Green fields and blue skies on the South Downs Way

Out West

10th August 2015

In my role as South Downs Way officer I spend quite a bit of time just travelling back and forth along the Trail. Apart from the A27 (M27) to the south and the A272 to the north both of which can be very slow, most of the road in the South Downs run north to south. This makes progress along the trail painfully slow at times. In this last week I found myself nearly over in Eastbourne one day and then Winchester the next. What I do is to plan as much as possible on each trip to the extremities. So last weeks trip to Winchester had multiple purposes, I was looking at new signage to go up in Winchester, testing water quality at one of our drinking water taps, dropping post off at our western area office, scouting locations for a new end marker in Winchester and meeting officers from Hampshire County Council. But what's is great about heading out west to Winchester is how every time I rediscover what a great city Winchester is. I really encourage anyone starting or finishing the SDW at Winchester to make a bit of extra time, perhaps stay an extra night and explore the city. I was there on Friday, which was market day, so much great looking local food! My favourite places are Wolvesley Castle, the City Mill, the River Itchen and water meadows, The Cathedral, The Great Hall and Westgate museum. 

In the trail news a few days ago I mentioned clearing a large log jam from the winterbourne stream near the River Meon. Our resident poet Lizzie Ballagher has sent me a poem she wrote about the floods in that very area. So here it is.

Exton After the Flood

Our well-loved trail was blotted, crossed out,

Smudged like a child’s copying book,

The rain’s dark ink obliterating lines

And over-writing the flowing progress—

The careful sentences—of the path’s sweet narrative…

Which here came

To a complete




No rhyme or reason

After that long winter season.

The track was lost

In a jumbled alphabet of trees tossed:

Alder stems in mud,

Beech-bark bits,

Chestnut timbers,

Dogwood twigs & petals—

You can guess the rest!


Spring floods rewrote the path—hurled

Gates & branches higgledy-piggledy

To create a mad new demarcation

Of brackets & commas that tripped us

As, amazed, we tried to read the path;

To create a crazed new punctuation

Of question marks that hovered

Right above our heads as we, in hesitation

Paused, unsure of how to find our way.


But now (workers, walkers

And volunteers be thanked)

The River Meon’s apprehended;

The gates are newly mended,

The signposts dug back in & tended;

The valley trail is redefended.

Halting map-readers troubles are ended,

And we & other walkers all have wended

On our merry South Downs Way again.

© Lizzie Ballagher

If you like Lizzie' poems you can follow her work on her blog at

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