Beacon Hill/Old Winchester Hill

Someone stopped me the other day and queried the fact that I do most of my hill-walking in South Wales.  Their concern was that if they wanted to take up hill-walking would they have to travel 3 hours each way to and from Wales for a day in the hills?  A large number of us will probably not have a large range of hills on our door step.  Is this going to hamper us in any way?  NO, of course not that are plenty of hills to walk wherever you live – unless you live in East Anglia where you may have a slight problem.  Most people however, will have some hills within a half hours drive or bus ride.

So, to put my money where my mouth is, I planned a route to take in couple of hills and a decent walking distance within a 10 minute drive of my home.  The route predominantly follows the South Downs Way and the Monarch’s Way and is circular with an excellent pub at the end of it.

Distance – 8.7 miles; Ascent – 1093 feet; Time Taken – 4 hours
Difficulty – Leisurely; Surface – Grass, Gravel & Tarmac


I chose to start my walk in Exton and parked just around the corner from the village pub.  Parking is not easy in Exton especially in the height of the summer or at weekends, so you could start the walk from anywhere on the route.  Do not be tempted to park in the pub car park unless you wish to suffer the wrath of the Landlord.

Follow the South Downs Way (Temporary Route) signs out of the village heading towards Beacon Hill.  This takes you up a narrow country lane at a nice gentle gradient, just right to get those leg muscles warmed up.  Take time to look at the verge area which is protected as a wild flower zone.  As you reach the top of the hill you will see the  Beacon pillar in the field to your right.dscn0197

Shortly after the beacon pillar take the sign posted track to the summit of Beacon Hill.dscn0198

A short 200m walk up the path brings you to the summit of Beacon Hill and the Trig Pillar.DSCN0201.JPG

From here the footpath heads west to a car parking area before picking up the Monarch’s Way.  Head north-east and descend to the road below.  Turn right a line the road to Warnford.  As you approach the T-junction look to the right for the water cress beds before turning left along the main A32 for 50 metres.dscn0208

Walk past The George and Falcon public house to the right hand turn sign-posted for Old Winchester Hill.DSCN0210.JPG

This is a long steady climb up to the top of Old Winchester Hill.  At the top of the hill follow the track away from the road towards the Iron Age Hill Fort.  This is an interesting section of path as it has been split into two distinct and well signed paths.  The left hand one is for walkers and wheel chair users whilst the one on the right is for bikers and horse riders.  As you approach the Hill Fort do not take the obvious path to the left but go past the Natural England display board and follow this path into the Hill Fort itself.DSCN0218.JPG

Take time to explore the explore the Bronze Age and Iron settlements, ditches and ramparts as you work you way through the hill fort finally culminating at the trig point and observation plate.DSCN0220.JPG

Take the path out of the western end of the hill fort and follow all the way down the hill back to the main A32.  Cross the road and proceed along the road into Exton and back to the start point.DSCN0224.JPG




5 Simple Safety Rules

sar-mrtIf you are thinking of starting hill walking or returning to the hills after a long break then it is important that we discus the boring stuff like safety.  I know in the modern world we constantly harp on about Health & Safety and the ‘Nanny State’.  But safety is there for a reason and none more so than when you are on the hills.  We are not necessarily talking about going off piste and climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike or Ben Nevis, you could be just going for a walk along the South Downs Way or similar footpath.  Wherever you go the same rules apply.

If I were to sit down with a group of my OS Get Outside colleagues and start a list of safety rules it would probably run to tens of items.  All would be valid but we have to be a little more practicable or you will hide away and never venture out of the front door.  Therefore I am producing here what I think are the 5 most important and basic rules relating to safety on the hills.

Plan your trip – Make sure you plan your route meticulously, use a route sheet to calculate leg lengths and height gain/loss.  Plan escape routes and highlight any danger zones that you may encounter.  Highly recommend OS Maps – a brilliant tool and well worth the money.  Always (and I mean always) carry a map and compass and know how to use them.  The planning is pointless otherwise. Check the weather before you leave at The Met Office, if there is any doubt that the weather may be unsuitable then there is No Doubt – Don’t Go.

Tell Someone– It is very important that you tell a responsible person about your. They need to know where you are going, route details, party size, where your cars are parked and what time you are due off the hill.  The responsible person also needs to know when and how to raise the alarm – One Hour Overdue, call 999 ask for Police, tell them you need Mountain Rescue.  I use a route safety card specifically designed for the purpose by the OS.

