From: West Meon Old Railway Station car park (GU32 1JQ)
Length: 11 miles.
Average Walk Time: Around 5-6 hours.
Terrain: Quite hilly, but with nice rest spots at the top.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: As always, lovely views. The ones from Old Winchester Hill are exceptionally fine over the Solent, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.
Start from a slightly tucked away car park on the grounds of the former station at West Meon. Coming south into the village, turn down Station Road and look for the car park entrance on the right just before the former railway line. If you cross the railway, you've gone too far. OK? Parked up? Leave the car park along the good footpath (former railway track) from the back of the car park (not under the road bridge).
Stay on the path for almost a kilometre to the first (slightly steep) track leading off right. Soon, you get to the road where you turn left over the railway. 200m later turn right on an obvious footpath. The path turns left at the end before passing Lower Peake Cottage. Here turn right over a small bridge over a ditch. 100m more and you turn left on a little road and then immediately right. Wiggle past Peake Farm, where the path becomes the Monarch's Way and strikes out into the countryside.
About 600m more and the path T-junctions into the South Downs Way, where you turn left, UPHILL! This is the first climb, but it is so worth it. Walk up to the top of Old Winchester Hill SSSI with splendid views all around. Coffee anyone? We managed to see the Isle of Wight across the Solent. The wildflower meadow on the hill itself is another glory. When we walked the route at the end of August, it was fine, but past its best. In May or June, it is magnificent. The hill itself is home to a former iron age hill fort with bronze age barrows inside. You can see the dykes and banks around you. Note the area was an army firing range in WW2, and theoretically, there are still unexploded shells around. A few spaces are fenced off – I would suggest not crossing the fences! However, none are close to our route, and millions of people walk across it every year, so you should be relatively safe.
When you are ready again, set off in the same direction as you were going. The path is not too confusing, but avoid the one footpath which tracks off steeply downhill. 100m from the top, exit the nature reserve through a kissing gate next to a map signboard. The path (and you have the choice of two parallel tracks) ends at a small road, where you turn right. Almost 1/2 a kilometre farther, look for a wood on the left. Cross a stile before the wood and look for another stile on your right into the wood. The path tracks slightly downhill, before crossing the third stile where the way falls off the edge of the world, downhill. Say 'Thank you Guy' for not doing the route in reverse and having to walk up this hill. Cross the flatter field at the bottom of the downcline diagonally right to the gate in its corner. The path now follows the Monarch's Way again to s small road, which you cross and immediately turn right again along the side of a hanger.
On reaching another minor road, turn right and continue for around 800m. This T-junctions with another small road, but you continue straight over onto a good track. After 600m, take the SECOND footpath on the left. The first is by a barn and is obvious. Ignore this (we didn't and had to backtrack). The second is by the side of a wood and is less obvious. But if you look for the wood, you will be OK. 300m more and you cross a minor road again straight over to a broad path (the South Downs Way). Now you pass the site of the former HMS Mercury – an old naval base. It's a bit 'yucky' with a high fence and a lot of barbed wire. However, as you pass the two giant aerial masts, you reach Salt Hill. Lunch! Again, there are good views, but this time they are over to the east and Butser Hill, rather than the sea.
After lunch, head downhill on a great track to a minor road, which you cross. 700m after the little road look for a very obvious track crossroads. The South Downs Way turns left, as signed on a prominent 4-finger post, and so do you. Another 700m and you reach yet another minor road, where you turn right. 250m more and you turn off the minor road left on an obvious track into the Whitewool Farm complex. The sign says 'Meon Springs Fly Fishery', and quickly you pass the fishing lake. There's plenty here including yurts, cabins and all sorts, but you walk past all this and continue along the South Downs Way (well signed). Leaving the valley, there is one more (and last) hill up before reaching a small car park and a minor road. Turn right along the little road and take the right turn in a 'Y' junction immediately as you set off, back downhill again.
You're on the home straight. After 1,500m, you come to the old railway line, which you cross on the road and your starting car park is on the left. I hope you enjoyed this walk; I did. My thanks go to Dave of the Farnham Ramblers for taking 20 of us around in the autumn sunshine.