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Monday, 22 September 2008

STROLLING THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY

With a high pressure system sitting over Great Britain it was a classic Indian Summer promising a fine weekend. We set off along the bruised grass track up Butser Hill. The sun warmed our skin, a light breeze keeping us cool. Girls lay on picnic blankets in the sunshine, clad in skimpy tops and sunglasses.

We were soon in our stride and ambling along the pretty little lane at the top, when heading towards us came a lovely old car dressed in white silk ribbons, carrying a precious cargo of bride and groom; he splendidly decked out in a dark morning suit and she in a froth of silk wedding dress. The stream of following cars transported the wedding guests. At the fork in the road we noticed the home-made road sign directing the traffic to the reception at Oxenbourne. A perfect day for the start of their lives together.

Lunch was taken, lying on the cool lush grass, overlooking the valley with East Meon church set prettily amongst woodland in the near distance.

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An hour or so later we helped some motorists, obviously struggling with route finding, with directions. They were smartly dressed and we managed to get them back on track so they would not miss too much of the wedding celebrations.

The beech hangers were soft with a sighing canopy and silvered clearings to either side as we free-wheeled down the gentle tracks.

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Then out into the daylight once more to stand and admire the paragliders wheeling overhead, tussling for the airspace with red kites and whistling clouds of goldfinches over Winchester Hill.

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The heart-achingly beautiful views from the hill fort were just perfectly English, so we sat and munched cheese and tomato sandwiches to allow more time for the view to seep into our consciousness. I cannot recall a more perfect English summer landscape.

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At the Bucks Head at Meonstoke we bumped into the remnants of the wedding, reluctantly leaving this little haven to rejoin the rest of the revelers at the evening party.

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After packing our shelters, the next morning was still, with a heavy dew soaking the grasses and the cobwebs strung between the heavily fruited blackberry bushes.

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We strolled back down the hill into Meonstoke to stand and take in the crystal clear splash of the River Meon with the deep shadows of the trees set about the banks.

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After a few moments of hilarity recovering first my map and then my camera from the Meon we carried on our way around the corner to take in more of the village.

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Then a real treat: We spotted what I am pretty sure were three little egrets; my first for absolutely years! The picture might not be that marvelous as the little chap was miles away the other side of the Meon in the river meadow.

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Time seems suspended in this little corner Hampshire. We moved on up the hill to work our way along the dip slope of the South Downs, following a maze of little country lanes. We were occasionally passed by gleaming, burbling MGB's and sputtering vintage motorcycles as we greeted blackberry pickers. To complete the time-warp, an Avro Lancaster growled it's way overhead in a lazy turn.

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A light lunch was taken sitting in the terrace garden of the Bat and Ball, a pub that celebrates in the birth of English cricket, sat opposite the site of England's oldest cricket ground.

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The HSB was a beautifully dark pint of bitter, with chocolaty notes and the 'home-made' soup, delicious. It was then a simple wander back along the lanes to the car park.

A simple walk amongst the heart of and soul of England. Cheers Darren - a great weekend.

9 comments:

  1. Nice looking pub.

    Chocolatey notes !!!

    Good to see you haven't lost the tough :-)

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  2. Good walk, good company, good beer, and good weather. Not bad that.

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  3. "three little egrets" - 10 a penny in this neck of the woods. Helps having two rivers nearby

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  4. There was a claim in Groombridge(East Sussex), for oldest cricket club in England and possibly oldest ground.

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  5. Glad you liked the HSB, Al (even if it is brewed in Chiswick rather than Horndean these days, it's still a fine pint!).

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  6. Sounds like a great trip, Alan. Nice piccies.

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  7. Seems like a nice and relaxing sort of way to spend a weekend...

    We have no egrets at all around here (We know a song about that don't we?)

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  8. Love the pictures and the notes, highlights how we can find walking locations wherever we may be. I also like the contrasting shelters.

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  9. Hi there nielsen brown and welcome to the blog.

    The wonderful thing about Britain is the wide variety of landscape available for the walker - and it's right there on our doorstep!

    Mike: Edith Piaf's, perhaps?

    john: I don't suppose you get wild elephants down there though? Oh no... probably on account of the egrets - they are terrified of the littel devils.
    East Angular on the other hand...

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