19.1 miles – Misty to start with, dissolving into hazy sunshine with mushy clouds later
I left Winchester while most of its inhabitants were still vegetating over their morning tea. A mist swirled its cloak of secrecy about me; the air was heavy with the scents of reaped corn and a week of sun-baked earth; the world was calm.
An amplified voice from the other side of the trees… It sounded like a station announcement, but looking at the map I could see there was nothing there, not even a house. Then I saw it: a city of tents and an arena constructed of the entire side of Cheesefoot Head. The trail would have taken me right through the middle of it, but I was forced to take a diversion round the perimeter fence, which boasted watchtowers at regular intervals. This, I learnt, was Boomtown, a music festival of gigantic scale. Cars departing the festival passed me in a constant stream, throwing up clouds of pale brown dust in their wake. I was so glad to get beyond it and enjoy the South downs again.
The South downs
It is no exaggeration when the guests’ welcome pack at Ye Olde George Inn describes the village as “one of the loveliest places in the valley of the River Meon”. Its quiet streets (its tractors busier than its inhabitants) are lined with pretty cottages… and yet it retains the air of an agricultural community rather than one taken over by the hunters down of the quaint, such as I had encountered so often in the Cotswolds.
Here I recorded my earliest arrival time at a destination on my walk, 14:50, just before Ye Olde George shut for the afternoon. I leave you with the photos, which I hope speak for themselves.