South Downs Way – Day 2 – East Meon to Elsted

In the days when I was still working I used to travel a lot so it was not uncommon to for me to wake up and wonder where I was.  During one ten day period I slept in ten different beds, but these days I either wake up at home or in the caravan.  So when I opened my eyes this morning it took a few seconds to register where I was and then a few more to realise that I had a days walking ahead of me.

After breakfast and an interesting conversation with Wendy and Ron about the total rebuild of their lovely house, I am lacing up my boots and strapping the rucksack on to wander back through East Meon.  As I reach the school in Coombe Lane it starts to drizzle so I dig out my new Rab waterproof from the rucksack and its gets its first wetting.

I turn right off Coombe Lane to join the footpath that heads up the farm driveway onto the Bereleigh Estate and then on reaching the South Downs Way trail (SDW) I turn left following the finger post to Butser Hill.

The track is easy to follow as it heads steadily uphill crossing a minor road at Coombe Cross and then continuing upwards on the Small Down.

On reaching Weatherdown Barn I bag the trig point, number 99 for me.

The route now continues on the track with fine views until I reach a road, Droxford Road and turn left to walk besides the edge of the Leydene Sustainability Centre on the Leydene Estate.

According to the East Meon history group website Leydene House and estate were created in 1913 by William Peel and his wife Eleanor.  Lord Peel was a politician and his responsibilities included chairing the Peel Commission which recommended the partitioning of Palestine.

During World War II the estate was occupied by the Royal Navy and served as HMS Mercury the Royal Navy Communications and Navigation School from 1941 until 1993.  The estate has now been sold off with a part of it becoming a Sustainability Centre running courses and other “sustainable” activities.  The SDW route now runs besides the road and I soon start to get fine views of the Meon Valley.

Soon the trail leaves the road and heads along a tree-lined track.

On reaching a road junction I turn left towards Butser Hill, there is a cyclist riding up the hill and I catch him up. He begs me not to overtake him, it would be demoralising. As the road levels he heads off leaving me well behind.  Walking along the exposed ridge I am being buffeted by the wind.  The route takes me into the Butser Hill Nature Reserve. Where I take a diversion from the SDW to head to the trig point behind the radio station.  This is the 100th trig I have bagged.  It is a challenge staying still long enough to get a picture.  At 885 feet this is the highest point on the SDW and it certainly feels exposed on a windy day.

Back on the SDW I am soon heading down the steep hill towards the busy A3.

After passing under the A3 I stop at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park visitor centre for a cup of tea and some lunch.  Refreshed I rejoin the SDW trail and follow the way-markers through the trees.  This is said to be one of the largest areas of unbroken woodland in South East England.

There are a number of different trails running through these woods: there is the Hangers Way which runs for 21 miles from Alton to the country park, the Shipwrights Way which runs 46 miles from Bentley to Portsmouth Harbour; the Staunton Way which runs for 21 miles between this country park and the Staunton Country Park near Havant; and finally the SDW.  So I have to ensure I am following the right way-markers.

I leave the country park at Halls Hill car park and follow the SDW way-markers along a tarmac lane that continues into a track.

As I head uphill the wind picks up and it is very blustery as I reach the brow of the hill.

Soon the route reaches a road and carries on to Sunwood farm where it then joins the Forty Acre Lane.

After crossing the B2146 I enter trees and below Tower Hill bump into a young chap walking in the opposite direction.  He has been going for a few days, but is about to give up because his boots are rubbing and he is struggling.  We discuss footwear and then it transpires that he works for Cotswold Outdoors in one of their London stores, so it seems odd that I should be giving him advice on boots.

We wish each other well on our future walks and I soon cross the B2141 to enter Harting Down.  The walk suddenly takes a different feel.  Up until now I have spent a lot of time walking through trees with the odd stretch of downland, here the world opens out with some stunning views.

The wind is now blowing seriously and I layer up before continuing on to cross the downs towards Beacon Hill.

At the foot of Beacon Hill the SDW turns right to head around the base of the hill.  However, I take a steep path in front of me to head towards the summit.  The wind is buffeting me as I go and it is a challenge to keep my footing.  Finally I reach the top and bag my 101sttrig point.

The views from here are stunning.

As I leave the top of the hill I can see the route that I will be following tomorrow stretched out in front of me.

I continue on the SDW until I reach the track leading to Buriton Farm, here I turn left and walk down to Treyford and then follow the road to Elsted Marsh the location of my resting place for the night  the Elsted Inn.   After a cup of tea and shower I am in the bar where the landlady, Thais, tells me her current favourite ale is the Timothy Taylor Golden Best.  I am familiar with Timothy Taylor Landlord bitter it is one of my favourite ales so I follow the recommendation which turns out to be spot on.

After an excellent steak and chips washed down with a few more pints of Golden Best I chat to Thais about the pub.  She used to work here as a teenager and jumped at the opportunity to take it over when the opportunity arrived.  It is a cracking pub, great beer, comfortable accommodation and a wonderful welcome.

It has been a cracking day I have covered 18 miles with 2,800 feet of ascent, bagged three trig points including my 100thand apart from a bit of drizzle early on it has been dry but windy. The day was rounded off by staying at one of the best pubs I have visited for a long time!

To view this 18 mile route on OS Maps Click Here

To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer Map OL32  –Winchester; OL 3 – East Meon Valley and OL8 – Chichester.

19th September 2018

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2018)


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