RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country Walk: Offham Hanger, Arundel

NOBODY can ignore the banks of the Arun for long.

Recently I have had to use the train quite a lot from Chichester and on up the valley to Horsham or London and have longed to be out of the carriage and back on the banks which flash past too soon. And so I did one quiet evening.

A stroll of three miles (5kms) can be made from the railway station if you like, or from bus to Arundel, or by parking near the castle, or at The Black Rabbit: TQ025085.

So let us start from there, on the minor road which runs from the town to South Stoke. I set off south along the banks of the river as the tide was going out, showing the speed of the flow which was making a canoeist work like a Mississipi paddle steamer as he faced the flow.

To the right were the sunlit woods of Offham Hanger; ahead, the silhouetted castellations of the castle in all its mock-Norman Victorian splendour.

A few mallard were flying around the WWT Arundel Wetlands Centre. Soon they will become flightless as they go into eclipse on the annual plumage change.

I continued around the ox-bow to the town. To the left, the busy train hurtled back and forth, and below Warningcamp the oaks stood silent in pale summer leaf. It is such a beautiful place. Here the reeds sparsely line the edge, and the glaucous green of salt-loving sea rye grass grows.

By day the tiny town of Arundel has dining and antique places to tempt the tourist, and there is a loo straight ahead under the castle battlements.

Then you can stroll to the right under the old lime avenue, see moorhens busy with their grown-up young and harts-tongue

ferns lapping the water’s edge. This is where most people park.

You come to the bridge over Swanbourne Lake stream, where Constable painted the mill, and where he enjoyed the trees reaching the heights above of the hanger.

Here is another lavatory, and the chance for a cup of tea if you are here in the day-time. The walk wanders on along the road back to the public house.

As you go, you will catch glimpses of the international collection of waterfowl that Sir Peter Scott began in the 1970s. This provides a good day out for the family. There is also another loo and a café with a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Surely the whole area deserves more than a day to see in its entirety?

Don’t forget to look skywards along the walk back to the car, because raptors including peregrine and hobby patrol the woods over the hanger above.

The dense box and yew woods are home to tree-cover birds that abound beneath the canopy. Raptors (especially the buzzard) also enjoy the uplift on the breeze as it rises over this cliff.

There is so much to see in so small a space. In America it would all be called a theme park.