Carry the right kit – your kit will vary depending on the time of year and where you are walking but as a minimum you should always carry spare warm clothing, waterproofs, spare socks, basic survival bag, whistle, torch/head lamp and spare batteries, fire lighter, first aid kit, high energy food (mint cake), water.  During the winter you may well wish to add a bothy bag, crampons, ice axe, quilted jacket.

Allow plenty of time – having done all of the planning don’t be tempted to leave home at a leisurely time.  During the winter the light fads very early and quickly and you do not want to be caught out on the hills in the dark.  If your planning says your route will take 5 hours then ensure you start the walk at least 6 hours before dusk so that you will to return an hour before darkness.  Do not forget to factor in the time for food or rest you plan to take.

Know your limits – this is very important both for yourself and any others you may be walking with.  Tiredness and fatigue can come on you very quickly especially on a cold, damp winters day.  If there is any sign that you or a member of your team is suffering from fatigue, is unwell, or injured – then turn back or follow one of your pre-planned escape routes off of the hill.  The hill will still be there next week.

One of the most important things to remember is:

Getting to the top is optional – getting home safely is mandatory!

We Need You!


Are you over 60, plan to be over 60 or know someone who is over 60 – then please read on.

We at Hill Walking For The Over 60’s would like to invite, encourage or coerce you to take an active part in this blog/website.  If you have any stories, anecdotes or amusing situations that you are prepared to share then please contact us via the Contacts Page.

We don’t mind what it is providing it relates to hill walking for the older generation, and is, of course, re-printable!

Maybe you are thinking of taking up hill-walking now that you are approaching, or have reached, retirement age.  Not sure where to start and have a whole host of questions that you need answering.

We don’t necessarily need a huge essay.  Just a few words or some photos will suffice.  However, if you have something approaching a tome then we will still be interested in reading it.

Still interested?  Then go to our Contact Us page and fill in the form. Or drop us an email at glyn({@})  if you are on Twitter contact me at @G4CFS



Ordnance Survey Get Outside Champion

It is an honour to be able to announce that I have been chosen by the Ordnance Survey to be one of their #GetOutside Champions. For me this is a dream role being given the opportunity to help inspire more people to get outside and enjoy what nature has to offer.

In the words of the Ordnance Survey

“we believe that an active outdoor lifestyle helps you to live longer, stay younger and enjoy life more. But it is a sad fact that research tells us fewer and fewer people are regularly getting outside, either on foot, on bike or by any other means….. The results suggested a quarter of the British public won’t walk anywhere that takes over 15 minutes. Three quarters won’t walk to work. Almost 70% never walk to the shops, while only a third would ever do the school run on foot, with only around a third of us admitting to enjoying a weekend walk for pleasure”.

The Ordnance Survey launched the #GetOutside initiative to change this, by showing people of all ages and abilities just how amazing Great Britain is, and how easy it is to #GetOutside and enjoy it, which is where the #GetOutside champions come in. It is our job to inspire and encourage more people to #GetOutside.


So what does this mean for me. Well two things –

  1. Promoting the linking of another hobby with hill-walking such as Summits On The Air, Geo Caching or ‘Summit-Bagging’ thereby increasing the motivation to #GetOutside through challenge.
  2. Encouraging and inspiring over 60’s to get out and enjoy the hills rather than thinking that they have reached the ‘carpet slipper’ stage of life and are ‘Over the hill and not On the hill’.

How this will be achieved will be revealed over the next few weeks but suffice to say what I write on my two blog sites;

plus the Ordnance Survey #GetOutside website:

will have a major impact on the outcome.


Getting Motivated

One of the hardest things about encouraging anyone to #getoutside is one of self motivation.  How many times have you said – OK I will go for a walk this weekend, only to find the slightest excuse not to get up early and get out.  I found myself doing this a few years ago and decided I had to find a way to motivate myself to get back into the hills.  I know to some people it may seem strange to say, but you can get complacent or even bored with the beautiful scenery especially when the weather is not very good.  All is not however lost, there are things that we can do to ‘spice-up’ the enjoyment of walking.  Two of these are setting a challenge and mixing another hobby or interest with the walking activity.

