The Meon Valley Trail - Contractors complete works
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.
Throughout 2014 and the first half of 2015 Hampshire County Council, in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority, has been carrying out work to the Meon Valley Trail. Contractors have now completed the improvement works. The final stage of the surfacing works was to apply a top dressing of quarry dust (small particles of stone) in localised areas to the north of Droxford. The material laid on the Trail between Droxford and West Meon was a certified “MOT Type 1” stone, which 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 “weather in” over time, the quarry dust was applied as a top dressing to the patches of larger stones to ensure a more consistent finish to the Trail.
What work has been carried out on the Meon Valley Trail?
Legal rights on the Trail will be formalised in order to ensure public access in perpetuity. 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. Better access points onto the Trail have been created. Access for all users along the Trail has been improved by the removal of mud and debris and the restoration of the previously laid surface.
Has the work been the same along the whole Trail?
No. The work has varied as follows:
South of Wickham, no works have been carried out at this time.
Between Wickham and Droxford, after removal of the accumulated mud, the existing surface has been re-graded to form a camber across the path. This is to ensure that rainfall drains properly 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 which provides a similar finish to the rest of the route.
Why was this work required?
The Trail had, over the years since the railway stopped operating, become quite muddy and the vegetation at the sides of the disused railway had grown dense. The work ensures the Trail is a safe and welcoming, 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 others who want to explore the South Downs National Park and the villages of the Meon Valley.
How was this work funded?
The improvements were funded through a successful bid to central Government.
Who carried out the works?
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.
What consultation took place prior to works being carried out, and how have people been kept informed?
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.
When will the Trail be reopened?
The improvements are complete and the fully restored Trail will reopen soon. Some short-term localised closures will be necessary to enable repairs to bridges crossing the Trail later in the summer.
What legal status does the Meon Valley Trail have?
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.
Why is Hampshire County Council dedicating part of the route as a Restricted Byway?
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.
What is a Restricted Byway?
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.
What is the process of dedicating a Restricted Byway?
The process of dedicating public access is quite straightforward. The County Council will make a “deed of dedication” under powers granted by the Localism Act 2011, which give a local authority the “power to do anything that individuals generally may do”. 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.
Who is allowed to use the Meon Valley Trail?
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.
How will motorised vehicles be prevented from using the Meon Valley Trail?
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.
What do I do if I see a motorised vehicle on any part of the Meon Valley Trail?
Any motor vehicle use should be reported to the police using 101.
Has wildlife been affected by the work?
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.
Is the historical character of the area being protected?
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.