RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Slipper Mill Pond, Emsworth

I enjoyed this walk much more than I thought I was going to, because there is so much to see.

Distance 2.5 miles (4 kms), hard paths, no obstructions except main roads to cross, parking roadside at junction of Thornham Lane and the Thorney Island army camp, SU756049.

Footpath west is supposed to go through the horse paddocks but it is easier to use the track through gate to the left. Little Deeps reedbeds on the left are home to the rare Cetti’s warblers, bearded tits, and the winter roost for 120 little egrets.

Right along seawall which is a fine viewing place for curlews, oystercatchers, dunlin and brent geese in winter as all these feed next to you on the mudflats. Turn right at Emsworth Yacht Harbour and after 100 yards among all the boats being scraped clean, turn left (no sign) past boats and buildings finding the Slipper Mill Pond where you go left over the sluice and follow the pond’s west bank northward.

Coots and swans feed below you in the overflow. Mallard enjoy the fresh water lake fed by the River Ems. Several little grebes winter here as well so the bird list is quite impressive so far. Common and blackheaded gulls in hundreds come to drink.

Note the sea rye grass growing alongside your path.

At Lord Raglan pub cross the road then look for footpath left along the A259, finding a subway right to Emsworth’s pride and joy, the Local Nature Reserve.

An information board shows the wealth of wildlife that includes 330 species of wild flowers including ragged robin, butterbur, cuckoo flower and 12 species of sedge. There are water rails, turtle doves and water voles. Volunteers manage this precious urban lung.

Stay left along the banks of the Nore Barn stream. In summer, 20 species of butterfly have been recorded. Left over the arched bridge where there is another splendidly-drawn map and species panel. Note photo of old spotted redshank.

Right turn to pass under the main railway line, right at fork following a paling fence, under huge willows.

Right again at sluice near the old toll house which has been embellished, castellated, turreted, and pillared. Follow the Sussex Border Path down the road to cross again the A259 and south along the east bank of the Slipper Mill Pond.

Our path now continues straight southward back to the skewbald horses. You can branch left over the meadows to the road or you can go through the horsey paddocks though the stiles are not in best condition.

I myself went the latter because I used to ride a skewbald pony when a lad, but now all I’ve got is a skewbald car with all that orangey woodwork. Now the white Morris was skewbald in lots of ways...