This cycle ride from the South Downs ridge near East Meon follows tracks and quiet country lanes to West Meon, then along the disused bed of the Meon Valley Railway Line before climbing to Beacon Hill above Exton.
The return is via the South Downs Way and Old Winchester Hill. Fine views of the Hampshire Downs are your reward for the effort needed to climb both sides of the Meon Valley.
The trail is a mix of on and off road cycling. The off-road sections follow good tracks and include parts of the South Downs Way and Meon Valley Railway Line. The on road sections are along quiet country lanes although at Exton and Warnford the busy A32 is crossed - take care when doing so. The climbs to Beacon Hill, Old Winchester Hill and a short but steep ascent in West Meon are on road, which makes the going a little easier.
Your efforts are rewarded with fine views from Wether Down, Beacon Hill and Old Winchester Hill. For refreshments en-route there are pub stops in West Meon, Exton and Warnford. At the end treat yourself to tea and cakes in the Sustainability Centre cafe.
West Meon has a history dating back to the Iron and Bronze Ages. Evidence of the Meonwara tribe living in this northern most part of the Meon Valley has been found locally. In Lippen Wood there are the remains of a substantial Roman Villa. West Meon features in the history of the English Civil War being near to Cheriton. The churchyard is the final resting place for some well known names of English history including Thomas Lord the founder of Lord's Cricket Ground.
Today the village is a thriving community that despite its modest size maintains a village shop, cafe and Post Office, a butchers shop and two public houses.
Meon Valley Railway Line
The Meon Valley Railway Line used to stretch from Alton to the Knowle Junction near Fareham. Following its closure in 1955 the track fragmented. There remains a stretch of railway bed from West Meon to the Knowle Junction that can be navigated on bicycle or foot.
Old Winchester Hill
Old Winchester Hill hillfort enclosure consists of a simple bank and ditch built in the 1st millennium BC but there are a number of earlier, Bronze Age, burial mounds within the interior. Outside the western entrance to the hillfort there are further barrows of Bronze Age date but here these are grouped around an even earlier long barrow.
On a fine day the views from the summit are breathtaking. As the hill has been grazed for centuries it is a very good butterfly site. It has benefited from the protection afforded in 1951 when it was designated an SSSI and a National Nature Reserve.