RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Racton Park

This walk of 2.8 miles (4.5kms) takes you past one of the finest bluebell woods in Sussex.

Park roadside close to the Radar Establishment west of Funtington and walk west along grass road verge for about 300m until you come to the green and white public bridleway sign pointing right.

This leads you along a nice tall hedge to the edge of Racton Park Wood. Our walk takes us around this old hazel coppice with its fine oaks, many of which have been joined by young oaks.

The ground flora is astonishing, being an almost complete canopy of bluebells. Usually these are mixed with scores of other species. There are a few wood anemones.

At the northern tip of the wood you have a view over the Ems river valley to that curious old conundrum of a folly, Racton Tower.

It was designed in 1772 but the rococo caprice was already out of date then and was described by Horace Walpole at the time as ‘a very ugly tower’.

It was partly dismantled, partly on suspicion that smugglers used it as a sighting beacon on approach from France, partly because it was suspected to be the resort of ‘ladies and gentlemen of ill-fame’.

It was described as a cross between a castle and a pagoda and cost the Earl of Besborough a ‘prodigious expense’.

Note the group of a dozen splendid old ash trees here, an ecological treasure.

Now turn south-west through a metal gate along the western edge of the wood. Birds here include great spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers and nuthatches.

Then cross the road on the bridleway to Woodmancote.

Past Stables and a nice long blackthorn hedge with the path edges in places colonised by Good Friday grass (Luzula campestris) sheep sorrel, and yarrow.

A pleasant long holly rue, with the nests of robins and finches. One or two pretty flint cottages and courtyards from a bygone era at Woodmancote.

Turn left along road for 350m then left over stile at fingerpost to cross a horsey meadow to the next road.

Now turn left for 50m, then right into a path along the edge of plantation.

The scruffy haunt of yobs of ill-fame takes us into the wilds of an old gravel pit where the path wanders south-east towards a big willow and a Scots pine.

Heath dog violets grow across the heath, with hard rush clumps and ground ivy.

Then you come to an animal sanctuary and cemetery too.

Keep left along a wire fence, hearing green woodpeckers amid the Scots pines.

You come then to a track where turn left for a stroll back to the main road with its one time satellite airfield now used for secret electronic testing, and its old Alvis gawped at by moderns who wonder what kind of folly that represents.

Even the more modern Morris used to make some think of the good old days, but glad they did not have to live in them.