RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Slindon Woods

A quick glance at the map makes me think that the woods of Slindon Park must cover roughly 100 hectares in the form of a letter L.

They are all open to the public too, and there are paths for you to walk in all directions.

There are three car parks to choose. So how could I lay out just one of the walks I ask myself.

My map gives but one, of 1.8 miles (3kms) which is the one most people seem to enjoy. Slindon Woods made headline news across the land in 1987 when the hurricane on the night of 16 October knocked them sideways.

The 200-year-old beech trees were of national pride and then disaster as we could hardly imagine life without them. But many did stay upright and that is what we enjoy today.

The relics of their dead comrades lie in what seemed to be an elephants’ graveyard.

The rest crown the sky like fan-vaulting in a cathedral.

If you walk north on my map from the southwest car park you will soon notice the vast number of flints.

East of, and just opposite the field named Sand Pit is the famous site in a gravel pit where in 1912, archaeologist Dr. Eliot Curwen found the first of 11 flint axe heads left there 200,000 years previously by Palaeolithic man.

This was the one of the places, at a height of 135 feet above our present sea level, where the seashore lapped on the land and is known as the raised beach profile.

You can see how these pebbles were smoothed by wave action then.

This thick layer of flints sometimes makes it difficult for tree roots to take a good hold on the ground. You will no doubt enjoy the scent and sight of myriads of spring flowers in the woods, the 40 species of birds all singing at the moment (especially if the air is damp and humid).

Why not wander through Slindon village itself which is very quiet and friendly and visit the village shop and tearooms at the Old Forge at the end of Park Lane.

Your walk could then be a left-handed circular back by the road past St.Mary’s and see if you too think it was “Shockingly restored” (in 1866) outside; in the words of Nikolaus Pevsner. Inside, all is not lost. For instance, there is the only wooden effigy in Sussex; that of Sir Anthony St Leger of 1539.

Walk on up the road and you will pass Slindon House, once a palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury, rebuilt in 1560 and again disastrously in 1921.

A wonderful walk, quintessentially English, cared for, historic.

And I have not even mentioned the Slindon treacle mines and their connection with the Battle of Trafalgar.