Head to the Meon Valley for a wander through Exton and Warnford with some great views from Beacon Hill.
First off the walk goes through the little hamlet of Exton, passing the 12th century Church of St Peter and St Paul. Inside, on the east wall behind the altar, is a stencilled wall painting and three stained glass windows designed by Charles Spooner in the mid 1890s; slightly off route is The Shoe pub.
We then continue through fields following the South Downs Way up to the lofty heights of Beacon Hill; the South Downs Way, one of the country’s National Trails, meanders for 100 miles through the rolling chalk landscape of the South Downs from Winchester to Eastbourne. Take a rest at the trig point on Beacon Hill and admire the views to the east across the Meon Valley towards Old Winchester Hill and the more distant Buster Hill.
The walk soon leaves the South Down Way in favour of the Monarch’s Way. This rather long 615-mile long-distance footpath from Worcester to Shoreham follows the escape route taken by Charles II in 1651 following his defeat by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester during the English Civil War.
After a gradual descent back into the valley we arrive at Warnford, home to watercress beds and the George and Falcon pub. After crossing the A32 the walk heads eastwards before turning south towards Peake Farm. The final leg follows the line of the former Meon Valley Railway for a while before crossing the River Meon to arrive back at the start. The railway, which ran between Alton and Fareham opened in 1903, however, after 55 years of service the line was completely closed in 1968. Part of the old railway now forms the Meon Valley Trail which runs for 10 miles between Alton and Wickham; published in Hampshire Life, February 2018.