This is a gentle walk through the open pastures and woodland of this lesser-known part of West Sussex. The centre point of this walk is one of the best gastropubs in West Sussex which charges Mayfair prices but will be happy to pull you a pint when you relax on their comfortable sofas. At the start and finish is a typical (and excellent) village pub by a cricket green. Provided by www.fancyfreewalks.org.
1. Starting in Lurgashall, go to the south side of the green where there is a red phone box and the village shop. Pass them on your left to reach a four-way junction by the aptly named Signpost Cottage. Fork left here in the direction of Village Hall, Mill Farm. 250m after passing the last house, as the lane curves left under great oaks, go right at a fingerpost, up steps and left along the left-hand side of a field, on a generous grassy verge. There are fine views right to Bexleyhill and its aerial. Your path goes under wires and comes through a gap in the hedge. Turn left here into another crop field which also has a good grassy border. In the next corner, turn right with the same field still on your right. Go through a gap into the next field and continue as before. In the next corner, go over a stile (which can be squeezed past) to a tarmac lane near a road junction.
2. Turn right on the lane to reach, on your right, the Mill Pond in 150m. The lane is a causeway across the side of the pond, going over a sluice, running between the buildings of Mill Farm. The farm specialises in rare pig breeds and you may see free-range piglets along the way. Continue ahead to a large metal gate by a 3-way fingerpost. Do not go through the metal gate but, immediately before it, turn right on a footpath and follow a wide sandy track across the field. The stone-lined surface suggests that you are on an old roadway.
3. When you reach the end of the field, bear right on a wide farmer’s path, avoiding a path beside the field on your left but, in just 20m, go left through a gap into a large field (care! some walkers go wrong here as ploughing may obscure the paths) and take a diagonal path across it. In the far corner, go through a gap and take a diagonal path across the next field (possibly a fainter path following a vehicle track). In the far corner, go down the grass and through a large metal gate into a luscious green space. Immediately turn right at a rather decrepit 4-way sign on a path through bushes, winding across an open area where springs erupt and where the best blackberries are to be found. Go up and over a stile and along the right-hand side of an attractive meadow, crossing under wires. Continue through a gap in the corner and similarly beside the next meadow, passing a tile-hung cottage on your right. Your path takes you over a stile, on a narrow path between fences and down steps to a road. Turn left on the road, immediately reaching the Lickfold Inn.
4. After a possible break, take the lane beside the pub, signposted Fernhurst, passing the old barns of Gentils Farm. The broad crest of Blackdown is in full view on your right. The road curves right and passes Lickfold House on your left. Just after the house, at a small fingerpost, go left on a wide grassy path running beside a lush meadow on your right. There is a small herd of noisy cattle corralled here in one of the fields but sometimes they may be in the field on this route, as when the author arrived, walking past them without any problems. But if you believe this might be a snag, simply stay on the lane, re-joining the walk after 750m at Hoewyck Farm. As you enter woodland, at a fingerpost, keep straight ahead, ignoring a left turn. The path crosses a deep stream and approaches a large old wooden gate. Go over a stile beside the gate and follow the right-hand side of a pasture. The edge curves left and reaches a large metal gate. Go through this gate (releasing a clasp on the chain) and continue similarly in the next pasture. Near the top right-hand corner, go right over a stile and go diagonally up the grass and through a large wooden gate, out to the lane.
5. Turn left on the lane, passing the old barn of Hoewyck Farm. Stay on the road as it bends right, ignoring a footpath on your left. Where the road bends left, leave it by turning right on a signposted bridleway. Continue through a (usually open) metal gate and follow the sandy path, gradually rising under hollies. After 300m on this path, go through a small wooden gate and, in 10m, go left through a large wooden gate into a sloping sheep pasture. (This tactic avoids the stile.) Go up the left-hand side of the pasture and veer right to cut the top left-hand corner. As you approach woodland, avoid a large wooden gate and go left over a stile just 10m after it.
6. Follow a clear path through Gentles Copse. The path goes over a 2-plank bridge and a stile into a large grassy meadow. Follow the left-hand edge and, after 300m, at a 4-way fingerpost, keep straight on, staying in the meadow. Shortly, go over a stile in the corner onto a woodland path. The path soon executes a right-left double bend and takes you over a 2-plank bridge with a rail. It meets a stony track with the gatehouse to the Black Down Park Estate on your left. Turn right on this track. The track comes out to a road. Your route is left on the road but first, just on your right, is a rather eccentric building.
7. Having turned left on the road, in 100m turn right on a rough tarmac lane. In 100m, opposite Guardian Cottage, turn right at a fingerpost into woodland. follow the path through bracken to a marker post where your path bends left. At a 3-way fingerpost, turn left. Your path emerges from the wood, across grass to a tarmac drive. Turn right on the drive and immediately left at a fingerpost on a woodland path and quickly bear left at another fingerpost. You meet the corner of a field by a bank, next to a stile, an old gate and a fence. Avoid the wide path straight ahead and instead go left over the bank and veer right on another good path.
8. Follow this woodland path for nearly 800m. On your left, the wood falls away quite steeply in places. Finally, you come through a swing-gate into an open meadow. Keep to the right-hand side of the first small meadow, leading to a small gate into another meadow. The spire of St Laurence Church is visible ahead. A swing-gate takes you into an orchard, followed by another swing-gate where your path veers a fraction left. You cannot help but notice, if you have a backpack, how tight these gates are! Two more swing gates, with an orchard in between, lead out to a tarmac lane. Turn left, leading immediately back to the village green where the walk began.
DISTANCE: 5½ miles
OS MAPS: Explorer 133 (Haslemere and Petersfield)
STARTING POINT: Lurgashall – car park or park in road
Lickfold Inn 01789 532535
Noah’s Ark 01428 707346