CYCLISTS will be set for improved riding trails at a Hampshire national park thanks to £300,000 of work.

The Meon Valley Trail in the South Downs National Park will see ten miles of trail on the old railway line improved from Wickham to West Meon.

The £310,000 work is being carried out in partnership between the South Downs National Park Authority and Hampshire County Council.

It is part of a £5m investment in cycling routes into and around the park following the successful joint bid for £3.81m funding from the Depart-ment for Transport’s Linking Communities fund – led by the park in partnership with regional highways authorities – and additional funding from local authorities and groups.

David Deane, joint cycling projects officer for the South Downs National Park Authority and Hampshire County Council, said: “When the work is finished the Meon Valley Trail will allow easy car-free access straight into the heart of the South Downs National Park through a valley rich with history dating back to Saxon times.

“More recently the old railway siding at Droxford, which the trail runs through, provided the meeting point where Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle met to finalise plans for D-Day landings.

“The trail is in desperate need of an upgrade with overgrown trees on steep embankments that are prone to collapse in high winds and a deep muddy surface that rarely dries out.

“The work will also give us the opportunity to include signage to the many villages with excellent pubs and cafes to be found on the route.

“The first stage will include felling dangerous trees and clearing overgrown scrub and vegetation to create new habitats for wildlife.

“Resurfacing and drainage works will then start in the summer.

“Parts of the trail will need to be closed while the work is carried out.”