Walk #816: A circular walk from Cheriton to Soberton
Map of the walk
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format. For a detailed table of timings for this walk, please see the table file.
I decided that today's walk would take me along the next stretch of the Wayfarer's Walk. I set off later than I expected today as Sencan and I started discussing our wedding over breakfast - we still haven't organised anything, aside from a date 'midway through next year' which we would both like to bring forward. Unfortunately this meant that I caught the morning rush hour and it took far longer to get to Cheriton. The drive along the road from Winchester to Cheriton was surprisingly pleasant, with some scenic views on a sunny day that promised to be warm. By the time I got to the tiny village of Cheriton it was nine o'clock, and the school run was in full flow, with parents dropping off children and cars all over the place. To make matters worse, a lorry was dropping a load of stone off to a house, further blocking the road. I drove around twice but to no avail; I could find nowhere to park. So instead I drove back towards the school, and pulled up into a space recently vacated by a car. I pulled as far into the adjoining wall as I could and started getting ready.
I got a few strange looks from mothers walking back from the school having dropped off their children, and no wonder - I always carry a lot of kit with me, and my rucksack has some Craghoppers balance pockets on the front of the shoulder straps - looking like large, pendulous black breasts. Add to this the Tilley hat I was wearing, the camera strapped to my waist and the GPS on my shoulder, and I must have looked very strange.
The place that I had parked was right on the Wayfarer's walk, so the initial part of the walk was retracing the route that I had taken on the previous walk along the path. This led me uphill to the east of the village, and on the ascent I realised how hot it would get - it was already nine and quite warm. At the top of the hill there was a beautiful woman in a summery dress, and a little further on I met a couple out walking their dog. We talked for about ten minutes about the local area - they had only just moved into the area, and seemed to love it. It was easy to see why, as the scenery was superb.
A little further on the lane ended, and I left the route that I had followed on the previous walk and followed another green lane down hill towards the A272 road. Near the road there was a fairly elegant signboard that gave information on the Civil War Battle of Cheriton that had taken place in 1644. It was a fascinating read; there are three other boards scattered around the battlefield, which was surprisingly large (then again, it would have to be, to include two armies).
Once across the road a road led uphill to the gate that led into the grounds of Hinton Ampner House. These gates were ornate, and gave me an idea of what would wait me inside. A pretty church was visible through the trees to the right, and as I positioned myself to take some better photos of it I took a couple of snaps of the house itself, which is an imposing two-storey structure of red brick. Unfortunately the path does not go near the house as it is diverted around outside the grounds from opposite the church, so I headed back and followed the path.
A pleasant walk along paths took me south to a road at Kilmeston, where a little church stuck out through the trees on my right. The path headed across fields through the centre of the village to another road, and then struck off southwestwards. Here I went wrong; at first the path crossed a series of stiles, and then followed a broad and obvious track that headed uphill to the south as it followed a hedge. It was an obvious path, but I did not check the map. At the top of the field there was a gate and hedge with no stile, and I realised that I had headed south as the path had gone southwestwards. I carefully climbed over the gate, and then headed westwards back along the road to rejoin the path proper near Wind Farm. This diversion did not matter that much, as the views to the north were very god and kept me occupied as I walked.
From Wind Farm a track took me Lomer Farm, and then another track took me southwestwards towards Preshaw Wood, and this got less distinct as it headed down to the wonderfully-named valley of Betty Mundy's Bottom. At the end of this valley the path skirted around a house through some trees, before heading south through some woodland towards St Clair's Farm. Here the route appeared to head south through the farm, but I turned left and walked up to the road, a small diversion of the route.
At a crossroads I stopped to change over to my other walkman so I could listen to Prime Minister's Questions on Radio 5 - my DAB radio having no reception here. I also changed water bottles, having drunk nearly one full one already. The path followed the road for a short distance, before joining a bridleway that headed through trees around some woodland called Bottom Copse. This path was muddy in places and churned up by bikes and horses; this was the first real mud that I had seen all day. A road was crossed, and the path then skirted some trees as it crossed the golf course on Droxford Down. Again I went slightly wrong here, walking around a clump of trees instead of cutting across to the north of them, a result of wanting to avoid he golfers as much as possible. This was easy to correct, and I was soon walking along the road across Peak Down.
