This walk around the Upper Pond at the National Trust’s Petworth Park is a great length for those sunny weekends when you want to take a more relaxing stroll. Covering a distance of approximately 1.5 miles, this route can be completed in under an hour, and you’ll see an iconic landscape created by ‘Capability’ Brown, intriguing architectural features, plus an abundance of wildlife. You can even enjoy an ice-cream in the sunshine too.
To start the walk, leave the Pleasure Garden at Petworth and go through the iron Tijou Gate, located next to the house, into the Deer Park itself. Look ahead and you’ll see the Upper Pond, continue down the path towards this body of water for around 300m. Although the landscape here may appear completely natural, the Deer Park was transformed in the 1750s and 1760s by the landscape gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (b.1716, d.1783). He was commissioned by Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont, to redesign the landscape, which included adding features like the Upper and Lower Pond, a ha-ha (a sunken ditch to prevent deer entering the garden), and an Ionic Rotunda, located in the Pleasure Garden.
Once you reach the Upper Pond, take the path that forks right and follow it around the water’s edge until you come to the Boathouse. Walk under the archway of this architectural stone feature for great views and take a moment to notice the wildlife here. “The Upper Pond hosts a variety of birdlife,” says Martyn Burkinshaw, Gardens and Outdoors Manager, “including house martins, swallows, and swifts ducking and diving over the water; tufted ducks, shovelers and pochards; and greylag, Egyptian and Canada Geese. Under the water, if you’re lucky, you’ll see pike patrolling the Dam and below the Boathouse. Buzzing around the edges of the lake in the iris plants you’ll see red-eyed and azure damselflies, broad-bodied chasers and black-tailed skimmer dragonflies.”
Exit the Boathouse and continue on the path, this will lead you away from the water. Follow this track around the edge of the woodland as it veers left. Turn to your right and you’ll see a gathering of trees on top of a hill in the distance. Here, you can divert from the main route and walk around 120m to this point – there are beautiful views across the park once you reach the brow of the hill. Look at the rolling hillside opposite for sightings of the fallow deer herd of around 700-800 individuals that live in Petworth Park. This is a great vantage point to try and see them.
“During the summer months the bucks will be growing their new antlers,” says Martyn, “which when full size will shed their protective felt coverings, so you may see the bucks rubbing their antlers on trees. The does give birth to fawns in June and July, so you could see deer sitting down in long growing grasses, and towards the end of July you will see larger fawns across the site.”
Make your way back towards the main track leading around the woodland. Persist in following this path as it takes you out into the open and alongside the Upper Pond once more where, from this side of the lake, you can see the Boathouse’s two water level arches. Stop for a moment and admire the view across the Upper Pond towards Petworth House; this was one of the vistas of Petworth that artist J.M.W. Turner painted. As the sun reflects on the water’s surface and trees sway in the breeze, it is the perfect spot to take a picture. This footpath around the lake eventually leads you onto a larger track that goes towards Petworth House. Admire the views to your right of the South Downs as you walk along from this vantage point.
When you reach the end of the pond, turn left and walk along the water’s edge again. You’ll see the Dog of Alcibiades statue protruding from the water, this is a copy made for the 3rd Earl of Egremont in memory of his favourite canine companion.
Take the path back towards Petworth House to complete this walk. You can then enjoy a well-deserved rest and bite to eat at the National Trust’s Audit Room Café or an ice-cream from the Fire Engine Kiosk, before exploring the artwork treasures in Petworth House.
To access this walk, park in the National Trust’s Petworth main car park. Please note that an entry ticket is required to explore the house and grounds (free for National Trust members) and to exit the garden to begin this walk from the Tijou Gate. Dogs on leads are welcome on this walk.
Petworth House and Park
Opening times: Petworth House 10:30am-4:30pm, Pleasure Garden 10am-5pm, Deer Park 8am-8pm.