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Eartham Woods and Gumber Farm Walk, South Downs

This is the fourth walk in the quartet of walks around Slindon and Eartham, in the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex, UK. Today we will start in the Eartham Woods car park, located at PO18 0LU and is about a mile north of the village and its pub, The George. The pub serves great food and drink and has a lovely garden. If you are thinking of eating there, please ‘phone ahead as it is very popular.

This walks is a 5 mile circular walk, with no styles. It is dog friendly, with just one field that sometimes has grazing sheep. 

The most difficult navigation on this walk is finding the correct path out of the car park! Stand with your back to the car park entrance and walk to the far right corner of the CP. You will see a well defined track leading up the slight incline and then bears to the right. Follow this path. As you descend the hill you will come to a broad, well made bridleway. Turn left and follow the bridle way.

As you walk along, enjoy the sounds of Eartham Woods.

You pass footpaths to left and right, leading off into the woods. These make for lovely walks and for exploring these woods in their own right. After half a mile or so the path starts to climb a hill and when you reach the top, there is a T Junction. Take the right hand path and continue up the track. As the path flattens when you reach the top, you will come to a cross roads.

Eartham Woods and Gumber Farm Walk, South Downs

Diversion: If you turn right, you can shorten this walk to ca 2.5 miles. Follow the path until you reach “6 Ways” a six fingered sign post. The main walk will pass here on the way back.

If you turn left, you can follow the track out of the woods, past a war memorial to a downed Dakota aircraft. At the crest of the hill you will have stunning views over Upwaltham and the Downs.

When you have enjoyed the views, return to the cross roads.

Eartham Woods and Gumber Farm Walk, South Downs

Otherwise continue straight ahead and as you come out of the woods enjoy the view to your right, over Slindon Woods and Gumber Farm with views to the Channel.

Continue on this path until you come to a gate on your right hand side. Go through this gate. Please take care, as this field may continue grazing sheep. So, if you have a dog, now is the time for the lead.

You are now on “Stane Street” the Roman Road from Chichester to London.

Eartham Woods and Gumber Farm Walk, South Downs

Continue straight and shortly you will see Gumber Farm to your left, nestled in a fold in the Downs.  Here is a good place to reflect on the nature of the Downs and how it has been created by humans working the land, allowing a diverse, rich and rare wildlife to develop, such as the flower of Sussex; the round-headed Rampion and Adonis blue butterfly. 

Eartham Woods and Gumber Farm Walk, South Downs

This area has been inhabited since the before Bronze Age.  As well as farming, quarrying for flint took place, in this area. Nearby are “Barrows” – ancient burial mounds. The woods of Slindon and Eratham were felled for the war effort in WW1 and 2 and are now being replanted by the National Trust. More detail of which can be found in the “Rise of the North Wood” project. 

If you look carefully at Gumber Farm you will seen remains of the decoy airfield built in WW2 as a decoy to the airfield at Tangmere. The farm now houses a “Bothy” or bunk house and a basic campsite for those exploring the Downs or walking the South Downs way

Eartham Woods and Gumber Farm Walk, South Downs

We continue along Stane Street until we reach  the 6 fingered sign post, “6 Ways”. For those unfamiliar with this area of West Sussex, it does seem to have a micro climate created by the South Downs and the two rivers, the Arun and the Adur. I used to commute to London and was often surprised by the frost and snow on the ground as the train passed beyond the Downs. The seasons are generally benign, with rare extremes: Springs and Summer are generally mild and dry, but Autumn and Winter, whilst mild can be very wet. They say Eskimos have 40 words for snow, well here in Sussex we have 30 words for mud! Words such as Clodgy, Gawm,Gubber, Pug and SlabHere is a full list with definitions.

Eartham Woods and Gumber Farm Walk, South Downs

I took the picture of the sign post during a particularly wet spell and in a spectacular down pour.  How many types of mud  did my dog Barney acquire on this walk?

Eartham Woods and Gumber Farm Walk, South Downs

Continue straight ahead for the next mile or so, eventually you will come to a “Y shaped” junction, take the right fork and after 50 or so meters, take the path to your left. This will bring you to the car park.

Hopefully, you will have time to have a drink at the George and reflect on the four walks around Slindon and Eartham. If you use the OS Map OL10, you will see the many possibilities this area has for walking – from linking all four walks up to create a full day 15-20 mile hike, to short explorations with youngsters to see the Blue Bells or kick the fallen leaves in Autumn. Whatever you decide to do, I hope these four blogs, provide impetus to come and visit the area and explore the rich countryside in more detail

Written by Mick Heywood

Mick enjoys travelling, walking and hiking, in the UK and abroad. He lives in West Sussex and is keen to share his favourite walks in the South Downs National Park

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