RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Duncton to Burton Park

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This is a pretty little walk for Easter of only 2.3 miles (3.5kms) with spring flowers and spring pools gushing out of the chalk Downs.

Start at the Cricketers Inn at Duncton village which lies at the foot of the South Downs south of Petworth along the A285. Walk a little way north up the pavement and you will come to a bridleway going east.

This is also a minor road to scattered houses in the woods. I went this way in March and saw wood dog violets, primroses, lady’s smock (aka cuckoo flower, maids of the meadows , cardimine pratensis) celandines, and winter heliotrope (petasites fragrans). The woodland is old hazel coppice with oak standards so the flora must include a couple of hundred species of flowering plants and most of these are active in the spring. So are the birds, with tree-creepers inching up the trunks, marsh tits and the rest of that tribe tweedling away, with wood pigeons giving their dreamy calls in the shades.

Following this track around to the south i came to a trout farm with anglers whipping the water a la H. Plunket Greene, master fly-fisher that he once was and author of the classic ‘Where the Bright Waters Meet’ (1924). Mistletoe hangs in bunches on the poplars and willows, and there in this little valley you will pass a grand blue pool in which a hundred or more big trout circle as they wait to be fed. A little grebe had also taken up residence.

I walked up hill, and then left on blue arrow and came to the remains of an orchard of old varieties with new trees recently planted with more mistletoe on their branches. Then I turned left again and enjoyed the view to Blackdown; also the scent of Ramsons in the coppice to the left. This brought me to the stream again, now the headwaters of Burton Mill Pond, and a tiny waterfall which must be one of the very few in Sussex.

A flight of gadwall ducks and drakes took flight here, showing their black bottoms. These are about the size of Wigeon, and they resemble the females of that species. This brought me into Burton Park with its wide green meadowed grounds surrounding the Georgian wedding-cake of a house in the Grecian style. The original house was burnt down in 1826.

Before I got to the little rather humble but loveable Norman church I turned left on a yellow arrow to see another church on my starboard quarter at Duncton, built in 1866 (there are two there; one is Roman Catholic). I came back to the woods – East Wood it is called – and again it is filled with spring flowers. There are also a lot of grey squirrels, which play havoc with birds trying to nest therein.

But I was most pleased to hear a stock dove calling, the second on this walk. These small dark grey doves are much less common than Wood pigeons and they nest in hollow trees. I turned left on reaching the main road again, and was welcomed by the figure of W.G. Grace with his bat and beard on the inn sign overhead.