Stane Street trail
A substantial circular walk, mostly through the Slindon Estate - our largest single estate on the South Downs. The walk includes a good long stretch, mostly downhill, along the Chichester to London Roman Road: Stane Street.
The last stretch passes through Eartham Woods - part of Slindon Estate, Forestry Commission managed - and some woodland and farmland of the Eartham Estate (not National Trust). The walk goes through and round our 'Rise of North Wood' project - a 185 acre restoration of ancient woodlands lost to the plough in the First and Second World War.
The George Inn, Eartham, grid ref: SU938094
From The George, walk towards Great Ballard School and follow the road to your left past a row of cottages. This walk continues straight on beside the farmyard, through a gateway by a public footpath sign, while the road turns right. Keeping the hedge to your left, head down and past the handsome little flint and brick octagonal pumphouse. The track rises gently onwards under the gracefully overhanging boughs of mature Scots Pines until it goes straight ahead through a thin spur of woodland. Turn left at the stile and yellow-arrowed signpost. After about 130yd (120m) turn right at the yellow-arrowed signpost to keep the woodland to your left - in another 220yd (200m), go over the stile, then left at the blue-arrowed signpost to join Puck Lane bridleway.
Puck Lane bridleway rises through ancient woodland for around half a mile - mostly beech with a typical Downland mixture of holly, yew, and ash. These woods are regenerating naturally after the devastation of the Great Storm of 1987 - we have left many of the fallen trees as havens for wildlife. The is a glorious display of English bluebells here in the spring - other wildflowers include several native orchids. The way passes a blue-arrowed signpost then curls around the back of Nore Hill for around 275yd (250m) until it meets another bridleway - bear left and downhill at the yellow arrow here.
Down the Northern flank of Nore Hill the chalky track passes several yew trees; turn right onto the bridleway known as Stony Bottom. [through beech - cross 1, cross 2 = madehurst track? Across field - 'Rise of North Wood' spiel, woodland to RH, bear R down to Courthill Lane, turn L].
At the first bridleway crossroads, turn left onto a gently ascending bridleway with fields to your left- and right-hand sides. These two fields are the first you encounter of the land being restored to woodland in the ‘Rise of Northwood’ project. As the bridlepath reaches the crest of a hill, you pass a small woodland on your right, known as ‘Littlewood’ - a relic of Northwood as it was before First World War. Continue on the same track as it descends down towards more of the Northwood fields, with Eartham woods in the distance. At the bottom of the hill, take the footpath to your right along the edge of a shelter belt of woodland known as a ‘Rew’ in Sussex. This particular rew - 'Ashborder' - is a great place to spot badgers going about their business in spring and summer evenings. After ½ mile (800m), this path gradually merges with the approaching woodland - 'Lepers' Wood' - in front of you. Before it reaches the woodland look out for a waymark post with a yellow arrow directing you to your right up a fairly steep path that leads to a surfaced track. You will pass a wooden pole barrier on your way and will briefly join a track that emerges on your left before you hit the surfaced track. Turn left onto the surfaced track.
After a couple of minutes along the track, with woodland either side, it reaches a gateway and opens out to fields, with Gumber Farm, its camping bothy and cottages laid out before you. Through the gate, go diagonally up to your right and across the field at Gumber with its Iron Age lynchets - terrace-like remnants of ancient agriculture - to the stile up near the far top corner. This stile is at the foot of two mature trees, with a metal farm gate 10yd (10m) to the right. Over the stile, the narrow path winds through mature trees and wildflowers - really lovely in the spring and early summer. At the bottom stile, turn left to join the raised 'agger' of the Roman Road: Stane Street.
Head South along Stane Street, mostly downhill, for about 1.25 miles (1.8km) heading for Eartham Woods. As the road rises, you will see it heads completely straight towards the distant spire of Chichester Cathedral. On the approach to Eatham woods, Stane Street is criss-crossed with old roots.Through mature beeches you reach a clearing at the 'Six-Ways' signpost (where eight ways now meet). Take the way straight before you and downhill.
Enter Eartham Forest, then proceed to Eartham Road through rough woods to the bottom of a hill beside the A286. Head uphill along a narrow footpath beside farmland - at the crest you can look back to Halnaker Mill; forward, through a wide gap in a tall hedge, you will see cultivated fields sloping down towards Eartham village. At the tall hedge turn right along the farm track, then at the fingerpost go left along a sunken track with trees & hedge on both sides. Go slightly left and uphill, passing through a couple of gates, keeping part of a stone-walled extension to Eartham churchyard to your left. At the road with Eartham church before you, turn left - the George Inn is 55yd (50m) past the postbox.
The George Inn, Eartham, grid ref: SU938094
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