The way left the road and headed across Fir Down, passing a field full of flowering oil seed rape, the air full of pollen. On Fir Down the path dropped down to head eastwards into the village of Droxford. The church in the village was pretty, and there was a elegant carved bench in front of it. Past the church the path reached a footbridge over the River Meon, and a dog was playing in the water as I passed, and splashes of water on the ground showed that several other had done the same. This led to another footbridge, and a lovely walk south along the floodplain of the river.
At Cut Bridge I joined a road that led up into the small hamlet of Soberton. The church was to the right, but it was difficult to get a good picture from the road due to the surrounding trees, and I did not want to divert off the road. By this stage I was in need of a rest, and this came in the form of the White Lion pub, a few yards off the path. Sometimes you can get a good impression of the pub when you enter, and this pub gave me a very good impression - bottles of wine and other items for sale against a wall, and a nice, cosy atmosphere. There were some other walkers in the room, and the Landlord was chatting away amiably to them as they ate a meal. I ordered a pint of bitter and one of orange and lemonade, and got tempted by the menu.
I ordered ham, egg and chips, and when it came it was the best such meal that I have had in some time. The ham was superb, and the chips were done to perfection. It was all very tasty, and very well presented. Apparently they are going to be opening a little shop in the pub, and I wish them the best of luck with that as they deserve success.
Having been well fed and watered I left the pub. From here on I was leaving the Wayfarer's Walk, and starting the walk back to Cheriton. Initially I head north along a road for a mile, and then joined the old Meon Valley railway line, now a footpath. I last walked along this in December, and there had been some clearance work of trees in the cuttings that opened out the cuttings slightly. It was a really hot day by now, and I was glad of the shade of the trees. I left this trail where it met the South Downs Way, which I would be following for the next six and a half miles.
The South Downs Way led to the village of Exton, initially following a path that was narrow, with a stream down to the left. In a couple of places the stream had eroded away the path, but once the footbridge over the River Meon was reached. After this the A32 was crossed, and a road led me into the village. I passed the church - one of the peasant Hampshire type with small tower, topped with a hat-like pyramid spire, and headed out of the village.
Facing me next was the steepest climb of the day, as the South Downs Way climbed northwestwards onto Beacon Hill. It was a stiff climb and I panted for breath, but I made it to the top without stopping, and was soon taking in the view eastwards from the top. At the top the South Downs Way joined a road, and I would be following roads or tracks for most of the rest of the day. At this point I decided to change the route I was walking; instead of heading north back to Cheriton, I decided to follow the South Downs Way to the west of the village and follow it from there. Therefore I left the road, and started following the South Downs Way as it headed northwestwards towards Lomer Farm.
From the farm I retraced my steps of earlier in the day to Wind Farm, where the South Downs Way joins a road westwards towards a crossroads by the attractive red-tiled Milbury's pub. For this stretch of road walking there is a path off to the right to keep you off the road; however, as the road was not busy I chose to walk along the road for much of the time. A few years ago I walked the South Downs Way in the opposite direction, and it felt nice to walk it again. From the Milbury's pub roads took me northwestwards, but which stage I was starting to get tired. When the road curved away a green lane took me on northwards, following Holden Lane to Holden Farm and the A272 main road.
On the other side of the A272 I continued along the South Downs Way for a few hundred yards, before leaving it at a sharp left-hand curve, entering some woodland. A footpath then took me on northeastwards, following a series of hedges past some very curios cows and calves. The calves were away from their mothers, so I very carefully walked past them, ensuring that they were all aware of my presence. Eventually a concrete track started, and this took me onto the houses at Hill Houses, and a road then led me down into Cheriton. The village looked superb in the early evening sunshine, and by the time I got back to my car I was fairly tired. I had saved half a litre of water for this point, and I drunk half of that as I got ready for the drive home. It had been a good day's walk, with a long distance covered in hot weather with relatively few problems.
This walk starts off near the school in the village of Cheriton, and initially follows the well-waymarked Wayfarer's Walk. Walk eastwards with a stream on the left. As the road curves to the right turn left to cross a bridge over the stream, and then turn right along a short dead-end road. When it ends at a gate, turn left along a footpath that climbs uphill eastwards out of Cheriton. Initially it is narrow and enclosed on either side, but as the gradient slackens it emerges out onto a hillside. Keep the hedge on the right, and walk to the end of the field. Here turn right, keeping a hedge on the right, and then after a hundred yards turn left, to resume an easterly course.
