Overall, I thought the trail was great for running on, mostly because it’s flat. We’re already planning to visit again next weekend. It just seems a pity that while some of us will benefit from the new surface, this might come at the expense of those who like to ride horses on the trail.
Info: The Meon Valley Trail runs from West Meon to just south of Wickham. There are car parks at West Meon, Wickham and between Wickham and Soberton Heath on the edge of the Forest of Bere.