The Wayfarer's Walk is a long-distance hike that follows old shepherds’ tracks from the highest downland in Southern England to the Hampshire coastline.
From a dramatic start high upon Inkpen Beacon, the trail heads over Walbury Hill and Watership Down, through Dummer village, into New Alresford, and through the South Downs National Park. The latter part explores mud flats and salt marsh along the coast to finish at Emsworth Harbour.
The official route is 70 miles (113 km) long. However, with detours to some worthy sites and accommodation this Collection is 77 miles (124 km) in total. The route is typically walked from north to south, as it follows an easier downwards trajectory, but can be completed in either direction.
The walk, which roughly follows an ancient route that shepherds used to drive their sheep to fairs and markets, links two other long-distance hikes; the Test Way in the north and the Solent Way in the south.
Along the way, you walk over some of the finest chalk landscapes in Hampshire, visit many historic places, and are treated to year-round wildlife displays along the coastal salt marshes. There are plenty of great places for pit-stops, too.
Some highlights on the Wayfarer's Walk include: Walbury Hill, the highest natural point in South East England; Watership Down, best known as the setting for the 1972 novel about rabbits; Fulling Mill, a 13th-century thatched mill cottage; New Alresford, a pretty Georgian town renowned for its pastel buildings; the South Downs National Park; Hinton Ampner, a village with a stately home, stunning gardens and historic church; and West Hayling Nature Reserve, home to an internationally-important number of breeding seabirds and overwintering wildfowl.
In this Collection, I split the trail into five stages; 14.7 miles (23.7 km), 14.1 miles (22.7 km), 14.1 miles (22.7 km), 15 miles (24.1 km), and 19.7 miles (31.7 km), respectively. As stage 5 is considerably longer than the others, I have made a suggestion on how you can split the hike. Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with or walk any single stage.
The first two thirds of the trail are quite hilly, however there is nothing too long or too steep to contend with. The final section is flat. As the trail follows waymarked paths and never strays too far from civilisation, it is suitable for all abilities. There is a good choice of accommodation along the route. Although, as ever, scheduling in advance is recommended.
To get to the start of the trail, you can catch a train to Hungerford and then the number 3 bus service (bustimes.org/services/3-newbury-kintbury-hungerford) to Inkpen village. From there, you either need to walk an additional 2 miles (3.2 km) to Inkpen Beacon or arrange a taxi. There is a train station at the end of the trail in Emsworth.
To see the Collection on the Solent Way, click here: komoot.com/collection/1007250/a-picturesque-hike-along-the-hampshire-coastline-solent-way.
Stage 1 climbs the highest chalk hill in England, visits several Iron Age hill forts and explores the setting for a famous novel about talking rabbits.With 14.7 miles (23.7 km) of distance, 775 feet (236 m) of uphill and 1,350 feet (411 m) of downhill, the first stage is fairly challenging and sets the tempo for the rest of the trail.
This hike winds through Hampshire’s ‘cereal belt’, a landscape of fertile rolling chalk farmland interspersed with traditional villages and pockets of woodlands.Another fairly challenging hike, Stage 2 is 14.1 miles (22.7 km) long with 950 feet (290 m) of uphill and 750 feet (229 m) of downhill.From Kingsclere, you rise south through fields with beautiful views before heading west over Cottington Hill and rejoining the Wayfarer's Walk.
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Stage 3 takes you through serene countryside, over Becket’s Down and Abbotstone Down, to the pretty Georgian town of New Alresford.With 14.1 miles (22.7 km) of distance, 650 feet (198 m) of uphill and 900 feet (274 m) of downhill, this is another reasonably challenging stage. From Dummer, you follow farm tracks over the aptly-named Tidley Hill and across Becket’s Down before dropping into the valley along the Church Lane track to St Peter's Church.
You step into the stunning South Downs National Park on this stage to explore picturesque villages, historic architecture and idyllic countryside.Upping the ante ever-so-slightly, the penultimate stage is 15 …
The final stage takes you from the South Downs to the Hampshire coastline, where wildlife, history and beauty blissfully collide.The hardest hike in the Collection, Stage 5 is a challenging 19.7 miles (31.7 km) long. However, with 675 feet (206 m) of uphill and 875 feet (267 m) there is not too much climbing to contend with. (For a suggestion on how to split the stage, read on).