RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Rackham Brooks

ON THE eastern edge of Amberley Wildbrooks is the RSPB reserve called Rackham Brooks.

It is all a perfect gem of Sussex scenery what with views of the vast flat fresh marshes, and the steep slopes of the downs beyond.

There is also the added attraction of the sounds of summer migrants singing such as reed warblers and sedge warblers. Park roadside on the minor road that runs from the Amberley – Storrington B2139 to Watersfield at TQ049147 for this 2.7 (4.5kms) wander.

Find the yellow finger post near the road junction for the footpath which takes you SW down through the woods of oaks and hollies and rowan trees.

At the bottom is a cottage near which you join the West Sussex Literary Trail footpath going west to the edge of the Wildbrooks. This is where the warblers breed. Last week I heard a cuckoo calling but it will be gone by now. Turn left 150 yards beyond the cottage, staying on the Lit. Trail. Cross over a bridge.

The path goes uphill over stiles and through a small wood. Then pass Rackham old mill, over the footbridge by Rackham House and on across meadows to the minor road.

If you wanted to see the best view of the brooks turn right along this road to the Sportsman’s Arms public house.

This could also be a start for the walk incidentally. Otherwise, turn left down the road to Rackham village.

The name anciently derived from Hreac, which was the Anglo Saxon word for hay-rick, since the hill above resembled the outline of such a one.

At the bend in the road a footpath to the right, takes you over a meadow to the village, or the road takes you to the left and joins up again with the walk. White poplars grow in the valley and there is a view right to the church of St. Peter in Parham Park which has Elizabethan, Plantagenet and Georgian additions among others.

There is also the edge of a classic Repton-style landscape with parkland and ancient trees of the sort usually depicted by Gainsborough in the tapestry of our landscape heritage.

To left is a geological outcrop showing sand strata of the region at Rackham Old School. Turn left into the yard and along the footpath, back onto the Lit. Trail, and pass the cottage again. This time keep straight ahead so that you can enjoy the even more splendid view left of the brooks.

This right-handed circle in winter gives you close-up views of wildfowl on the floods. It is a charming walk at any time of year, with dragonflies enjoying the sunshine on their gauzy wings right now.

Keep right uphill back to the road and right again back to Alvis, which fits nicely into this Arcadian landscape.