This walk starts from Beacon Hill which is near the village of Burghclere and close to Watership Down, in north Hampshire. The hill was one of many Beacon Hills in England and beyond. Beacon Hill also has one of England’s well-known hill forts on its slopes, which was constructed around 1000 BC. From the top of the hill there are some fine views which extend to much of Hampshire. Due to the steep gradient leading to the summit of Beacon Hill, the highest point of the North Hampshire Downs at 857ft, it’s advisable to climb the hill at the start of the walk.
Distance: 8.4 miles (including the climb up Beacon Hill)
Starting point: Beacon Hill car park, Newbury RG20 9LR (SU462577)
Map: OS Explorer 144 Basingstoke, Alton & Whitchurch
- Exit the rear of the parking area and turn right through a gate. The path climbs, steeply in places, to reach the iron age embankments that form a circle on top of the hill. Of interest is the view to the north which includes Highclere Castle, where filming for the TV series Downtown was completed. After enjoying the view retrace your steps back to the start.
- Leave the car park via the access road and cross the A34 bridge to reach a T-junction. Take the footpath opposite, downhill to a gate and walk along the field’s edge to Old Burghclere. Pass beside the churchyard wall and Burghclere Manor. Continue down the drive and go through a gate onto a lane and then proceed ahead, crossing the old railway bridge and taking the path left to enter a field via a kissing gate.
- Keep to the left-hand field edge, leaving through a kissing gate and enter woodland. After a few steps, bear left onto the old trackbed. Turn right and follow the track and later a narrow path for half a mile to a bridge.
- Bear left up a chalky path just before the bridge and turn right over the bridge. Gently descend to a lane, turn left and then right, signed ‘Ecchinswell’. After 50yds, take the waymarked bridleway left. Keep to this tree-lined path to a gravel drive and turn left.
- At the imposing gates, go through the side gate and follow the track through the grounds of Earlstone Manor, passing ponds, and exit through a gate, then pass a pair of cottages. Proceed through or close to woodland for a mile to a road. Keep ahead along Church Lane in Burghclere, signed to Sandham Memorial Chapel, passing the primary school on your left.
- Turn left by the church and keep to the road, crossing over the former railway line and continuing past the Memorial Chapel and the Carpenters Arms, before turning left along a metalled dead-end lane. Pass Ashold Farm, then take the footpath right before the road bends between gardens to a stile. Skirt round Budd’s Farm across three fields via three more stiles and then go right on the path through trees to a stile.
- Turn right along the field edge, following it left at the corner. Drop down to a fingerpost and turn right along a boardwalk into woodland. At a broken stile, turn right along the woodland edge, then right again over a plank bridge to a gate.
- Keep ahead across the pasture towards Ridgemoor Farm. Pass a pond to a gate and track. Turn right, then where it bears right, turn left up a wooded sunken path which rises steadily to reach a track.
- Turn left to a crossroads and turn right. Head uphill and keep to the undulating track for 0.5 miles to Old Burghclere. Turn left along the lane and then right along the drive to Burghclere Manor. Retrace your outward steps back to the Beacon Hill car park.
Image: Highclere Castle from Beacon Hill, Hampshire (Edmund Shaw CC BY-SA 2.0)