Favourite autumnal walks

Popular author and walker Richard Williamson shares his love of the route over Lavington and Duncton commons in West Sussex.
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Pine woods, heather moors and open farmlands with the backdrop of the Downs are yours on this 6.2 km (3.9 miles) walk.

Lavington & Duncton Commons

Pine woods, heather moors and open farmlands with the backdrop of the Downs are yours on this 6.2 km (3.9 miles) walk.

Start at the National Trust roadside car park at SU949187 – the car park is not easy to find, being just north of a line between Graffham and Duncton. The small display panel tells you about hobby falcons, stonechats and sundews.

Walk east past this, onto a track through ling and bell heather. Note that pines have been left here and there for the hobby falcons to breed, because they like clumps rather than solid woodland. Having crossed the open area, you’ll come to a stile (but no fence) where you should turn left, with a long rhododendron hedge on your left. After 250 m, turn right onto a long straight ride through some lovely tall Scots pines – no arrows to be followed yet. Woodpeckers, great tits, blackbirds, all calling.

After 700 m, while going downhill with holly bushes around, you’ll come to a gorse bush where you should follow the yellow arrow route right, keeping a large dead oak behind you.

Continue straight over the footpath crossway, then after about 200 m going downhill you will come to a footbridge over a small stream – mind the holes in the floorboards here. Walking up the other side, turn right on the yellow arrow route – 40 m along this path note a holly bush on the left used as a scent stock by a roebuck.

Soon after you should turn sharply left on the yellow arrow route and, after 29 m, you’ll see that the path forks: take the right fork and you will eventually arrive at the road where Herringbroom Cottages have fine barge boards. Cross this road, with the magnificence of the wooded downland escarpment stretched ahead of you. The footpath then runs 900 m south-east over farm fields towards the Catholic church of St Anthony & St George. You can stop for lunch here, sitting among the primroses, celandines and gravestones on a seat by the west door. Like most Catholic churches, however, the building itself is often locked.

Next, wander westward for 2 km, past both Ridlington and Westerland Farms, both tidy but unremarkable, through their fields and over their ditches, until you come to Lavington woods at Lower Barn, where you should turn right at the fingerpost. A dog may bark ineffectually at you at the last cottage, before you come to the felled pine woods of Lavington Common. The National Trust is here reclaiming the common back to a very pleasant open heath. You cross all of this in a north-easterly direction, ignoring three yellow arrows trying to take you left, right, left – in that order. This is not an easy walk to navigate, so you’ve done pretty well: I was helped by the view of a pure white Morris far ahead shining like a little beacon among the pine trees.

This route was taken from Richard Williamson’s 52 Favourite West Sussex Walks , published by Summersdale Books. Containing 52 truly enjoyable rambles, this book is a great value companion for planning your next walk.

To read our review of the book look here 52 Favourite West Susex Walks.

Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 9:55 am Outdoor leisure