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.
Shortly after the beacon pillar take the sign posted track to the summit of Beacon Hill.
A short 200m walk up the path brings you to the summit of Beacon Hill and the Trig Pillar.
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.
Walk past The George and Falcon public house to the right hand turn sign-posted for Old Winchester Hill.
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.
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.
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.