Another walk with bluebells and woodland paths, meadows and ancient trees, and a puzzling church.
This walk is only 2.5 miles (4kms) but you’ll want to linger as I did last week on the way as spring brings back life to the woods and commons and you eat your lunch on the seat by St James.
Roadside parking SU838197 on road between Selham and Lavington Common. There is a vehicle track northeast into the wood under scots pines, then larch trees at the bend right to Fitzlea Wood. Bluebells here too, with wood anemones.
As the track bends right note the lovely old holly trees on your left and the newly-coppiced chestnuts. Our way passes to left of converted Fitzlea Farm with celandines on the banks and badger tracks in the sand.
As you descend into the Rother Valley and path bends left, note small pond on right with a lone oak tree which has been riven top to bottom by a lightning strike.
Keep to the left on old fingerpost, soon coming to the dismantled railway which once ran on the embankment. Bridleway left with a gorse bush in flower. The wood to the left provided the gravel for this embankment.
You now have a lovely view north of Bexley Hill and Blackdown to right of it, where Tennyson lived.
Passing the cattle in the barn you will soon come to the right turn where old railway bridge once stood. The muddy track takes you on to Hurlands Farm with its ornamental chickens, and then a right turn along the main road.
Very soon take left turn at the sign for the church ahead. St James was a puzzle to historian Nikolaus Pevsner. Thin Saxon walls but herringbone walling, a strangely tall and narrow chancel arch one with serpent devouring its own tail seemed to suggest Saxon ideas but Norman methods, and Roman stone materials.
Anyway, the building is 1,000 years old and worthy of your attention. A very good church guide is available inside.
Continue walk south on fingerpost, crossing into fields via kissing gate and soon passing the remains of the old Selham station platform and wooden building among the bushes. Be warned if not agile: there are two very high stiles to cross.
You cross another field coming to the stream again gurgling under a footbridge amongst willows, alders, massive oaks and bluebells, accompanied by the calls and nest-holes of green and great spotted woodpeckers.
Climbing up other side to road, turn right with magnificent horse chestnuts, oaks, rhododendrons and at Selham House a huge lodgepole pine. Selham meant either house by willows (also called sallows) or house by pig wallow, (syla) or hall by a house (sel). Take your pick.
Turn left along road marked by road sign to Petworth and Duncton. This takes you over a lovely rising landscape among the fields to the woods again and the old wooden car in my case, and the calls of siskins, firecrests and redpolls high above in the Scots pines.
** See the April 5 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.