Setting a Challenge

The first time I added a challenge to my hill-walking was back in 1993 when I moved to Scotland.  It was whilst driving up over the Pass of Drumochter on our way to our new home at Kinloss that my 9 year old son asked if I could take him up some of the very impressive mountains that we were driving through.  This in due course led to my son and myself entering the world of ‘Munro Bagging’.  Over the next few years we managed to ‘bag’ numerous Munros (The 282 Scottish Mountains over 3000 feet [914.4 m]).

You don’t have to restrict yourself to the Scottish Munros there are numerous categories of summits all over the UK to offer a challenge to virtually everyone and these include:

282 Munros, 227 subsidiary Munro  Tops, 442 Murdos, 221 Corbetts, 224 Grahams, 140 Donalds, 34 Furths (None Scottish Munros), 444 Nuttalls, 528 Hewitts, 214 Wainwrights (& 116 outlying fells), 541 Birketts, 1556 Marilyns, plus Deweys, Hardys, HuMPS, Simms and Tumps.

If you do not want to travel too far then why not ‘bag’ all the hills/mountain in your local geographic area.  Whether that’s a County or National Park the choices are endless and can provide a lifetime of challenging additions to your weekly walks.

But we do not need to restrict ourselves to ‘summit bagging’, a quick search of the internet will highlight the numerous long distant Footpaths crisscrossing the countryside in various lengths.  Some of the more famous ones are the Pennine Way, the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path and the West Highland Way however, there will be some close to you no matter where you live.

A large number are low-level routes but there are numerous routes that will take you up into the hills for example close to me there is the South Downs Way.  These paths do not need to be completed in a single attempt but can be used to ‘cherry pick’ routes of interest or convenience to public transport.  Either way there is a host of information available about these paths on the internet and a great way to #getoutside.

There is no restriction to the challenges that you can set yourself.  On a recent walking trip to the Isle of Wight I met a man and his dog who were in the closing stages of having walked every footpath on the island, a challenge that had taken them over three years.

In 2006 I was introduced to the Marilyns.  These are mountains and hills in the British Isles that have a prominence of at least 150 metres (490 feet), regardless of absolute height or other merit. This introduction was not as a result of more new summits to ‘tick-off’ but to do with another attribute that can be used to draw people into or back into the pleasures of hill-walking – the mixing of two or more interests together.

Mixing it up

Many of us have hobbies other than hill-walking and whilst some of these are sedentary pastimes many are or can be adapted to the outdoors.  An example of the sort of hobbies and interests that are predominantly outdoor are bird/wildlife watching, geology, archaeology/local history, entomology and geocaching.  Any one of these can be intrinsically linked in with hill-walking in one way or another.

Since I was a young boy of 10 I have had a fascination with radios and communications which lead me to become a fully licensed Radio Amateur when I was 14 years old.  This is hobby I have nurtured and developed over the intervening 50 years.  In 2006 I had a chance radio contact with a Radio Amateur called Richard who was operating his radio from the summit of a hill in central England.  He was the co-founder of an Amateur Radio group called Summits On The Air (SOTA) who operated their radio equipment from the tops of mountains and hills all over the world.  The definition of a summit for the SOTA organisation is a hill/mountain of 150m prominence, or in British terms a Marilyn.

Norwegian Radio Amateur Tor setting up

Having some portable radio equipment of my own I set off up my closest local qualifying hill and managed to make radio contact with Radio Amateurs all over Europe and the UK, some of whom were also on top of Mountains themselves.  Over the years I have streamlined my radio equipment and honed my operating skills to be able to operate from the most extreme summits in the worst of blizzards.  But more importantly I have infused a new vigour into my hill-walking because there are 1551 summits to activate in the UK alone without looking to the 100’s of 1000’s of summits to activate worldwide.

The authors radio set-up on top of Graig Syfyrddin, South Wales

Want to encourage your Grand Children to come along with you on your hill-walks?  Then why not introduce them to Geocaching.  It is hard these days to separate a youngster from their computer screens or mobile phones.  Well this is a way of mixing up good healthy exercise and technology.  Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.


Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.  This something that they can do on your GPS, if you have one, or even on their mobile phone.  It will entertain them and take their minds off of the fact that they are out in the fresh air, and you never know they may develop a love for the great outdoors and the splendor of the hills.

So as you can see, there is no excuse not to get out into the hills.  Look at your own hobbies and pastimes and see which ones you can adapt to work with hill-walking.  Maybe this is the ideal opportunity to take up a new interest such as bird or butterfly watching get a pair of binoculars and #getoutdoors.