Cross the first track that is reached and walk on until the track ends at a T-junction with another track. Turn left down this track northwards for a few yards, and then turn right along a footpath that heads eastwards with a hedge on the left. When it ends at a T-junction with another track, Broad Lane, turn right and start following this track southwards downhill. At a crossroads with another track continue straight on, and at Primrose Cottages the track becomes surfaced for the short distance to the A272 road.
Cross the A272 road and continue uphill along the road opposite into Hinton Ampner. When the road curves sharply to the left, head straight on through some gates into the grounds of Hinton Ampner House. After a few yards the church is on the right; here leave the driveway and turn left along a footpath that soon swings to the right, following a fence around the garden of the house, curving around on a southerly course. At the bottom of the hill the footpath crosses a track at the end of the gardens, and then continues on slightly south of southwestwards across a series of fields; initially diagonally, and then skirting a hedge on the right until it ends at a road near Kilmeston Manor. Cross the road and, with a church on the right, continue southwards along a footpath for a third of a mile until another road is reached.
Turn right along this road westwards for a few yards until it ends at a T-junction with another road. Cross this new road, and directly opposite there is a stile that leads to a footpath that heads southwards across a series of small fields. After the third or fourth field, turn right through a gap in the hedge as the Wayfarer's Walk starts heading southwestwards across three fields, starting to climb slowly and then steeply to meet a road. Note; this is a place I went wrong. There is an obvious track on the ground that heads in a more southerly direction, and I followed that instead of the path. The route of the path on the ground appeared to be covered with crops, with no obvious path that I could see.
Cross the road and go through a gate to join a track that immediately swings to the left near Wind Farm. For the next three-quarters of a mile the path follows the South Downs Way as well, as it follows a track that heads eastwards, more or less level, all the way to Lomer Farm. Once out of the initial trees there is a hedge to the left. At Lomer Farm leave the South Downs Way, following a track that heads southwestwards. When the track ends at the end of the next field, turn left to had downhill with a hedge on the left, and then at a fence turn right, to head southwestwards, keeping the fence on the left. Beyond the fence is the bottom of a little valley.
The track is picked up once more as it joins a track that skirts the southern end of Preshaw Wood. Just before the woods end, turn right to take a footpath that heads southwestwards across a field for a short distance before it enters a band of trees and rejoins a track. Follow the track as it curves to the left, and then turn right to join a footpath that skirts some trees along Betty Mundy's Bottom. When a house is reached the path turns to the left to enter the trees, skirting around the grounds of the house before emerging out of the trees into a field.
From here a path leads southwards across fields, with trees on either side. A track starts when the trees end, continuing on southwards to St Clair's Farm. The way continues through the farm and out the other side, to join a road a short distance to the north of a crossroads. At the crossroads continue straight on for a couple of hundred yards, and then turn left to join a bridleway. This approaches the trees of Bottom Copse, and then turns to the right to run with the trees on the left and a hedge on the right. The bridleway curves around to head along the southern edge of the woods for a little over half a mile, and when it ends at a T-junction turn right for a short distance to reach a road beside Steynes Farm.
Turn left along the road, and opposite the entrance to the farm take a footpath that leads off to the right. Initially this heads through trees, before emerging out onto the grounds of the Corhampton Golf Club on Droxford Down. In places this is a narrow path through a band of trees; when a patch of woodland is reached the path turns to the left to head eastwards with the woods on the right. At the end of the trees the path heads southeastwards across a field, curving around with a hedge on the left. After a while the path heads through another narrow tunnel in the middle of the hedge before reaching a road.
Turn right and start following this road southwards. Almost immediately a crossroads of five roads is reached; here head straight on southwards across Peak Down. The road curves to the left; shortly after the bend turn right down a footpath that heads southwards. The path skirts right and then left around a field boundary, and at the next field go past the hedge before turning left, to walk with a hedge on the left. A small band of trees is reached; the footpath descends through these, and when it emerges turn left along a new footpath to head eastwards across fields. A hedge starts on the left after a while, and then after a gate a road starts in Droxford. Continue on down this road past a school on the right. At a crossroads continue straight on for about fifty yards until the A32 road is reached.
