RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Staunton Way, Rowlands Castle

A brilliant walk here of 3.6 miles, (5.9kms) to see summer flowers, high summer butterflies and ancient trees.

Parking at Forestside’s Christchurch, which was built in 1856 with knapped flint walls like steel armour. Three Irish yews, herb-rich cemetery lawn, and inside a friendly feeling with its arched timbers, east window brightly stained in the shape of Tree-of-Life and the queen eyeing her bishop, 100 yards south down road then right on yellow arrow on track past stables and swallows.

We now follow the lovely Warren Down valley on your right all the way to Rowlands Castle. Pheasant pens under Norway spruce to left, then left downhill around the cottage with its cowslips and showman’s caravan.

Agrimony, hardhead, silverweed, buttercup, woundwort and crosswort at your feet.

Here the two Ice-Age scoured valleys converge. Path has arching multi-stemmed blackthorns, and flowers include marsh thistles and dark mullein. The meadow grasses feed masses of meadow brown, ringlet and marbled white butterflies all the way along Staunton Way.

We pass through a rue of old oaks and beech trees, some nicely dead, supporting green and great spotted woodpeckers. There are some large old hawthorns and field maples too, with wrens and robins at every turn. The butchers’ broom shows this rue to be ancient.

Another easy stile as we kink left uphill to another stile. Ten paces on note the unusual single tall plant of gromwell to your right.

Follow this path as it curves gently left and you begin to enter a beautiful linear meadow of downland which gets better and better the further you walk.

Pyramid and spotted orchids, yellow medic, jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, ladies’ bedstraw, greater knapweed, selfheal, yellow rattle, bird’s foot trefoil and butterflies galore, autumn hawkbit, rough hawkbit and oxeye daisies.

At the village, left and left again on yellow arrows under monumental beeches, which have been peppered with .22 air rifle pellets.

Display panel tells you how rich Stansted Forest is. A perfect example of modern forest management, I would say.

Climb hard track to left, lots of burdock, nipplewort and some wood mellick grass on right bank.

Soon leave hard stone track and branch left on brick track into oak and chestnut coppice. Closed canopy ensures high forest butterflies such as silver-washed fritillaries and white admirals.

Keep straight on NE at the wide grassy cross rides, passing a small wooden seat to your left where I had my lunch. Then you will cross the wide sight-ride for Stansted House over a mile to your right.

Into a tunnel of hazel and birch with roe buck stand scrapes along the path until you eventually turn left on road back to Christchurch with the Alvis woodwork as well-shaped as the church timbers.