Woolbeding Countryside - River Rother and Midhurst
Woolbeding Estate OfficeRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Woolbeding Estate is a hidden countryside gem, situated in the South Downs National Park near historic Midhurst. The walk starts in the heart of Midhurst and takes in the beauty of Woolbeding Parkland. Follow the River Rother, edged with ancient trees. Pass a plantation of whispering poplars. Hear the sounds of the weir before returning to Midhurst's main street. This walk was laid out and signposted in conjunction with the South Downs National Park.
- Bus stop
Start: Wheatsheaf Inn, GU29 9BX or Half Moon Inn, GU29 9LL
From the Wheatsheaf head down Midhurst High Street and take the immediate left turn up June Lane. Follow the lane uphill for about 1 mile until you reach the main road and Half Moon pub. Take care as there is no footpath. Unusual for this region is an exposure of rock which you can see on the right hand side just before the peak of the rise, where tree roots grow over and between the strata.
Looking East along the splendidly individual buildings lining Midhurst High Street - many are still small family-run businesses, and you can smell the bakeries, and the cafés . . . . . this walk starts with the Wheatsheaf pub just behind us, turning left just after the yellow-painted window.
From the Half Moon pub follow the way marker across the road alongside the A272. This leads you along a narrow footpath through a bracken and bramble thicket, which bears right and leads you to a stile. Cross over the stile and head down the path through the National Trust access gate until you see the signpost for the Rother walk.
You are now in the heart of Woolbeding Parkland with the meandering Rother down below. These fields are grazed by Sussex cows and Herdwick sheep. Turn right and follow the path into Whiphill Wood. Embrace the finest views of the Rother valley with the picturesque Woolbeding church , and a lake ringed by rushes, shrubs and reeds. You may see some geese and swans and possibly the quick flash of a kingfisher. The lake is nestled within old pasture punctuated by mighty oaks.
A Belted Galloway - a small, hardy, traditional breed of cow who will happily graze rough and tough vegetation as well as grass. They are part of the team carrying out essential conservation work at many National Trust South Downs countryside places, along with other traditional breeds of cattle and sheep.
Leave Whiphill Wood and continue diagonally down across the field to the far left corner. Follow the Rother walk signposts. You will have woodland on your left and an arable field on your right. Turn left at the waymarker post that leads you into the wood and nearer the river. This opens into a lovely wetland full of reedmace, willow and rushes.
Cross the boardwalk and continue along the riverside. Watch out for dancing banded demoiselles in summer. These are a type of damselfly which live and breed along flowing water. The males have characteristic dark blue wings.
By the edge of the River Rother flood plain there's a raised boardwalk over a boggy area, rich with rushes, willowherb, marsh marigold and other wet loving plants.
The river is lined with alder trees, which thrive in wet ground. Like members of the pea family, the alders roots contain bacteria which can utilise nitrogen from the air. This compensates for the lack of nitrogen in water logged soil. Its leaves are rounded and it bears catkins in spring. The dark brown corky capsules or cones you may see hanging from its branches can float on water and contain the seed. Along the floodplain is a poplar plantation with rows of tall trees, some not too healthy. They are a hybrid poplar - a cross between the black poplar and Populus inter Americana - planted in 1996. The grey poplar is our native which flourishes on damp water meadows and river valleys. It grows a straight white upper trunk. The trembling leaves of poplars whisper to one another with a sound like rain.
Tall spare poplars, silvery and bare in winter, otherwise alive with crisp, olive and grey leaves, that move and rustle together in the slightest wind.
Turn right at the road. Having trod the riverside way, you can now digest the rich experience of Midhurst market town. You will see Cowdray Ruins opposite and the Rother academy with the plaque commemorating HG Wells. The building with yellow windows shows it belongs to the Cowdray estate. There are plenty of cafés and small shops to savour and enjoy. Public toilets are near the bus stop and car park. Continue along the high street until you return to the Wheatsheaf pub. Turn left at June Lane and continue up the hill if you are finishing at the Half Moon. You deserve another drink...
End: Wheatsheaf Inn, GU29 9BX or Half Moon Inn, GU29 9LL
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 3 miles (5km)
- Time: 1.5 hours
- OS Map: Explorer 133
No steep gradients, surface is pavement, tarmac lane and sometimes muddy riverside unsurfaced path - in one place raised above boggy ground by a non-slip boardwalk. Buggies will need to be lifted over one stile. Dogs welcome under close control as livestock graze in surrounding fields. No dog bins, so please take dog litter home.
- How to get here:
By bus: Midhurst Bus Station has excellent and regular bus services
By bicycle: Chichester is on Sustrans National Route 22 From Chichester take Centurion Way to West Dean - a delightful bicycle way following a disused railway up the West Dean; Midhurst is a further 6 miles or so Northward on the A286
By rail: The nearest stations are at Haslemere and Petersfield - each about eight miles away; see the National Rail journey planner
By car: Midhurst is on the A272, between Petworth and Petersfield, and the A286 between Haslemere and Chichester. The most suitable car-park (two hours free) adjacent The Wheatsheaf is off Grange Lane, 50 metres East of the crossing of the A272 & A286 - OS ref: SU88542132 Lat:50.9845725 Lng:-0.7399463; there is a car park at The Half Moon, off the A272 towards Petersfield OS ref: SU87732181 Lat:50.9890401 Lng:-0.7514101
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