RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Houghton Hill

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This 4.5 (7.3 kms) walk is over Houghton Farm which is some of the area where farmers will take part in the identification day farm bird count next Thursday.

Car parking is at Whiteways Lodge, three miles north of Arundel, at junction of A284 and A29: TQ003107. Join Monarch’s Way westward for 200 yards, then turn north along the edge of the field on the bridleway for half a mile, then turn right, eastward along the South Downs Way and cross the dangerous A29 for the down-slope mile over the chalky fields to the Arun valley.

By now you should have seen Robin, Blackbird, Jay, Wood pigeon, Great tit and Chaffinch in the woodland, as I did. Coming to the fields I hoped to see Skylarks but failed. Then after crossing the A29 and being close to Coombe Wood I saw those woodland birds again and also a Marsh tit and a Great spotted woodpecker. I crossed over the minor road linking Houghton to Bury and then crossed the water meadows to the banks of the River Arun. I had hoped to see a Snipe, Reed bunting there, but only managed some Mallard, or wild ducks.

I turned right along the river, seeing some Yellowhammers. Crossing the B2139 back onto the river bank footpath took me south of Houghton Farm and in the willows and scrub saw more Marsh tits, Blue tits, and Song thrush among the previous woodland birds.

There were also Moorhens and a Teal. I then picked up the Monarch’s Way back to the main road. This excursion along the Arun banks had saved me the difficult crossing by main road over the meadows. I crossed the main road at Houghton Farm, turned left into the long rue of bushes and trees along a pathway tunnel that climbs back onto the Downs to Whiteways.

This rue is rich in farmland birds that find shelter and roosting in the Ash, Beech, Blackthorn, Bramble, Clematis, Dogwood, Elder, Hawthorn, Hazel, Ivy, Wild plum and Whitebeam. These shrubs and trees also provide nesting sites, berries (especially ivy) for food, and also copious insect species for food, so strips of thick woodland are essential to keep your farmland birds happy. Here I saw Wren, Dunnock, Mistle thrush.

Forty years ago I used to see large flocks of Skylarks in these fields, as well as finches and buntings, these including the now very rare Corn bunting. Let’s hope the farmers have a good day of weather for their excursion.