RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...West Dean Woods

This is a walk of 8.2kms (5.1 miles) to see a million wild daffodils, 40 different birds, a mediaeval monastery and nine King’s graves.

Park roadside between West Dean village and Chilgrove under old beech trees.

West along road for 200m then right into sunken lane to follow the bridleway northeast all the way to the South Downs Way.

Deer slots throughout could be fallow, roe, or muntjac.

At Sussex Wildlife Trust’s notice for West Dean Woods Nature Reserve, badger sett under trees and many signs of where the animals dig out worms along the edge of our path.

Deciduous woods ahead famous for rarities such as hawfinch, willow tit and crossbill.

I have logged 45 species breeding herein during the past 35 years.

Flower banks to left good for butterfly orchid, fly orchid and Good Friday grass in May.

Ahead the wild daffodils now coming out in March are a famous Sussex colony, all managed by volunteers for SWT.

Pass another chalk boulder, the work of international sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, one of a score in these woods.

The young beech plantation soon gives way to firs as cross into the Cowdray estate.

On left note a Bronze Age tumulus with typical dished centre where original burial chamber (3,500 years old) collapsed inwards.

At SDW left along top of the Downs with magnificent views on all sides.

Bowhill on left, Blackdown on right.

It is strange to think all these woods to the left were once intensively cultivated arable and stock-rearing farms 3,000 years ago.

Entering woods with wire fence on left shows Monkton house created by the art connoisseur and patron Edward James, designed by Lutyens.

Rare pheasants may sometimes be heard within.

After turning southwest look right for the nine kings’ graves built 3,500 years ago: a dynasty whose history remains a mystery. Who were they all?

These are managed by the Murray Downland Trust which will provide guided tours of the reserve on June 18.

Make a note for your diary.

Soon sharp left on blue arrow, east, to follow this footpath southeast for a mile to the road at Hog’s Common.

We pass the site of the ancient monastery farm and buildings in a dry chalk grassland valley.

At road, left along to Stapleleash Farm, left at road junction then soon left into meadow and new walnut plantation, then right back onto the road and the ancient Alvis which has had to replace the Morris.