A SUNDAY bus service across Hampshire countryside is returning after a break of 40 years.

For the first time since the 1970s the villages between Winchester and Petersfield along the A272 will be linked.

Thanks to funding from the South Downs National Park Authority, a Sunday and Bank Holiday service will run between May 18 and October 26.

Xelabus will run the four journeys a day in each direction linking Winchester with the Itchen Valley, Alresford, Cheriton, West Meon, East Meon and Petersfield.

Philip Blair, managing director of Xelabus, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this tender for this service which will enable not only residents to travel into either town but also to attract tourists to such attractions as the Mid Hants Steam Railway, Hinton Ampner House and also the South Downs Way trails for ramblers and hikers."

Mr Blair added: “We are talking to attractions on route to offer discounts for admission and visits.”