RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country Walk: Up Marden to Piglegged Row

There are bluebells nearly all the way on this 4 miles (6.4kms) walk in the woods.

Park at Up Marden church, SU795142, which is on the minor road north of Walderton, seven miles NW of Chichester. St. Michael is almost untouched from its 13C origin with wall paintings, wagon roof, old brick floor, and a cool white light inside which has seen ploughmen, shepherds, game-keepers and their masters over seven centuries.

Nearby a 250 year old cart-shed has been rescued from decay by the Weald and Downland Museum and is now on the Chichester RDC’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.

At the end of March I walked west down the farm track and turned left on yellow sign and followed a thick hedge down into the valley. Laurel bushes, Scots pines and Douglas firs show how this was once planted as a holding ground for pheasants which were flushed downhill as high birds over waiting guns. After climbing out of that valley I turned left and left again on yellow arrows in Grevitts Copse and returned to the valley. Dog’s mercury dominated the ground flora. A lone Norway spruce stood to the left.

I re-crossed the valley where a large log seat offers a rest. Bluebells and Wood anemones grow in great profusion here. A Stock dove called; a note quite different to the Wood pigeon’s. On entering Haslett Copse I found a colony of Coltsfoot flowers which looked like old fusees on primitive guns. My path now climbed, and wound right then left. The Oaks and Sycamores here are very tall and straight, showing the depth of ancient glacial outwash soil.

Eventually I crossed a rickety stile and arrived at Lyecommon house. I turned left along a rue, which showed its many centuries too with the presence of Butcher’s broom growing there. I passed some bee hives, the insects busy in the masses of coppice flowers. I sat on a collection of tree trunks to have lunch. During that 20 minutes I saw a Buzzard, Mistle thrush, Tree-creeper, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed tit, another Stock dove, Nuthatch, and Blue tit. The path descended to the road.

On the way down this wadi I passed a colony of Wild garlic, or Ramsons (aka Londoner’s lilies, and Stink bombs). I turned left along the minor road as far as Pitlands Farm, went right/left through its yard, and then up the grassy track north across the corn fields. I passed a derelict shepherds’ hut in which was an equally derelict vaulting horse, turned left in the middle of the field, and came to another rue filled with Bluebells and Celandines.

Have you noticed how these woodland flowers make impenetrable colonies into which few other species can ever penetrate? Bit like humans. Along the wire fence I noticed several yellow plastic sticks marking the places where Badgers cross under the wire.

I turned left on reaching the bridleway and then right at the house on the yellow arrow over the corn-field, and so through Blinkard Copse back to Up Marden. More Bluebells, and under the power cables, I saw vast white sheets of Wood anemones yet again. What a perfect eco-system these lovely woods are: may they continue and show those in the next century what Sussex can be like at its best.