THIS is a special Christmas walk with everything that’s best in Sussex – downs, woods, rivers, views, country church and pub, village with history.
Distance six miles (9.5 kms) with parking at Whiteways Lodge crossroads: TQ003107.
Take white arrow north to South Downs Way along field edge where skylarks often feed in winter.
Langham Wood on left is a mix of hazel, ash and beech, part of Houghton Forest.
Gradually the magnificent view along the South Downs ridge unfolds to Glatting Beacon on the left and Amberley Mount on the right, with Amberley Wildbrooks ahead and right below.
Cross the SDW when the chalky field of Bury Hill lifts you up like a bird above the world, as you cross the field of young barley. Then you dive into the woods on the steep scarp slope descending through a yew/ash mix where deer and pheasants roam. Please keep dogs under control in this rural economy.
The bridlepath wends right and left, just look for the occasional blue arrow. I love the ancient ash tree in the rue at the bottom, then all the field maple trees beside the path before one comes to the gurgling stream from Bignor that goes under the road.
Turn right along the road, passing the lovely beech driveway to Burton Manor, then the school, crossing the A29 to The Squire and Horse public house. Refreshed, take the by-road east into Bury.
Three things not to miss: a blue plaque on Bury House to John Galsworthy of Forsyte Saga fame (and a friend of my father – while unknown to either they were actually related!); the very curious collection of gargoyles next to this; then further down, the 12 Irish yews all in a row along the graveyard of St John the Evangelist.
The apostles? The 13th by the west door made me think.
We reach the Arun, reading first of all about the wharf and ferry that once were here.
Turn right along the river bank for nearly a mile: common reeds, possibly otters (you might see spraint and pad marks), certainly mallard.
Turn right then, on blue arrow into the meadows, and on reaching byroad, left to Houghton village with the George and Dragon pub where Charles II (my ancestor) was refreshed with ale on his flight from Cromwell on October 14, 1651.
Carefully continue a little way up the main road to find the Monarch’s Way bridleway through the tunnel of trees, alongside the road, westwards all the way back up the hill.
The view over the North Stoke brooks opens up wonderfully well down to the left, with the slopes of Arundel Park above. Surely one of the loveliest parts of the world, and a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas week.