RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country Walk: Amberley Wildbrooks

This walk of 5.2 miles (8.3kms) is through one of southern England’s supreme biospheres.

That is not what the Romans thought. They crucified their enemies in the vast reed swamps that were inhabited by fishermen families rather similar to Iraq’s Marsh Arabs. And look what happened to them 2,000 years later.

It is only in recent centuries that the swamp was blessed with the benign and romantic title of Amberley Wildbrooks, with classical music composed for it, poems ascribed and landscape artists daubing their canvases as they attempted to capture its magic.

For this walk I have suggested a round loop to experience this treasure rather than the usual out and back from Amberley village, but it does mean that you will have to put up with traffic on the Greatham bridge stretch for 1.2kms.

Always wear a yellow safety jacket on these roads. They are cheap and easy to carry off-road.

There are three places to park as shown on my map. One is the pub in Amberley; another is the Sportsmans Inn 1km east, and a third is roadside on the minor road at Rackham woods: TQ050145.

Starting at the latter, a pleasant footpath loop starts at the road junction, dives SW into the woods and round in a right-handed loop back to the road. You have a wonderful look at the reeds and meadows along the way with the Downs as a backdrop high above.

Then keep left to Manor Farm where you meet the main road. Turn left for the busy stretch to Greatham Bridge. Just before the bridge, turn left along the Wey South Path. There used to be a car park on the far side of the bridge but that is now closed.

Follow the footpath signs around Quell Farm and its fields and woodland strips, until you reach the great bog, which the Romans thought was like the Styx. In places it quivers and trembles underfoot. A herd of fallow deer live in the jungle.

You should see reed buntings, but reed and sedge warblers that have bred here in the tussocks and reeds begin their return journey to Africa this week.

Part of the jungle you will pass near is the famous tussock sedge bog which is part of the Sussex Wildlife Trust nature reserve. These giant plants which have been growing individually for decades (and probably centuries) can look like Highland cattle. Climbing out of Amberley Swamp into the village, you bear left to The Sportsman’s Arms, eastward along the road to Rackham.

This road will take you left-handed back to your car, but a pleasant diversion is over the stile in the hedge down to Rackham Mill, when there is even more of a view into the brooks and its marshland flowers and dragonflies.

In which case, you meet finally with your original outgoing path at the RSPB reserve of Rackham Woods.

After all this jungle-busting I was ready for a sit down, rather wishing I had stopped for a ginger beer in one of

the pubs as my tea thermos was too hot.