Distance: 12 km. Elevation: 160 m. Difficulty: Medium to hard
This has to be one of my favourite West Sussex walks, although I probably say that about all my walks. It takes in part of the Sussex Border Path and the West Sussex Literary Trail. You will need Ordnance Survey Explorer 34.
Stage 1. Warnham to the A29
Park in Warnham (there are two pubs there – The Royal Oak and The Greets) and walk down Friday Street and down the long driveway towards Warnham Manor. I believe the original house was owned by Molly Gregson who used to put her pony on the train at Warnham to take it hunting. The house was pulled down and rebuilt in the late 1980s.
As you stand in front of the gates to the main house and the little lake, there’s a footpath to your right, that bends around the lake and up through the woods. You just follow that footpath all the way along until it comes to a small lane. Top tip: these woods are carpeted with bluebells in the spring and there are various routes off the main path which aren’t on the map but which will allow you to enjoy the bluebells even more without trampling on them.
When the footpath reaches the lane (Northlands Road), you turn left and follow it for about half a kilometre until you see a signed footpath down what looks like a driveway or farm track to the left. Look out for the rather beautiful water tower on your right on Northlands Lane which is Grade II listed and was built in 1894.
Once you’ve turned left onto the track, follow that past Pear Tree Farm until you come to the road (the A29).
Stage 2. Chatfolds to Monks Farm
You cross straight over the road (take care, visibility is poor) and then drop down into the most enchanting valley which in spring is a mass of wild garlic with a path and a bridge cutting through.
Stop for a moment and breathe it in. Then just follow the path until you come to a farm (Dawes Farm and a vets) with a concrete drive where you turn left and walk up a long and steady incline. At the top, look back for a pleasant view and then turn through the five bar metal bath and follow the path to Monks Farm.
Stage 3. The Sussex Border Path
At Monks Farm, you turn right and then immediately left and it’s here you pick up the Sussex Border Path. This is 240 km path made up of a series of footpaths that runs from Thorney Island to Rye along the Sussex border. It is waymarked and is managed by The Ramblers. You may see the martlet, the heraldic bird found on the Sussex flag, on the markers.
This first stretch of this bit of your West Sussex walk is also known as Monks Lane and when you reach the end and it opens unto a little lane, you almost double back on yourself (still on the Sussex Border Path) where the sign says Tanglewood. This next section is absolutely glorious in May and June when the rhododendrons are in full bloom and you walk through what feels like an alley of flowers.
As you reach the end, look out for the abandoned building that is slightly charismatic. Then you reach the road where you turn left and then right still following the Sussex Border Path (through some gates). This is a great stretch of the Sussex Border Path as to your right are views of the North Downs and to your left are views of the South Downs but you only follow it as far as the first crop of little buildings. Here you’ll see a sign for Pig’s Ears and you take the footpath left leaving the Border Path behind you.
Stage 4. Pigs Ears to Roman Woods
For this next stretch, you’re quite likely to spot deer and foxes, as you follow a route through a mixture of open fields and woodland paths. You are in fact just following the footpath straight on / southwards.
You start by crossing a couple of small fields, and then the footpath becomes a track, past the Millfield farm building and straight on to a five bar gate into a field. Carry on in a straight line, along the edge of the thin strip of woods, cross another small field and then enter a small wooded area via a stile. When you exit this, you’re in a vast open field. In fact, it feels a bit like you’re in an American prairie, especially in the summer when the grass is long (watch out for ticks).
You head straight across until you come to Roman Woods where you turn left.
Stage 5. Roman Woods, Rowhook and Townhouse Copse
Although it gets very muddy in winter, Roman Woods is another great spot for bluebells but the path quickly leads you out of the woods (past a lovely old house with a large boat-shaped outbuilding), and here you turn left. At the bottom of this lane is The Chequers at Rowhook, so if you’re flagging, stop here for refreshments. It will be worth it and they have plenty of outside seating and are dog friendly.
However, if you’re not stopping, before you get to The Chequers (but past the abandoned chapel), take the footpath to your right – it’s up some steps, around someone’s house and then across a field at the top of a hill. Great views again and the vines just below are owned by the Roebuck Estate (near Petworth). You may also spot wild orchids growing here. As you reach a large house you enter Townhouse Copse … an absolute haven for bluebells. I mean, gaspingly beautiful spreads!
The path goes left, right or straight on. You really want to go straight on (although this way involves a tiny bit of road work, so if you want to avoid that take the right path but this will make your walk longer). Enjoy every moment of the descent down through these woods, they are very special. You’ll emerge in a field, then a timber yard and then you’ll meet the A281. This is where there is a small amount of road work. You are turning left, and for a few feet, there is no footpath or edge. Please take care.
Stage 6. Clemsfold to Nowhurst
After literally a few feet, you come to a Volvo garage, at Clemsfold and you cross the road where you see the footpath on the other side. This is another stretch where you’re likely to see wild deer and wildlife as you follow the path in a straight line, and then round and down through a tiny copse to a small valley. More bluebells await in the copse.
This little valley always feels a bit like a secret valley (apart from the occasional cow) but cross the bridge, climb up through the field full of sheep and turn left … you are now on the West Sussex Literary Trail which runs from Horsham all the way to Chichester. This grassy track brings you to a farm and Nowhurst Lane and you walk all the way down this to the main road, which you cross straight over.
Stage 7. Nearly home
From here the footpath takes you around Farlington School and you keep following the West Sussex Literary Trail. You will cross one lane but when you come to the second little lane, you turn left and walk back down into the Warnham village. There should be just time for a quick drink before you head home.
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