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RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Walk: Heathbarn Down to Blackbush

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Here is another walk over downland north of Chichester, hopefully to see red kites. Distance seven miles (11km) on tracks, minor roads, woodland paths and with marvellous views over the Chilgrove valley.

Limited parking roadside at junction along Hylters Lane one mile east of Chilgrove village off the B2141.

Track south-east downhill passing site of Roman villa after 150 yards on the right. Keep to Monarch’s Way into Whitedown Plantation or you can use the vehicle track, either of which routes will bring you to the minor road between West Dean and Staple Ash.

The woods were a well- known haunt of the wood warbler until recent times and are still good for willow, blackcap and chiffchaff warblers in spring and summer as well as 40 species of woodland breeding birds.

Purple emperor and white admiral butterflies breed here and these fly in July.

Cross the main road A286 to West Dean shop and café where lunches and teas are served. Turn right by the Lavant river then cross it to left by the ornamental bridge and so follow the park wall uphill.

At Great Combes leave Monarch’s Way and branch right on bridleway along the slope of Hayes Down. There were Neolithic flint mines here which have been called the Lavant Caves.

The underground chambers were used by the Romans to store some treasures and by 16th-century farmers to store woolsacks.

They were rediscovered in 1890 by a shepherd making holes for his hurdles when his crowbar disappeared beneath him.

At cross tracks, turn left on blue arrow, cross the old railway line which ran from Chichester to Midhurst, and then the flood plain of the Lavant river.

Cross the A 286 on a right leg hop to Binderton Lane. Binderton House, built in 1677, was once the home of prime minister Sir Anthony Eden during the second world war.

The lane leads uphill to a sharp left turn. Here take the track on across the fields as the splendid view westward of Kingley Vale yew forest comes into view. There are 30,000 yew trees in this national nature reserve.

Passing Lawrence Copse you come to the main road at Dean Cottages. Walk 200 yards along road to right, join the bridleway again westward uphill into the yew forest.

You cross over Monarch’s Way, arrive at Blackbush Cottage which was used in the 1750s as an isolation hospital for smallpox vaccination patients.

Goosehill camp below was an Iron Age enclosure used as a statement of building prowess by the local tribe to the tribe that built the Trundle to the southeast.

The track now runs northward through woods where last year the Beast of Bowhill was seen, thought to be a lynx.

At cross tracks, take the right turn down to the road opposite the Chilgrove White Horse.

Turn right along the road verge, finding the minor road left into Chilgrove Park. But stay on the minor road southeast, uphill, back to your car.

If you didn’t see a kite somewhere along the walk, try it again next week the other way round.

No better place in the world, you know.

 

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