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Beacon Hill and Exton

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Beacon Hill and Exton
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 01 Jul 2016 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Beacon Hill and Exton South Downs Walking Guidestar1 Beacon Hill and Exton South Downs Walking Guidestar1 Beacon Hill and Exton South Downs Walking Guidestar1 Beacon Hill and Exton South Downs Walking Guidestar1 Beacon Hill and Exton South Downs Walking Guide
Hampshire, South Downs
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Beacon Hill and Exton
Length: 7 miles,  Difficulty: boot Beacon Hill and Exton South Downs Walking Guide boot Beacon Hill and Exton South Downs Walking Guide boot Beacon Hill and Exton South Downs Walking Guide
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A 7 mile circular walk from the Beacon Hill National Nature Reserve on the South Downs, near Warnford in Hampshire. (NOTE: There are two Beacon Hills in Hampshire, this is the one near Warnford, not the one near Burghclere). This peaceful circuit takes you through the rolling landscape of the Meon Valley, following quiet tracks and paths across chalk grassland and through beautiful sections of dense woodland. About two thirds of the way round, the route leads you through the pretty village of Exton with thatched cottages, a beautiful church and the River Meon flowing through the bottom of the pub garden. At the summit of Beacon Hill you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Solent and Isle of Wight.

The walk has several climbs and descents throughout, including a fairly steep climb up to the top of Beacon Hill at the end. The paths can be very muddy at times and the chalk can also be slippery so good boots are a must. You will need to negotiate several gates plus 12 stiles (all of which either have gaps alongside for most dogs to pass through or should be low enough for dogs to hop over). On the outward leg to reach Exton village most of the paths are enclosed tracks but you will cross two pastures that may be holding cattle (although they were empty when we walked). The return leg follows the South Downs Way and you have a choice to follow the walkers route (which crosses multiple cattle pastures and includes 6 of the stiles) or the bridleway route which follows a quiet lane. Approximate time 3.5 hours.

The walk starts at the unmade countryside car park for Beacon Hill National Nature Reserve (which has parking for about 10 cars in amongst the trees) located about 2 miles west of the A32 at Warnford. The post code SO32 3LB will take you to Warnford village from where you will need to follow these directions. Head south through Warnford on the A32 and, immediately after passing the flint garden wall of Warnford House and a small triangular green on your right, turn right into the unsigned side road (Wheely Down Road). Follow this lane for 1.8 miles, go straight ahead at the first tiny crossroads (don’t blink or you may miss this) and then turn sharp left at the larger staggered crossroads (onto Beacon Hill Lane). Follow the lane for 0.6 miles and you will find the unmade parking area on your left (on a right-hand bend in the lane).

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Walk Sections

Start to Lomer Farm
Start to Lomer Farm

Start point: 51.0011 lat, -1.1484 long
End point: 51.0099 lat, -1.1587 long

From the Beacon Hill car park do NOT take any of the gates into the woodland, instead turn right along the tarmac lane (taking care of occasional traffic). Where the road bends right, go straight ahead through the bridle gate to join the stone track, signed as the South Downs Way. Between the gaps in the trees to your left, make sure you get a glimpse of the expansive views (these are just a taste of things to come later).

Ignore the entrance track to Lomer Cottage on your left (this cottage marks the site of the former medieval village of Lomer). Keep ahead on the track and this will lead you to the buildings of Lomer Farm. You will see a fingerpost on your right, alongside a drinking water point.

Lomer Farm to Betty Mundy's Bottom
Lomer Farm to Betty Mundy's Bottom

Start point: 51.0099 lat, -1.1587 long
End point: 50.9969 lat, -1.1748 long

Turn left here (signed as the South Downs Way) passing between the farm outbuildings. Keep straight ahead, passing two brick houses on your right, to reach the next fingerpost. Do NOT turn right along the South Downs Way (as marked by this sign), instead turn left passing a timber clad building on your right. Keep ahead to join the stone track marked as Footpath Only. You are now following part of the long distance path called the Wayfarer’s Walk, a 70 mile path which runs from Walbury Hill in Berkshire to Emsworth in Hampshire. The walking route has been created to follow an ancient route used by drovers to export cattle.

