Weekend Walk: East Meon: Low path / High path (8.5 miles)

This really is a most wonderful walk and is highly recommended. Humphrey and I did it recently with a friend on one of those perfect days we had. It is a circular walk through the gentle county of East Hampshire, far from the bustle of the towns, on paths that are seldom used, giving you a feeling of peace. East Meon is the half-way destination and the main objective of this walk, with its pubs, cottages, church and chalk stream of the kind written about by Izaak Walton. The return route is over the hills with some great views that will stretch your legs a bit. Try and do it on a clear and sunny day to make the most of the views. SR

1. Walk away from the village along the quiet side road, Ramsdean Road, going past the school on your left, with table-shaped Butser Hill looming ahead. Just before a right-hand bend, ignore a footpath left by a metal gate. Only 70m further, turn left into the smart gravel drive of Stroudbridge Farm, marked as a footpath. Pass their little garden on the right with a bridge over the Criddell Stream. You now have the farmhouse on your left and the stream on your right. Go through a large wooden gate and follow the grassy track. The track veers right over the stream, taking you over a stile on the left of a large metal gate into a large rough meadow. Keep to the right-hand side of the meadow not far from a wire fence. The meadow elbows left, becomes fenced and narrows under tall oaks, leading through a small metal gate beside a large one. In the far left-hand corner, go over a stile or through a large metal gate and continue on a wide path. Keep to the main gently winding brick-lined path for nearly 300m until finally you emerge into daylight, passing a crumbling farm building on your right. On your left you can see the vineyard of Dean’s Farm. At the top of the slope, at a T-junction, turn right on a signed footpath.

2. Butser Hill is now prominent on your left with Lythe Hanger on your right. Your path is a wide grassy strip beside the field on your right. The next field also has a grassy strip as you approach the buildings of New Barn. At the corner of a small grassy field attached to the house, keep straight ahead staying on the grass strip. The path runs near the buildings on your right and joins their concrete drive. Where the drive curves left, leave it to continue straight ahead down a grassy meadow. In only 20m, veer right past a marker post and downhill through the woodland of Nutcombe Copse. At the bottom, veer right on a wide ancient sunken track that runs along the valley. Unfortunately it is muddy in parts, since it shares its course part-way with a stream, but this is easy to avoid using the bank on your right (sometimes swapping to the left). [2018: a walker met motorbikes coming this way and had to take evasive action.] The winding stony track rises between steep banks. Where it begins to come out of the trees and you see the buildings of Orchard Farm ahead, go left up steps (easily missed!) over a stile and into a large sheep meadow.

3. Cross straight over the sheep meadow keeping roughly 50m from the houses on the right and going past a field maple in the centre. Aim just to the right of a group of tall trees which conceal dwellings, where you can see a yellow round (broken) disc on the fence. Go over a stile here and follow the tarmac drive past a bungalow Nutcombe View and Ramsdean House. At the end, turn right on a lane which is joined by another lane. Shortly, just before the first house of the hamlet of Ramsdean, turn sharp left over a stile on a signed footpath.

4. Keep to the right in the meadow, across another small meadow, over a stile and up the right-hand side of a larger pasture. The hill visible on your right is Barrow Hill. Your route from here to just before East Meon is almost dead straight all the way. At the top, go over a pair of stiles and along the left-hand side of the next crop field. Your way is now through a gap next to a redundant stile and straight across a crop field (or, if not clear of crops, depending on the season, left and sharp right at the corner). At the other side, keep directly ahead along the left-hand side of the next field. Sir Williams Hill, which you will be traversing later, is visible on your right. The path crosses a rough meadow and a diagonal crossing path, and follows a path straight ahead by willow banks. The path widens to a track. Ahead to your left is Old Winchester Hill. After nearly 500m, this ancient track leads you past a metal barrier onto a dirt drive (wet in some seasons). 250m later, you reach a tarmac lane at a bend.

5. Cross straight over the lane and go through a new small wooden gate into a sheep meadow. The houses and church of East Meon now come into view with Park Hill standing guard to its north. Go across the centre, just to the left of a small enclosure, and go through another new wooden gate at the end of the meadow. Veer right on a grassy path towards the village, through a new small wooden gate. You reach a bridge on the left with the infant Meon flowing under it by a house. Turn left over the bridge, follow the path past some attractive houses, across a gravel track and finally through a gate into the cricket pitch. Go straight across (or round if a match is in progress) and through yet another new small wooden gate. Avoid a lane sharp right but turn right on a major road by Forge Cottage (dating from 1600) and so into the village to the High Street, with the Meon running along it.

