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On the road again - 11 - The South Downs, part 1 - Old Winchester Hill

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Soon, I was on the move again. I decided to head straight for the South Downs. However, rather than hit the motorway, I decided to take the main A road. So, I continued to the end of the road, where I had no choice but to join the busy dual carriageway towards the M27 motorway. The first junction is only a mile or so. I exited, then turned under the motorway and left at the roundabout. The road runs alongside the motorway. At the end of the road, I turned left back over the motorway to the large roundabout junction for the main A36 Southampton to Bath road. Straight over, I joined the short dual carriageway to Romsey. Once through town, the road becomes a scenic route to Winchester.

I negotiated my way through the city following the B road for the A272. Eventually coming to a roundabout, from which I had to double back onto the A31, to pick up the A272 road onto the South Downs. As we climbed onto the Downs a large natural amphitheatre known as Cheesefoot Head appeared to our left. Then a car park. I took the bait and swung into the car park, only to find that there was not enough room to swing a cat, let alone turn this lot around!

I positioned myself as best I could in one corner, then reversed the caravan to a position so that I could unhitch and manoeuvre the truck out past it. I then pulled the front of the caravan round to a position to then rehitch it and pull forward. In the meantime, Arian decided that she was going to have an explore and jumped out of an open window. I wasn’t too keen on the idea due to the volume of traffic. Two minutes later, she was chilling in the caravan.

I had set myself back up and positioned the combo to one side so as to not block the car park and was about to put the kettle on, when a couple in a live-in van came over. We chatted for a bit over a brew and biscuits. It seems that they recognised my caravan from Stonehenge a few weeks back.

A couple of hours later, the couple were back on the road. I decided to have a look at the map. I had driven past the South Downs for years. I had lived in the area for years, too. Yet, I had never really seen the South Downs. This was my chance. I worked out a route that I thought would offer the best experience of the Downs. I wasn’t to be disappointed!!

The South Downs Way is the trail that spans the Downs; 100 miles from near Winchester to near Eastbourne. If you’re into hiking, I highly recommend that you do it. Take a tent and provisions and spend a week ambling. I guarantee you will be blown away! Obviously, check weather conditions for the duration. The better the weather, the better the views. As for wind, you seriously don’t want to be dealing with that on the Downs!

I picked a moment when the traffic had seemed to ease. I pulled out of the car park, turning left to continue along the main road. The road continued to climb for a bit. Then, a fork to the right appears. I took that road and followed it over a crossroads and across the Downs to the village of Warnford. I took a road to the right at the other end of the village. Eventually, I came to a wide layby. I pulled over. The ground wasn’t ideal, being rutted and full of potholes, but the view out of the caravan door was lovely. Just there, there is a gate. The trail on through the gate is the South Downs Way.

The next morning a little coffee vending van appeared. I partook of the lovely coffee on offer and spent the time chatting to the vendor, many of his customers and most hikers passing by. There was an older man who said something with a grunt as he walked by and a woman who stopped for coffee said something disparaging. Otherwise, all were perfectly friendly and chatty. A couple asked to be photographed with me. Many were genuinely interested in my way of life, even applauding it.

The coffee vendor (I’m sorry, I can’t remember his name), informed me that we were on Old Winchester Hill and that the hillfort is only a couple of hundred yards along the road. He also said that I shouldn’t bother to get to the car park as he believed that there was a height barrier at the entrance. I thanked him and said that I was quite happy parked in the layby, especially given the view.

The next day I went for a walk. I crossed the road to pick up the trail towards the hillfort.

There is a great view of the head of the promontory upon which sits the hillfort.

From atop that promontory the view across the Downs is amazing.

A lone black sheep on the ramparts of the hillfort

I followed a section of the South Downs Way as it led along a ridge.

Eventually, I came to a glade in which there were a small number of ancient Yews. I would say that they are likely more than a thousand years old.

Further on, I found a path that led back to the hillfort.

The hillfort is Iron Age and there are Bronze Age barrows within.

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