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RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Henley, Bexleyhill, Lickfold Bridge

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In wet winters, the country lanes of Sussex are sensible walking routes so here is another I have found, though it does end in a squelch of good old Wealden clay and mire just to remind you of where you are.

This one runs for 6.2 miles (10km) which is enough to make you fit again after new year excesses.

There is roadside parking almost anywhere alongside the minor road between Henley hamlet and Bexleyhill SU900250 on the heights of Verdley Hill, two miles north of Midhurst.

Old chestnut coppice plantations from centuries past are still worked here so the tree cover alternates, giving rise to spring flowers at times. Eastward to road junction where take the left road uphill past larch trees on left and between sandy banks with mosses and heathland plants such as bilberry and heather.

The road soon dives down a deep ravine with old beech trees clinging to the cliffs.

At the bottom, the first cottages of Bexleyhill cluster alongside the lane. Follow the road for a mile to Lickfold. The name may have derived from OE Liccifeld meaning grey wood: perhaps because of lichens growing on trees in this wet landscape. Note the enormous, wide rue with its banks and ditches by which medieval people had safe passage through the forest.

This is a lovely part of the walk downhill with hedgerow beeches grown tall into strange shapes.

The inn here is now shut, but at the road junction Lickfold Bridge with its flood walkway is worth a look in case a grey wagtail is passing that way as one often does among the alder trees.

Turn left on road westward. There is an alternative walk through the meadows to the left as marked by my dotted line. Either way you will reach Hoewyck Farm with sharp right bend.

There is another shortcut here through a cattle gate into meadows left and following the stream to our road walk meeting at Verdley Place Research Station or what is left of it. If you stick to the dry road, turn next left southward past the old station down to the stream.

Now there are two ways back, either straight ahead on the next enormous shaw into the forest to Bexleyhill or to branch right and southwestward past the Elizabethan iron smelting factory where the head water to drive the hammer is still there in the form of a small lake to your left as you wander through the fir forest.

There are also thousands of lumps of fired clay that look like green glass. If you take the latter route along this flat landscape, turn right at footpath junction by timber piles.

Then cross another stream and turn left on footpath through gloomy firs and uphill to Henley. Footpath from the hamlet lane just before it joins the A286 takes you alongside the forest via Verdley Farm to your car. I gave my old Alvis an outing having just seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and recalling what Jim Prideaux said about them.

 

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