To West Meon (via the dismantled railway line) 26.1 km (16.2 miles) with 375 meters (1,200 ft) of ascent
|Maps||OS Explorer OL32 (was 132) Winchester|
This walk follows the first section of the South Downs Way (SDW) from its start in the historic Cathedral City of Winchester. It heads east, through high rolling farmland with distant though extensive views - as far out as to the Isle of Wight - to a remote rustic country pub. It then ascends the start of the South Downs ridge before a very scenic descent from Beacon Hill to Exton, a small village in the Meon Valley. From there it leaves the SDW, following a disused railway path to West Meon, which has an infrequent bus service back to the start.
Along the way, you follow the SDW past Telegraph Hill (162m), Cheesefoot Head (176m, a bowl/natural amphitheatre), Temple Valley, Gander Down, The Milbury's (a remote pub near Millbarrow Down for lunch), Beacon Hill (201m), and the Meon Valley disused railway line path.
This is a long walk (due to a lack of public transport in this remote area), so there are 3 shorter options:
The Milbury's (S024 0PB, 01962 771248). A 17th century country pub on the SDW, near Millbarrow Down (14.8 km from Winchester). Mixed reviews, quirky, hit and miss, "on the intersection of ancient trackways", real ale, beer garden, reasonable prices.
The Shoe Inn (S032 3NT, 01489 877526). An award-winning country pub (21.3 km from Winchester, and a little off-route). Located in the heart of the Meon Valley, with a riverside garden with stunning views of Old Winchester Hill. Open all day Saturday and Sunday.
|South Downs Way||
This walk is one of 9 stages of the South Downs Way - a 109 mile national long distance path - that traverses the South Downs National Park in South East England.
For all walks, doing it in reverse is a good option. Take the bus to West Meon in the morning, and you can spend the evening in Winchester/Petersfield without having to worry about the last bus.
Winchester and Petersfield are both main stations, about an hour from Waterloo, with 2 trains an hour. However, they are 25 miles - 2 days walking - apart, with very little in the way of public transport in between.
In addition, these 2 stations are on different rail lines, which only meet up in Fareham (near Southampton), which makes for a more expensive ticket (2017: London-Fareham: £24.40 vs London-Petersfield: £18.20 - both Network Railcard prices), i.e. a ticket to Fareham is valid for both stations if you need to start your journey in one, and finish it in the other
Local Bus services [Jan 2017]
Stagecoach #67 (Mon-Sat only, every 3 hours) runs between the 2 train stations, but to the north of the SDW. Do check the times of the last bus. From West Meon they are about 18:45 (to Petersfield) or 16:50 (to Winchester).
Winchester (station) - Hinton Ampner (£4.50) - West Meon (£5.30 to Winchester, £3.50 to Petersfield) - East Meon - Petersfield Station.
In summer 2016, there was a summer-only weekend-only 'South Downs Rambler' bus that followed the entire SDW route (i.e. Winchester, Cheesefoot Head, (Hinton), (West Meon), Exton, Old Winchester Hill, (East Meon), Petersfield) with 3 buses a day in each direction. This would be ideal, but as on Jan'17 its former website has gone.
There are also rare (1 on Friday morning only) buses from Exton itself.
>These seems to change very frequently. Check! Traveline Southeast.
While waiting for the bus
While waiting for the train
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
Route out of Winchester to the start of the well signposted section of the South Downs Way
The route from station to the start of the SDW is a little convoluted, hence these directions.
- Exit the train station towards the city centre and turn right along Station Road, parallel to the railway line. In 250m ignore a bridge on the right across the railway and bear down left with the road (now called Upper High Street). In 100m a busier road joins from the left (Sussex Street) and in 50m, where Romsey Road joins from the right, you veer left through the Westgate further down High Street’s right hand side.
- Ignore all ways off for 320m and turn right under a narrow covered alleyway by the distinct Buttercross (a spire-like stone monument). You pass the tiny St Lawrence’s Church on the left hand side and in 70m emerge by a green space on the left, with Winchester Cathedral beyond it, to veer left towards the cathedral along a tree-lined path crossing the green.
- Walk past the cathedral’s westerly side and turn left at the corner of the building through a buttress arch into a passageway, signposted ‘Wolvesey Castle and Watermeadows’ to follow a paved path. In 20m you veer right along a road on the right-hand edge of a grassy area. In 150 m keep more or less straight on between the Deanery left and another building to the right, and then veer right with the road towards some half-timbered houses.
- In 100m, just in front of the houses, turn right through Priory Gate and in 30 m turn left through Kingsgate. Turn left beyond this along College Street. In 270m, where the road turns right, keep straight on down a broad tarmac path, with the walls of Wolvesey Palace on the left. In another 80m, turn left with the path, following the walls, and then turn right to cross two arms of the Itchen River.
- On the other side keep more or less straight up Wharf Hill to soon pass The Black Boy pub on the right. Cross the busy B3330 (note that the official start of the South Downs Way is 400m to the left along the road, at the City Mill) and continue in the same direction up along East Hill. In 100m you fork right along Petersfield Road, ignoring the left forking Quarry Road.
- Ignore all ways off for 700m to the end of the road and a first wooden South Downs Way signpost (‘Eastbourne 99 miles’).