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Beeding's Royal Escape Route

Take a leisurely stroll through the peaceful Adur Valley to an historic bridge crossed by a fugitive king.

Distance 2.7 miles (4.4km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Riverside, field and village paths, some road, 10 stiles

Landscape Adur Valley flood plain

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 122 South Downs Way - Steyning to Newhaven

Start/finish TQ 185105

Dog friendliness Take care on approach to Beeding Bridge and in Bramber

Parking Free car park at Bramber Castle

Public toilets Bramber and Beeding

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1 Follow the drive down to the roundabout. Turn right into Castle Lane and follow it through the woodland. On reaching the junction with Roman Road, turn right to join a footpath.

2 Head up through the trees, passing galvanised gates on the left and right. The rooftops of houses and bungalows peep into view along here. Continue ahead at the next signpost and the River Adur can be glimpsed between the trees on the right. Pass a footpath on the left and make for a stile ahead. Follow the grassy path to the next stile and footpath sign. Cross over and turn right towards the footbridge spanning the Adur.

3 Cross the stile and bridge. Bear right, following the riverbank towards Upper Beeding. Branch off left to a footbridge and stile in order to visit the Priory Church of St Peter. Returning to the main walk, continue towards Upper Beeding. Cross a stile by a gate and continue to a kissing gate. Follow the path to the Bridge Inn at Beeding and cross the Adur.

4 Swing left and join the right-hand bank, heading downstream. Cross a stile and follow the riverside path. Continue to a right-hand stile and enter the field. Keep the hedge on the right and at the fence corner go straight on, out across the field.

5 As you approach the A283, turn right in front of the stile and head towards the trees, with the ruins of Bramber Castle peeping through. Make for a stile and bear right. Follow the track as it bends left and crosses two stiles before joining a tarmac drive running through the trees to the road. Turn left, pass St Mary's House and walk along the High Street, passing the Castle Inn Hotel. On reaching the Old Tollgate Restaurant and hotel, cross the road and follow the steps up to the car park.

Crossing Beeding Bridge, which is recorded in documents dating back to the reign of Henry III, it's worth stopping for a few moments to consider its importance as a river crossing. Not only does the bridge play a vital part in this walk, allowing you to cross the River Adur from one bank to the other, but 350 years ago, in October 1651, it enabled Charles II, defeated and on the run, to escape his enemies and eventually flee to France.

His route through the Adur Valley was one step on a long and eventful journey that has became an integral part of British history. Following the Battle of Worcester, where his army was soundly beaten, the young Charles fled across England, hotly pursued by Parliamentary forces under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. Though documented fact, it has all the hallmarks of a classic adventure story, a colourful, rip-roaring tale of intrigue and suspense.

First, he made his way north, intending to cross the River Severn into Wales where he could find a ship and sail to the continent. But the river was heavily guarded and Charles was forced to change his plans.

Instead he travelled south through the Cotswolds and the Mendips, eventually reaching Charmouth on the Dorset coast. Once again his plans to escape by boat fell through and, in a desperate attempt to avoid capture, he made his way along the South Coast to Shoreham near Brighton, where at last he found a ship which could take him to France. His journey through England lasted six weeks and during that crucial period he was loyally supported by his followers, many at great risk to their own lives.

The King's arrival in Bramber was one heart-stopping moment among many during his time on the run. As he and his escort came into the village from the west, they were horrified to find many troopers in the vicinity of the riverbank. Charles realised they had been posted here to guard Beeding Bridge, which was his only means of reaching Shoreham easily. Cautiously, he crossed the bridge and continued on his way undetected. Moments later, the Royal party looked round to see a group of cavalry hotly pursuing them across country. Charles feared the worst, but as they reached him, the soldiers suddenly overtook the King and rode off into the distance. Fortunately for Charles, they had been pursuing someone else on that occasion. After their narrow escape in the Adur valley, the group decided it was safer to split up and make their own way to the coast.

The accent is firmly on history on this very pleasant valley walk. Making for the Adur, the route follows the river to the bridge which Charles II crossed in the middle of the 17th century. The walk continues south by the river before crossing farmland back to Bamber.

While you're there

Before starting the walk, have a look at the ruins of Bramber Castle just a few paces from the car park. Now in the care of English Heritage and the National Trust, it was built just after the Norman Conquest to defend the exposed and vulnerable Sussex coast. The castle was held by the de Braose family until 1326 when it passed to Alice de Bohun and then to her eldest son. Later, during the Civil War, it was badly assaulted by the Roundheads. Nowadays, all that remains of it is the 70ft (21m) high gateway. At the centre of the site is evidence of a motte which might have borne a timber tower. Next to Bramber Castle is the Parish Church of St Nicholas, originally the castle chapel. Like the castle, this building also suffered in battle. Cromwell's men apparently used it as a gun emplacement, causing extensive damage to the nave and tower. Towards the end of the walk, you pass the entrance to St Mary's House in Bramber. This splendid medieval building is one of the village's proudest features and the best example of late 15th-century timber framing in Sussex. One of the highlights of a tour of the house is seeing the unique printed room, decorated for the visit of Queen Elizabeth I.

What to look for

Overlooking the Adur Valley and just off the walk is Sele Priory, which was established by William de Braose. Sele is simply another name for Beeding. The vicarage now occupies the site of the old priory, part of an ancient Benedictine foundation, and next to it is the Priory Church of St Peter.

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