This walk takes you along a stretch of the South Downs with fine views all round and, after a visit to a lovely small country town, along a lower route full of interest and back over the Downs again. The going is easy over the chalk downs but you may encounter mud on the lower paths in the wetter seasons, when ankle boots are an advantage. The walk has two parts: a high road, with fine views, and a contrasting low road with many beautiful points of interest. Both towns offer good opportunities for refreshment. For full instructions, and bigger maps, please visit www.fancyfreewalks.org.
1. Go past the metal barrier at the end of the car park, signposted South Downs Way, on a flinty path uphill. At the top, at a fingerpost ignore a footpath left and, 20m later, ignore a cinder farm track right. Just after a gas relay station on your left, ignore a marked bridleway by a gate on the left and continue on the track. After 50m, leave the track by forking left on a signed path and going through a wooden gate, soon passing chalk earthworks on your right. Close by in the valley is Washington village. Rock Mill (now sailless) can be seen just to the right of a sand quarry. Built in 1823, it appears on the village’s shield and was lived in by the composer John Ireland. Keep straight ahead on a steep chalky path uphill and go through a wooden gate at the top. Keep in the same general direction up the grassy slope. You have a fine view to the left over the Weald to the North Downs. As you ascend, the sea comes into view, near the big town of Worthing. At the other side, at the highest point on the grass, go over a low bank to the Dew Pond in its ring of hawthorn.
2. Turn right away from the pond and go through a wooden gate by an information tablet. Turn left on the track, beside a cattle grid, heading for the Chanctonbury Ring. It is better to shift left up the grassy bank and walk on a parallel grassy ridge which has views on both sides, heading for the left-hand side of the Ring. On reaching the Chanctonbury Ring, you can walk on a clockwise circular course to obtain an overall view of the ancient earthworks. Continue from the Ring on the wide track, part of the South Downs Way (SDW), heading past a cylindrical tank, then through a gate by a cattle grid. In ½ km, at a 4-way junction, keep straight ahead.
3. In another ½ km or so, a track joins from the right. After 400m, at the end of a meadow on the left, at a new 3-way fingerpost, turn left on a path between wire fences, thus leaving the SDW. Your path turns right at the tree line. Follow this flinty path, walking beside a wood on your left. After 400m, you reach a fork by a post with blue arrows.
4. Take the right-hand fork, slightly uphill. The path goes between concrete posts by a field on the right and enters woodland. Just 15m into the woodland, fork left on a long path downhill through the wood, avoiding bike paths on your left. After 250m, the path comes to a junction where you can see over to your right a waymarker post and a wooden swing gate. Turn right to the gate and go left through it (or through the wide gap on its left). The path leads down and emerges from the woods by a new wooden swing gate, with your first view of Steyning below. After 250m of open hillside, your path goes through a wooden swing gate into woods. Keep right on a narrow but straight path. It takes you through a small wooden gate on a straight route between hedges and later an unneeded wooden gate leading onto a track by some allotments. On reaching a road, keep straight ahead and, just after it bends right, turn left through a barrier down to the main street of Steyning, opposite the Dolls House Shop. At the time of writing this shop also does “psychic readings on Fridays”. The walk will continue left from here, but you cannot come without first seeing some of the town.
5. After your visit, return westwards along the High Street, past the Dolls House Shop on your right. Where the street bends right, leave it by keeping straight ahead on Mouse Lane, a name that seems so appropriate for the small cottages that occupy the lane. In only 100m, just past the last thatched cottage, go diagonally left on a track and, in 10m, fork right on a hidden narrow footpath, going over a stile and into a meadow of wild grass. (If overgrown, continue on the track and turn right after a metal gate.) The path meets another path from the left and continues beside a ribbon fence. At the end, go over a stile and fork left on a narrow footpath, ignoring the wide stony track right. The path goes down steps and meets a crossing track. Continue straight over.
6. Go up steps and along the right-hand side of a field. The Chanctonbury Ring is visible ahead to the left. In 500m, at the end of the field, turn right through a metal gate and left on the lane. (Some walkers stay in the field on an unofficial path.) Where the lane starts to curve right under trees, turn left at a fingerpost and right along the field edge again. Go left at the field corner and, in 30m, turn right through trees, over a stream, over a stile and into a cereal field. Keep to the path as it curves right and left over a stile onto a wide enclosed path. On your right, foliage permitting, Wiston House with its grey clad walls and fine conservatory comes into view. The route continues to a tarmac drive where it turns left and under a fancy steel bridge linking some grounds of the House. Where the drive bends right, keep straight on over through a metal gate next to a (broken) stile. After 500m, continue over a concrete stile (or via a metal gate) through the farmyard of Great Barn Farm, soon passing some tumbledown sheds. Leave the farm via some (open) double metal gates at a T-junction and follow the track right and immediately left on another track.
7. The track runs beside some cottages by a large metal gate and in 250m becomes a muddy woodland track [2016: going round a fallen tree]. In 400m, you pass through an open metal gate, passing an old rusty shed. Ignore a track on the left that goes uphill and follow the main track gently downhill [2016: under a leaning branch]. The path narrows and zig-zags left-right through some deep woods, going through one more gate and passing lesser side paths. Follow the main path gradually downhill through handsome beechwoods and finally through a large metal gate at the corner of a sheep meadow. Go right through a wooden gate and cross the crop field diagonally, aiming for a stile visible in a fence on the left of a line of trees ahead. Once over the stile, continue in the same direction to the edge of a large pasture and bear left on a track along the perimeter. Go through a gate in the corner and keep ahead similarly. Half way along this second pasture, just after some farm buildings on the right, turn right over a stile. (If you want to reduce the number of stiles, you can simply continue straight on to the road and turn right.) Traverse a small meadow, go over a stile and bear left. Go over another stile, across a drive to an enclosed, rather overgrown, path, over a stile and a wooden bridge across a stream. Finally go across a small meadow and over the last stile to the road opposite the Frankland Arms in Washington.
8. Turn left on the road. Continue past The Street on your right and ignore footpaths on the left. Just after Meadowlea, fork left on a concrete drive which winds gently uphill and eventually bends left. Turn sharp right at a marker post on another drive. Follow the drive to the end where, on the left is the car park where the walk began.
DISTANCE: 8 miles
OS MAPS: Explorer 121 (Arundel) & 122 (Steyning)
STARTING POINT: The walk begins at the Washington car park. The nearest postcode is RH20 4AZ, grid ref TQ 119 120
Image: Chanctonbury Ring by Led Chatfield