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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 11th April 2009
Old Winchester Hill - West Meon - Warnford - Beacon Hill - Exton - Winchester Hill
12.5 miles
Ok, it's not Sussex, but it is the South Downs!

Another visit to the grave of Gill's mother at the Natural Burial Site in Hampshire gave us the opportunity to do some more exploring of this far western end of the South Downs.  We parked at the nature reserve at Old Winchester Hill (197 m) with dire warnings posted everywhere about how thieves were targeting the car parks. There were even police cars on patrol there. So far we haven't had our saddlebags rifled (touch wood) and in truth the contents (well-used protective clothing) are of no value second hand, but we did leave the bike concerned as to whether we would have crash helmets when we returned. Anyway, the excitement started straight away as a major "twitch" was in progress on the reserve. Crowds of tripod carrying people were converging on us from all parts of the country. The target of all this convergence was a White-throated Sparrow freshly blown in from the USA. A very rare bird in Britain, which today Gill spied fleetingly but which I sadly missed. The mad throng finally got a bit too much for us and as it was already 1:30 in the pm, it was well time we got going and tried to see what England had to offer instead.
Our extremely well-signposted walk wound its way around the Meon Valley crossing the River Meon twice and taking in the ridiculously beautiful villages of West Meon and Exton via woodland, water meadows, sheep fields and hedgerows. The houses are mostly ancient, thatched and gorgeous and the area is very sparsely populated. Perfect for walking in fact, and despite the drizzle we had one of the best walks we've had for ages.
Good numbers of the common downland birds, including Blackcaps, Skylarks and Red-legged Partridges and we also heard lots of woodpecker drumming. Buzzards and Kestrels we expected of course and we saw plenty of both, but we were surprised to see two Red Kites on Wheely Down.

Anti-clockwise from the car park at Old Winchester Hill leaves you with a 600 foot climb at the end of the walk

The burial site continues its slow transformation back to undisturbed woodland

Excellent signposting today, even approaching over-zealous at times!
It's just as well because our compass broke !

A lot of the signs appear to be brand new

Gill squeezes through a kissing gate into woodland with emerging bluebells

Gill, put the bowl away!

This cottage is the West Meon Smoke House, where we bought some excellent cheese.
It's also a hunting shop and is bristling with every type of firearm and knife.
Imagine our surprise when we walked in to find a bearded man cocking a high tech shotgun!

West Meon church where some amazing tapestry maps can be found

The River Meon - a pristine chalkland stream

This huge artwork was in mid construction at Wheely Down Forge

This seemed to be the right way!

Cowslips were everywhere we went today.
They are supposed to bring luck in love and marriage.

Steep stile

Exton Church

These squared off flints are used a lot in this area. These were on Exton Church.

After a day of drizzle we did at least get a good sunset,
after which we climbed Winchester Hill to the sound of Tawny Owls, back to the deserted car park and our bike....
......and yes, all of our stuff was still there!

Cow sumo
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