Woods and wheat fields, ups and downs, tracks and paths in the hidden valleys around Madehurst and Bignor Hill made an enjoyable outing for me last week of 3.8 miles (6kms).
Park at the far end of the minor road through Madehurst north off the A29. Roadside parking where the vehicle access ends in a wooded rue, leads you on walking into a stone track that goes up to Bignor Hill. But after 300 yards turn left at bridle road crossways into Stammers Wood.
I heard two blackcap warblers singing lustily here. Note the witches’ brooms overhead on a birch tree above the path.
Down into Great Bottom with its bracken and tall old Douglas firs. Note the old beech on left carrying an ancient metal sign which has been peppered with shot.
As you climb out of this valley you will cross five Bronze Age field banks which are about 50 paces apart as usual in Sussex. Path kinks left on blue arrow into woodland of old hazel/coppice and oak standards.
Arriving at cereal field, path goes right and immediately left into another wood. Above the field full of thistles you can see Glatting Beacon to the north. In the wood you turn right on a not-very-obvious blue arrow and walk north into a wide ride-way with some of the taller flowers – hemp agrimony, crosswort, wood spurge, St John’s wort, thistles and foxgloves.
After 300 yards the path divides; take the left blue arrow path, passing a lot of old 1987 hurricane root plates upended. This path wanders left and then emerges onto the sheep-grazed downs of Gumber Farm with one grey glimpse of the sea on the left.
Where the chalk track twists down take the right track straight ahead and after 300 yards the left south-west into a wood which has an avenue of young limes. You emerge into the National Trust property of Gumber Farm through the gates.
Turn right down across the meadow to have a look at the green wall plaque to Hilaire Belloc, the Sussex poet who wrote: “Lift up your hearts in Gumber.”
Southwards now down the main track with its old beech trees, the last one of which at Warren Barn has the metal label 0154, on the right.
Look at the back of this tree to see a great spotted woodpecker’s nest hole.
Cross over bridleways to find a yellow footpath arrow uphill into the woods. After 300 yards very sharp left onto the yellow arrow north with a rape field on your right followed by a sheep down.
After one mile you are back to the cross-rides where you turn right back down into Great Bottom, then the right turn at another cross-rides back to your car.
Two walkers on my visit last week said: “Is that your old car at the end of the road? They don’t make them like that any more, do they?”
** See the June 28 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.