Sussex walk - Eartham Wood
PUBLISHED: 16:55 26 January 2015 | UPDATED: 16:29 20 March 2015
On this month's walk, Hazel Sillver marches along the Roman road in Eartham Wood and enjoys downland views
The first third of the walk is upon a Roman road known as Stane Street; stane is an old spelling of stone. This 90km (56m) long ancient highway once connected Chichester (known to the Romans as Regnentium) to London. The route passes the Roman villa at Bignor, parts of which are still intact. Archaeologists think the road could have been built as early as 43AD and coins found prove it was certainly in use in 70AD. Of course the Romans liked a straight road, but the direct line from Chichester to London Bridge encompasses the North Downs, the South Downs and the Greensand Ridge. To avoid as much up and down as possible, the Romans therefore veered six miles off the direct line in places, for example building the road in a natural gap in the North Downs created by the River Mole and running it through the flat River Arun valley. Stane Street can still be traced on maps and now takes the form of paths, bridleways and roads, such as the A24, A3, A285 and A29.
In late winter and early spring, the umpteen hazel trees that line the paths of this walk are covered in catkins. Hazel is wind-pollinated, hence the dangly form of the catkins, which are the plant’s male flowers. When the wind blows, catkin pollen is dispersed into the air and lands on the tree’s tiny female flowers (which are pink, spidery and hard to see). In a few months’ time, this clever act of nature will result in hazelnuts.
Where to refuel: The George pub
(thegeorgeeartham.com, 01243 814340, PO18 0LT)
in Eartham village is friendly and serves tasty traditional pub food and Sunday roasts. They also have a very impressive vegetarian menu featuring eight main course options – wow! Dogs are welcome in the pub garden.
Good to know
• Location: Eartham Wood, near Chichester, West Sussex
• Distance: 5.6m (9k) – 2½ hrs to walk.
• Terrain: Stone, dirt and grass paths; a bit of up and down.
• Where to park: In the Eartham Wood car park, which is ½ mile north of Eartham village. Eartham is signed off the A27, just west of the Fontwell roundabout, along Britten’s Lane.
• As you drive into the car park, take the first right and park there. Follow the path that leads off this section of the car park. You will come to another track, where you turn right and then immediately left. You are now on a Roman road called Stane Street. Follow this for the next mile, ignoring all side paths and maintaining direction straight ahead.
• Maintain direction here, walking straight ahead through the gate and onto a path that leads through hazel trees between fields.
• The hedgerow falls away and the path leads through a gate and upslope, onto a grassy path that runs alongside fencing.
• At the bottom of the slope, ignore the path right and maintain direction straight ahead. Likewise ignore the next two paths signed south and continue upon your straight Roman line.
• After gorse bushes, head through the gate and then immediately go right through another gate into woodland. After this, turn right at the signpost, walking down a wide track beside a field. Where the way divides, maintain direction straight ahead. Likewise ignore the next side paths further on.
• Where the way divides here at a signpost, take the left-hand route (the bridleway). Ignore the next path left and continue straight on through the gate. You are now on Great Down. Walk straight ahead towards glorious views, eventually going through a second gate.
• At the trees, head right along a narrow muddy path. Then head right and walk north-west alongside fencing. At the signpost turn left and follow the path between hedgerows.
• Upon reaching woodland and a signpost, continue straight ahead. The path leads through woods to a lane and a signpost – head straight on here and walk between fields.
• At the crossways, maintain direction straight on into woodland. Ignore all side paths and continue straight on.
• When the path eventually moves away from the field edges, head right into woodland at the signpost. The path curves left and you will meet the Roman road once again. Head left, retracing your steps. At the end of path, head right and then immediately left, back to the car.
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