RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Hacking Copse to Colworth Farm

This circular walk of 5.2 miles (8.3kms) is through forest and field of both West Dean and Cowdray Estates. Please keep dogs under tight control as this is deer and pheasant shooting country both vital to rural economies.

Parking is at a roadside verge on the minor road between West Dean and Chilgrove at the end of Hylters Lane at SU846147. Through the gate north-eastward takes you onto the long straight track with Colworth fields to the right and West Dean Woods left.

Thousands of tons of cinders were brought here from Wales by rail and cart to make a solid track for shooting parties including Edward V11.

The fields are hunting ground for red kites and buzzards and flocks of finches. Hares are quite common here too. Turn right on blue arrow, passing Colworth Barn house and on up to Colworth Farm with a view west to Kingley Vale and Bow Hill yew forest.

Follow the minor road for a couple of hundred yards and then take the footpath left into Puttocks Copse. This is the ancient name for both buzzard and red kite, by-the-way, and these birds are back here again.

The path kinks right to pass Downley Cottage, then turns left along an elder hedge straight down to Middle Barn and then east alongside Wellhanger Copse past Littlewood Farm to the main A286.

Turn left along the road keeping to the grass verge for 500 yards as this is a very fast and dangerous road. Blue arrow left takes you over the old railway line from Chichester to Midhurst and back into the woods of The Marlows and on to Hacking Copse.

This follows the Cowdray boundary bank with Littlewood Plantation on their land to the south. This is good sparrowhawk country and may even still hold the goshawk which made a comeback in recent years but whose presence is now unknown to me.

You will now join a main forest track for vehicles but will then turn off it at bridleway crossing taking the left blue arrow south-west through pines, hazel coppice and then past the charcoal-burners camp and onwards to your outgoing cinder track.

As you descend to the charcoal burners you will cross Bronze Age field banks every 50 yards or so.

This whole area was once farmland 3,000 years ago with only a few scattered trees. Hard to believe now as this is now classed as ancient woodland.