Some Wonderful Wintertime West Sussex Worths
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The hills north of the River Rother make some of the most remote and rugged countryside in West Sussex. Our survey of the hilly, heathy, honey-coloured-cottage country between Fittleworth and Petworth will culminate at the latter where we'll have an hour to explore the place and have lunch at one of a variety of options. Our route back is less hilly but still inspiring, with villages and views and cottages and croplands backed by the South Downs which seem to float along the horizon. I published and postponed a similar walk back in April but the prospect of eating and sightseeing in pretty Petworth with the 'Lads in the season of goodwill makes this walk's concept ripe for repackaging.
Petworth: A splendid sight seen from outside the town at a distance, and a rare one as so many English towns have careless building all around. Sitting on its sandstone ridge overlooking a surprisingly steep valley, the heart of the town is a tiny city, intricate and refined, despite the heavy traffic. Petworth House is so close to the town that it continually exerts its presence, making residents feel like peasants. All the streets around the market place have their treasures: Lombard Street with its inaccurately-named Tudor House of 1629. North Street has Somerset Hospital of 1653. The Town Hall is of 1793. Abundant Georgian houses too with suave frontages. St Mary's Church has a convoluted history from the C13 to 1947 when the spire was removed. It has a fine statue of The Third Lord Egremont by EH Bailey who sculpted Nelson for his column in London. At the top of East Street is a lampstand by Charles Barry. We won't have the time to visit Petworth Park, unfortunately, but we'll look across it on the walk.
Byworth: A fine series of timber-framed cottages of around 1600 along a quiet lane. The Black Horse pub is of a similar age, three storeys, refronted in the early C19. Brown paintwork indicates ownership by the Petworth Estate.
Hesworth: Just commons of heathland outside Fittleworth, but a great vantage point to admire the view across the Rother Valley to the South Downs while walking through the bracken, birch and heather.
Fittleworth: Scattered groups of cosy sandstone, carstone, timber-framed and tile-hung cottages around Fittleworth Common, but taken altogether quite a large village. St Mary's Church is rather disappointing: the large scale and noble details distract from a rather grim nave of 1871.
Plus some '-Hams':
Bedham: Just a farm, a derelict Victorian chapel and school and some fine houses set high on a wooded sandstone ridge in some of the hilliest and most remote scenery in Sussex. Just east of the hamlet is Brinkwells, a cottage where Sir Edward Elgar lived from 1917 to 1921, composing his much-loved Cello Concerto there in 1920.
Flexham Park: Mixed woodland, some ancient and left untouched, but mostly commercial and coppiced.
I love having dogs on my walks and this one is well-suited to them as there are few fields of livestock. However there will be some stiles and roads to cross. They may not be welcome in cafes in Petworth. A dog off a lead must be obedient.
The route: (click the word in red to see it):
Bedham Lane heading north out of Fittleworth and footpaths and other stretches of The Serpent Trail and Wey-South Path will take us west to Bedham, then Flexham Park and having crossed Kinsgpit Lane, Brinkshole Heath to descend into Petworth across Shimmings, entering it in Barton Lane right by the church . After an hour for lunch while exploring the town, we'll lead southeast to Byworth and follow Byworth Lane to Strood Farm. Having crossed the B-road we'll continue south to Highhoes Copse. Footpaths heading east to Hesworth will enable us to cross the Common back to the car park.
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(Picture credits: Dropping down fields to Petworth by Chris Thomas-Atkin; Deep Valley East of Petworth by SK53; Overlooking grounds around Mockbeggars by Dave Spicer; Near Fittleworth Common by Frank Boait; Cottages, Upper Street, Fittleworth by Simon Carey; Sweet Chestnut coppice by Dave Spicer; Path to Fittleworth Wood by Dave Spicer; Former church and school, Bedham (1) by Stephen Richards; Looking north-northwest along East Street by Basher Eyre; Fine Georgian house in East Street by Basher Eyre; George House, Petworth by David960; Somerset Lodge and Somerset Hospital by David960; Lombard Street, Petworth by Roger Cornfoot; Byworth Street Scene by Peter Whitcomb; High Hoes Cottages by Robin Webster; Hesworth Common by Janine Forbes. All photos are copyrighted but are above credited to their copyright holders and are licensed for further reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).)
What to bring
Well-fitting, waterproof walking boots with thick socks are essential as there will be some mud and considerable climbing.
If rain is forecast wear a coat, and if serious rain is, waterproof trousers. Consider wearing gaiters too. Avoid wearing jeans as they become heavy and chafing when wet.
If the weather is cold, bring a hat, scarf and gloves as appropriate and employ layering with a base layer, secondary layer, fleece and coat, perhaps insulated.
Food & drink
I normally organise pub lunches on my winter walks but restrictions around Covid-19 have prevented this. Instead, we'll arrive at Petworth at lunchtime and have an hour to independently explore the town and have lunch. Cafes, pubs, shops and benches abound.
Please bring lunch with you if you don't want to get it in Petworth.
Do bring plenty of drinks and snacks otherwise.