I went for a 3.5mile (5.7kms) ramble through some of the prettiest woodlands in Sussex at the end of November. There are no stiles, and the going is nearly all hard, some of it courtesy of the Romans.
I started at Eartham off-road car-park which is just east of the A285 and less than a mile north of Eartham. You have to find Monarch’s Way, which is also Stane Street, so look south as you leave the car, towards the house. The Roman Road runs north-east through the beech plantation.
This ancient road has a curved stone surface with ditches either side, so it remains hard and dry. I stayed on it for a mile when I found a six-way finger post with a seat in front. I had been admiring the towering, straight beech trees as I walked, together with half a dozen similar Douglas fir trees, which must be among the tallest in the South. I turned right onto the Madehurst finger post and the blue arrow, leaving Stane Street, and walking now towards the National Trust’s Slindon Estate.
On leaving Eartham Woods I came upon the vast new forest which is being created by the NT over fields to left and right. Most of this is by natural regeneration, (not planted), with birch coming along nicely. High fences keep out the deer.
It is really good to see new woodland being allowed to create itself, when so much woodland has been lost in England and the views in all directions show some of the finest Sussex landscape. But look down at your feet too, to see the ribbon of cinqefoil plants at your feet along the path. I passed small woods of mature coppice and saw a large spindle bush, almost a tree, on my right.
At Warren Barn Wood I turned right along the stone track and right again after 200 yards on a blue arrow, coming into a rue of great antiquity, with 13 species of shrub and tree, making it at least a thousand years old. See if you can make it 14 species. Leaving the rue with its jays, wood pigeons, and blackbirds bursting from cover, I crossed another bit of wilding land which reminded me of the Brecks in East Anglia.
All sorts of hawksbeards, hawkbits and catsears are emerging; a most interesting development. This led me back into Earthham Woods with its splendid high beech forest again. I kept ahead on all the blue arrows, leading westward back to the car-park.
At one point Eartham village came into a view to the left. I was lucky to see this whole forest dressed overall in autumn yellow and gold, just before storms, but whatever the season it remains one of the best of British walks for me and you I hope as well.