Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Henley to Petworth (Serpent Trail 5)

The Duke of Cumberland pub, Henley

We return to the Serpent Trail with Viv and Giles for the first time since June last year, some previous planned returns having had to be cancelled. We set off from the excellent Duke of Cumberland pub at Henley and are soon deep in dark pine woods. The lack of views is one of the weaknesses of the Serpent Trail. Eventually, we pass a house and there is a bit of open view across its back garden.

At Leggatt Hill, things suddenly open up: an area of Birch wood has been cleared and there are great view south towards the South Downs, with lovely native bluebells in the foreground.

We head downhill and skirt the edge of a field of cows to reach a road. Soon we are in sunny light woodland - it seems so welcoming!

This gives way to an even lighter copse of Silver Birch with primroses and bluebells at the wayside. We see a Peacock butterfly.

We emerge out of this into an area of open fields, the first on the Trail so far, and pass an extravagant barn conversion. Soon there a view back towards our old friend Black Down, with a splendid oak tree offering some foreground interest.

Then it is back into the woods at Upperton Common. There are many dense areas of beautiful Bluebells to the side of the muddy track

Eventually, this track begins to climb quite steeply and suddenly we emerge at Upperton Folly on the north-western corner of Petworth Park.

We follow the walls through the village of Upperton and into Tillington. Legend has it that All Hallows church was designed by the great painter J M W Turner, who famously painted at Petworth House. The tower with its Scots Crown was built in 1807, but parts are Norman.

We intended to divert from the official route and go through the Park but somehow missed our entry and found ourselves carrying on beside the walls to go in through the New Lodges entrance. After passing the Upper Pond we headed towards the house. It was a castle of the Percy family, but was rebuilt in 1688-96. This is the west front which, according to Pevsner, was once crowned by a dome. Unusually, the architect is unknown.

Petworth is now owned by the National Trust and although it is easy to wander into the Park, to get out through the reception building you have to show your membership card (there is a subway for non-members).

You come out by the church of St Mary with its unusual brick tower on a stone base. The base is medieval, but the tower was added in 1827.

Just round the corner is Somerset Hospital, almshouses founded in 1746 by converting an early 16th century house.

That was the end of the walk and we repaired to the Cumberland Arms for a late afternoon refreshing glass of shandy.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

Distance: 7.8 miles. Distance now covered 31.9 miles.

Map: Explorer 133 (Haslemere and Petersfield).

Rating: four stars.

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