Stansted House and the Racton Ruins (aka Racton Monument or Racton Folly) are both north west of Chichester in West Sussex, not far from the Hampshire border. This flat 7.5 km walk takes you past both. You need Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 8 and we started at Racton church where there is a small parking bay (What Three Words: introduce.hidden.reaction).
Stansted House and Park
The area where Stansted now stands has been on the radar since the Domesday Book of 1086 and various kings and queens have visited over the centuries. A new house was built in 1591, and then it was rebuilt again in 1686. In the 18th century, the then owner, the 2nd Earl of Halifax built a folly – the Racton Ruins. In 1900, the main part of the house was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in 1903. The house was bought by Vere Ponsonby, 9th Earl of Bessborough, in 1924 and in 1983, the 10th Earl of Bessborough gave Stansted Park, and its contents and Arboretum to the public. The house is described by Historic Houses as an “Edwardian country house with Carolean revival décor”. The estate includes walled gardens (open all year), the Arboretum, the Pavilion Tearoom, a garden centre, farm shop, maze and railway. The house itself closes in the winter.
Racton Monument is on a hill near Racton. No one knows why the Earl built it – whether as a summerhouse, to watch over the sea and his ships coming into dock, or just as a folly. Although it stands in ruins, it’s also Grade II listed. It had four floors and is 24 metres high. It is also covered in a fair amount of graffiti and ivy but is made of brick and flint, with a series of small round turrets around a central tower of four stories. These days it is privately owned.
The Racton ghosts
Of course, the folly’s big attraction for many are the ghost stories that surround it. When we walked past we met a group of teenage boys who were keen to tell us of the lady in white who’d been seen by one their fathers and captured in someone else’s photos. A quick Google search reveals quite a few tales of strange encounters including people hearing whispers, and feeling like someone had touched them or were standing next to them and of bricks being thrown. There is also told of it being used as a brothel. Whatever your thoughts, it’s certainly enigmatic.
The Racton Ruins / Stansted House walk
This walk starts just south of Lordington on the B2146. We parked at St Peter’s Church because we wanted to see this too. It’s a small 12th century church with a 13th century nave although it has been altered since. A short distance up the road to the start of the footpath (a turning off to your left) and there is a small amount of parking there too.
Ruins to riches
The footpath is known as Monument Lane and it leads you (in less than 1 km ) up the hill to the ruins (and a reservoir to your right). It’s a pleasant tree-lined path and when you’ve had your fill of the folly, just keep going. There are nice views to the left and in the autumn, the colours are lovely. You want to walk for about 2.5 km (from the church) and take the second footpath to the right that you come to. The first footpath to your right is the way you’ll come back and don’t confuse the restricted byway to your right with a footpath.
Having turned right, you’ll cut across some fields before turning right again and coming to the Stansted overflow car park. You walk around the outside of the grounds with views of “The Avenue” and the parkland. You also get spectacular views of the front of Stansted House – wow, it’s big and impressive. And then you pick up the Monarch’s Way. Where the path forks at a small junction with a pretty house, you bear right into Woodlands Lane and keep to Monarch’s Way.
There are a couple of footpaths to the right which you can take you back across the fields to Monument Lane (referred to as Park Lane on Ordnance Survey). You get more great views of the side of Stansted House. We took the first right and then it’s just a question of retracing your steps.
There are a number of alternative routes you can take to make this walk longer. These include walking all the way to Rowlands Castle, into Stansted Forest or going back via Walderton or Stoughton.
Other points of interest
Racton Man is an almost complete skeleton of a Bronze Age warrior (from between 2150 and 2300 BC) found in 1989 on farmland near here who is now in the Novium Museum in Chichester. He was found with a bronze dagger. He was about 6 foot tall and is thought to have been a prominent member of society and or someone of great seniority. Depending on which way you walk back, you may pass Lordington House. This was built in around 1500. It’s rather beautiful and you can stay there as it’s a B&B.
If you’ve enjoyed this post about the Racton Ruins walk, you may also like: