1 - From the bus stop or car park, opposite the flint-faced church and donkey wheelhouse in Stanmer village, turn right into the main street beside the clapboard-faced barn. Home Farmhouse is on the left.
Walk up the street, passing more farm buildings, to the village shop and tearooms. It is too early to stop for a snack, so continue up the road ahead – we will return.
The village was re-developed by the earls of Chichester in the mid to late-18th century, when the existing flint cottages were constructed for estate workers. Across the grassy bank and wall on the left, in the paddock, are bumps in the ground that are evidence for the earlier village settlements. The village was occupied by the military during the Second World War.
Continue up the street and at the top, immediately after the last cottages at a track junction, turn right beneath a sturdy horse chestnut tree and in a few paces pass through a bridle gate. Climb up the short, steep bank ahead, (tough going with a baby buggy) coming to a more level meadow after 50 yards.
2 - At the top of the steeper part of the climb, bear half-left on a faintly trodden path across the sloping field, heading for the opposite fence and woodland. A gate in the fence comes into view, head for this and pass into Millbank Wood. Walk ahead, passing a left turn, and after about 100 yards, at a wider path junction, turn left.
The wide path heads north for half a mile through the sheltering and pleasant woodland to a four-way path junction in a clearing. Take the opposite path, following a north-westerly direction in the continuing woodland.
Climb the path in the coppiced cover, bearing left as the boundary wall of the estate comes into view on the right. Ignore a side turning, pass a marker post and keep direction up the wide path to a fork in the path and second marker post, just after a stand of pine trees. The buildings of High Park Farm are off to the right, through the trees.
3 - Take the left branch (blue arrow) into Highpark Wood, in a few paces cross over a track, continuing ahead for 400 yards on the bridleway. At a marker post and track junction turn right for a few yards to a second post, close to the Ditchling Road. There turn left through the woodland. Head south for about a quarter of a mile, parallel to the road, finally passing through a bridle gate into a hilltop meadow.
Keep direction, passing right of a dewpond and then follow the track along the edge of Piddingworth Plantation. From the end of the plantation walk ahead, with views opening on both sides. In a quarter of a mile, at a hedge opening, go left for a few paces and then turn right through a bridle gate into Upper Lodge Wood.
Follow the woodland path for a quarter of a mile to a surfaced woodland drive, with the Upper Lodges of the estate off to the right. (If you’ve had enough walking at this stage turn left, following the drive to Stanmer village for tea.)
4 - Cross over the drive, passing around the barrier onto the woodland track and take the left branch in a few yards. The path follows a sweeping left turn and after about one-third-of-a-mile arrives at a clearing that serves as a car park for the many dog walkers who use the park.
Keep to the left side of the clearing, behind the low earth mounds and walk ahead a few yards. Ignore the turnings immediately left, and take the track ahead which takes the steeper descent, branching quarter-left into the continuing woodland.
The wide track passes between banks into the lower level of Stanmer Woods and after about 400 yards comes to a path junction, with a gate off to the left, cautioning access restriction.
5 - Follow the lower level path (ignore the steeper path going right) with the fence and wall bordering the Stanmer Nursery of Brighton and Hove Council on the left – a good place to buy bedding plants in the spring.
Keeping to the lower level path you come to a small, square marble stone on the left, a memorial to a pet dog. There are other memorials dotted about. Perhaps these canny canine companions were used to pursue poachers nicking the earl’s game or to frighten young couples on their first, friendly, furtive fumble amongst the furze.
From this point, bear left through the bushes into the parkland at the back of Stanmer House. This secluded area has magnificent trees that have provided excellent climbing for many generations of young visitors and the enclosure is a wonderful place to picnic on a summer’s day. Walk down the slope, passing between the lofty Cedars of Lebanon, cousins of which, from their native land, were used to build King Solomon’s temple.
The house was built around an earlier dwelling in 1722 for the Pelham family, later to become the earls of Chichester. It is said that a mistress of King George IV once lived at the house – it must have been a real problem finding enough accommodation to house your doxies.
Go to the right of the house and garden, pass through iron gates and cross over a small car park, arriving back in the main park.
Head half-left across the parkland, towards the church, bearing right around the pond and turning left along the roadside towards the car park and bus stop.
To get into the festive spirit, return to the village tearooms for a serious muffin with a sprig of holly, Christmas pudding in batter, or a Mars bar basted with goat’s milk and served on a bed of Puy lentils.
Distance/Time: Four miles taking two hours
By Car: Take signed turn-offs from the A27 road and drive through Stanmer Park to the large car park close to the church. Start point grid reference TQ337096
By Public Transport: Bus service 78 runs from Brighton town centre into Stanmer park on Sundays and Bank Holidays during the winter season, with a drop-off point close to the village church. Travel details from www.traveline.info, call 0871 2002233
What’s underfoot: Generally good paths, although expect some muddy sections in the winter. One short, steep climb in stage one, otherwise easy walking. Possible with a baby backpack and a cross-country baby buggy – a steep climb in stage one but otherwise okay on well-graded paths
Thirsty Work: Refreshments available at Stanmer Tearooms in the village street
So you don’t get lost: OS Explorer Map 122 plus a compass for general direction
Click here for a full-sized map of the Stanmer circular walk