Cross the A32 and take a lane that heads eastwards on the other side towards Droxford church. Enter the grounds of the church and, keeping the hedge on the left, walk through the churchyard. At the end of the churchyard turn right to keep the hedge on the left, and at the southeastern corner of the churchyard go through the hedge to join a track. This track leads to a footbridge over the River Meon; cross this and another, smaller, footbridge afterwards, and then turn right to join a footpath to start heading southwards along the floodplain.
Initially it heads with a hedge on the right, and on the other side of the hedge is the river. After crossing a couple of fields the path curves to the left away from the river, and then passes through a small band of trees before heading south with the embankment of an old railway line to the left. When the path ends at a road turn left along the road; this climbs up to cross the old railway on a bridge. Soon the road curves sharply to the right, and then to the left near the church to head eastwards for a short distance to reach a road junction in Soberton. To the right is a very nice pub.
Here the Wayfarer's Walk is left behind. Turn left to head northwards along the road for a mile; there is no pavement but the road is not too busy. It passes a hotel on the right immediately before it ends at a T-junction with another road in Brockbridge. Cross the new road, and a few yards away on the left are some steps leading up to the old railway line. Climb these steps, and at the top turn right to head northwards along the Meon Valley line for a couple of miles past Meonstoke.
When a junction with the South Downs Way is met at SU624211, which will be followed for most of the remainder of the day. Turn left and head down the steps off the railway embankment, and follow the way westwards for half a mile alongside a flooded lane to the left. A track is reached, and then a footbridge over the River Meon, before the road reaches the A32. Carefully cross the A32, and on the other side take a road that heads down into Exton. At a road junction head westwards, passing Exton church on the right.
As the road curves to the left take a footpath off to the right. This follows a track uphill to the west for a short distance, before turning to the right to head northwestwards across fields. Initially it climbs and descends a couple of times, crossing a track before starting a steep ascent. It enters a narrow band of trees, before entering a steep field that is crossed diagonally. Once the gradient slackens the path parallels a hedge on the left, before a stile allows you to cross over onto a road.
Turn right and follow this road northwestwards across Beacon Hill; it soon curves to the right, and then the left, and once it curves to the right for a second time head straight on along a footpath. This follows a track that heads northwestwards, heading through Lomer Farm to join the path from earlier in the day that heads west to end at a road near Wind Farm. At this road turn left, and follow the South Downs Way as it heads westwards for a little over half a mile until it ends at a T-junction by the Milbury's pub. Note that there is an off-road footpath to the right for much of this stretch of walk.
At the road junction turn right to head north for a couple of hundred yards path the pub on the right, and then turn left along another road that heads northwestwards for a little over half a mile. When the road curves sharply to the right head straight on along a track called Holden Lane for a mile, climbing and falling before passing through the middle of Holden Farm to reach the A272 road.
Carefully cross the A272 road, and on the other side follow a track that heads uphill until it ends at a gate. Enter the field on the other side of the gate, and then turn right to head northeastwards with a hedge on the right. At the corner of the field cross a stile to enter an patch of woodland; here the South Downs Way is left behind. The path follows a track through the trees; at a junction turn left, and after a few yards turn right to cross a stile and join a footpath.
This footpath heads northeastwards with the woods on the right. When the trees end the path turns left for a few yards and then right, to cross a stile and continue on with a hedge on the right. Continue on northeastwards; eventually it joins a concrete track that leads to a road at Hill Houses. Join the road at Hill Houses, and descend downhill to reach the B3046 in Cheriton. Cross the B3046 and follow a road eastwards on the other side for a short distance to a T-junction. The start of the walk was a short distance away on the right.
This makes a total distance of 23.8 miles, with 1814 feet of ascent and 1814 feet of descent.
Please note that I take no responsibility for anything that may happen when following these directions. If you intend to follow this route, then please use the relevant maps and check the route out before you go out. As always when walking, use common sense and you should be fine.
If you find any information on any of these routes that is inaccurate, or you wish to add anything, then please email me.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!