West Sussex Walks: Bury Hill & The South Downs Way

For this 7 km walk, you need Ordnance Survey Explorer 10 and the start point is about 7 km south of Pulborough. There’s also a slightly longer version for those that want more of the South Downs Way and the joy of this walk is that it has a little bit of the South Downs Way, a little bit of the West Sussex Literary Trail, and a little bit of woodland trail.

Getting started

You start this walk where the South Downs Way crosses Houghton Lane, just outside Houghton on the way to Bury. There is a layby for parking but other than that, you may have to park in the village and walk back. Or you could park in the car park just west of Houghton and walk back via Monarch’s Way.

South Downs Way Bury

Bury Hill

Where the South Downs Way crosses Houghton Lane you turn left (west) and head all the way up the hill until you cross the A29. Don’t forget to look back as you climb for some truly spectacular views. This is the land of rolling landscapes which no photo can do justice to and it’s a reasonably quiet section of the South Downs Way. Once you’ve crossed the A29 you walk for about another ½ km until you come to a clump of trees and a footpath sign.  This is where you must opt for the longer or shorter route.

South Downs Way, Bury

If you’d rather do the longer route, carry on the South Downs Way for roughly another 2 km instead of bearing right. When you come to a bridlepath to your right at Westburton Hill, you follow it until it meets the West Sussex Literary Trail onto which you turn right and again follow it until it meets up again with the shorter version (details below). This way is about an extra 4 km.

For my sins, I walked this on a rainy day with two very reluctant teenagers in tow so I was forced into doing the shorter route for which you must bear right at the clump of trees. It doesn’t look like a footpath at all (it looks like you’re walking across a field – you are), but you’ll see a solitary tree and a post in the distance and that’s what you’re heading for. Teenage moaning aside, nothing can detract from the magnificence of yet more fabulous views as you round the crest of what is Bury Hill and begin your descent into the woods. Beware on this section if it’s been raining because it is steep and can be very slippery but enjoy the wild garlic if you walk this way in spring.

South Downs Way Bury Hill

West Burton

Eventually, you come out on a lane which is West Burton Road and it’s a shame you can’t go straight across at this point because the West Sussex Literary Trail (WSLT) is just a field away ahead of you. But you can’t, so you must either turn left and then take the first right which takes you down to the WSLT which you turn right onto and follow this all the way to the River Arun (and hello again to walkers of the longer route who we’ve just met up with again). Look out for Cooke House this way, a Grade II listed of which the main part was built in 1588 and home to some impressive ornamental gardens.

Bury

Your alternative is to turn right when you reach West Burton Road (teenagers still moaning so I did) and this way does include a little road walk as you make your way back to Bury village. However, it’s a quiet country lane and once you re-cross the A29 you’re into Bury. Bury is a village of thatched cottages and flintstone walls, and was once home to John Galsworthy who was best-known for the Forsythe Saga and lived at Bury House, an impressive mansion-style property (shortly after the house, you should also look out for the gargoyles!).

Bury House, Bury, Sussex

In Bury, you’re heading straight on down to the River Arun, passed the sign to Dorset House School as well as the pretty church with its unusual 12th century tower.

Bury Wharf

When you reach the river, you’re at Bury Wharf and there’s an interesting information board here. This is the point where there used to be a ferry to link Bury with Amberley. The ferryman lived in Jessamine Cottage (just behind you), and the ferry ran until 1955. Interestingly, there were at least two ferrywomen including one Ada Marshall and her mother. The fee was one penny for parishioners and tuppence for strangers.

Bury Ferrymen, West Sussex

If you look back from the river, you can also see Dorset House School which was formerly Bury Manor and dates back to at least 1066 when it was owned by Edward the Confessor’s sister. In due course, it was handed over by the Normans to the monks of Fecamp, a Benedictine monastic order. Dorset House the school dates back to 1784 although not at this site.

Turn right at the river (south) and follow it back until you reach the South Downs Way once more where you turn back up to the Houghton Lane and the start of your walk.

Dorset House School, Bury

Pubs!

I wouldn’t leave you without a pub, and for those in need of refreshment, there is the Squire and Horse in Bury and the George and Dragon in Houghton. Alternatively head into nearby Arundel for more choice.

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