Kilmeston Circular via Beacon Hill
Saturday 25th February 2012
OS Map Explorer 132 - Winchester, New Alresford & East Meon
Car Parking ref: SU589258
Distance: 7 miles approx.
(photographs to follow)
This is a walk from the Southampton Ramblers programme, led by Pete. There were 23 of us altogether, all counted out and all counted back.
I declare today officially the first day of Spring. The sun came out in glory with plenty of warmth in it already, although the air was chillier in the later stages of the walk.
The walk starts from the lovely village of Kilmeston, just south of Cheriton and Hinton Ampner. There is a parking area beside the road, or it is possible to park on the green beside the road coming up from Bishops Waltham.
The way we were led today included a little lane walking through the village, which I personally quite enjoy, turning on to track left where the road bends round to the right at the bottom of the slope. The paths are all excellent, through woodland and across fields without cows - a major bonus from my point of view as regular readers know by now.
There's a DEFRA nature reserve just south of Kilmeston where the path across a field emerges on to a fenced grass track between green meadows. The path climbs to a copse of pine trees and turns left towards woodland where the waymarkers lead the walker around a back garden converted into a mini golf course that even has a bunker or two! The path emerges on to a drive which comes down to the road and the way continues across the road into a field where it dodges left beyond a hedge and across a large field uneven underfoot.
We had a short break in a copse of trees before descending towards Wheely Down Farm for the climb up the north face of Beacon Hill. On the way down we saw a hare racing up a neighbouring field.
There is a steeper way up Beacon Hill from the village of Exton to the south east, but this side is a pretty good work out for the legs. The climb accomplished, across meadows, past a field of Highland cattle with their hairy Thelwellian calves, and up through Beacon Hill Beeches, following the Monarch's Way, we took our rest at the car park. Photos were taken, and photos of the photographer, while we variously ate bananas, drank water and basked in the sunshine. Other walkers and cyclists passed to and fro, and a lady with three large young Airedales.
We were called to order and set off again, eastward along the South Downs Way towards Lomer Farm and the site of the mediaeval village of Lomer. The trees that line the track being denuded of leaves, the view south opens out across freshly ploughed fields of sun-gilt dark-brown and green meadows, all folding into each other.
Past Wind Farm paths diverge. The South Downs Way continues north-west towards Winchester. Monarch's Way runs south and The Wayfarer's Walk goes down to the north back towards Kilmeston.
(Note: two and sometimes three LDPs can run together for some way before going their separate ways.)
Before descending the Wayfarer's Walk, it is worthwhile to pause by the stile and take in the stunning, extensive views out to the north, east and west. It's a hard choice when you start walking again between watching your feet and watching the diminishing view as you descend.
The first field we came into was being freshly ploughed, by a tractor with its attendant flock of inevitable seagulls. Through a gap in a hedge the path continued firmer underfoot across another field and beyond this the path descends to a track alongside paddocks. Here, there is a programme of planting young hedgerow stock to encourage wildlife.
There are two or three stiles along here which are something of a challenge for those not blessed with supermodel leg length.
Across a final small paddock and over one last stile on to the road in Kilmeston where we parked.
We were blessed with the weather, and this is another walk I will definitely put this route on my list of walks to revisit solo.