Tour and explore a sprawling National Trust estate on this glorious woodland walk which offers fine views of Sussex.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Woodland, downland paths and tracks, 4 stiles
Landscape Sweeping downland and woodland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 121 Arundel & Pulborough
Start/finish SU 960076
Dog friendliness Unless signed otherwise, off lead, except in Slindon village
Parking Free National Trust car park in Park Lane, Slindon
Public toilets None on route
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1 From the car park walk down towards the road and turn right at a 'No riding sign', passing through the gate to join a wide straight path cutting between trees and bracken. The path runs alongside sunny glades and clearings and between lines of beech and silver birch trees before reaching a crossroads.
2 Turn right to a second crossroads and continue ahead here, keeping the grassy mound and ditch, all that remains of the Park Pale, on your right. Follow the broad path as it begins a wide curve to the right and the boundary ditch is still visible here, running parallel to the path. On reaching a kissing gate, continue ahead, soon skirting fields. As you approach the entrance to Slindon campsite, swing left and follow the track down to the road.
3 Turn left and follow the road through the woodland. Pass Slindon Bottom Road and turn right after a few paces to join a bridleway. Follow the path as it cuts between fields and look for a path on the right.
4 Cross the stile, go down the field, up the other side to the next stile and join a track. Turn right and follow it as it immediately bends left. Walk along to Row's Barn, cross the stile and continue ahead on the track. The folly can be seen over to the left.
5 Continue straight ahead along the track, following it down to some double gates and a stile. Pass to the right of Courthill Farm, turn right and follow the lane or parallel woodland path to the next road. Bear left and pass Slindon College on the right and St Richard's Catholic Church on the left before reaching Church Hill.
6 To visit the Newburgh Arms, continue ahead along Top Road. Otherwise, follow Church Hill, pass the church and make for the pond, a familiar weeping willow reaching down to the water's edge. Look for mallard ducks here. Follow the obvious waterside path to enter the wood and on reaching a fork, by a National Trust sign for Slindon Estate, keep left and walk through the trees, back to the car park.
It all began in 1895, the year the National Trust was founded by three far-sighted, visionary Victorians whose objective was to acquire sites of historic interest and natural beauty for the benefit of the nation.
The Trust has come a long way since those early, pioneering days. More than 100 years after its foundation, it is the country's biggest landowner, depending on donations and legacies and the annual subscriptions of its two million members for much of its income. The statistics are awesome. Over the years it has acquired 600,000 acres (243,000ha) of countryside, much of which is freely open to everyone, 550 miles (891km) of coastline, over 300 historic houses and more than 150 gardens, all of which it aims to preserve and protect for future generations. It is some achievement.
Much of the West Sussex village of Slindon is part of the National Trust's 3,500-acre (1,419ha) Slindon Estate on the southern slopes of the South Downs between Arundel and Chichester. The estate, the setting for this lovely walk, was originally designed and developed as an integrated community and it is the Trust's aim to maintain this structure as far as possible.
As well as the village, it consists of a large expanse of sweeping downland dissected by dry valleys, a folly, several farms and a stretch of Roman road. Glorious hanging beechwoods on the scarp enhance the picture, attracting walkers and naturalists in search of peace and solitude. Parts of the estate were damaged in the storms of 1987 and 1990, though the woods are regenerating, with saplings and woodland plants flourishing in the lighter glades. Typical ground plants of the beechwoods include bluebell, dog's mercury, greater butterfly orchid and wood sedge.
Take a stroll through Slindon village as you end the walk and you can see that many of the cottages are built of brick and flint, materials typical of chalk country. During the medieval period, long before the National Trust was established, Slindon was an important estate of the archbishops of Canterbury. Even earlier it was home to Neolithic people who settled at Barkhale, a hilltop site at its northern end.
To help celebrate its centenary in 1995, the National Trust chose the Slindon Estate to launch its 100 Paths Project, a scheme designed to enhance access to its countryside properties by creating or improving paths. This glorious, unspoiled landscape offers many miles of footpaths and bridleways, making it an excellent choice for a country walk.
As you stroll through peaceful Slindon Wood, at the start of the walk, look for the remains of the medieval Park Pale, more commonly described as a bank and ditch. This was originally designed to protect the park's deer. In palaeolithic times, the sea extended this far inland - hard to believe now as you look at the wooded surroundings. A preserved shingle beach indicates that the sea was once 130ft (40m) higher than it is today. Courthill Farm, towards the end of the walk, was once the home of the French-born writer Hilaire Belloc and his wife when they were first married. He spent part of his childhood in the village.
The Newburgh Arms at Slindon has a good choice of food. As well as sandwiches, jacket potatoes and salads, the menu offers steak and kidney pie, shepherds pie and a selection of roasts. There's also a children's menu and a summer beer garden.
Have a look at the Church of St Mary, which is partly Norman and greatly restored. Inside is a rare wooden effigy to Sir Anthony St Leger who died in 1539. Slindon House, now part of a college, was one of the rest-houses of the Archbishops of Canterbury during the Middle Ages.