Beacon and Old Winchester Hills on the South Downs

This Hampshire walk explores the beautiful Meon Valley and two of the highest hills that flank the valley. The route also includes some picturesque villages. There are pubs serving food and refreshments on the walk.

Technical sheet
No. 292933
A Exton (Hampshire) walk posted on 04/07/16 by Walking Britain. Update : 11/08/16
Calculated time Calculated time: 5h15[?]
Distance Distance : 9.61mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 988ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 991ft
Highest point Highest point : 656ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 203ft
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : South Downs
Location Location : Exton (Hampshire)
Starting point Starting point : N 51.001118° / W 1.148227°
Download : -


(D/A) From the pleasant wooded car park at the foot of Beacon Hill there is a track rising from the right side of the car park (when facing away from the road), signposted South Downs Way. Take this steadily climbing path to the summit trig point where there are some fine views. From here, descend down the signposted permissive bridlepath (not shown on OS maps) to the country lane. Turn left along the lane and in a few metres enter the field on the left signposted South Downs Way (walkers only). The route crosses a large number of fields but remains on an unerring bearing (as shown on OS maps) until Exton comes in sight and it kicks slightly left before meeting a country lane in this very picturesque village.

(1) Turn left into Exton and enjoy its beautiful thatched cottages and flint church. Maybe stop at the South Downs tea rooms with their beautiful gardens. Follow the lane left past the church to the A32. Cross carefully and continue along a path over a footbridge. The path joins a track and then the South Downs Way turns sharp left and heads due East narrowly through trees with a dried up stream (September 2010) below. Upon reaching the old railway bridge, ascend to meet the old track-bed above. Here the route turns briefly left and almost immediately right down a winding path to a complex junction. Head half right towards a metal gate on a right hand bend, follow round to the right and then left in 150 meters as the path climbs steadily to the next objective: Old Winchester Hill.

(2) Note the Monarch's Way heading off left as you ascend Old Winchester Hill: this is the return route. On the summit of the hill are obvious remnants of the ramparts and ditches of an old fort. There are two distinct tumuli on the summit also. Having enjoyed the views and explored the ancient monument retrace to the Monarch's Way junction and turn right, heading north to Peake Farm. Follow the waymarks around the borders of the farm and then along its access road to Hayden Lane.

(3) Turn left on Hayden Lane and walk to the old railway bridge. Cross and take the footpath on the right immediately adjacent to the bridge. A footpath forks right from the right of way in a few metres and descends to the track-bed of the disused railway (Meon Valley Trail), now a permissive bridlepath. Follow this all the way to its end at West Meon. Reaching a country lane after leaving the car park, turn left and follow the winding road into the village. Cross the A32 and slightly left on the other side of the road is a footpath behind houses that leads to the church. The churchyard makes a good resting point or picnic spot.

(4) The onward route is left (when facing the church) on the approach to the church, just before reaching the railings and through the graveyard over a low stone step with a square hole in the middle. The narrow winding path exits onto a drive and then into a field where it follows a higher contour parallel to the A32 below. When this path reaches a lane turn left along it down through the village of Warnford to the A32. Note the watercress beds on the way.

(5) Turn right briefly on the A32 and almost immediately right again past more watercress beds following the Monarch's Way. Pass an agricultural works and then, just before the forge turn left past farm buildings following the Monarch's Way as it climbs steadily to the obvious objective of Beacon Hill. The path is well marked and affords good views ahead. The final stretch runs through woods back to the car park(D/A) .

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 620ft
1 : mi 1.54 - alt. 217ft - Turn left
2 : mi 4.01 - alt. 384ft - Continue ahead
3 : mi 5.46 - alt. 381ft - Turn left
4 : mi 6.77 - alt. 276ft - Churchyard
5 : mi 7.99 - alt. 243ft - Turn right
D/A : mi 9.61 - alt. 617ft

Useful Information

This is a delightful walk along part of the South Downs Way visiting some quintessentially English villages and countryside. I wouldn't be surprised to find Hercule Poirot sipping a tisane at the tea rooms in Exton! There are expansive views from both hills at the west and east extremities of this walk that range as far as the Isle of Wight.

There are numerous options for start points including the car park on the summit of Old Winchester Hill at grid reference SU645213, the Meon Valley Trail car park at grid reference SU641236, or for the purposes of this write up: the car park at the foot of Beacon Hill at grid reference SU598227. Heed the warnings about keeping valuables out of sight at these car parks. The path follows the South Downs Way (walkers route) all the way to Old Winchester Hill, although some signs state that this route is a temporary one (September 2010).

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.67/5
Number of opinions : 6
Description quality : 4.67/5
Routemap quality : 4.83/5
Walk interest : 4.5/5

on Tue 28 Jul 2020 17:08:40 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 28/07/20
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Good

Thus was realy more like 10.5 miles and 4 hrs 15 but a lovely walk with a well timed lunch in Meon!

on Mon 03 Feb 2020 13:55:28 CET

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 01/02/20
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Very good

This walk is beautiful and includes stunning views.
There is no old church on leaving Exton and before crossing the A32, the church has already been passed.
The section after this was flooded and only just passable by hanging on to branches at the sides of the path and carefully avoiding barbed wire. Gloves and proper water resistant boots essential in winter or after wet weather.
The only place to eat or drink was in West Meon - the last section of the walk so fluids and sustenance MUST be packed.
Overall a thoroughly wonderful walk. We loved it and will do it again - not before Spring and with a picnic

on Tue 11 Sep 2018 10:18:24 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 11/09/18
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

This is a very good walk, but you will need a break somewhere. An ideal spot is about two thirds of the way round at the Thomas Lord pub in West Meon (not cheap but a nice garden). In point 3, where it says 'follow the winding road into the village', look out for a signpost on the right which indicates a short cut to this pub. The view at the start from Beacon Hill is good, but the view from the top of Winchester Hill is even better. It's worth the trek and there's an information plate at the top near the trig point which indicates what you can see.

on Sun 01 Apr 2018 20:09:59 CEST

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 01/04/18
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Good

Some lovely views and a variety of walking environments, hard to believe I was so close to Southampton, I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. I found the route description helpful, especially point 4, about looking for the stone step in the wall by the church in West Meon - the path would have been hard to find without this tip!. Some of the paths were VERY muddy but we've had a lot of rain recently! A great day out.

on Mon 26 Feb 2018 11:04:16 CET

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 24/02/18
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

My girlfriend and I undertook this walk on a perfect sunny day, and felt it was one of the best routes we have walked so far. A superb mix of downland and historic villages, hillside & valley, woodland and riverside kept us interested in this very beautiful part of the country, and spurred us onwards to see what was coming next. If you have the time we would thoroughly recommend a detour at Warnford to include the church of our lady and the 13thC ruined hall behind. Overall a great day out.

on Sun 07 Jan 2018 21:42:34 CET

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 27/12/17
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Good

This is an excellent walk with quiet routes and peaceful views of the downs. We tackled it in snow and the mud can be very hard going. Advise poles and good boots if not doing in fine conditions. It is challenging despite the seemingly sedate countryside. History buffs will enjoy tracing to flight of Charles 2nd.

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