RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Woolavington Down

This 2.5 mile (4kms) stroll is along the scarp edge of the South Downs just west of Cocking on the A285.

Wednesday, 7th June 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:49 pm

I often find wild orchids in these shady woods and hear several different warblers singing in early summer. I parked half way down Duncton Hill in the bay overlooking the Wealden heaths and woods at SU995161.

Here you will find viewpoint directions with distances of surrounding hills. Blackdown is nearly nine miles away, Telegraph Hill eight miles, and Loxhill 14.5 miles.

The car park is on the steep hill where Sir Henry Royce used to test his newest Rolls Royce cars for both hill climbing and braking. A neighbour of mine, the late Rosemary Stewart-Jones of West Dean said that Royce himself once took her when she was a small child, with others as passengers, for an outing to the famous hill.

I set off on the direction of a yellow arrow south-west through the bushes but quickly turned right onto another footpath steep down-hill to the spring stream which feeds eventually into Burton mill-pond. The ground flora is mainly dog’s mercury and you might see the tiny holes in the leaves which have been eaten by the dog’s mercury beetle. These beetles are the size of fleas, are shiny blue-black, and jump enormous distances. I found several twayblades which are in the orchid family. The tall thin green stems have flowers hanging on them which look like miniature green men with hats on. At the bottom of the hill, turn left into Beechwood Lane. Box and yew hedges are neatly clipped. The road now becomes a track but keep ahead on the purple arrow past the college gate.

You may notice a memorial to your right among trees which is a shrine to six members of the same family killed while on active service in the RAF in WW2. Wild box bushes grow in the woods to the left and they say the flowers smell like tom cats. Take the left at the path junction, which now circles the old chalk quarry below. Climbing back up the hill, our path crosses over a footpath.

If you turned left at this junction you be taking a short-cut to today’s walk. I carried on over the footpath and came up to the South Downs Way which is also the Literary Trail. There is a Bronze Age cross dykes here. I turned left and after 120 yards, left again (almost straight ahead) onto the footpath sign. This took me for almost a mile, eastwards through the woods, and back to the main road, around the edges of Duncton chalk quarry.