Parham Park and Rackham Banks Walk, South Downs

Rackham banks and Parham Park

This is a relatively easy circular walk of 6 miles with one ascent. But the path zig zags up the hill and never feels steep, especially if you are looking at the views across the Arun valley and Amberley Wild Brooks.

To me, this walk captures, as Rudyard Kipling put it, what the “blunt, bow-headed, whale backed” Downs are all about – rolling hills, panoramic views, unspoilt chalk grassland bearing unique plant and wildlife.

The walk will also pass-through Parham Park and by one of the finest Elizabethan Houses in the country.

The walk starts in the village of Rackham. Parking is free but on the roadside at RH20 2EU. Please note some maps will show a carpark nearby but recently this has been closed to the public.

view from top of Rackham Banks

Amberley Wild Brooks and RSPB reserve.

If you have time, it is worth taking a slight detour – walk past the old schoolhouse and follow the well-made path for ca 0.5km and enjoy the views over the Wild Brooks and see what birds you can spot.

There are also herds of deer in this area and if you come during rutting season you can see one or two magnificent stags, displaying their antlers in all their glory.

It is well worth a visit to the RSPB site nearby at Uppertons Barn Visitor Centre, Wiggonholt, Pulborough RH20 2EL. 

SDW Rackham banks

Rackham Banks

Follow Rackham Street towards the B2319 for ca 1km, enjoying the sight of the Downs starting to dominate the view in front of you.

Take care as you approach the B2319, it can be a busy road. We will need to turn left and walk down this road for ca 50 metres, then cross and take the signed posted footpath.

The path will take us up to the top of the downs at Rackham banks and join the South Downs Way. The path zig zags up the hill and allows you to see across the Arun valley and along the downs towards Bignor Hill. Take your time and enjoy the views.

When you reach the top, you are standing on an ancient cross dyke, dating from the late Bronze Age. This is also a good place to sit and enjoy the panoramic view across Sussex – take in both the countryside and views of the channel down to the Isle of Wight.

view over Amberley Wild Brooks

Kithurst Hill

Now follow the south Downs Way (SDW) path eastwards. The SDW runs for some 100miles from Winchester in the west, to Eastbourne in the East and was opened in 1972, becoming the UK’s fifth national trail. We will be walking just over a mile on the SDW to Kithurst Hill.

As you progress along the path, look to the north and down into the countryside below you, and you will see the grounds of Parham House. 

You will also be accompanied by Red Kites and in all probability gliders from the local flying club at Storrington. 

Walk through the car park at Kithurst Hill and take the footpath down the hill.

view of Parham House from SDW

Parham House and Park

The path descends through woods which are alive with bluebells and scent of wild garlic in Spring. You then walk across open meadows until you, again, reach the B2319. Follow the road to the right for ca 100meters and taking care cross the road and walk-up Clay Lane, a quiet country road, passing by some lovely old farmhouses.

At the T junction turn left and walk into the 300 acres of Parham Park.

The name Parham is thought to derive from the Old English “perham”, meaning “pear enclosure”.

Parham Park

The land was granted by King Henry VIII to Robert Palmer of Henfield, and on 28th January 1577 the foundation stone of the current House was laid by his two-year-old grandson Thomas, a custom thought to bring good luck.

When he grew up, Thomas sold Parham to Thomas Bishopp, whose descendants lived here for eleven generations until 1922, when it was sold to the Hon. Clive and Alicia Pearson, who, over the next 40 years, restored the House.

They opened Parham, with its Walled Garden and Pleasure Grounds, to visitors in 1948. Parham is now owned by a Charitable Trust, although the granddaughter of the Pearson’s still lives at Parham.

Ice House

The Park is a delight to walk through and includes a four-acre Walled Garden, herbaceous borders, a historic greenhouse, vegetable garden, orchard, and a 1920s Wendy House.

I like the black door set in the hill side – not a Hobbit House, but an ice room!

Access to the Park is Free, but should you wish to visit the House and Walled gardens a charge will apply – see Parham House website for full details.

Parham House

The walk through the gardens takes in many ancient trees and past ponds. As you approach the House, follow the path that runs alongside the walled garden and across the parkland until you pass through the Eastern Gate house.

Turn left and walk along the country lane back to your car. 

This is a fairly leisurely walk which allows time to stop and take in the beauty of the South Downs and appreciate some of the unique features of this remarkable landscape.

view of south downs

Route Details

Walk Duration: 2 – 4 hours

Parking Postcode: RH20 2EU

Share with your friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *