Dr John Hawkins
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- Recent Entries:
- South Downs Way - The End!
Old Sussex Inns
Early Signs of Spring
Pizza at Home
English Sparkling Wine Prestige Cuvees
Vinegrowing Course Day 3
Jack and Jill in the Snow
Pizza and Slime
Camden Garden Centre and Honest Burgers
- South Downs Way - The End!
- [Saturday 16th February 2019]
I probably should have waited for better weather for the triumphal final section of my seven month odyssey along the South Downs Way, but I had the day to myself today, and was impatient to get back out into the countryside, so forged ahead regardless. I had checked the weather forecast, which had originally suggested cloud in the morning but clearing later, whereas in reality it ended up being unrelenting fog all day.
As ever, the logistics required some thought today, given the limited buses between Petersfield and Winchester, but after some deliberation I eventually decided to start at Winchester, and get a taxi from there to East Meon. I'm always surprised by how expensive taxis seem to be out in the sticks, but I was time constrained, and doing it this way got me to East Meon by 9am to start my walk.
Last time I had seen East Meon on a very grey day, and thought it must be a beautiful spot in the right weather conditions. Today I suppose the thick mist made it quite atmospheric, but I would still like to see the village again with blue skies above it - it really is very pretty.
Anyway, I did not linger in East Meon, and after being dropped off at the church by the taxi (chosen for no other reason than it was where I got on the bus on my last walk), I headed purposefully out of the village, into the misty expanse that lay beyond. It's a good job the South Downs Way is so well signposted because I could barely see more than 50 metres in front of me most of the time.
The first landmark on my walk after leaving East Meon was Old Winchester Hill, where I had hoped naively that it might be sufficiently high so as to poke out above the mist so I could appreciate the view. Of course, this wasn't the case. So other than the reasonably steep climb on the way up I had no real sense of being on a hilltop. I walked around the perimeter of the ancient hill fort, greeting a few grey sheep along the way, but no views to be had whatsoever today.
The next section of the walk, between Old Winchester Hill, contained the muddiest stretch I encountered today, and my boots became notably heavier as a result. After crossing the old Meon Valley Railway, the path followed a pretty little stream with very clear water. to where it joined the Meon just outside of Exton.
Exton is another rather pretty village, similar to East Meon, but rather dominated in the centre by a grand country house surrounded by high walls - the eponymous Exton House. I took a slight detour from the South Downs Way here to have a look round the village, and then managed to lose my way slightly, the path leading out of the village being east to walk past.
After Exton, the walk started to get a bit tedious, if I'm being honest. The novelty of the mist was wearing off, and I really wanted to actually have some views. Particularly when it came to the steeper sections of the walk - typically the pay-off for the slog to get up a hill is that there will be a view from the top, and today that was not the case. There was a Beacon Hill about half an hour out of Exton which was a good case in point.
Given the lack of visual stimulation thanks to the unrelenting mist, from this point on my thoughts were very firmly on the lunchtime pub stop, and so I was quite pleased when around 12:30 I arrived at the Milburys.
It's a really interesting pub, in the middle of nowhere - not obviously part of any village as far as I could tell - and very old fashioned. This was evident immediately on arrival from the wonderfully dilapidated state of the sign outside - which was barely legible - and it couldn't be further from the awfulness of the blight of gastropub makeovers.
Inside there was much to like - an impressive open fire near the bar, then round the corner into the next room a 300ft deep well and a 250 year old treadmill. It's hard to imagine in the cold hard economics by which modern gastropubs are ran that such oddities would be allowed to consume such a significant amount of dining area. I chose the table squeezed in underneath the treadmill, and the slight fear of being crushed to death by an ancient piece of machinery should it become dislodged added a certain frisson to my lunch.
I hadn't fully planned what to do after lunch, and imagined the scenery nearing Winchester might be a bit underwhelming (more so given the stubborn refusal of today's fog to lift), so had thought about just cutting it short when an opportunity to do so presented itself. However that never really happened - there weren't any bus stops (without a several hour wait) along the rest of the walk, no were there any convenient places to try and call a taxi. So I just kept trudging on, for the remaining 3 hours it took me to get from the Milburys all the way to Winchester station.
There weren't exactly many highlights along the way either, the ridiculously named Cheesefoot Head was presumably the sort of place which might have nice views on a day without all this mist, but today I just walked straight past without pausing. It did at least have a characterful little wooded section leading up to it, with some nice trees. So there was that.
Beyond Cheesefoot Head I passed through the tiny village (hamlet?) of Chilcomb, the last settlement before Winchester.
I suppose I did feel some sense of achievement when I arrived at the last section of proper countryside footpath before Winchester, which crossed a large field, before then crossing over the M3. Beyond the M3 it was then of course an urban landscape, but it was nice to see that the South Downs Way signposts continued at least some way into the city.
I paused briefly at the last signpost I saw. Eastbourne 99 miles. It was nice to think I had indeed walked all that way. Admittedly, in dribs and drabs, one daytrip at a time, and now and again I'd deviated slightly from the route or cut the odd corner, but I had walked all the way from Eastbourne to here. Quite gratifying.
Arriving in the centre of Winchester was slightly overwhelming after the solitude of the walk today - so many people!
I would have liked to linger a bit longer, perhaps even have a celebratory pint in a pub in Winchester, but I felt compelled to get back home in time for dinner with Chie and Erika, so I jumped on the first available train at Winchester station and went back to London.
That's it for the South Downs Way then! There have been highs and lows, some sections glorious and stunning, others frankly a bit of a trudge. In fairness to the route, the difference between those two extremes was often more to do with the weather rather than the actual terrain. That said, it has been nice to see it in all the seasons.
So, the obvious question now is where next?
- Old Sussex Inns
- [Friday 15th February 2019]
This book arrived today.
- Early Signs of Spring
- [Thursday 14th February 2019]
Lovely weather today, and it felt a bit like spring was on its way. Also some Breaky Bottom arrived.
- [Wednesday 13th February]
- [Tuesday 12th February]
- Pizza at Home
- [Monday 11th February 2019]
Home made pizza. Well sort of.
- [Sunday 10th February 2019]
Had a Filippino Japanese fusion lunch at Ramo Ramen, followed by Filippino ice cream at Mamasons.
- Jim's Birthday
- [Saturday 9th February 2019]
Jim's birthday drinks at the Prospect of Whitby.
- [Friday 8th February]
- School Trip
- [Thursday 7th February 2019]
Volunteered on Erika's school trip to the John Soane museum.
- St. Moritz
- [Wednesday 6th February 2019]
Took Erika to St Moritz (London's only Swiss restaurant?) for fondue this evening.
- English Sparkling Wine Prestige Cuvees
- [Tuesday 5th February 2019]
I'd ordered three ESW prestige cuvees, planning a tasting some time soon, and they had all arrived by today.
- Vinegrowing Course Day 3
- [Monday 4th February 2019]
Down to Haywards Heath / Scaynes Hill for day 3 of my vinegrowing course.
Today the topics we covered in the morning theory session were root stocks, vine nutrition and vine propagation.
The most famous reason that vines in Europe are grafted onto root stocks is of course resistance to phylloxera, but there are also benefits in terms of influencing the vigour of the vine and, relatedly, adapting to different soil conditions. The most common root stock in the UK is apparently S04 (a hybrid of Vitis Riparia and Vitis Berlandieri).
Vine nutrition is a fairly vast subject area, as it effectively comes down to soil science, something people take degrees in. The good news is that most issues can be identified by analysing a soil sample, and adding missing nutrients to the soil accordingly.
Grafting seems like magic to me - it's hard to believe you can basically get two sticks of different species of plant, pretty much just stick them together, and they'll actually then grow together. We were shown this video which shows what a lot of work is involved in the propagation of vines, yet another thing we just take for granted when drinking wine.
In the afternoon practical session in the vineyard Tom covered grafting in a bit more detail, and then we did a bit more pruning practice. I pruned several vines all by myself this time, and was at least reasonably happy that the end result was something along the lines of what it was supposed to be. We also practised a second pruning system - Cordon rather than Guyot. Given the multi faceted vineyard at Rock Lodge, some vines were pruned to this system, if I recall correctly these were the Pinot Noir vines intended for still rather than sparkling wines, where, in some cases, this pruning system gave better results - I think with still Pinot Noir you want slightly lower yields but a better guarantee of ripeness.
- Jack and Jill in the Snow
- [Sunday 3rd February 2019]
Took Chie and Erika down to the South Downs to see the Jack and Jill windmills in the snow.
- Pizza and Slime
- [Saturday 2nd February 2019]
Pizza at Rossopomodoro for lunch then spent the afternoon back at home making slime.
- [Friday 1st February 2019]
A dusting of snow on the ground.
- Bingo Night
- [Thursday 31st January 2019]
Bingo Night at Erika's school.
- [Wednesday 30th January]
- [Tuesday 29th January 2019]
Just one picture of Erika with a bag on her head.
- [Monday 28th January 2019]
Tried Leon's "Love Burger" at lunchtime then in the evening had some South Ridge English Sparkling Wine (from Ridgeview).
- Camden Garden Centre and Honest Burgers
- [Sunday 27th January 2019]
Visited Camden Garden Centre in the morning. Then lunch at Honest Burgers, where I had their Moving Mountains burger again.
- [Saturday 26th January 2019]
Went to Borough Market in the afternoon then a bit later on did some shopping around Kings Cross.
- Burns Night
- [Friday 25th January 2019]
Had haggis, neeps and tatties as well as Laphroaig and Irn Bru for dinner.
- [Thursday 24th January 2019]
Went to the dentist, and then lunch at Oliveto followed by gelato at Olivogelo.
- [Wednesday 23rd January]
- [Tuesday 22nd January]