Hat Hill to Levin Down
Walk over pretty Sussex downland, through woodland, and across meadow and pasture. The trail begins at the footpath leading past and behind Singleton cricket pavilion, a dark brown barn reached from a small lane to the West of the A286 as it enters Singleton from the south, on the opposite side of the road to the Partridge Inn and the Open Air Museum. Much of this trail follows white ‘permissive path’ arrows on waymarker posts.
Park near The Partridge Inn. Walk up to the main road, turn left and continue along to the Cricket pavilion. Grid ref: SU874131
From behind the cricket pavilion go over a stile, along the edge of a field, turn right over a second stile, and cross a stream bed using the plank bridge. Enter Drovers Estate over the stile beside the National Trust omega sign and follow the way up. Turn right at the top, after passing between the red brick walls of an old railway bridge. The disused line in the cutting below operated between Midhurst and Chichester, locally serving Goodwood racecourse. Opened in 1881, the last service ran in 1953 – a short lifespan for a vast amount of engineering and digging. The disused railway tunnels are now legally protected roost sites for bats.
Pavillion to Rail Bridge
NT Omega sign and stile to the rising lane, bounded each side by ancient hedgerows, through which curl great grey loops of old man’s beard (wild clematis).
With the cutting to your right, go over the stile. Above to your left is Hat Hill, an area of unspoiled flower-rich chalk grassland - just what the South Downs is famed for. Keeping the railway-cutting trees to your right, follow the path to a waymarker post. Here, take the middle path along the track opposite (don't go up or down hill), which leads slightly left and uphill to the woods. The track winds gently up beneath two ancient beech trees on a mossy, root-bound bank to your left, then past another great beech further along to your right. Keeping the woodland to your right as the path opens out into a meadow at the top of Honeycomb Copse, continue along the path and then pass through a field gate and stile into pasture. Follow the path round towards the gate and stile near the barn. Once past the barn, go left at a T junction, then over the stile on the right where a white marker post points across a field. Keep this heading straight across towards the stile to Wellhanger Copse, enjoying the view up to your right horizon of the gleaming white tented canopies of the Goodwood racecourse stands.
Ancient maiden beech trees
Veterans of chalk downland, great beech trees with exposed roots grasping a mossy bank
Go over the stile into the shady woods. After ten metres or so bear left along a moss-edged track through open beech woodland and enjoy its stillness and leaf-green light. Under sweeping boughs at the wood’s edge dogleg to your right then left across an open ride into a path opposite by a marker post. Follow this path to a T junction, turn right and go downhill out of the woods, crossing another track. Follow the green footpath sign down and then cross the busy A286.
Once safely across by the bus-stop, follow the surfaced lane, then at the marker post turn left, keeping the hedge to your left. Follow the track into Nightingale Wood. A few metres into the wood, look to your right and take an uphill track by the marker post, then turn left by another marker post up a narrow path. Turn right at the T junction and go up to the edge of the wood, looking out into an open field. Go left and follow the wood edge as it curves round at your left hand - this is a great place in spring to find early purple orchids.
Early Purple Orchids
The path now bears left and downhill between tall beech trees to a T junction. Go right here, then follow the path to another T junction and follow the bridleway right up a steady incline as it comes out to the wood edge, rising up to some magnificent old pollarded beech trees.
Look out for butcher's broom, an evergreen prickly plant and typical of very ancient woodland. As its name implies, this plant was used to scrub clean butcher’s tables after cutting meat. These woods are also fine habitat for speckled wood butterflies.
Turn left out from the woods following the blue bridleway signs to the Broadham House farm and up the grey flinty farm-track which winds round the hill. Turn right through the metal field gate indicated by the 'Charlton' finger of the tall waymarker post. Embrace the wind on this sweeping hillside, then follow the path to your left along the field edge to a little gateway on your left which takes you into a twisting tunnel of trees and dense scrub, featuring the typically Sussex mix of Holly, Ash, Yew, and Hazel. The pathway is narrow and on a steep hillside so take care.
Longest recorded fox chase
This large waymarker post, carved with the date: 26/01/1738 pays tribute to the longest fox chase ever recorded. The second Duke of Richmond described their 57-mile chase - taking from 7.45am to 5.50pm as "the greatest chase that ever was". The fox was finally caught in Charlton, just a few miles from here.
From here you are in Levin Down - a Sussex Wildlife Trust site, superb scrub habitat for summer birds, and a botanical utopia for chalk grassland wildflowers. Step over a stile with the SWT sign and carry on walking as the path opens up into glorious steep sided downland with views towards Singleton. Walk on and pass through another gate. When you reach the signboard, go right and up the slope to enjoy one last glorious blast along the side of the hill – it’s not much further! Turn right through a single gate into a juniper grotto, and enjoy walking through this secluded spot.
Juniper on Levin Down
Enjoy this glimpse of the scattered juniper trees, a very early colonizer after the last Ice Age left had behind a raw and empty landscape. A few descendents are still found in sheltered spots on the Downs such as here.
Continue along the path to a set of double gates, pass through and head towards the copse of trees. Bear left across the hillside towards the kissing gate in the corner. Before you leave Levin Down, look West over the hillside across to Hat Hill where you started the walk (the hill with the tallest pylon on top). Pass through the gates and follow the path down into Singleton village where you pop out at the primary school. If you turn right you will find the Partridge Inn.
Beside Singleton village school. Turn right onto road, bear left at the next junction, this will take you back to the start. Grid ref: SU879132
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