There’s a myriad of beautiful walks in West Sussex, many passing through our ancient woodlands. The county is one of the most wooded areas in England with a rich diversity of plant and animal species. We are fortunate to have an intricate network of public footpaths and bridleways crisscrossing the countryside, giving us access to private land and many lovely nature reserves.
One of the best times of the year to explore the Sussex woodlands is when bluebells blanket the ground beneath the trees each April and May. Cowslips, primroses and early purple orchids also line many of the woodland paths. In the summer the woods provide welcome shade on hotter days and flowers such as honeysuckle and dog rose bloom.
When autumn arrives the trees look glorious in their fall finery in shades of ochre, rust and gold and no end of species of mushrooms can be found. In winter, though many of the trees are bare of leaves, the countryside can still be a joy to explore, especially on a bright, crisp sunny day. Primroses can flower as early as late December, and lesser celandine, a member of the buttercup family, with its shiny star-like yellow flowers carpet forest floors between January and May.
Three species of deer can be seen amongst the trees, although they are somewhat elusive. Roe deer are native to our woodlands, but you may also see fallow deer and if you are fortunate the little muntjac. The fallow and muntjac can be a bit of a nuisance munching on the bluebells.
And there are plenty of excellent traditional pubs can be found dotted around the countryside to revive you during or after your walk.
“Do you want to know more about the area? Then join me on a guided walk through the West Sussex countryside discover the layers of history, a magical tunnel of trees and a windmill with my Airbnb Experiences.” Kathryrn, Sussex Bloggers
Nore Wood ancient woodland walk
One of my favourite woodland walks in West Sussex that handily happens to start and end by a particularly fine pub is the walk from The George in Eartham through Nore Wood, part of the Slindon Estate, belonging to the National Trust. This 3.7 mile, mainly circular route leads you past a Victorian pumphouse and a folly, with glorious views across the South Downs and the coastal plain.
Length: 3.7 miles
Time: 1 hour 40 mins
Difficulty: Easy, with some inclines and rough terrain but no stiles. About 1 mile of the walk is uphill, with the rest either on the flat or downhill.
Start/End Point: The George, Eartham PO18 0LT Coordinates: 50.87721, -0.66694, OS Explorer OL10 Grid Ref: SU938094
Notes: Not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs. No dog bins.
Download this pdf for a printable map and detailed instructions.
Starting at The George in Eartham, face south and follow the road round to the left. There aren’t any pavements here, so do take care. Just past a row of cottages, a track leads into the fields, past a brick and flint Victorian pumphouse and up towards Nore Wood. Look out for cowslips by the side of the path and looking back the views are spectacular. Halnaker Windmill can be seen across the fields behind Eartham on a nearby hilltop.
Once in Nore Wood follow the bridle path called Puck Lane. This is an old drovers lane, where once livestock would have been lead on foot between pastures or to market. Many of these lanes are hundreds of years old even dating back to medieval times. Puck means nightjar in the all but disappeared Sussex dialect although it was also a name for fairies in English folklore.
Around mid-April and throughout May, although the exact time varies from year to year, you’ll see bluebells blanketing the ground between the beech trees. Please take care, not to tread on any flowers. It takes 5 to 7 years for a bluebell to grow from a seed to a flowering bulb. At this time of year, you may also see early purple orchids.
These same woods look particularly splendid in autumn too.
Follow the bridle path until you reach a ‘T’ junction. The bridle path continues to the left, but we follow the footpath to the right, taking us south. The straight forestry path forks twice but keep to the left-hand branches. Once you reach a metal gate, the fields open up again for more lovely views. Sheep are often grazing in the fields here so please keep dogs on a lead. The path takes you around the edge of the wood leading you to a folly (an ornamental building with no real purpose, found in English parks and gardens).
Nore Hill Folly
Slindon was the family seat of the Countess of Newburgh and her husband. Nore Hill Folly was built in 1814 for the countess who it is said enjoyed picnics here. The folly is believed to resemble an Italian arch that appeared in a painting belonging to the countess. A wooden structure, used for entertaining hunting parties, was once attached to it but it is long since gone.
Today there’s a bench where you can rest awhile and admire the views.
At the folly, the path takes a sharp left and then right turn, and continues down to another ‘T’ junction. Take the right-hand path passing Row’s Barn on your left, which leads you along Lees Lane, back into Nore Wood and by another bluebell display back to Puck Lane. These old paths were once used as drover’s paths where sheep and cattle where lead between pastures or to market.
Once back on Puck Lane, retrace your steps via the pump house back to The George in Eartham.
Do you have a favourite woodland walk in West Sussex? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
All our favourite bluebell woods in both East and West Sussex can be found here, Into the Blue – Bluebell Woods in Sussex.
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