Length: 6.75 miles
Ascent: 714 feet
Duration: 3 hours
Access: Grass, Tracks, Roads
Car Park: Beacon Hill NNR (SU 598 227)
Beacon Hill is one of my favourate locations to start a walk. From the free car park you can access so much walks, in all directions. Several Long Distance Footpaths cross in the vicinity – South Downs Way, Monarch’s Way, The White Way & Wayfarer’s Way.
Todays route follows sections of the South Downs Way and Monarch’s Way tyravelling through the beautiful and enigamtic Meon Valley. Passing through the villages of Exton and Warnford both with excellant pubs offering food as well as drink. You will also pass the traditional Watercress fields and the Wheely Down Forge home of an amazing artist Blacksmith.
Leave the car park along the easterly track and follow the ridge to the trig pillar. From here the track heads south to intercept the road before entering the field with the torch beacon. Just follow the signs for the South Downs Way (SDW).
At the bottom of the hill enter the village of Exton and continue along the SDW heading towards the main road A32. As you approach the junction the River Meon makes it first appearance
At the road junction, carefully cross a very busy road to the footpath marked for the SDW. An easy, wide track soon give ways to a narrow footpath running adjacent to a small stream and twisting its way through the trees and routes. At the end of this path you will reach the Meon Valley Trail (MVT) – a 9 miles route along a dis-used railway.
Cross the MVT and continue along the SDW for about 100 metres before following a small footpath to the left. This path soon opens up to a broad track referred to as the Garden Hill Lane. After about a kilometre you intercept a tarmac track waymarked as the Monarch’s Way. Turn left and continue to follow the track into a field leading around Peake Farm, crossing a road and continuing past Lower Peake Cottage.
Eventually the track reaches the tarmac road, Hayden Lane, where you turn left and head down hill to the village of Warneford. Care should be taken on this narrow road as it is the main route to the popular Old Winchester Hill National Nature Reserve. Further care is required at Warneford as you have to recross the very busy A32.
The pavement leads south past the George and Falcon pub, a great place to stop for refreshment. Walking past the pub for about half a kilometre brings you to a road junction on the right with a pleasant village green and one of the many watercress fields that populate this area.
Follow the new road and the Monarch’s Way past the Hampshire Hogs cricket ground and up the hill until you come to the Wheely Down Forge on the left. Stop for a while to admire some of the amazing metalwork and stone sculptures that festoon the yard and adjacent garden. The Monarch’s Way continues between the forge and the garden and makes steady progress back up to the top of Beacon Hill.
Please be observant and stick to the waymarked route as it winds its way through strictly adhered private land! (Editors note – I have never seen so many ‘Private Keep Out’ signs in such a concentrated area before). The path terminates at the gate way into the woods just a 5 minute walk from the car park and the end of the walk.
This is a very pleasant walk through some beautiful countryside. If you have more time, stop to explore the village of Exton and take in the delights of the Shoe public house and its outstanding food. Beacon Hill car park is a very convenient staring point for a multitude of walks, but be there early as its popularity means the car park fill up quickly.