Heathery hills, massive pines and oaks, and secret meadows along this 3.6 miles (6kms) walk of Barlavington and Bignor Estates. Car park at Lord’s Piece SU993169 on road between Duncton and Watersfield.
Lord’s Piece is a very well-managed nature reserve displaying a habitat for rare insects such as the field cricket and birds such as woodlark and nightjar together with spectacular scenery.
Take any of the several paths leading up over the sandy mountain northeast and you will pass under some of the towering Scots pines. Ling and bell heather grow over the slopes also rare lichens and moss.
This open access land ends at stile out onto bridleway to left which you follow to left. Downhill now with lots of lovely female holly trees covered in Christmas berries surrounded by oak elders at the festivity too.
Left on blue arrow under electricity cable passing a big oak resting trunk.
Then after passing under a second set of cables look to right for a small plank bridge by silver birches as you join the Serpent Trail. This path is under more old oaks then a view of green folded meadows and willow hedges that would have been recognisable to Saxon farmers. Pass a shadowed ford and forest pool where I once saw a grey wagtail. Note deer browse line of ivy on trees.
Passing Triphill with its sofas and stuff turn right at main road for 20 yards then cross road to left through kissing gate following hedge of holly and ivy and onwards southeast over meadow and passing a lone oak soon dive into Waltham Park Wood.
The 1987 hurricane victims include a holly with rootplate like a Viking ship and raised oars. Right/left kink in path on fingerposts to follow the edge of a dense cypress wood which gives way to Norway spruce some big enough for Trafalgar Square this Christmas.
Follow path through bracken glades into damp oak and ash wood where in summer the white admirals fly. Cross the road at dangerous little double corner into Waltham Park Farm road and leaving the farmyard clutter dive downhill into sandy cutting with crop of hard ferns on right bank and male ferns on left.
At bottom, right on fingerpost into meadows or 100 yards farther down right onto bridleway track through Watersfield Common.
This pleasant woodland stroll brings you to main fast road which you cross carefully into quiet Bignor Park road southwest. Note the verge for wildlife sign on right which grows red campion and spotted orchids.
At the next cross roads turn right to return to car park. This too is a pleasant and quiet enough road with its horse holdings, hedges of blackthorn and willow, and soon Lord’s Piece again on the right into which one can dive for a final taste of that ancient heath before a ride in that ancient car as smooth and mellow as the sunset over the downland ridge to the south.
The end of a perfect walk.
* See this week’s Observer for a map of this walk.