This is another walk in the Arun Valley giving access to great views of this special place. This is a “family favourite” walk, which we’ve been doing since the kids were small. It can be adjusted to suit any age/ability. This version is a 7 mile circular, but as with all these walks, take an OS Map, in this case I use Explorer 121, and you can easily make up a 20 mile circular walk! This version is also a relatively quiet walk, you may see one or two others but I always seem to have this to myself. Which is great, because you will invariably come across birds of all kinds, from Buzzards, Red Kites and Kestrels to Owls Skylarks, Swifts, Finches and I’ve even heard Nightingales.
The walk starts in the lovely village of Burpham. You park in the car park behind the pub, The George and Dragon. This area has been settled for many thousands of years. If you walk to the opposite side of the playing fields and look down across the valley you can see defensive dykes and areas where the Saxons built a fort. The Saxon word for “fort” is “burh”, hence the village name. Walk back out past the pub and across the road into St Mary’s Church. Follow the path through the churchayrd, to the road and turn right. Follow this lane to Peppering Farm, enjoying the views over towards Arundel. As you approach the farm, follow the road to the right and continue until you reach a T Junction; take the left road up to Peppering High Barn.
As you walk up this lane look to your right, the high ridge is Wepham Down and we shall be coming back down this on our return.
As you walk up the lane to the farm, keep your eyes and ears open for Buzzards and Red Kites. It seems scarcely credible that in 1995 there were fewer than ten breeding pairs of Buzzards in West Sussex. I can remember walking up this lane in the late 1990’s and you couldn’t move for bird watchers as they hoped to catch a glimpse of the first chicks to be born in this area of West Sussex. This was at the time of the 2nd Jurassic Park film, and when I asked a “Twitcher” what they were all looking for he replied, “We are waiting to see a Raptor”. He stopped, looked at me and read my mind “A Buzzard”, he said, saving me some embarrassment.
Since then the “Raptors” have gone from strength to strength, so much so, they don’t seem to excite the same interest.
Continue up the lane and turn right past the farm continuing up wards into the higher downs.
As you walk up the chalk lane, take time to stop and turn around. You will start to see more and more of the Arun valley and across to Bignor Hill.
After a mile and half you will come to a cross roads, take the right lane and enjoy a walk down a quiet track, with well established hedgerows on either side. Enjoy the sound of the birds in and around the hedges.
After a mile you will come to a T Junction. Take the right hand fork and walk up the hill for ca 200 yards. As you crest the hill you will come to a junction with several paths. Here you have options to extend the walk. But we are going to take the right hand track and follow it round a left hand bend. We are now on Wepham Down
You are now on an old medieval route, known as the Lepers Way. This linked the leper colony at Lee Farm/Lower Barpham, just over this hill from where we are standing, to the Church of St Mary at Burpham. There is a window in the church that allowed the lepers to view the service and be blessed by the priest. Not surprisingly this is known as the “Lepers Window”
As you walk along the chalk track you will see a path to your right. There is a three finger signpost here. We will turn down the right track presently, but for now we will continue our walk for a further half mile or so until we come to a neat bench dedicated to the memory of Dr. Dick Potts. This is known locally as the “Doctors Bench” and is a perfect place to take a break and sit and admire the views towards the sea, Arundel and Bignor Hill. For me this is a view that never fails to delight and encapsulates all that I love about the Downs.
When ready retrace your steps to the sign post and walk down Wepham Down. As you drop down through the field, try to spot the dew pond – its at the bottom of the valley some way to your right shoulder. This was restored a few years ago by the Angmering Estate and the South Downs National park Authority (SDNPA). It was here I saw Little Owls in the daylight. There is a footpath that runs quite close to the pond, so you can either divert to this – the path goes by Burpham High barn marked on the Explorer 121- or make it part of a walk next time you visit. Continue on your current path past the water pumping station on Coombes Lane. At the end of the lane, take the road back through Burpham village to St Mary’s Church and the George and Dragon.
Before stopping for refreshment, have a walk around the church and try and find the “Lepers Window”.
I can recommend the pub as a place to stop and have refreshments. It serves good food and local beer and is, I believe, run by the community, so well worth supporting.