RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Amberley and South Stoke
Relax with the Arun river on this 5.7-mile (9kms) wander down the valley and back. Parking roadside TQ018117 along Houghton-Bury minor road off the Amberley B2139, but cars have to pass here on this narrow lane.
Squishy underfoot and several stiles, though all in good condition. East on South Downs Way to river across the field. Then right along river bank.
Moorhens live under the willows and in the tall reeds and in spring you will hear reed warblers all the way around this walk.
Cross main road onto river bank and follow river all the way to South Stoke. Bristly oxtongue grows here with its clusters of yellow flowers. Amberley Mount to northeast, and chalkpits close by where the famous industrial museum is housed.
Footbridge with slippery step takes you into the woodlands of willow carr, and for very high tides a low walkway of planks.
At low tides the glistening mud banks show what appear to be mink footprints. I hoped to see otter tracks. Masses of birds now: I saw marsh, great, blue, long-tailed tits. Great spotted woodpeckers and buzzards galore, jackdaws and wild duck.
As you approach the old chalk quarry, look out for the peregrine which breeds here. Oak, ash, elm, elderberry, field maple, dogwood, yew, sycamore, spindle, buddleia and beech all along our path. One spectacular beech on a slope with swings on boughs.
Here the cormorants roost and in summer, hobby falcons hunt for dragonflies. The lazy river at your side, circles with you so the sun moves back into the trees.
You pass an iron entrance into Arundel Park and a utilitarian notice, then dive into box bushes which stink like tomcats. Behind you the quarry doubles with reflection in the river.
After nearly three miles you arrive at South Stoke and rest on the seat in the churchyard. St Leonard’s is still its old Norman shape, patched up with mortar, small flints and bits of tile in the tower.
Inside acerbic and clean. Do look for the red marble tablet to Sir Hugh Cairns, who attended, among many other duties, the death of Lawrence of Arabia.
Keep left downhill from church to river crossing then sharp left along its bank and soon right into the old Arun loop. Wonderful nature reserve with some old oaks and rare species of willows.
After 400 yards left over suspension bridge and up the meadow to North Stoke. Left on to road then right and downhill.
At the cottage left on yellow arrow following another bank through trees. This leads you back to the Arun where turn right to Houghton bridge. Nice tea rooms here on far bank.
Crossing the bridge requires careful watch for traffic as you return to the west bank of the Arun and retrace your steps back to a vintage Alvis which often meets its friends at the Chalkpits Museum.