Three of us gathered at the Cross for today’s ride to Soberton; myself leading, Sam and Russell. It was dry and quite warm, though the weather forecast threatened some rain mid morning, which didn’t materialise thankfully.
We set off over the Fishbourne bridge to Clay Lane, through Woodmancote and Westbourne to Rowlands Castle, and thence to coffee at Keydell’s Garden Centre, Horndean. There sadly Russell had to leave us, and he returned home via Compton to a family commitment which suspiciously involved watching the cricket on the telly all afternoon.
Sam and I continued through Catherington down to Day Lane, then Broadway Lane to Crossways, turning left at Rushmere Lane, and down to Uplands Road through Anthill Common. I decided to avoid World’s End as I feel depressed enough with the news as it is, so we turned right into Broad Lane and right again into the Fareham Road, then left to Newtown, taking Liberty Road (bit more cheering) through Soberton Heath, then left and right beside Upperton Copse to stop just before a bridge over the Meon Valley Way.
With a bit of a struggle getting past a car parked by a git, blocking the entrance, we got onto a footpath leading us onto the cycleway, and turned right onto it to travel north. It was lovely, the surface is firm and smooth, the tree canopy over the old railway line high and beautiful and even I cheered up. The engineering of the railway line was so impressive even this long after closure, deep cuttings followed by high embankments, wide trackway and we passed through lovely scenery, especially where the River Meon passed close to the line. After a couple of miles or so we got to a path that lead up to the White Lion at Soberton, where we had a good lunch despite the depressing news that they don’t do their excellent fish and chips on a Sunday. This is obviously Boris Johnson’s fault.
I had intended to go back on the Meon Valley line to continue north to what used to be Droxford Station, before turning off to go through Clanfield and Chalton home. But Sam was so enamoured of the Meon Valley that he wanted to stay on it, and I thought that was a lovely idea as well. So we got back to it and went past Droxford Station, which enabled a better view than I had managed previously: the station is still intact, though a private house now, with platforms and canopy still extant. We took a selfie at the end of the platform, the only bit still on public land
We continued down the line, past Old Winchester Hill to West Meon where also the platform still stands, though in a less well preserved way. Sam looked down the line bewildered that a train due in 1955 could be so late.
The line does continue past West Meon, but isn’t open as a cycleway, or anything way it seems, but is as impressive as the earlier sections in its cathedral like tree cover
Obviously we then had to have a coffee at Cuppacheenos in West Meon
and then went through East Meon, Sam pointing out the remains of the West Meon viaduct, still amazing when you knew where to look even through the now dense tree cover. After East Meon we turned left down Frogmore to Buriton, up the steep hill and thence to Rowlands Castle for another cuppa at the Bumblebee. And from there back through Westbourne to home. My mileage was 60.