- Date: 14 May 2022
- Distance: 8.5 miles
- Start: 10:00 from Hedge Corner on the A32
- Leader: Christine Tully
Historical Interest and Spring Flowers
A circular walk starts from Hedge Corner on the A32 and goes to East Tisted, Rotherfield Park, Newton Valence, Colemore and back to Hedge Corner via Becksteddle Farm.
The walk takes the old disused Meon Valley Railway line from Hedge Corner to East Tisted. The path starts across a field, with no sign of the line. However, at Hedge Corner there are two laybys, one on each side of the road, forming an S shape. This was where the old A32 curved to go under the railway line! The railway bridge and embankment have been completely removed. At the end of the field, the old line is visible and this is followed to East Tisted, sometimes in cuttings, sometimes on embankments. The line was difficult and expensive to build and several navvies died in accidents during its construction. This was because it was built to main line standards with curves and gradients suitable for the passage of trains at express speed. Opened in 1903, it consisted of 22.5 miles from Alton, via Fareham to Gosport and Stokes Bay and was to provide a secondary route from London to Portsmouth. However, it never fulfilled its original purpose, remaining a backwater; Sunday trains were axed in 1951; the rest of the line closed to passengers on February 5th 1955, with freight services also withdrawn from the middle section of the line. The remaining freight services were terminated in the 1960s. Adjoining land-owners purchased the land, filling in cuttings and removing embankments, so that in places the countryside has been restored to its pre-1900 state, as in the field at the beginning of our walk! There are attractive spring flowers along the banks.
From East Tisted, we walked through the Rotherfield Park estate. The country house was constructed in 1815-21 to designs by architect Joseph T Parkinson and is a Grade 1 listed building. The house was owned by the local MP and High Sheriff of Hampshire James Winter Scott in the 1860s. The house has been used as a filming location for several films, and, being at the top of a hill, is visible from many parts of our walk. There are occasional open days as part of the National Garden Scheme, for example, when the bluebells in the wood are in bloom.
From the estate we crossed the A32 and took paths through bluebell woods and fields to Newton Valence. At one point we crossed the disused railway line again, but the cutting was so deep that the path has to take a U-shape to walk downhill to cross the line and then up hill again on the other side.
Then from Newton Valence we went to Colemore. The fields, as we approached Colemore, had the most beautiful display of various differently coloured wild flowers. There is a rewilding scheme, started in 2020 to increase the biodiversity by 30% in four years. This is to create better conditions for the ground nesting grey partridge. Their number has decreased by more than 90% since the 1960s, owing to loss of nesting habitat and use of pesticides on farmland. This project in Colemore is one of 10 demonstration areas spread over 5 participating European countries.
The church of St Peter ad Vincula is a redundant Anglican church in the village of Colemore. It was built in the 12th century and sits alongside its ancient manor house. It is now under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and, although no longer used for regular services, is in good order and cherished. Notable features include the 12th century Purbeck marble font and 16th century wooden screen. When in Colemore, it is good to visit the church and sign the visitors’ book.
From Colemore we walked along a lane with wild flowers in the hedgerows. In early spring this is a good area to see snowdrops. Then we crossed a field to Becksteddle farm, from where we took a path by a field (admiring the bluebells) and through a wood back to the cars.
Author: Christine Tully
Photographs: Various walkers