Follow this stone track between hedgerows (leading you away from the farm buildings). At the end of the track pass through the field gate ahead (or use the stile alongside) to enter the grass pasture (which occasionally is used for cattle). Take the stone track at about 11 o’clock which leads you through the centre of this field. The woodland down to your left is known as Rabbit Copse.

Towards the end of the field you will pass a fingerpost on your left, simply keep ahead to pick up the stone track which leads you out of the field via a pair of field gates (or the stile alongside). Follow this stone track which swings right, climbing alongside Preshaw Wood on your right. At the T-junction, turn left onto another track which leads you downhill. Immediately after the trees on your right end, turn right over a stile to enter the next pasture (which may be holding cattle). Cross this at about 11 o’clock (veering away from the tree line on your right) to reach a stile in the left-hand boundary.

Cross this stile, follow the path through the woodland belt and cross the stile ahead to reach a grass track at the edge of a crop field. Turn right along this grass track and, in the field corner, go through the metal gate ahead. Take the stile directly ahead, walk a few paces and then turn left to join the path leading you downhill with a crop field on your right. In the bottom corner you will come to a belt of woodland ahead, running along the valley bottom. This is known as Betty Mundy’s Bottom (more about that later…).

Betty Mundy's Bottom to Sailor's Lane
Betty Mundy's Bottom to Sailor's Lane

Start point: 50.9969 lat, -1.1748 long
End point: 50.9888 lat, -1.1724 long

Turn right and follow this path with the woodland to your left and the crop field to your right. In the field corner, bear left through a gate to join an enclosed path between fences. (The property beyond the hedgerow to your right is called Betty Mundy’s Cottage). Follow the path as it turns left leading you to the corner of Kings Copse, a pretty beech woodland.

Keep straight ahead on the woodland path, following the fence on your left. After about 90 metres, stay with the path as it swings right, still following the fence on your left. There are a few benches here if you want to pause and enjoy your surroundings. By now you are probably wondering why this valley has such a peculiar name and, as it often the case, the answer isn’t simple!

The earliest story is that a Roman legion under Vespasian camped on Corhampton Down early in the occupation and found the bottom very suited to their private off-duty activities, so they called it Beati Mundae, the most blessed place in the world. A later story relates to the time of the Napoleonic Wars when a local lady called Betty Mundy got a name for herself as a notorious criminal. The exact nature of her misdemeanours range from cursing a herd of cattle to robbing and killing discharged sailors as they made their way home from Southampton.

Further along, the path swings right once again leading you to the bottom corner of the woodland (with gates ahead and left). Turn left through the gate and go ahead through the gap in the hedgerow to join the obvious path leading you through the centre of a large crop field. At the end of the field, keep ahead along the tarmac turning area. Ignore the track to the left before the hedge line, instead keep ahead for a few more paces and then turn left onto the footpath immediately after the hedge. Follow this stone track leading you uphill with a crop field on your right and the hedge on your left.

Stay with this track which levels off, leading you past a section of orchard on your right (which we think are young walnut trees). Just before the end of the field, ignore the track into the woodland on your left, stay with the field edge for a few more metres and then in the corner, fork left onto the narrow path. This leads you through a staggered barrier and you will come to a junction with Sailor’s Lane.

Sailor's Lane to Beacon Hill Lane
Sailor's Lane to Beacon Hill Lane

Start point: 50.9888 lat, -1.1724 long
End point: 50.9844 lat, -1.1537 long

Cross over the lane with care and go straight ahead through the next staggered barrier to join the signed footpath. Keep straight ahead on this narrow path which soon leads you through a tunnel of trees. Beyond the stretch, keep straight ahead to join the stone track which leads you through Corhampton Forest. Stay with this track for about 800 metres, ignoring any tracks to the side.

As you emerge from the main section of forest, keep ahead on the grass track, passing a small crop field on your left. At the end of this field turn left (signed as the footpath) and follow this path leading you back into woodland. At the T-junction turn right and you will emerge to the corner of a large crop field. Keep straight ahead on the grass track with the field to your right and tree line to your left.

Part way along, stay with the grass track which dog-legs left then right to continue with the tree line now on your right. At the end of the field, pass alongside the metal gate and you will emerge to a junction with Beacon Hill Lane.

