RICHARD WILLIAMSON: East Dean to Brockhurst Bottom

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I enjoyed this 3 mile (4.8kms) walk on a fine day in mid-January this year. It started in East Dean village which lies in a valley, surrounding the spring that feeds the river Lavant, just over a mile east of Singleton on the A286 down a minor road which then joins up with the A285.

You can park in the village street outside The Star and Garter SU905130, or in the hidden car park that serves All Saints church, up Newhouse Road. The church has a flower-rich graveyard, though that’s for the summer.

The play-write Christopher Fry (The Lady’s Not For Burning and Venus Observed) lived in the village. I struck east from the church along the minor road to Newhouse Farm, with a bank of ivy covered trees on my left, then found a yellow arrow right, along the hedge, by a new-sown wheat field.

This took me up to what is called New Road, which is an ancient track surfaced decades ago with what was then the new-fangled tarmacadam. I turned left along it, and up into the high beeches of Charlton Forest.

Along the way was a badger sett in the overgrown hedge on the right, where Brock had pulled out small boulders and aired his bedding. Sheep grazed a meadow to my right and they were helping to conserve common yellow hill ant castles, in which no doubt blue butterfly caterpillars were enjoying the attention from ant nurses without which they cannot survive.

I walked past the FC signs along the hard-core forest ride, but after a couple of hundred yards (metres if you insist on being modern and particular) I turned left on a yellow arrow along a soft grass ride. Along this I suddenly came face-to-face with a big sandy coloured fox. He went east.

I just carried on to the end of the forest and a stile, and saw a small clump of hazel bushes which had been beaten about by an angry fallow buck. I carried on over the meadow to Brockhurst Bottom. This is a vast amphitheatre of silent meadows, showing magnificent Romano-British field boundaries where there was once a great farm.

I took the track back left along the valley bottom. I passed Postles Barn, then at the wood-yard and tractor graveyard at Pond Barn, I turned right at the JCB and the flint barn, followed the yellow arrow up across the meadow into Scratlee Wood.

This footpath took me back to the church along a rue of all kinds of downland shrubs and trees. This was a lovely walk and all done in 90 minutes ambling.