RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...South Stoke

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Start at the lovely, quiet downland church of North Stoke TQ020107 half-a-mile south of Amberley station for this three-mile (5kms) walk around the oxbow of the Arun.

Church is text-book example of mediaeval masonry thinking.

Note corbels of sheep’s head and also human hand.

Upkeep needs your donation please.

One female yew and a box tree in yard.

Walk east through farmyard then south over stiles to the right on yellow arrow.

The views of downs and water meadows make this memorable.

At bottom you reach the bypassed Arun oxbow now wooded with ash, oak and willow.

It is of course a haven for birds.

I usually see all the tit family for example, also chiffchaff, blackcap warbler, nuthatch, great spotted woodpecker.

Over the footbridge and following the bank footpath southwest soon takes you to the Arun river itself.

This is tidal and can rush out, becoming the sixth-fastest flat river flow in the UK.

Opposite is South Stoke. The church is St Leonard, and still with much of its Norman shape, but spruced up as usual by the wealthy Victorians.

However, there are also 13th-century lancet windows, double chamfered tower arch and south porch.

I always pay my respects to the memorial tablet in blood-mottled marble to neurosurgeon Sir Hugh Cairns who rented the house nearby for holidays.

He was Physician-in-Ordinary to the King.

He served as a private in the Medical Corps at Gallipoli, a Captain in first world war trench warfare, was Rhodes Scholar at Balliol, set up a Nuffield Foundation Medical School in Oxford, and invented the crash helmet.

He attended the death of Lawrence of Arabia in 1935 and specialised in head injuries following the 1944 Normandy D-Day invasion.

Our footpath takes us farther along the new Arun oxbow until we soon reach a strip of woodland on left, marking the old oxbow.

Left on yellow, crossing underneath the main line to London.

Pools and marshy terrain with willows which include the rare hybrid: salix triandra x viminalis.

This is a winter roost for long-eared owls, and buzzards breed here.

Path circles north then west as we leave the oxbow and climb back across a rabbit-grazed meadow to North Stoke, crossing the railway line again, finding an old Alvis with woodwork somewhat similar to that old Morris Traveller like the one you once took the kids to school in if they were lucky to have such sensible parents.

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