CONTROVERSIAL work to upgrade a 10-mile country trail has been completed and is now open, although further work will be carried out to make it better for horse riders.
The Meon Valley Trail, which runs from West Meon to Wickham, has undergone a £380,000 revamp by Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority, widening it and laying a new surface so more people can use it.
However campaigners said that this work was too extensive and that the new surface was too rough, causing punctures in bicycles, hurting walkers and dogs’ feet as well as injuring horses.
Thousands of people signed a petition calling on the council to stop the work, however the council continued with the work saying the surface would eventually bed down.
Now the work has been completed, the executive member for culture, recreation and countryside at Hampshire County Council Andrew Gibson has been out to look at the path.
He said he has listened to suggestions from the public and from horse riders as to how the trail could be further improved and will be contracting additional work on defined stretches of the trail, at the request of The British Horse Society.
He said: ‘The trail now has a level, firm surface which is free from mud. Access onto the trail has also been improved with the result that many more people can enjoy the trail with confidence.’
The British Horse Society’s director of access Mark Weston had also visited the trail and expressed overall support for the works and improvements made.
However he did make recommendations which could improve the route for equestrian users.
Cllr Gibson said: ‘In light of this we’ll be enhancing the surface north of Cutts Arch by adding some additional stone quarry dust.
Access onto the trail has also been improved with the result that many more people can enjoy the trail with confidence.Executive member for culture, recreation and countryside at Hampshire County Council Andrew Gibson
‘This is to help the surface bed in more quickly. We hope to undertake these works while we still have the good weather and we will only need to temporarily close sections for a few days.’