RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Arundel Park and River Arun

Lake, Down and riverbank makes this five-mile (8km) walk one of the best in the county.

Friday, 30th August 2013, 12:50 pm

Parking in Arundel east of the castle on roadside or carpark, then a stroll along the lime avenue to Swanbourne

Lake is very pleasant. You can boat, feed the ducks and have a cup of tea before and after the walk.

Set off along the north shore on hard path with flowers such as fleabane, hardhead and hemp agrimony on either side.

As the countryside opens out, flowers of old downland appear, including rock rose, ploughman’s spikenard, salad burnet, stemless thistle. As Hiorne tower appears to left, look down to the lake to see greater tussock sedge looking like old hay bales.

Over the stile, northwest into silent valley past an old lime tree and the pale green tufts of false brome grass which the sheep won’t eat, unfortunately.

North up steep slope with chalky steps to stile. Several common blue butterflies when I walked the route last week. The tawny sere grasses are sheep fescue, golden oat and timothy. Autumn hawkbit has small rayed yellow flowers. You will walk across five lynchets about 135 paces apart, these being Bronze Age field banks as you head towards a clump of holm oak trees with stile under them. Across the valley left is Whiteways Lodge, with more lynchets below it.

Behind you the sea, ahead the hills of Surrey. Head for the white cliffs of Amberley chalk quarry and at the next stile note a splendid deadly nightshade with glistening black berries by the step.

Path along track down hill with masses of totter grass, eyebright, harebell, scabious flowers.

Bear right in wood on fingerposts. Avoid touching the wild parsnip flowers which can cause burns. Near the river Arun and the park flint wall, turn right through cage gate and follow the path through the wood with its box bushes smelling like tomcats coming to bridlegate to edge of arables.

This leads you to South Stoke hamlet and the church with the wall plaque to Cairns the neurosurgeon who in his day attended the Royal Family.

South Stoke farm house has many house martins breeding under the eaves. Cross the minor road and down between hedge of elm and elder turning right onto water meadows. The ditches have purple loosestrife, bull rushes, reeds, rushes and some marsh St John’swort.

The path is now a little muddy and overgrown with hemlock water dropwort, meadowsweet and the hazels are filled with cobnuts. Pass Foxes Oven wood and then cottage, with its weeping willow and feather-footed chickens, then uphill to the road again. Left then right down a gorge hung with hartstongue ferns.

I always make a diversion off the return road along the Arun banks just past the Black Rabbit, with the wildfowl collection to right, the reed beds to left, and the castle against the skyline ahead.

A most pleasing finale to one of the best walks Britain has to offer. Riding home in an old Alvis puts the icing on the cake for me.