For this South Downs Way walk, you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer 10. I planned this 11½ km route as a bike ride. However, (fool that I am) I did not realise the West Sussex Literary Trail section is not suitable for bikes due to a number of stiles. But there is a slightly longer route you can do if you still want to take your bike. The shorter circuit took just over an hour with the bike but I walked much more than I cycled! Late on a sunny April afternoon, it was idyllic.
Your start point is the Kithurst Hill car park which you’ll find just south of the B2139 between Storrington and Amberley. Be a little afraid as you climb to the car park because this is the last 1½ km of the route when you return to your car.
Kithurst Hill and the South Downs Way
From the car park, you head west towards Amberley and it’s fair to say, I walked a lot of this section. Why? Because the views were just too epic to miss and because I was concentrating on not falling off my bike. To your left, you have views across to the sea and the south coast, to the right you have views right across Sussex to the North Downs. You can also see Parham House in the valley below you and the South Downs meandering ahead along ahead of you. However warm the day, there always seems to be a wind on the South Downs Way, and combined with the silence and solitude it has a haunting effect. You know you’re somewhere special, where people have travelled before you for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
For many, the South Downs Way is also a sort of pilgrim’s way. It was here I met a woman who was cycling solo from Eastbourne to Winchester, wild camping along the way. She told me the story of a 92 year old man she’d met earlier in the day who’d told her his story, and it left me with the sense that South Downs Way walks are a series of never-ending stories.
A tour of Amberley
That said, sooner or later you make your way down a steep descent (I walked that too although respect to the two girls who flew past me on their bikes), and where the path forks (South Downs Way to your left) you take the Wey South Path to your right and into Amberley village. This route doesn’t take you past the castle but there is nothing to stop you from enjoying a little deviation to see it.
I certainly lingered in Amberley. There’s a pub (or two), pretty houses, and a sense that no one here is ever in a hurry. When you’re ready, take the quiet country lane east towards Cross Gate and Parham.
The West Sussex Literary Trail
A kilometre or two out of Amberley and the Sussex literary Trail forks off to your left. This is the way for walkers although I took it (with my bike). It’s a beautiful section with an old water mill, a rectory, and woodland paths. You also travel right on the edge of Amberley Wildbrooks, a marshy, grassland nature reserve that has an eerie but soulful feel.
Eventually, you come out on Rackham Street at West Lodge next to a curious sandstone mound. If you’re not willing or able to carry your bike over your head as you negotiate a number of stiles along this section, rather than turn onto the West Sussex Literary Trail, stick on the lane for a short distance and then bear left and you’ll also arrive at West Lodge.
You carry on this road (or for walkers turn left onto it) until you come to the gates of Parham House and Park less than half a kilometre away. You are not allowed to cycle through Parham Park so I got off and walked through it pushing my bike. It’s such a lovely estate with views of the house across the lake, so it seems a shame to miss it and you can also see the ridge of the South Downs Way in the distance.
If you’d rather not walk through it, carry on up the road (it’s a quiet sleepy lane) until you have to turn right and then eventually right again on to the A283 for a couple of kilometres until you come to the other gates to the Parham Estate where you meet up with the walkers. Then turn right down Clay Lane (another sleepy lane) until you come back to the A2139.
For walkers, you go more or less straight over for the steep but shortish walk back to the car park. For cyclists, turn right onto the main road and cycle back to the turning for the car park and zig-zag your way back up to the car. It’s a killer and I walked it pushing the bike!
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