Let’s go to Hollywood this Christmas. This walk will show you how. Just park roadside up Gatehouse Lane a mile north of the A272 and next to Borden hamlet (SU826247) for 2.5 miles (4kms) of ancient woodlands and superb views.
The Serpent Trail starts almost on the road junction northwest into an avenue of holly bushes with their red berries, and holly berries waymark many more places along this route which I so much enjoyed last week.
The footpath is easy going if a trifle squidgy here and there. It takes you along the side of Rondle Wood which is old chestnut coppice and where this is being properly harvested, the view opens wonderfully over Milland valley. Male ferns grow along the banks. The wood is home to about 40 species of woodland birds.
After 500 yards cross over the bridleway keeping northwest. Another 400 yards, right at path junction after passing a very grand seven-stemmed beech tree. The direction arrow is loose and propped against a Scot’s pine. Into another holly tunnel after passing through a silver birch thicket. You now come to a four crossway where you turn right downhill into yet another holly tunnel which becomes a steep ravine, showing the soft sand beds formed here three to five million year ago when all this was an estuary into the North Sea area.
Halfway down an old birch hosts a gang of toadstools which look like goblins clustered up the trunk. These are one of the Pholiota group.
On joining the bridleway keep right downhill, then keep ahead at blue arrow into larch trees. Here it is deep, dark, and silent enough for owls to be calling at midday when I passed this way. A curmugeon oak to right alive when Beethoven wrote his 9th symphony and a bank with gargoyled beeches.
Don’t be oppressed by the many private notices either side just walk on through the valley of shadows. In the marshy bottom of this wood look for new bridleway fingerpost pointing to right, then a yellow metal one taking you southeast.
This takes you downhill to a ditch crossing and then into an open meadow. The fingerpost points into the middle of this meadow but keep to the wood edge and follow the footprints up over the hill where you will have a stupendous view ahead of Blackdown far away to the left ahead, and on the right, Older Hill at Woolbeding.
A lone beech is where I had lunch on the path downhill, a comfortable fit for your posterior into the roots with the lovely view ahead and the ground around covered with the old stems of heath-bent grass.
Stay downhill on this path soon coming to Trotton Marsh and a bridleway uphill track right. This takes you back into Rondle Wood when sharp left on blue arrow at a big forked chestnut with woodpecker holes. Note the plants of bilberry on bank to right. This path comes to a private road eventually, at the bottom of the coppiced chestnut.
As you enter the road itself note group of polypody ferns under two trees to right. Turn sharp right at road bend, uphill, noting five Scot’s pines all with crow’s nests in their crowns, and back to the wooden car which was called ‘a proper car’ by a pleasant female cyclist and that was a nice end to a Christmas walk for me at least. Hope your’s will be as good.
* To view a map of this walk see the December 22 edition of the Observer.