Saturday March the 20th officially marks the beginning of Spring 2021. I chose to get out on the Friday so as to experience our local countryside on a slightly quieter day and to enjoy the forecast sunshine. I’m always heartened with the evenings gradually getting lighter but I feel the whole country is waiting to embrace Spring. This year, more than any other year, there’s hope, anticipation and optimism in the air.
Setting off from Wickham along the Meon Valley trail (MVT) I had an hour and a half to play with and my main goal was to soak up all of my surroundings. Apart from the birdsong I first noticed the sound of the River Meon. This clear and fast flowing chalk bed river has worked its way from a spring in the Meon Valley and will eventually flow out into the Solent at Hill Head.
For centuries Wickham has been a fording point to cross the river and the small waterfalls near the bridge had bubbling water with the force of the current pushing it downstream. In many ways the last year can be compared with the river, our progress has been halted, diverted, been put back on track and then diverted again. Hopefully with the covid vaccine being rolled out we can now flow in the right direction !!
Once heading out along the MVT the conditions underfoot were pretty good with only occasional mud. The tree line route is still quite bear as it’s too early in the season but the sense of more to come was definitely in the air. I was in no rush and quite open to trying a few new twists and turns in the woods ahead. All outdoor exercise starts with excited anticipation but even more so after the last year that we’ve all endured.
The MVT was previously a railway line and the arch of the bridge in my first photo made me stop and take a snap. The arch almost acted like a picture frame for the view ahead. At this point I was near the Forestry England maintained Upperford Copse which then leads onto West Walk and 100 Acres, it was time to explore !!
The densely packed trees seemed curiously spaced out with so few leaves but with a variety of species planted in the area I was soon running through a lush green canopy over the trails. This might sound silly be being out on a Friday almost seemed to fit in with Spring officially starting on the Saturday. The prospect of what lays ahead for your weekend being a similar thought for the rest of Spring, exciting times.
Entering the West Walk car park there were quite a few cars with people taking lockdown exercise. If the last year can give one legacy I do hope it means people carry on enjoying the fresh air and sights of the countryside. Even with a minimal car parking charge the benefits of getting outdoors will hopefully have been embedded in the nations minds and legs.
I chose to bypass the family friendly compacted paths and head out into the forest for some muddy adventure. The blue skies and towering trees give off such an energy which we sorely need to charge our weary lockdown batteries. Knowing the next six months will bring better weather for Mother Nature to weave her magic really adds a spring to your stride.
The noise of branches rustling to my right makes me wonder if I’d be lucky enough to see a deer but instead it was two squirrels chasing each other from branch to branch. I really do wonder what the animals have made of fewer human beings in their natural habitat ? Fewer people will have meant less car pollution, litter and disturbance. After all nature has carried on over the last fours seasons even if we’ve been on hold.
I do enjoy a muddy hill as the elevation makes you work for your miles. Once rounding the trail towards the mobile café and toilets it was time to turn and head back. I do think it’s important to take what you have seen, heard and smelt on your travels and use it as motivation in your day to day life. The peace and beauty of these surroundings can remain in your thoughts for when life’s pressures mount up.
Heading out of the woods the sun has become stronger, the shadows were lengthening and you simply can’t help but simile. Spring is a time of new beginnings and goodness knows we could all do with a rosier future. If covid has done one thing it’s made me not take anything for granted.
I’m already thinking about March 29th and being able to go further afield for my green fix. The Hampshire countryside has so much to offer and even though I’ve been happy to settle for what’s on my doorstep for much of this year I’m truly excited that April’s bluebells aren’t too far away and then we’ll be treated to the explosion of colour that Spring delivers as well as the optimism we all crave and deserve.
Thanks for reading and remember the outdoors is waiting for you.