East Meon – a South Downs village history

Step back in time as you explore the secrets of this East Hampshire village.

NEAREST LOCATION

East Meon

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

1.25 miles (2kms)

ASCENT
16ft (5m)
TIME
25min
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Easy
STARTING POINT
SU677222

About the walk

Lying at the foot of the South Downs, East Meon is a compact little community that began life in the shelter of Park Hill some 1,500 years ago. Later it became part of a royal manor belonging to Alfred the Great and by the time of The Domesday Book the village supported six mills and enough land for 64 ploughs.

Wartime vandalism

East Meon's striking All Saints church also dates from shortly after the Norman Conquest and its spire stands on a central Norman tower of similar style and date to the tower of Winchester Cathedral. Norman windows appear in the nave and south transept and both the north and south doorways are of Norman origin. Another survivor from this time is the black Tournai marble font. One of only four in Hampshire, the font fell victim to Roundhead soldiers during the English Civil War; camping near East Meon before the Battle of Cheriton in 1644, the soldiers ripped out the font’s lead lining to make their bullets. Four of the soldiers were later buried upright in the south transept, where their graves are marked by a carved stone with the words ‘Amens plenty’.

More architectural curiosities

The church is just one of several interesting buildings that you’ll pass on this walk, starting with Old Bell Cottage. Formerly the Bell Inn, the pub had its origins as the venue for a visiting cobbler who carried out shoe repairs while their owners sat drinking in an adjoining room. The building is now rented out as a holiday cottage.

Continuing past the recreation ground, you’ll come to the 14th-century Court House. For centuries this was the administrative centre for the Bishops of Winchester and home to several monks who looked after the Bishops on their visits to East Meon. Once the scene of episcopal courts, by the early 20th century the building was being used to accommodate farm workers who kept their cows in the great medieval hall! The building was restored in 1927.

Walk directions

Walk back out of the car park and turn right along Workhouse Lane. Pass the village hall and at the road junction by Cross House turn left towards the village centre. Keep ahead past East Meon Stores and bear right at the war memorial.

Continue past Old Bell Cottage and the Izaak Walton pub across the stream to your left. Follow the road around to the right as far as the turning on your left towards Frogmore, by Forge Cottage.

Turn left here, then immediately right onto the signposted footpath across the recreation ground, with views of the brooding Park Hill on your left. Go through the gate on the far side of the recreation ground and follow the enclosed path to a junction of paths beyond a stream. Turn left and continue down the enclosed path. Cross a stile and continue left through a gate and over a second stile to a lane.

Turn left; then, after 50yds (46m) fork right along the narrow path, keeping the stream on your left. Keep ahead at the footbridge and follow the path to a kissing gate at a 3-way signpost. Turn right through the gate and walk beside the flint wall on your left to a kissing gate and road.

Turn left along the road and continue past the Court House, as far as the church. Turn left and walk down Church Street past the Forbes Almshouses, the village well and the George Inn. Turn right at Barnards Corner, keep ahead at the crossroads and retrace your steps to the car park.

Additional information

Village lanes and paths, several stiles

South Downs village setting

Lead required through village lanes

AA Walker's Map 20 Chichester & The South Downs

Village car park, Workhouse Lane

None on route

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About the area

Discover Hampshire

Hampshire’s varied landscape of hills and heaths, downlands and forests, valleys and coast is without rival in southern England. Combine these varied landscapes and terrains with secluded and idyllic villages, complete with thatched and timber-framed cottages and Norman churches, elegant Georgian market towns, historic ports and cities, restored canals and ancient abbeys, forts and castles, and you have a county that is paradise for lovers of the great outdoors.

If you’re a walker, stride out across the high, rolling, chalk downland of the north Hampshire ‘highlands’ with far-reaching views, walk through steep, beech-clad ‘hangers’ close to the Sussex border. Or perhaps take a gentler stroll and meander along peaceful paths through unspoilt river valleys, etched by the sparkling trout streams of the Test, Itchen, Avon and Meon. Alternatively, wander across lonely salt marshes and beside fascinating coastal inlets or, perhaps, explore the beautiful medieval forest and heathland of the New Forest, the jewel in Hampshire’s crown.