RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Graffham to Brockhurst Bottom

This walk of 4.7 miles (7.5kms) starts from either of two public house car parks in that hidden village of the weald, under the brow of the Downs, called Graffham, which in Old English meant the ham by the grove, where ham meant village.

It is still there, though the grove is nowadays, more represented by a vast forest to the south, which I explored again last week, an area that was once mainly sheep down after being abandoned as fields enclosed by the Bronze Age and Roman invaders.

The public houses are to the north end of the village, but there may be limited car parking near the church of St. Giles, which you will pass anyway as you wander to the base of the hanging forest above. Part of the exterior wall is of knapped, black flint, of the type common in Brandon, Suffolk. Inside the church are solid pillars, oak rafters and choir stalls, and 6 bell pulls. From this tiny village, 25 men were killed in WW1, 9 in WW2.

Strike up hill from the church, ignoring the footpath left into Lavington Park, also the bridleway left, staying on the footpath up the side of mountain using the steps. This is the best way to do a walk: get the steep bit over first. You will then cross over a third junction of paths before shortly reaching another. Turn right here, onto the purple arrow restricted byway, which is a vehicle track.

This takes you SW up to a 5 cross-ways where there is a large new sign post. Cross over the South Downs Way and take the arrow pointing to East Dean. This runs for a mile SW down into Brockhurst Bottom meadows. En route you pass The Graffham Downs Trust nature reserve, which conserves areas of old downland turf.

Going downhill through the recently thinned beech plantations, you will cross over ancient banks every 50 yards or so. These were field boundaries of Bronze/Iron/Roman Ages. At the metal gate at the end of the forest our walk runs on right to the bottom of the meadows, where a bridleway sign points us back north, giving us a close look at the vast Roman banks.

Our bridleway runs back for a mile and as you go you will see more vast earthworks under the beech forest, as yet unidentified. Eventually you cross the SDW again and staying NE descend on purple arrow down a gully path, usually running with spring water, back into the village.

Once or twice I have been lucky and found a gathering of vintage vehicles at one of the pubs, including a couple of Morris Minors. Happy Days.