South Downs Way 1 : Winchester to West Meon or Hinton Ampner walk

Historic Winchester and the South Downs Way. Shorter (via Hinton Ampner NT) and longer (Beacon Hill, and a railway path) options. Return by bus.


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Sat, 21-Dec-19 a Saturday Walk - South Downs Way: Hinton Ampner to Winchester ('s famous Christmas Market) 5 from blue skies to overcast to rain late on
Sat, 28-Jan-17 Saturday Walk - South Downs Way Section 1: Winchester to West Meon or Hinton Ampner 15 fairly sunny and mild
Length: 20.9 km (13.0 mi)
Ascent/Descent: 292/312 m
Net Walking Time: ca. 4 ½ hours
Toughness: 5 out of 10
[Sunset out there will be at 16.00, giving sufficient light for walking to 16.30 at least. And the last 20 minutes or so are along lit streets.]
Take the 08.45 Portsmouth Harbour train from Waterloo (08.52 Clapham J, 09.13 Woking), arrives Petersfield 10.11. From there take Bus 67 Direction Winchester at 10.32 outside the station. The bus arrives Hinton Ampner Park at 11.04. [To while away the time in Petersfield, there is a pub with early opening 2 just minutes away, which serves pretty decent coffees and teas. Or walk to the town square for a wander around the market and take the bus from there at 10.28 (Stop B).]
Return trains: xx.18 to 20.18 (Journey Time 65 minutes), then 22.22. There are also services to Reading for connections to Paddington (xx.36 and 16.03/18.03). Buy a Fareham Return (that’s where the Portsmouth and Southampton lines meet).

Map-led walk from Hinton Ampner (Park and NT House, Source of the River Itchen). Follow the Wayfarer’s Walk up to the South Downs and turn right along their westerly end with the South Downs Way through high rolling farmland (and past the gloriously named ‘Cheesefoot Head’) towards its official start in the Cathedral City of Winchester, where one of the best Christmas Markets in the UK awaits (closes at 20.00).
For walk directions, a map, a height profile, gpx/kml files, and photos click here. For a tailor-made gpx, pointing in the right direction, click here. [Right-click and ‘Save Link As…’]
Lunch: The Milbury's in Beauworth (6.1 km/3.8 mi)
Tea: Plenty options in Winchester. T=swc.182.a

Stargazer is away...
  • 21-Dec-19

    5 off the early train (earlier than normal due to the RMT strike), having seen some very flooded flood plains from the train window (the area just past Guildford was basically all water). The 20 minutes or so we had in Petersfield until the bus departure most spent going to the market place, while I checked out the South Downs NP info room, where volunteers ran a food and hot drinks outlet (sourced from Supermarket out-of-date stuff). What rain there had been in the area, had stopped by the time we arrived at Hinton Ampner and some blue sky was about.

    We inpected the 13C church and the extra-special tree in the churchyard and slithered on, or so we had expected. But the ground was actually quite good underfoot: some standing water in pastures, no doubt, short muddy stretches on bridleways, but never long and never deep. The couple of arable fields along the Wayfarers Way were good to walk w/o sinking in or accumulating mud, and suddenly we were on the SDW and within another 15 minutes at the (early) lunch pub.

    Unashamedly old school and basic it may be, but it is a very nice place, with roaring fireplaces, nice food and all the rest of it.

    The going on the SDW was good, not much mud despite it being a bridleway all the way, the scenery pleasant on the eye and still no rain. We passed a pheasant shoot, just before Cheesefoot Head (which refers to the bowl at the bottom of the hill apparently, as per an excellent info panel, rather than the hill overtowering it), and crossed the motorway bridge on Winchester's fringes at 4 o'clock, just as dusk started in seriousness.

    2 went straight on to the Xmas market and then the train, us other 3 paid a visit to The Black Boy, a true one-of-a-kind pub. When we left it, it finally was raining, and not feebly, but we went on a long circuit across the market anyway. Nice one. 17.36 train (via Basingstoke/Reading). from blue skies to overcast to rain late on

Length: 26.0 km (16.2 mi) [shorter walk possible, see below]
Ascent/Descent: 420/395m
Net Walking Time: 6 hours
Toughness: 7 out of 10
Take the 08.35 Weymouth train from Waterloo (CJ 08.44, Woking 09.04), arrives Winchester 09.41.
From the finish you need to take a bus back to Winchester: Line 67 Petersfield – Winchester (West Meon 16.53, Hinton Ampner 17.04, arrives Winchester 17.41).
Return trains: into Paddington via Reading (faster: 75 mins) at 18.03, 18.36, 19.36…, into Waterloo (slower: 105 mins) at 17.48, 18.18, 18.48, 19.18Buy a Winchester return.

