Friday, 28 June 2013

Twyford Down

So far, this is the best place I've found to stand, that gives the fullest sense of the scar that the M3 cutting has made through Twyford Down.  As I've said before, I'm ambivalent about the place.  True, it is a massive act of vandalism, but it is also a rather magnificent presence in the landscape, isn't it?  And (whisper it) I do love to drive through that chalky canyon.

From here, you can see the scope of many of my recent weekend rambles.  We are looking more or less due north.  The cutting runs SW-NE.  Beyond it to the NW is St. Catherine's Hill and to the SE are Twyford Down and the Hockley golf course.  Why sliced golf balls aren't continually raining down onto the traffic I don't know.  You find them everywhere else underfoot on the downs, like toadstools.*

The Hockley Viaduct is on the extreme left of the picture, concealed by trees.  The River Itchen (which for some bizarre reason I keep referring to as the  River Test, which actually flows in a parallel valley several miles over to the West) and the Itchen Navigation canal run across the centre of the picture, within the dark green trees.  Winchester city is directly over the hill to the north.

In between rain, we've managed to enjoy several breezy, sunny afternoons, ambling across this chalk downland. It's at its prettiest now, in the early summer, when everything still holds on to its own shade of green, but is beginning to make a harmonized whole.

* And the wind shall say "Here were decent godless people;
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls."
T.S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock


Struan said...

The route originally proposed for the M3 had it running right through the middle of the water meadows. My grandfather, who loved St. Catherine's Hill and the downland around it with a deeply-grounded passion, would (literally!) spit with rage at the way the College and other landowners managed to get the route changed so that it carved through the chalk hill instead.

Having known some of the people who led the rebellion against the original route, who were no less passionate about their sedge warblers and biotopes, I can see both sides of the issue. The only way to make both happy would have been not to build at all, and that was never on the table.

To me, the walls of the cutting always look too steep. I can't believe that crumbly chalk will last long at that angle. The buddleia is wild though.

Mike C. said...

It does seem improbably steep, doesn't it? However, I have yet to drive through and find the way impeded by blocks of fallen stone, though, in the way you often do in the Dordogne's limestone gorges.

In Victorian times, of course, they'd have risen to the challenge and driven a tunnel through, which would have been even more fun.


Gavin McL said...

Well they did drive a tunnel to divert the A3 a bit further up at the Devils Punchbowl.

We drove down on the first of April and the tunnel and it's cuttings are quite impressive. The old road past the Hindhead hotel fades out into a National Trust car park.

When we visited the old road bed had been ripped out but not much had regrown and the girls spent a happy half hour picking through the debris - "I've found a Jewel" a fragment of a long smashed indicator.

The obligatory NT explanation boards show how the old old road ran on top of the ridge and is now a bridle way, the old road, built off the ridge in the 20's (I think)
has then been replaced by the tunnel. Perhaps one day the M3 will be buried


Mike C. said...


I must check that out -- I like abandoned roads, and I like road tunnels. Good combination!