RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Stoughton Down

We’ve been part of this way before, but the point of it is to see something strange. If you go now. This week.

This is the back door to Kingley Vale, where 15,000 male yew trees are dropping their pollen in spectacular plumes of ‘living smoke’.

The walk is 7.5km (4.8 miles) along forest tracks and grassy paths, starting at the big grass car park in the Stoughton valley SU815125.

North-east along the gravel road with a field to left and a beech plantation to right, planted in 1952. The bridleway curves right and climbs up past Greatdean Bottom, travelling south until eventually coming to a bridle crossway with a wonderful view west into Stoughton Down and Lambdown Hill, especially as the sun sets and the yews brood along the north face of Bow Hill to the left.

You cross onwards and upwards and curving right until at last you break out on to the hilltop and the final home of the ancient kings of the Bronze Age under their chalk tombs called Devil’s Humps.

Exactly a century ago the whole idea of nature conservation in Britain started right here when Professor Arthur Tansley was told by a visiting German, Professor Drude, that down below lay the finest yew forest in Europe.

In 1949 Tansley finally set up with Command 7122 government responsibility for Britain’s best wild places. Kingley Vale became one of the very first national nature reserves as a result, in 1952.

On windy, dry days in late February and early March the Vale seems on fire with yellow pollen bursting from the male trees.

This walk now turns left back eastward around the summit (206 metres high) of Bow Hill. Nearby is the memorial stone to Tansley who thought the view southward was the finest in Britain.

There are 16 ancient monuments in this area.

Stay on the track ahead when you come to a bridle crossways and continue north with the view on the right opening up over the Chilgrove valley and West Dean Estate. More yews downslope to right, these being about 80 years of age.

At the end of this long straight gallop look for the yellow arrow left that takes you on to the Monarch’s Way running southwest.

Before you turn, ahead of you hidden in the ash woods is the old Pest House called Black Bush where in 1758 people inoculated against smallpox by Samuel Jenner were isolated.

Your path now descends through the beech plantations back to the bridle crossway you passed much earlier, so turn right and on the left-handed curve arrive safely back to what for me is a car like an old hearse, but for you a posh Eurobox complete with side handles as well.

If you experienced the great pollen smoke you just might have a slight sore throat, but it won’t kill you.

* To view a map of this walk see the March 1 issue of the Observer.