RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country Walk: Duncton Down to Barlavington Church

This walk of 4.4 miles (7km) is one of my favourites for woodland birdsong, wild orchids, and superb views over the Sussex weald and downs.

There is also one of the best unspoilt Sussex village churches to see. Parking is half way down Duncton Hill viewpoint SU955160.

This is the hill used by Sir Henry Royce to test his new cars more than 80 years ago.

You will also be able to see where Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson lived at Blackdown, and Vaughn Williams the composer lived on Leith Hill 20 miles away.

My path goes west, up the hill through woodland, following the main road. Cross over the chalk quarry track, and then the Literary Trail, and stay on the footpath signs southward in the wood. This enters a field.

The footpath bends right, and enters another wood with old beech trees.

I usually see coal and marsh tits and a spotted woodpecker sometimes. Coming to a path junction, turn to Dog Kennel Cottages where you have to cross the dangerous A285.

Safely on to the other side, look for the public way 100 yards north, where turn right, east, to climb slowly along the valley track up to Northcomb Wood.

There you will come to a six-track crossways. I take the only footpath sign, the one which goes straight ahead, east, down into woodland of hazel, ash

and yew.

In these woods are where shade-loving orchids bloom in May and June.

I have seen greater butterfly, white helleborine, birdsnest and fly orchids here, with early purples at an even earlier date.

I should think the breeding bird numbers must be 40 species though I have myself counted only 30.

As you come out of the wood, cross a field and then Folly Lane, on to the bridleway leading towards Sutton.

After about 600 yards, turn left on to the footpath leading

to Barlavington.

This footpath takes you down into a gully to a tiny stream flowing from a spring under the hills 500 yards to the left.

The footpath divides, take that to the right, crossing an old hazel hedge as it climbs to Barlavington Farm and so to St Mary’s, a lot of this humble Early English building is still as it was

in 1200AD.

Walk west down road, then straight ahead into the footpath tunnel which takes you past a giant old male yew.

You can tell its sex by the fact that it has just shed its load of pollen, in late February.

Cross over the byroad into the fields for 300 yards. Finding that road again, cross it on blue arrow, and now climb the steep slope along the parish boundary which is marked by a line of trees.

Inside the wood, pass an old beech to your left, and at the five crossways, take the blue arrow bridlepath second from the right, which follows the contour and gives you a lofty view down almost as though walking in the Alps. Crossing the road again is dangerous.

Silver Ghosts of yore knew how to negotiate these hills, but modern drivers are from a different planet.