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South Downs Way Walk. Day 2

Buster Hill, South Downs Way

Day 1 of my South Downs Way walk took me from Winchester to West Meon where I stayed in an Airbnb. I didn’t sleep well (my legs seemed to keep walking all night and my toes hurt), so I really wasn’t sure how day 2 was going to pan out.

South Downs Way walk

Day 2. Exton to Buriton

I woke up feeling better than I expected. I had a few aches and niggles and my feet were still sore. And I also had sunburn (even though it wasn’t that sunny) but other than that, I wasn’t too bad.

South Downs Way map
© Natural Earth Data © Mapbox © OpenStreetMap. Click on map to go to Strava

A look at the map showed a shortcut back to the South Downs Way and Winchester Hill but first up I decided having not eaten the night before, I needed breakfast…or at least some basic provisions to get me through the day. As luck would have it, there was a small shop in West Meon that was open early on a bank holiday and had a café out back. I bought sandwiches and snacks for lunch and tucked into a hearty Full English. I’m not normally a fan of bacon, sausage, and eggs but I nearly took the pattern off the plate!

South Downs Way breakfast

It was only 2 km back to the South Downs Way although all uphill, and I was feeling the weight of my backpack. But I’d expected it to be further so I was truly heartened when I saw the familiar acorn sign of a National Trail and a coffee van. If you’re coming from Exton, this section starts with a hearty climb up Winchester Hill where there is an Iron Age Hill Fort and fabulous views. You meet people all the way along and many stop for a quick chat either because they are also doing the South Downs Way or just to wish you well. From Winchester Hill, there is a nice long descent with views of where you are going. Meon Springs in the valley below has glamping, camping, and a café. I wish I’d known that! I stopped for my first 5 km break about 1 km after the café at which point, an ITV journalist walked past and his dog ate my Scotch egg. A small claim to fame!

South Downs Way hill

You are lulled into a false sense of security here as you follow a flattish woodland path. Don’t be fooled. The path narrows and soon becomes stoney and uneven as you climb up between Small Down and Long Down. You are at least in the shade and you get some great views to your left as you climb but this was the first hill I really struggled with – tired as I was from the day before. My feet hurt and my hamstring was nagging me.

South Downs Way Hampshire

But it’s worth it as you come out at the top to your first views of the sea, Portsmouth, and the Spinnaker Tower. You can also see Buster Hill ahead which is the first time you really start to get a sense of the distances you’re going to be travelling. It seems a long way off. And from Meon Springs to Buster Hill was another long stretch where I barely met anyone. Before you start the approach to Buster Hill (the highest point of the South Downs Way) you pass The Sustainability Centre (and campsite) and from here you follow another pleasant woodland track until you arrive on a country lane that takes you to Buster Hill. Look back and you can see the pylons of that hill where you first caught a glance of Portsmouth and you can pat yourself on the back for the distance that you have already covered!

Buster Hill Hampshire

It was at Buster Hill that I met a friend who had brought me a change of shoes and took my laptop. Yes, I’d been carrying a laptop. Why? I don’t know. But this marked a positive change because lighter and with happier feet, walking got easier from this point on. A herd of ponies signaled the descent from Buster Hill at the base of which you cross the A3 and head into the Queen Elizabeth Country Parks. It’s a magnificent walk down.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park

The last section of the day’s walk is through Queen Elizabeth Country Park and although it involves a big climb, it’s a gorgeous section of woodland. And on a hot day, beautifully cool. You eventually come to Halls Hill car park. From here it’s a short walk downhill to Buriton where you’ll find a couple of pubs and where I had a caravan booked for the night.

Buriton accommodation

At this night’s stop, I had pre-booked dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch for the next day. I felt better than 24 hours previously but was still in bed by 8 pm, accompanied by a small bottle of sloe gin for medicinal reasons, of course.

Highlights of this section

  • First glimpse of the sea
  • First glimpse of Buster Hill
  • Views from Buster Hill
  • Queen Elizabeth Country Park


  • Route distance 20 km
  • Elevation 442 m
  • Coffee van where you cross the road and start your descent from Winchester Hill
  • Water station and café at Meon Springs
  • Water station and café at The Sustainability Centre
  • Shop at Buster Hill
  • Visitor centre and café at Queen Elizabeth Country Park / A3
  • Car parks at Buster Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country Park and Buriton

If you like this post about day 2 of the South Downs Way walk, you may find the following helpful:

Walking the South Downs Way. Day 1. 

Walking the South Downs Way. Day 3. 

An Overview of the South Downs Way

Discover the South Downs  

Planning your South Downs Way Walk 

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