RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Walk: Heyshott Green near Midhurst

This little stroll of 1.3 miles (2km) goes with a cream tea if you take these this Sunday, June 8, starting from the village hall, also known as the Cobden Hall just south of the church during the afternoon.

Heyshott is east of the main A286 between Midhurst and Singleton. Parking is at the hall or anywhere along the road near St James.

The walk is for you to see some of the wild flowers that grow on the famous Common and Green, these being the damp heath meadows which have not been ploughed, or reseeded over centuries, but have been grazed or cut for hay, and so have become a time-warp of ancient British flora of the like mainly vanished from our fair isle.

Start with the church and its flower-filled ‘yard, in which old yews grow. Pevsner describes the building as humble C13 with C19 enlargements which have not spoiled the ancient place and have made it decent, but not memorable.

A very fey lion hangs over the entrance as part of the C18 Royal Arms. Look also for Cobden memorial.

The road verges through Heyshott are mostly managed for the wild flowers, with stitchwort, cranesbill, green-winged orchids (see Nature Trails) and many more.

When you walk north, look for the footpath sign that shows you where to turn half right on to Heyshott Common.

One of the strangest flowers you will pass is lousewort, Pedicularis sylvatica, which forms dense mats with its small fern-like leaves and which has small pink flowers like snap dragons.

The plant is parasitic on others. You should also see ragged robin with its narrow, bright pink petals, meadow sweet with its tufts of clotted cream-coloured, fragrant, flower heads, and spotted orchids.

You will come to the pond which once had the flowering rush and still may have, this plant having a round umbel of dense pink flowers on a long hairless angled stem.

Here also is the imposing greater spearwort with its bright yellow cups reminding you of marsh marigolds.

Cross the road to Heyshott Green, and follow a lefthand circle back to the road.

As you re-cross the road, the house opposite has a small ditch outside its garden in which the very rare water soldier used to grow.

I saw it there in 1964 and it may still cling on. It has spine-toothed lanceolate leaves in a sheath, underwater, and three petalled, white flowers arising from the water.

Now it is time to get back along the road for that cream tea, in aid of the church and things, enjoying as you go the view ahead of the beautiful South Downs and Heyshott Downs nature reserve, managed by the Murray Downland Trust, subject of next week’s walk.