6. Continue along the High Street and turn right on Church Street past the village well, with its 1857 wellhead, on to the church which is definitely worth visiting. Go through the lichgate and pass to the left of the church. Keep ahead over the grass and veer left at a fingerpost (which is well hidden in an elder bush and nettles), skirting the graveyard. The path bends right uphill, soon by a garden fence. Just before a wooden swing-gate, go right up concrete steps, through a swing-gate and straight up the hillside parallel to a line of maples on your left. At the pointed corner of a field, keep right with a wire fence on your left. You now have an excellent view of the whole village and, beyond it, the rolling South Downs – a classic view. Your path curves left by the fence and then runs along the contour, and, once you are round the hill, heads for a white house, the modestly named Park Cottage. Go over a stile beside a farm gate and keep on down the right-hand side of the meadow. Go through a kissing-gate in the corner, along a grassy strip and through another kissing-gate onto a lane next to a pond.

7. Cross straight over the lane, past a large metal gate, to a footpath opposite. Follow the sandy track directly uphill, between two fields. On reaching the far side, in 500m, turn right with the track and, in 60m, turn left at a marker post on the far side of a hedge on a wide cinder path downhill. In 200m, at a T-junction at the bottom, turn right and, in 30m, turn left at a fingerpost on a grassy path between fields. You soon reach a Y-junction at the corner of a wood: fork left, keeping the wood on your right. As you near the top, the steeple of Froxfield Church is visible a fraction to your left. The field on your left ends as you reach a T-junction with a wide track in 400m. Turn right on the track, between tree plantations. As you descend, you pass a line of trees on your left known as Scaffold’s Row and arrive at a wood called Sheep Walk by a marker post.

8. Follow the wide track downhill through the wood, soon following overhead wires. You pass an electricity pole and quickly meet a wide, gravel crossing path with a yellow marker on the left and a Private sign on your right. Ignore this crossing path and continue down the track till you reach a smaller crossing path. As a guide, this is just before another electricity pole with a small transformer and by another yellow marker pointing in the opposite direction). Turn right on this crossing path (defying the direction of the arrows). The path goes uphill, bends right under a yew tree and goes downhill fairly steeply (careful!) on a path cut into the sloping hanger. At the bottom, you come to an oblique T-junction. Turn sharp left on a level wide path. In only 20m, turn right on a narrow path down a slope and through a new swing-gate. Continue down the left-hand side of a grassy meadow towards some modern houses. A new metal kissing-gate and a path by a fence and garden lead you to a residential road. Keep straight on and turn left on the main road opposite Home Farm Cottage in the pretty village of Langrish, its steepled church just visible to your left. Turn left here.

9. In only 20m, go right up some steps on a signed footpath, left on the grass and immediately right at the corner. You are in the garden of the cottage with its manicured hedges but you need to make a respectful exit in 20m, left through a small kissing-gate into the adjoining very weed-cluttered pasture. Go diagonally right and through a wooden gate under a tall oak by a large metal gate. Keep ahead to join a track coming from the left. Your path runs between fields and meadows and has a grassy central strip. Follow this track for about 500m and, when you reach a crossing track, pass to the left of an unneeded stile and go along the right-hand side of a meadow. At the top, veer left and right, through a gap in the hedge next to a broken stile and into the next field. Continue across the centre. On reaching the jutting corner of the field, veer right with the woodland of Mustercombe Copse on your left, perhaps with a last look at Butser Hill. About 20m before the next corner, fork left on a narrow unmarked path into the wood.

10.This lovely little wood makes a memorable end to the walk. At the other side, go over a stile to cross a meadow with Stroud now visible ahead, keeping to the right of an oak in the centre. Go over a stile in a fence, followed by another and a third stile with a bridge over the Criddell Stream, and through a strip of woodland to meet a tarmac drive. Go straight over the drive and through a swing-gate. Veer left across a small meadow which is part of a private tree garden with a small fenced-off paddock designed to house an adorable miniature pony. Go through a wood-and-metal kissing-gate in a hawthorn hedge and round the edge of a paddock, through another metal swing-gate, over a V-stile, across another pasture and through a final metal kissing-gate to the road where the walk began.

DISTANCE: 8½ miles
MAP: Explorer 133 (Petersfield) and 132 (Winchester)
START: The walk begins at Stroud, Hampshire, near Petersfield, postcode GU32 3PJ, less than a mile from the A3. Park in Ramsdean Road which is off the A272 and next to the Seven Stars Pub Restaurant, signposted Ramsdean.

Taken with permission from www.fancyfreewalks.org.

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