Between 2014 and 2015 Hampshire County Council, in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority, carried out improvement works to the Trail.
Access for people using the Trail has been improved by the removal of mud and debris and the restoration of the track’s surface. Better access points onto the Trail have been created. Some trees have been removed or coppiced to improve public safety, to open up views and to create a diverse habitat more in keeping with the South Downs. The legal rights for people to use the Trail will be formalised to protect future public access.
No. The work has varied as follows:
South of Wickham, no works carried out.
Between Wickham and Droxford, mud was removed and the surface re-graded to form a camber across the path. This is to ensure that rainfall drains and water does not sit on the path.
Between Droxford and West Meon scraping back the mud revealed the underlying chalk base of the railway. As this can get very slippery when wet, a standard surfacing stone material has been laid giving a similar finish to the rest of the route.
The material laid on the Trail between Droxford and West Meon is called “MOT Type 1” stone. This is a prescribed mix of stone sizes from dust up to 40mm diameter. As this stone is tipped onto the Trail, there are patches where there are more of the larger sized stones, and other patches of mostly finer graded stones. Although the surface would naturally settle and “bed in” over time, quarry dust (small particles of stone) has been applied as a top dressing to the patches of larger stones to ensure a more consistent finish to the Trail.
We appreciate that works can sometimes look stark when first completed. Any changes take a while to ‘bed in’. Bedding in refers to a season of weathering which helps the process of stabilising and smoothing a surface. These photos illustrate a stretch of trail just north of Wickham before, during and after works which took place in 2010 and show how the ‘bedding in’ process works.
View from Bridge looking south – February 2010
View north to bridge during works - April 2010
View north to bridge – April 2015
The Trail had become quite muddy and the vegetation at the sides of the disused railway had grown dense. The work ensures the Trail is a safe, welcoming and easy to use route for walkers, cyclists and equestrians. As well as providing a year-round route for those living nearby, it is envisaged that the Trail will also be used by people wanting to explore the South Downs National Park and the villages of the Meon Valley.
The improvements were funded through a successful bid to central Government.
Hampshire County Council is leading on the work in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority. The work has been carried out by contractors employed by the County Council.
Around 450 people commented in early 2013 on the improvements they might like to see on the Meon Valley Trail. Since then local councillors, parish councils, residents and people who use the Trail have been kept informed by letter, website updates, a twitter feed, information to the media, parish council meetings and signs on site. Discussions have also been held with local horse riders and equestrian groups.
Walkers including dog walkers, cyclists, horse-riders and carriage drivers are allowed to use that part of the Meon Valley Trail that is owned by Hampshire County Council (West Meon to Mislingford). The remainder of the Trail is a public bridleway and may not be used by carriage drivers.
Before the works started, the Trail southwards from Droxford was legally recorded as a public bridleway. Between Droxford and West Meon most of the Trail had no recorded public access rights, although this section is owned by the County Council and non-motorised access was allowed here. The County Council has decided to dedicate that part of the Trail in its ownership (Mislingford to West Meon) as a restricted byway. The dedication process will be completed later this year.
In order to be sure that the public access is properly recorded and retained into the future, a decision was taken to dedicate the Trail (where owned by the County Council) as a public right of way. Following discussion with local equestrians, it was decided that this dedication should be for restricted byway rights. A restricted byway is a type of public right of way that provides for shared use by walkers, cyclists, horse-riders and carriage drivers, but not by motorised vehicles. The dedication process is quite straightforward. The County Council will make a “deed of dedication” under powers granted by the Localism Act 2011. The process does not require any formal public consultation. This is because a landowner may open their own land to the public – it is up to the public to decide whether they want to access that land.
Using a motor vehicle on a public bridleway or restricted byway, without lawful authority, is a criminal offence. Gates and barriers will be in place to prevent access by motor vehicles, but it is not possible to physically prevent any access by motor vehicles whilst at the same time enabling legal users, such as horse riders and cyclists, to access the Trail. Any motor vehicle use should be reported to the police using 101.
Opening up the route by cutting back some of the trees and vegetation provides a better home for wildflowers and butterflies. Some of the work has included the creation of new habitats, such as sunny glades and coppiced trees. Badger and bat surveys were undertaken prior to any work taking place, and any required licences were obtained. All tree felling took place outside of the bird nesting season.
Access to historic points along the route, such as the siding at Droxford where Churchill, Eisenhower and De Gaulle met to finalise plans for D-Day landings, has been restored by the work. Once the physical work has been completed information about the route, including interpretation boards sited along the Trail, will be provided. There will be an opportunity for those who are interested to comment on the interpretation and to influence the content and design.