Monday, 9 May 2016

Durford Heath and Rogate Common

Durford Heath
Our latest walk is another short one - walk 1 from the Pathfinder Guide volume 66 West Sussex and the South Downs (it is also walk 1 in volume 52 More Sussex Walks).  We are seeming to manage little and often again now the weather has warmed up - no bad thing perhaps but I am yearning for some more challenging walks.  We chose this one on the basis that it may well be mud free and I am pleased to say that it was mostly true :)

Avenue of Trees
The walk started in the pocket car park at Durford Heath, an area of the Weald in the very northwest corner of Sussex.  Long time readers may know that I parked here when walking this section of the Sussex Border Path (  On this occasion though I headed out in the opposite direction, walking down through the magnificent forest that characterises Durford Heath.  This was a very different Durford Heath than the one I visited all those years ago though for the trees were largely bare.  This meant that the woodland was a whole lot brighter and possibly as a result there were no deer on this occasion.

The path led largely downhill for quite a long time, weaving around the trees and avoiding the mud (yes there was some!).  Eventually we took an uphill route out of the trees and finally came out into the open.  The view across to the South Downs in the distance was quite magnificent and the big puffy white clouds really enhanced the scene ahead.  All alongside the path were clusters of primroses and bluebells; spring really was very much in full swing now.

Perfect Sky
As we left the wood our path changed character somewhat.  No longer the open path through the woods it started to become hemmed in by flowery banks and newly growing ferns at one stage it got deep enough to feel like we were just peeping over at the surrounding fields.  The views across this stretch of countryside were quite superb and for me this was perhaps my favourite part of the walk.

Field Views
Because of the shortness of the walk we had to keep our wits about us with directions and soon it was time to turn left along an even more sunken lane.  This was so deep we couldn't see out of it for a while!  This eventually came out into a road by a pumping station and we continued along the same direction passing some impossibly pretty looking cottages still flanked by daffodils despite the lateness of the season.  The gardens outside the properties looked well tended and it was no surprise to see gardeners hard at work.  I suspect that most weekends are taken up with keeping everything in check!

Hollow Path
At the final cottage before the road changed direction we turned left again and headed back up the hill towards the woods of Rogate Common.  We soon reached the house known as Commonside and it is hard to think of a more idyllic spot - the house is magnificent and the pond outside rather fascinating.  It was our last view of open countryside for the path disappeared into the woods again.  

Slade Farm
The woodland was notable for whitebells, a rather rare albino version of the bluebells that normally cover the forest floor.  The white ones are not quite as rare as some would have you believe but it is always a treat to see them.  I think the pink ones are even rarer - don't see too many of them.  We also caught sight of a buzzard though here - he was sitting on a tree for a while before flying off when he saw us.  That was quite a treat I can tell you!

The rest of the walk was largely though trees, mostly pine (unlike the deciduous trees of the forest at the beginning of the walk).  This is obviously an active forest for a big section had been clear cut, opening out a big area that will no doubt soon be colonised by new plants although it looked a bit bare at this time.  Considering that this was only a 3.5 mile walk we packed a surprising amount into the short distance.  It was truly the perfect day for walking too!

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