Hampshire walk around Meon Valley
PUBLISHED: 12:47 11 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:47 11 March 2014
© Steve Davison
Follow Steve Davison on a 4 1/2 mile walk exploring the picturesque Meon Valley
Droxford’s history stretches back well over a thousand years when records show that Drocenesforda was granted to Winchester’s St Swithun’s priory by King Egbert of Wessex in 826. Much more recently, the village played host to several influential figures during the Second World War. On the days prior to the D-Day Invasion, Sir Winston Churchill and the allied chiefs including Eisenhower and De Gaulle held meetings in a train carriage at Droxford Station; the meetings are commemorated by a small plaque on the seat near the start of the walk. The Meon Valley Railway, which opened in 1903, ran between Alton and Fareham. Unfortunately, passenger services were withdrawn in 1955 and the line closed in 1968. The Church of St Mary and All Saints dates from the mid-12th century, step inside to see the colourful stained glass windows including a recent one celebrating the new Millennium.
From Doxford, the walk heads south before crossing the picturesque River Meon to visit the peaceful village of Soberton whose name was used in the peerage of Baron Anson of Soberton bestowed on the 18th-century Admiral of the Fleet, George Anson. Call-in at the 12th-century Church of St Peter to see a stone coffin believed to date from Roman times, whilst inside is a plaque and ship’s bell from HMS Soberton, a minesweeper and fishery protection vessel, launched in 1956. Just to the north of the church is Soberton Towers. Built in the late 19th century by Colonel Charles Brome Bashford, the house has also served as a school and living quarters for Wrens from HMS Mercury based near East Meon. The last part of the walk heads north along the east side of the valley before crossing over the river again to arrive back at Droxford.
Distance: 4 1/2 miles
Time: 2 1/2 hours
Terrain: Ups and downs, tracks and paths which can be muddy, stiles, gates and sections of road
Start/Finish: Parking near the church in Droxford on the A32, 7 1/2 miles north of the M27 at Fareham; grid ref SU606182
Map: OS Explorer 119
Refreshments: Droxford – The Bakers Arms (01489 877533), The White Horse Inn (01489 877490); Soberton – The White Lion (01489 877346)
1 (SU606182) – From the parking area, cross over the A32 and turn left following the road through the village, passing The White Horse Inn. Where the pavement ends, cross the road and continue for a short way before turning left at the driveway opposite Swanmore Road. Follow the enclosed path downhill, turn right over the stile and follow the left-hand field edge. Cross two stiles in the corner and keep ahead, now following the fence on the right, later head across the field and over a stile in the far left corner. Continue along the left-hand field margin and leave through a kissing gate. Turn right up the lane to a crossroads with the A32.
2 (SU605172) – With care, cross over and follow the lane opposite for 200m to a slight right-hand bend at the entrance to Midlington Farm and go left along the bridleway. Follow the track for 800m, later heading uphill to enter a field beside a seat. After admiring the view, continue alongside the hedge on the right and shortly after the power line turn left down across the field. Go through hedge gaps either side of the A32 (cross with care) and continue through the field. Cross a stile and keep ahead to cross the footbridge over the River Meon. Follow the riverside path for a short way, go under the old railway bridge and follow the lane uphill, with houses on the right.
3 (SU609163) – At the T-junction, turn left through a gate to enter a field. Follow the path northwards through three fields separated by a kissing gate and stile, aiming for the church. Cross a stile in the top right corner – to the left is the church – and turn right along the lane to the main street in Soberton beside the 17th-century White Lion pub. Turn right for 50m and just before the house on the left, turn left along the narrow path. Keep ahead past a barn, follow the track and go through a large gate with a lane beyond. Immediately turn left over a stile and follow the left-hand field margin. Cross a stile and follow the fence on the left, later keep ahead across the field.
4 (SU614175) – Cross a stile and follow the hedge-lined track (Crookhorn Lane) as it turns right and left. Keep ahead for 100m before turning left; follow the grassy strip between fields and then bear left alongside the trees on the left. Cross the stile at the corner and turn left along the lane for 25m before turning right along the track. Cross the old railway bridge, go through a gate and keep ahead through the field. Go through two small gates at the trees and continue downhill with the hedge on the left. Cross two footbridges over the River Meon and continue towards the church. Turn right just before the churchyard and follow the path with an open field on the right. Go over a stile and turn left along Mill Lane to the main street (A32) in Droxford; a short way to the right is The Bakers Arms (winner of the Best Roast category at the Hampshire Life Food & Drink Awards 2012), however, we turn left back to the start, passing a seat with an interesting plaque.