The Meon Valley Trail
The Meon Valley Trail stretches for 10 miles from Knowle to West Meon, along a disused railway line. This recreational trail, open to walkers, cyclists and equestrians, passes through the beautiful Meon Valley, and provides breathtaking views across Hampshire’s Countryside.
The Trail had been suffering from a muddy surface, poor drainage and fallen trees, so throughout 2014 and early 2015 Hampshire County Council, in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority, has been carrying out a programme of significant maintenance work to the Meon Valley Trail.
These improvements to the Trail will create a safe, high quality, family friendly, multi-user route. As well as addressing the issues mentioned above, the works will improve the conservation value of the trail (by, for example, increasing the amount of valuable chalk download habitats). The project will also improve the views of the surrounding countryside, and provide information about the history, geography and ecology of the Trail. It will also iron out existing inconsistencies with the trails legal status as Hampshire County Council are dedicating the section it owns as Restricted Byway – suitable for use by walkers, cyclists, horse riders and carriage drivers.
Work, licenced by the Forestry Commission, started in March 2014, clearing trees around West Meon station and along the first section of the Trail. The remainder of the felling and flailing work started in September 2014 and was completed by January 2015. The work included the clear felling of trees in the cuttings, as these caused most of the safety concerns, and the removal of any overhanging or fallen trees and branches along the rest of the Trail.
Work started in March 2015 to improve the surface of the Trail in order to make it usable by as many different people as possible. This has included scraping the mud/debris to the side along the whole route and creating
a cambered surface to aid drainage. On the Section from Wickham to Brockbridge, the original track bed material was still present underneath the mud, so this has simply been relaid to aid water run off. However, on the section from Brockbridge to West Meon the original track bed had, been removed many years ago. On this section, underneath the mud was the chalk bedrock. Natural chalk is not a good surface for paths as it can become very slippery in the wet and erode badly. Therefore, a standard bridleway surface of stone/gravel (known as MOT Type 1) has been laid here in order to improve the usability, resilience and longevity of the Trail. This surfacing is being assessed and is yet to be completed.
Most of the drainage works are taking place at the Southern end of the Trail – this is where the Trail runs on clay soils rather than the chalk of the upper valley. It has been possible to utilise the old railway tunneling, and this now links with reinstated ditches alongside the Trail in this section. At other, more northerly, points along the Trail drainage grips have been installed to take as much water from the Trail surface as possible.
Gates and gaps have been reinstated at West Meon Station, Brockbridge, Droxford and Chapel Road, Meonstoke. Works to replace the gates at Peake New Road and Stocks Lane should be completed by end May 2015.
Many of the access points to the Trail have been upgraded and improved. All steps at junctions with footpaths have been replaced, and existing ramped access will be widened and made safer. This work should be complete by end May 2015. In addition, 2 new access points for all users have been created – one off Brockbridge Lane and one off Buddens Lane which takes people through the Mislingford goods yard.
We are aware that some people feel that the changes to the route are not what they would have wanted and we have met with representatives on site to help us get a better understanding of their concerns and to explain the project in more detail. As a result of these meetings, we are particularly looking at where we can carry out additional works to provide a softer verge for riders. We have met with representatives of riders on site and those stretches of the Trail which are wide enough to accommodate a soft verge have been identified.
The full length of the Trail is still legally closed to allow the works to be carried out safely. It is likely to be re-opened in June 2015.