Another beautiful day. I explored the gardens around our pig shed before being treated to the full-english fried experience. I try to be polite about it, but really. No one can possibly eat that much.
I tried my best to knock off some of the mud off my boots. It is the heavy, thick clay mud that picks up gravel. Pretty soon, you are hauling around cement bricks on your feet.
And sheep, of course. These might be Shetlands? Or maybe Jacobs.
They were smaller, and more woolly looking (literally!) than the other sheep we've seen.
There was quite a bit of road-side walking on this day, which is never a favorite thing. The road did take us past a cafe and nature center called the Sustainability Center, so we stopped to check it out.
They had beautiful gardens and a leech field and some interesting symbiotic plantings, but nothing really prepared us for what we saw next.
They have a natural burial ground!
Instead of being pumped filled with formaldehyde and put in an airtight casket, advocates of Natural Burials get buried in wicker caskets where they can easily become part of the life cycle of the forest. They had lovely little forest paths with grave sites marked simply with sticks and stones, and the forest is allowed to retake anything it needs, and there were benches where relatives could visit. It was somber, but the forest was far more beautiful than any manicured cemetery I've ever seen. It's an interesting idea. I'd be curious to see if this catches on in more places. It was a little morbid, but I found it touching and beautiful.
There was also a tap for hikers here. These are always welcome, especially on such bright, hot days.
The great thing about hiking is that you can hike all morning, and then come to a road intersection and realize that if you had taken the road, you'd only be out two miles. Trails don't always take the fasted route.
You can see the cute little church tucked into the downs at East Meon:
This wasn't a very long day of hiking anyway (well, in theory...) and we soon crested the hill overlooking the A3 motorway in Queen Elizabeth Country Park. We were supposed to branch off the trail here and walk from Bruiton the three miles north to Petersfield, but we left the trail a bit earlier than we were supposed to and ended up being stuck on the wrong side of the A3 with no way to cross it.
Which would have been fine, except we hit a point where the footpath didn't seem very often used. It appeared on the map, we would see an occasional signpost. We could see where we would end up, but the trail was almost completely overgrown.
The buzzards started circling.
After crashing through some farmland and some forest and losing the footpath several times, we found a farmer who put us back on the right track again. See what I mean?:
That's the trail! It was chin-high and choked with weeds and filled with thorns and stinging nettles, with the superhighway running right next to you- no one had walked here in a while. Once again hiking in capri cargos is a bad idea. My legs were scratched and on fire. Those last three miles ended up taking us much longer than they should have. Taken the beaten path through town would have been a much more pleasant option.
Finally, we hit the road and a place where we could cross under the busy highway, and then we booked it into Petersfield. We approached the train station just as the road gates began to close and the train pulled in right as our feet touched the platform, which was quite serendipitous as it didn't look like there was a pub nearby to kill an hour if we had to wait for the next.
It was a good day of hiking, aside from that nasty bit at the end. We did the "worst" part of the Southdowns: passing industrial farms, a tank and quad-bike track, a military firing range and doing a fair bit of road-side walking.
The next leg promised to be more lovely hills and sweeping views. I love this trail so much.