Britain on Foot campaign to become part of #GetOutside

getoutside_with_britain_on_foot_landscape_002“The Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) and Ordnance Survey (OS) have announced details of a partnership that will see all elements of the Britain on Foot (BoF) campaign transfer to the OS #GetOutside platform.” Quote – myoutdoors

Nick Giles, Managing Director of Ordnance Survey Leisure, said: “We have been working with the Outdoor Industries Association for a number of years and I am delighted that we have been able to build this new partnership. Both organisations are passionate about the outdoors and making it enjoyable, accessible and above all safe. It is clear that an active outdoor lifestyle benefits not only health and well being but also the development of a strong social and family environment. This new partnership gives us an even louder voice to inspire a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts.”

How to Strengthen Your Knees for Hill Walking

by Erica Roth
A healthy knee can withstand pressure up to four times your body weight.

Your knees are the largest joints in your body and as such, have a significant role to play in your everyday life. With every step you take, your knees bend, twist and pivot to let you move the way you want. Hill walking is particularly hard on your knee joints as you work harder to hike up the incline. Strengthening your knees for hill walking means not only reducing potentially damaging impact, but also building stronger muscles in your thighs and buttocks.

Perform step-up exercises on a staircase or 6-inch aerobics step. Step onto the raised platform with one foot, letting the other dangle freely. Hold for three to five seconds before putting your dangling foot back down. Repeat 10 times on each foot. This exercise strengthens your hips, thighs and glutes. All of these muscles support your knees as you walk, especially on an incline.

Strengthen your quadriceps muscles. Lie on your back with one knee bent and your foot flat on the floor. Keeping your other leg straight with toes pointing toward the sky. Raise that leg up several inches from the ground, and hold the position for up to 10 seconds before relaxing. Complete 10 repetitions with each leg. Strong quads help keep your knee joints straight and absorb impact when you’re walking downhill.

Lie on your side, supporting your weight with one elbow. Lift your top leg up about 12 inches in a scissors-like fashion, keeping it straight. Hold for a second, and return to the original position. Perform 20 to 30 repetitions to strengthen your hip abductors. Much of the climbing motion involved with hill walking comes from your hips. Strong hips support the knees and can prevent injury to the iliotibial band on the outer portion of your knee.

Stretch the IT band to improve stability in the hips and knees and reduce friction. Stand with your feet together. Extend your arms out to your sides to form a T-shape. Reach down toward your back with one arm as far as you can, while keeping your knees straight. Hold for several seconds before repeating the stretch with the other arm.

Choose footwear designed to keep your knees healthy during an uphill walk. Walking shoes or hiking boots that are well padded with significant arch support protect your knees from impact-related injuries. Add insoles to your shoes if you feel your heels slipping when you walk uphill or downhill to prevent painful blistering.

Use a trekking pole or walking stick for hill walking. These long, cane-like devices can reduce damaging impact on the knees by 25 percent, according to the Appalachian Mountain Club.


Is Hill-Walking Good For You?

If you have never done any hill-walking before or you are worried about continuing to hill-walk later in life, then you may wonder if walking on the hills is in fact good for you?

Well the simple answer to that is YES!

We all know that some exercise is good for you but a University in Japan wanted to know if hill-walking in particular would have a beneficial or detrimental effect on one’s health. The aim of their research programme was to evaluate mood alteration and physical condition through a One-year Healthy Hill-walking Program for retired elderly in Kaminoyama, Japan. This program was designed as health promotion for retired elderly.

In order to achieve their research twenty-three retired elderly (range=59-70) participated in the programme as subjects. Mood alteration was measured, physical condition was measured with some questions, constructed by the authors. Data were collected on 12-days hill-walking between 2012 to 2013. Participants answered the questionnaire before and after walking, and on the following day.

The outcome of their research was that Pleasantness and Relaxation scores significantly increased after 9 and 6 times of walking, respectively.  Anxiety score decreased after 4 times of walking. Waist and knee pain decreased after 6 times of walking.  Some of the subjects commented that there was a positive relation between their sleep patterns and the walking.

The subjects involved in the research stated that they noticed a clear improvement in their mental and physical conditions and become more motivated to continue hill-walking on a regular and frequent basis.

Reference: Evaluation of One-year Healthy Hill-walking Program for Japanese Elderly on Mood Alteration and Physical Condition
N. Kawamura & K. Machida of Oita University, H. Ueda, of  Sapporo City University and N. Koseki of Kurort Lab.