Black Down trail: Shottermill to Marley Common and Cognor Wood
From the ancient millponds of Shottermill you’ll head onto Marley Common, where impressive beech trees line a boundary bank. Vibrant heath follows deciduous woodland, grazed by Belted Galloway cattle and a haven for heathland birds and insects. You'll then descend through and into a working sweet chestnut coppice, before heading up to a summer meadow, rich with butterflies.
Outside Mill Tavern, Shottermill, GU27 3QE
From the pub, cross the road and set off uphill towards the roundabout and the Shottermill Ponds.
View over Shottermill Ponds
The ponds were used to power Shottermill, or Shotover Mill as it was previously known, a reference to the large over shot wheel which drove two pairs of millstones until 1870. Haslemere changed from scattered farms to a thriving town and owes this development to Shottermill and the other five mills in the area.
Take the tarmac path to Camelsdale. You'll pass a recreation ground on your left before arriving at Cee Gees corner shop. This is a good opportunity to pick up some water for your walk, and the best place to cross the road. Once across the road, follow the pavement until you pass the Unique Gifts and Crafts shop. Take the first signpost on your right directly after the shop.
Finger post to sunken ride
From the finger post (yellow arrows denote Public Footpaths PF) follow the sunken ride, it's likely this is an old drover's trail where cattle and other livestock would have been moved up to the common to graze during the day and back down again to the farm for the night.
Walk uphill along a narrow sunken ride with the towering avenue of beech trees on your left. Continue uphill past another PF arrow and a property to your right. Ignoring both right forks, continue to a gate with the number 4 painted on it. You're now entering the grazed area please keep dogs under close control. This woodland edge has plenty of standing dead wood and you can often hear the drumming of woodpeckers here. From the gate continue straight on until you merge with a larger path from the left.
These trees have been growing on the boundary bank for at least 250 years. In the year of Waterloo this was an old hedgerow. These fine trees with their gnarled roots make their finest display in early spring when the leaves are most verdure.
Continue along the main path heading to the open heath. This area is a heathland habitat populated in the summer by woodlarks, warblers, reptiles, and many specialised insects. Gorse is in flower every month of the year - try rubbing some of the flowers between your fingers, many people detect the scent of coconut. Keep going along the path until you arrive at a meeting of several paths with a newly planted tree to your left and the car park visible to your right.
Belted Galloway bullock
The Belted Galloway cattle are often seen grazing here and help to control the scrub that would envelop the heath species such as heather, which grows particularly well here.
Continue straight ahead, taking the path that bears slightly to the right ahead of you. The path is joined from the right by another, then you bear left. After about 75yd (70m) go right at a small crossroads, heading out of the grazed area through a gate. There is a house on your left you cross its small tarmac lane. After about 60yd (55m) bear right towards the main road, to your right you’ll see a small car park and a National Trust omega sign. Turn left for 22yd (20m), then take the PF to your right.
Take 5 minutes here to soak up the beautiful view towards the South West. Green Sussex fading into blue was how Lord Tennyson chose to describe it and views like it from nearby Black Down.
This path drops downhill for quite some distance through a narrow gully take care as it may be unstable underfoot and slippery. Follow the first PF sign you see to the right and continue west, downhill and over a fallen tree. Carry on until the next finger post, where you fork right down to the mill pond. Drop down to your left and look for sticklebacks in the tantalising depths before crossing over a small wooden footbridge.
Fish in the mill pond
Take a look for fish in the small mill pond adjacent to the fingerpost at point 6. Displaying sticklebacks can be seen in late spring; the red-bellied males build a silkweed nest to lure potential mates.
You're now entering a new phase of woodland. Gone is the cool shade of the holly and mixed woodland, here the coppiced vigour of the sweet chestnut supersedes. These chestnut woods are a delight throughout the year, but particularly so in spring and summer. Bluebells, wood anemones, cow-wheat and germander speedwell abound; male ferns and hard ferns fringe the path. This is a peaceful area of woodland, the silence punctuated only by the high pitched long-tailed tit and the creak and clack of the growing chestnut stems, stirred by the breeze. However, this beauty is a result of the tradition of intensive woodland management by coppicing - the regular cutting of stems on a 10 to 20 year rotation.
Ignoring the path which crosses from left to right continue straight on. Foxgloves dominate the open area of coppiced woodland and butterflies such as the silver-washed fritillary frequent the sunny glades. Alder, which is often used to produce charcoal, dominates the lower slopes on the wetter ground, with the chestnut preferring the drier slopes above. After a while the woodland changes again, large fir nurse a crop of younger beech (planting like this encourages straighter growth of the Beech as it reaches for the light). Watch out here in heavy winds fir are prone to shedding branches. High in the tips you can hear the seeping contact call of the goldcrest searching for insects, and perhaps be lucky enough to spot buzzards which often use these tall trees for nesting.
If you're starting to think about that Ploughman's lunch back at the pub, you're about to earn it... there's a house and garden to your left and an electricity pole. Turn right uphill and follow the PF at this junction, heading north-east following a line of beech. Continue straight on up to the ridge, ignoring a crossing track. You'll pass a large yew and may catch a glimpse of the distinctive white, heart-shaped scut of a fleeing roe deer. Go through the new metal kissing-gate, head diagonally across the meadow towards a gap (may be replaced by a new gate) in the hedgeline next to a large oak. From now on, you need to keep your dog under close control as livestock are kept around this area.
Wild flower meadow
A riot of wild flowers including black knapweed can be seen here in summer. This meadow shimmers with nectar-seeking butterflies at this time of year.
Turn right from here to join the Public Bridleway (PB), marked with a blue arrow. Continue straight ahead, ignoring two tracks to the left, then join a tarmac lane, going past another PB sign. Continue along the tarmac lane round the corner, keeping the laurel hedge to the left, its downhill all the way now. Go left at a new PF finger post (yellow arrow), ignoring the lane sweeping to the right.
Fungal eye view
Many fungi can be found here by the eagle-eyed, among the beech, oak, and dense holly. The one pictured is inedible. Why not join a local fungal foray group to learn more about these fascinating fruiting bodies.
Chestnut trees dominate the sandy slope on the left, and guide you along. This path takes you past a house and onto an unmade track, where you'll pass several horse paddocks. Keep to the track, passing a pair of cottages on your left, until you finally arrive at a PF sign and a tarmac road. Turn left here and you should be able to see the pub sign in the distance through a gap in the trees.
Outside Mill Tavern, Shottermill, GU27 3QE
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