First posting of this (map-led) South Downs challenge.
The route leads through the centre of the historic Cathedral City and across the Itchen River up to the westerly end of the South Downs: the first tops are Telegraph Hill and the lovingly named Cheesefoot Head, then progress through Temple Valley and Gander Down to early lunch at a (basic) pub in Beauworth. After that it’s not long to Beacon Hill (one of the many), followed by a descent to Exton village for the late lunch option, and then to turn north east for a slight re-ascent along a dismantled railway line and a final drop into the Meon Valley for the bus back to Winchester.
There is only one realistic bus back (but also a pub open all afternoon to while away the time in), so if unexpectedly running late against schedule, two shortcuts are possible, either to Hinton Ampner (turnoff after 15.7 km), or on a more direct route to West Meon (turnoff after 18.4 km), check out the route map here.
Missed that bus? You have to take the same bus line in the other direction to Petersfield (Hinton Ampner 18.28, West Meon 18.41). Petersfield is on a different train line, though…!
Lunch: The Milbury's (food to 14.30) in Beauworth (14.7 km/9.1 mi) or The Shoe Inn in Exton (20.7 km/12.9 mi, food to 15.00, so doable, unless the gpx file on our site understates the ascent en route dramatically). Tea: The Thomas Lord in West Meon or The Hinton Arms in Hinton Ampner and plenty of options in Winchester.
For summary, map, height profile and gpx/kml files click here.t=swc.182
  • 21-Jan-17

    It is too late for lunch but The Shoe in Exton is a highly recommended pub.

  • 22-Jan-17

    Thanks Walker. Seeing that Winchester is your 'manor', any tips for a post-walk dinner spot, should the urge arise?

  • 22-Jan-17

    In my family we tend to eat at The Shoe!! I am not so up on dining places in Winchester. The Wyckham Arms in Kingsgate Street is a lovely pub: more centrally the Old Vine is nice. But last time I tried to eat after a walk in Winchester it was a question of finding anywhere with a free table. There is a lively dining scene but everywhere is busy on Saturday nights. Nothing else to do in Winchester on a Saturday night, I would guess, but perhaps this is me extrapolating from my teenage years.....

  • 23-Jan-17

    well, with our (necessarily) early start, The Shoe should actually be doable. posting updated accordingly.

  • 26-Jan-17

    If you are going to rely on The Shoe, ring first to check they have space. It is a good place for lunch but it does get quite booked. It has a nice riverside garden but I am guessing this is not an option at this time of year.

  • 26-Jan-17

    for anyone traveling from W or NW London: there is no Jubilee Line service Wembley Park to Waterloo this weekend...

  • Kelda

    Oooh, a lovely long walk :) See you on the train!

  • 29-Jan-17

    15 braved the 8.35 train to do this walk, and our reward was a fine outing in fairly sunny and mild weather. To be specific it started sunny, got a bit cloudier around the middle of the day, then cleared to a glorious late afternoon.

    My family have lived in Winchester for 47 years but I did not know the South Downs Way route out of the city. Maybe this is because it begins inauspiciously on a busy road intersection. (Could they not find a better starting point for this wonderful long distance path? In front of the cathedral maybe?). This minor glitch apart, after a lovely walk through historic Winchester the path headed out across the fields with blue sky above and a lark singing (briefly): what better start could one want?

    This section of the SDW is mainly high rolling farmland with distant though extensive views (including an intriguing one of the Isle of Wight to the south): not classic downland, but easy underfoot, with lots of tracks and broad paths along arable fields. As a result the 16.2 miles flew by, even for the non-distance walkers among us (ie me). The scenic highlight was the descent into the Meon Valley from Beacon Hill, which was very lovely. Alas, no time to daly there, because we had to hoof it along the old railway line to West Meon for the 4.53 bus. We got this comfortably, but more time to linger in the pleasant Thomas Lord pub would have been nice.

    Lunch had been in Milbury's, the most rustic rural inn I have been in on the walks, with locals with mud-bespattered trousers, an enormous treadmill and 300 foot deep well in one corner, and generous portions of food. A real ale expert took us to another quirky pub in Winchester - the Black Boy, whose many decorations included a stuffed giraffe's neck and head (it looked and felt authentic) and a foghorn used as a lampholder. Its food offering was limited, however, and so eight of us negotiated our way into a busy Zizzis in the High Street for refuelling.

    On the way back the train we got on was full to the gunwales with football supporters, meaning we had to stand as far as Basingstoke. The original idea was to switch at this station to a faster train to Waterloo (the trains being all mixed up due to engineering works). My companions decided not to do this change, while I did, so they travelled to London with the two bottles of red wine and prosecco, while I had to console myself with the chocolate. Which of us did more damage to our metabolism I do not know, but I got home 45 minutes earlier....