At just over 7 km, this Sussex woodland trail has the advantage of circling around the Downs Link so although never far from the main footpath, you feel wonderfully off the beaten track. In mid-April (2021) the going underfoot was excellent with no really bad muddy patches and the wildlife is just bursting into life. This route takes you through woodland and open fields as well as along Pensfold Lane and for the map readers, you’ll need Ordnance Survey Explorer 34.
You can park at the top of Spring Lane in Slinfold but there’s not much space and it does get busy so I would always advise you to do it off-peak, or park in the village. Take the Downs Link west towards Rudgwick. After about .75 km, when you reach the second tunnel, go up and over it towards the left and up the hill. At this point, you skirt around the edge of Slinfold Golf Course. Keep your eyes open (not just for balls) and take the first footpath to your right. This is a lovely downhill woodland path and your first taste of the bluebells.
The Downs Link tunnels
Where the path re-meets the Down Links you bare left, rather than onto the Link and this next stretch of track, takes you past some rather lovely houses. The first is Naldrett House, just visible down a long and elegant drive. This is a classic Grade II listed Georgian Country House and was once owned by legendary cricket correspondent, the late Christopher Martin-Jenkins.
The oldest house in the area
Your route takes you down the first footpath to your right which feels like you’re heading into the private grounds of Warhams. This is the right way so keep going, as you go round the edge of this beautiful house believed to be the oldest in the area, and to date back to about 1213-1239. You get quite a good view looking back at the house, and just after that, you turn right. You follow the path across open fields until you come to woodland just before you cross the Downs Link.
Wild garlic and bluebells
In April, once in the woods, you’re struck by the smell of wild garlic, clouds of Blackthorn blossom, wood anemone, dog violets, and the first bluebells. Cross almost straight over the Downs Link and enjoy a further stretch of woodland path before you head over open fields towards Violet Farm, another beautiful Grade II listed house, you turn left (with views back across at the house over the pond) and then almost immediately right as you head across the fields and back into the bluebell woods once more.
Watch out for the cows
As you approach the pheasant fencing, the footpath is to your left where you cross a field, into another short woodland copse and then across another field until you meet a small concrete road. Enjoy more bluebells but do look out for the cow pats! These are the cows that help make Sussex Charmer cheese, and if you had carried on down the Downs Link (rather than turn off it at the beginning of the trail) you would come to The Milk Churn where you can get Sussex Charmer toasties and a coffee.
Turn right onto the concrete track (you now want to keep going straight until you end up back at the tunnel where you first left the Downs Link). The concrete track gives way to a field which in turn gives way to another woodland track that gently climbs back to the tunnel. Turn left back on to the Downs Link and keep going until you’re back at the car.
Apart from the Downs Link parts, you’re unlikely to meet many people, and you really do get a chance to enjoy some Sussex woodland and country.
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