Summer Picnics in the South Downs: Our Guide

Summer Picnics in the South Downs: Our Guide

Based in the South Downs National Park, Hambledon Vineyard is fortunate to be surrounded by a number of beauty spots to enjoy, whether that be on a country walk, a scenic bike ride, or indeed, a beautiful summer picnic. 

The South Downs National Park has a wealth of fine outdoor eating spots with a view – whether you’re stopping for a break from a big hike, enjoying a gentle ramble or just stepping out for lunch.

Here are some top spots to set down your hamper and relax in nature…

Enjoy a sea view from atop of Butser Hill

With 360 degree views out across the weald to Petersfield, beyond to the North Downs, out to the Solent and the Isle of Wight and across the ridge of the South Downs east and west, Butser Hill makes a great place for an alfresco meal- certainly a rewarding prospect after the climb. Enjoy a bottle of Hambledon Classic Cuvée, simply paired with some delicious local cheeses, such as Tunworth (The Hampshire Cheese Co), or Old Winchester (Lyburn Cheese), while enjoying views of Hampshire and beyond.

Home to the ground-nesting skylark, from March to September listen out for their warning cry and stick to the path to avoid disturbing them. Across the A3 is Queen Elizabeth Country Park with over 20 miles of trails,11 family barbecue hearths which can be hired for set periods and mobility scooters to hire. As well as a café if you’ve forgotten your lunch!

A natural amphitheater at Cheesefoot Head

Situated just outside of Winchester, Cheesefoot Head is a natural amphitheater. A stunning viewpoint, it offers views out towards Butser Hill, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight.

The sloping walls of the amphitheater are comprised of chalk grassland and is home to dozens of species of wildflowers which attract pollinators of every sort – bees, butterflies and moths. Keep a lookout for lots of birds, including corn bunting, yellowhammers and the South Downs songster, the skylark.

The South Downs Rambler Bus runs between Winchester and Petersfield every Sunday from 23 July to 24 September and stops at Cheesefoot Head. 

An easy access trail at  Alice Holt Forest

Forming the most northerly gateway to the National Park, this former Royal forest is steeped in history as its famous oak trees were used to build Royal Navy warships in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

Today it is a beautiful example of English woodland, with lots of picnic benches and a wonderful Easy Access Trail. The trail is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs and has an optional shortcut. There’s also a suite of inclusive bikes to hire for a pre/post picnic workout for all. For an easier trail, why not pack something more extravagant to enjoy? A charcuterie board, featuring locally cured meats from the network of small Hampshire Charcuterie providers, showcased in farm shops around the county. Paired with rich, truffle popcorn and delicious, fresh baked sourdough- this is guaranteed to be a delicious interlude to your day in the outdoors. Even better when paired with our Classic Cuvée Rosé.

Wander the winding woodland trails at West Walk

Explore the largest remaining fragment of the ancient Forest of Bere with its tall pine trees, outdoor play area and den building. Firm pathways allow for wheelchair and pushchair users to soak up the dappled sunlight through the treetops.

With lots of spots to lay your picnic blanket or benches to sit upon, this woods is a great place to while away a sunny afternoon.

Picnic amongst the purple heather on Black Down

The highest point in the South Downs, Black Down boasts a tranquil setting to get back to nature. With heath and woodland you’re spoilt for choice for where to lay your picnic blanket. In summer the hills are flushed with purple as the heather comes into full bloom, with darting dragonfly activity and woodlarks flying overhead. Look out for the Tennyson sculpture at Black Down, part of the Heathland Sculpture Trail. Save an exceptional wine for a stunning view, with our  being a showstopping glass to enjoy among the heather.

Haslemere train station is just 2 miles away from Black Down. If travelling by bus, Stagecoach runs a number of services from Haslemere to Tennyson’s Lane, not far from the main car park at Black Down.

Climb the steps to lunch atop of St Catherine’s Hill

Discover an ancient turf maze, the earthworks of an Iron Age hillfort and beautiful views out over historic Winchester city with its imposing cathedral. This National Nature Reserve is a perfect spot for a picnic with a view. You will get a chance to earn your lunch during the 220ft climb up the wooden steps! With around 25 different species of butterflies there’s lots of wildlife to look out for. After which, why not enjoy a light, local treat overlooking the city- with a glass of our Première Cuvée Rosé, paired with delicate smoked ChalkStream Trout, and snacks such as locally grown crudites with your dip of choice.

Leave no trace

We all have a responsibility to help look after nature. It is easy to enjoy the countryside while also being respectful to wildlife and other users. Here’s some top tips on having a happy, safe picnic in the South Downs:

  • Take home all your litter. Even if there are waste bins, these can often overflow after busy days and rubbish may not be collected immediately. Help wildlife and nature by taking this with you when you leave, this includes any dog poo.
  • Keep dogs on the lead around wildlife, livestock and other picnickers. Keep paws on the path to avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds or adders basking in the sun. 
  • No BBQs or open fires. In the summer months, the risk of wild fires can be very high. Please don’t light BBQs or have open fires when visiting nature sites.
  • Leave gates as you find them. As a rule, gates should generally be closed. However, farmers may intentionally leave gates open, particularly if livestock is moving between fields. If in doubt, please close the gate.

 Created with the help of the South Downs National Park.