Winchester Winter Warmer (in Spring)

This day tour follows a route recommended by Jack Thurston, in his book ‘Lost Lanes South’. I had already followed a couple of the day tours he had recommended in his follow-up cycling guide – ‘Lost Lanes West’ – but decided that this time I would travel east for a change (I live in Dorset) – to Winchester, just for a change – from where this tour starts (and where it finishes, at the railway station).

There is much to commend Jack’s guidebooks, including the fact that he makes .gpx files available for each recommended tour, which you can download from his website. This would be my first cycling trip using Komoot – a navigation app – for turn-by-turn navigation, using the .gpx file that Jack provides for this route. I had recently ordered an adapter from Bike Fun (in Taiwan), which would enable me to use a Topeka phone mount on the top of my Bike Fun bottle cage bracket, so I was keen to see how well this set up worked.

My cheap and cheerful Nokia 1, sat nav extraordinaire, held in place by a Topeak phone mount on my bottle cage bracket

Poole railway station is a short cycle ride from where I live which, combined with a one hour train journey to Winchester, meant that I was ready to leave Winchester railway station just one hour and forty minutes after I had left home.

The first challenge was getting out of Winchester. The route weaved its way through commercial and residential streets, around a supermarket, and then beside/underneath/beyond a busy dual carriageway. And then, suddenly, I was in the countryside. The contrast was stark – noisy traffic replaced by quiet country lanes – and most welcome. The majority of the route would remain similarly quiet, passing thatched cottages and village greens, and following meandering chalk streams. It was to be a grand day out.

One of three rural post offices I passed, all of which were now maintained as private residences

I was headed for West Meon, and then East Meon, both of which were in chalk stream country (a fact that would be certain to excite those hooked on trout fishing, pardon the pun). This route portrays the ‘gentle’ side of England: a rural idyll that probably masks as many issues as you would find anywhere else, but which benefits from a substantial veneer of bucolic bliss.

En route to West Meon, beside a slow-moving chalk stream

A steady climb out of East Meon gives you a good view back down the valley. You summit at Teglease Down, following which is a delightful and airy downhill section, eventually leading to Corhampton.

Looking back down the valley towards East Meon
The luxury of well-signposted country lanes
A long, pleasant descent towards Corhampton

Alas, the only problem with ‘down’ is that it is so often followed by ‘up’. And, in this case, oh boy what an ‘up’. The road’s sign was a giveaway – Beacon Hill Lane – and it was a hill, a very steep hill. Indeed, it merited four pauses for breath on the way up (I’m riding a Brompton, so occasional stops on steep stretches are, to my mind at least, par for the course).

However, for every hill climbed, there is a view to be enjoyed at its summit; sure enough, this provided a view as good as any you would find in the South Downs (which is where I now found myself). Indeed, an actual beacon was erected atop Beacon Hill a few years ago, celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This would undoubtedly be visible from many miles away.

Beacon Hill’s jubilee beacon
The view east from Beacon Hill (where my route intersected with The South Downs Way, a long-distance footpath)
My Brompton might have been somewhat loaded ‘up front’, but that bag contained a stove for a welcome brew
Brewing up, where my ride intersected with The South Downs Way, a long-distance footpath near England’s south coast
Oops, I forgot to bring a teaspoon … the cappuccino drink’s folded empty packet would have to do!

As welcome as my brewing up was, it did make me think that my gas stove and stainless steel pot were not the most suitable combination that I could manage for lightweight bicycle touring. Not least, the gas stove is quite unstable with the pot on top. I could buy a plastic stabiliser to clip onto the base of the gas canister, but burning gas itself was something I wanted to stop doing in any case (I have since updated my stove/pot combination).

The last part of this tour was to be on a main road (the A272), followed by roads that lead you back into Winchester city centre. The main road was okay, although during the early morning and late afternoon the traffic may be worse than I experienced mid-afternoon.

The A272, in the Winchester direction

Returning to Winchester’s city centre, I weaved through ever narrowing roads and streets – including around the cathedral’s walls – until I eventually found myself back at the railway station. I was just in time to catch a train back to Poole railway station, from where I cycled back home, completing a very pleasant excursion that had made the most of my “Brompton + Train” travelling modus operandi.

Leave a Reply