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A Downland Ramble at Amberley

Recreate the past with a visit to a working museum before climbing high onto the Downs.

Distance 5.6 miles (9km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 262ft (80m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Riverside paths, downland tracks and some roads, 2 stiles

Landscape Arun Valley and downland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 121 Arundel & Pulborough

Start/finish TQ 026117

Dog friendliness Stretches of downland and riverside are suitable off lead

Parking Amberley Museum car park by Amberely Station. Visit the museum, then leave your car here while on walk. Parking by kind permission of Amberley Museum management

Public toilets Amberley Museum

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1 Turn left out of the car park and pass under the railway bridge. Begin to cross the road bridge spanning the Arun and then bear left at the footpath sign to a stile by a galvanised gate. Once over it, cross the watermeadows to the next stile and a few paces beyond it you reach a footpath sign. Bear left here.

2 Follow the path between trees, turn right on reaching a lane and pass Sloe Cottage. Turn left just beyond a caravan site to join a bridleway. Follow the path as it runs above the camping ground and make for a gate and bridleway sign. Cross the track here and join a rough lane.

3 Stay on the lane as it climbs gradually; the Arun can be seen below, threading its way through the valley. Pass some ruined farm outbuildings and keep ahead, the lane dwindling to a track along this stretch. Veer left at the fork and follow the waymarked public right of way. Head for a signposted crossroads and take the left-hand public bridleway.

4 Walk down the chalk track, pass through a gate and continue the steep descent. Look for two gates down below, set some distance apart. Cross to the right-hand gate and a reassuring bridleway sign is seen here. Follow the bridleway as it bends left, climbing steeply towards Downs Farm. Keep a fence on the left and follow the bridleway as it merges with a wide track.

5 Keep left at the next junction and follow the South Downs Way towards the entrance to Downs Farm. Veer to the right of the gateway and join a narrow footpath which begins a steep descent. Drop down the slope until you reach a tarmac lane and bear right. On the right-hand side is a prominent house called Highdown.

6 Veer left at the fork and follow High Titten between trees and hedgerows. The attractions of Amberley Museum can be spotted at intervals along this stretch. On reaching the road junction, turn right and follow the tarmac path parallel to the road. Bear left at the South Downs Way sign and follow the concrete track over the railway line to a galvanised gate.

7 Turn left here and follow the bridleway to the bank of the River Arun. Swing left, veering slightly away from the riverbank, to join a drive and then turn left at the road. Bear right to return to Amberley Museum and its car park.

It may sound strange but this invigorating downland walk begins where reality meets nostalgia. By visiting an old chalk quarry, at the start of the route, you have the chance to forget, albeit briefly, the hurly-burly of the modern world, step into the past and recall a cherished way of life that has long vanished. Amberley is a charming, tranquil village with a history going back to medieval times and was the summer residence of the Bishops of Chichester.

Amberley Museum is well worth a visit, entered via the Amberley railway station car park. The open air museum, which covers 36 acres (15ha) originally of a long-disused chalk pit in the Arun Valley, was opened in 1979. Originally called the Chalk Pits Museum, its objective is to illustrate how the traditional industries of south-east England evolved and developed during the 19th and 20th centuries and this it has done very successfully.

As well as changing its name in later years, the Amberley Museum also marketed itself as 'The Museum that Works'. And work it certainly does. Few museums thrill and excite adults and children alike as much as this one does. To prove it, there are almost 100,000 visitors a year.

Visit the bus garage and the signwriter's workshop, the locomotive shed, the village blacksmith's, stop at the telephone exchange or discover the wheelwright's shop. You may meet craftspeople from the museum's resident team exercising ancient skills. Using traditional materials and tools, they produce a choice of fine wares which enables them to earn a living and keep their trade thriving. Elsewhere, exhibits are conserved and demonstrated by volunteers, many of whom have acquired a lifetime's experience in their trade.

One of the highlights of a visit to the Amberley Museum is a trip around the site on board a vintage bus, or perhaps a tour on the narrow gauge railway. The train ride takes visitors between Amberley and Brockham stations and yet never leaves the museum site! When you finally leave the museum follow the River Arun and begin the gradual climb into the hills. Up here, with its wide open skies and far-ranging views, you can feel the bracing wind in your face as you explore some of the loneliest tracts of downland anywhere in Sussex.

Where to eat and drink

The Bridge Inn at Houghton Bridge, close to the start of the walk, is Grade II listed and has fires and a welcoming atmosphere. Among the popular dishes are quiche, pheasant casserole and traditional roast beef. Snacks might include ploughmans and Lincolnshire sausages in French bread. There is also a tea room at Houghton Bridge.

What to look for

A church at North Stoke, just off the route, is mentioned in the Domesday Book, though nothing here is earlier than the 13th century. The windows in both transepts have some of the most striking early tracery in southern England. From the higher ground, above North Stoke, look across the Arun Valley to the 'Alpine' spire of the church at South Stoke. On a good day you might pick out distant Arundel Castle.

While you're there

Take a look at the Arun by Houghton Bridge. This is a popular spot in the summer, with boat trips attracting visitors. A short distance away is the village of Houghton, which you might care to visit after the walk. The George and Dragon pub originally dates back to the 13th century and Charles II stopped here to take ale in October 1651, on his way to the coast after the Battle of Worcester.

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