Beacon Hill Lane to Shoe Lane
Beacon Hill Lane to Shoe Lane

Start point: 50.9844 lat, -1.1537 long
End point: 50.9836 lat, -1.1289 long

Cross over with care and take the stone access lane directly ahead (signed as unsuitable for motor vehicles). Pass Combe Cottage on your right and stay with the rock and chalk track which leads you quite steeply downhill through a tunnel of trees. NOTE: This path is very uneven and can be slippery when wet so take particular care.

Stay with the track which leads you past horse paddocks on your right and eventually you will pass Ashewood Barn on your right. Keep ahead to join the tarmac drive which swings right (with the gates for Exton Park up to your left). Continue along this quiet lane passing Exton Stud and Allens Cottage, both on your right. You will come to a road junction at a bend.

Go straight ahead and then follow this lane as it swings left and then right (passing Beacon Cottage on your left). Look out for the pretty thatched well in the gardens just beyond this cottage. Ignore the first turning on the left, Church Lane, instead keep ahead to reach a T-junction with Shoe Lane.

Shoe Lane to End
Shoe Lane to End

Start point: 50.9836 lat, -1.1289 long
End point: 51.0015 lat, -1.1483 long

Turn left along Shoe Lane and this leads you between the village pub on your left and its riverside garden on your right (it’s worth a detour into the garden to see the River Meon). Continue along Shoe Lane, with the river running across to your right and a small stream running in front of the houses to your left. At the T-junction, turn left and you will pass the Church of St Peter and St Paul on your right, dating from the 1200s. Follow the lane as it swings left, passing the Old Rectory. Immediately after Glebe Cottage on your right (and just before the lane swings left) look for a stone track on your right, signed for the South Downs Way Walkers Temporary Route. (NOTE: The temporary word denotes the fact that there is some controversy about the routing of the South Downs here, with some believing that this fragile chalk environment is not suitable for a popular long-distance path).

At this point you have two choices (one following the South Downs Way bridleway route or one following the South Downs Way walkers route). The walkers route is the prettiest, but crosses a number of fields with 6 stiles and you may come across cattle. The bridleway route follows a quiet lane.

Option 1: For the bridleway route, continue ahead on the lane to reach a T-junction. Turn right (passing Beacon Cottage now on your right) and, where the lane swings left, go straight ahead to join a very narrow tarmac track. At the T-junction, turn right to join the lane called The White Way. Follow this lane, taking care of occasional traffic, for 0.5 miles. Ignore the first footpath signed to the left (this is where the other route option emerges), go ahead for ten more paces and turn right on the second path (signed for The South Downs Way). Now pick up the directions in the last paragraph.

Option 2: Turn right along the stone track. Pass through the kissing gate ahead to enter the first cattle pasture. Keep straight ahead, following the right-hand boundary. Before the end of the field, stay with the path which swings right, passing through a gateway to enter the second pasture. With your back to this gateway, take the path diagonally left (about 10 o’clock) signed as The South Downs Way. At the far side, go through the kissing gate and continue in the same direction across the third field. At the top, cross the pair of V-shaped stiles into the fourth pasture. With your back to the stiles, walk at about 2 o’clock. Keep in the same direction across the fifth and sixth fields, crossing four stiles along the way.

At the top of the sixth field, pass through the kissing gate to enter a woodland belt. Follow the narrow path climbing through this, soon emerging via a kissing gate to reach the seventh field. Cross this field on the path leading you steeply uphill (at about 2 o’clock). Go through the kissing gate to enter the eighth field. Walk ahead between two large beech trees and then stay with the obvious path which swings left leading you steeply uphill. Before the top of this field, take a moment to turn round and enjoy the views that have opened up across the Meon Valley (given how far down the village of Exton is, there’s no wonder you are a bit out of puff!). In the top corner of the field, pass the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee beacon on your right and turn left through the gate to reach the lane, The White Way. Turn right along the lane for just ten paces and then turn right again to join the narrow stone path signed as the South Downs Way.

Follow this enclosed path climbing steadily and at the top pass through the bridle gate to enter Beacon Hill National Nature Reserve. Keep ahead on the path (with a fence on your right) and then follow the path as it swings left to reach a fingerpost. Turn left along the grass track, signed as The South Downs Way to Winchester. You will pass the trig point for Beacon Hill on your left. It is worth taking a moment here to appreciate the incredible views, including the Isle of Wight and Southampton. Simply keep ahead along the track and you will emerge via a bridle gate to reach the parking area where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2016 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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