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Petworth Park circular
1 - From the lay-by on the A272 road, pass through the New Lodges entrance gates and walk along the wide, sandy track ahead. Follow the undulations of the approach-drive north-eastwards for 400 yards.
The landscaped nature of the park soon becomes apparent, with planted coverts providing shelter for wildlife, including the largest herd of fallow deer in England that wander within the sandstone walls of the estate.
On coming to a junction in the track, the Upper Pond is ahead and beyond, through islets and tree groves there is a glimpse of Petworth House. The 700-acre landscape was created by Lancelot “Capability” Brown for the 2nd Earl of Egremont. The Upper Pond offers a fine view to the house that was captured in the painting by JMW Turner, a frequent visitor.
2 - From the track junction, turn right along the southern edge of the pond and after about 250 yards divert left onto a grassy, trodden path across the front of the great house.
Head for the far side of the level parkland, arriving close to a sandstone wall enclosing the Pleasure Ground, just north of the house. Here, in times past, the great and their hangers-on promenaded through the grounds, frolicking, flirting and jangling their jewellery. It was a time of opulence and privilege, when those below stairs rarely encountered those whom they served apart, perhaps, from the occasional tryst behind the stables. The garden is not visited on this walk.
The estate and house are now superbly managed by the National Trust, the 3rd Lord Leconfield having bequeathed it in 1947 to avoid death duties; his heirs occupy a modest wing.
No longer does the hoi- polloi press snotty noses to the windows to marvel at the treasures inside. It is possible to visit and be awed by the interior and wonderful art collection, including paintings by Turner. Also included is a visit to the vast kitchen and service quarters where minions laboured over very hot stoves for their reward. Cream teas are now available.
3 - Towards the northern end of the wall, beside a junction in the track, with a tunnel leading off right, providing access to Petworth town, take the left branch, climbing Lawn Hill, bearing right, heading for the copse at the summit.
When in the copse, divert left towards a large ornamental vase atop a pedestal for an extensive view across the parkland and Upper Pond. Return to the path which passes through the copse, heading for the massive trunk of a fallen sweet chestnut tree, and descend the slope to re-join the wide track.
Turn left, keeping the boundary wall on the right, although diversions left may prove to be a distraction. The rise and fall of the main track leads to a sweeping descent.
4 - Just after a rightward bend, leave the main track and go left on a grassy path, towards cottages and outbuildings, known as The Kennels.
Continue northward, left of The Kennels, climbing a rising path that comes to the bank surrounding Lower Pond. The pond was engineered by Brown to drain marshland caused by the run-off from surrounding slopes.
Walk along the eastern shoreline, climbing a rise between plantations. Just before the last of the trees on the left is a diversion into the woodland on the right, towards the sandstone wall. It will lead to the Beelzebub Oak, where an iron plaque in the wall confirms the spot. This aged oak once marked the boundary of the local parish; those outside of the parish were considered to be in the diabolical darkness of Sussex, where, no doubt, great fun was had.
Return to the main track, resuming direction northwards, or continue in that direction through the grove of trees, climbing the slope ahead to Halfmoon Furze and the estate’s northern car park. Head for the information board, set beneath the trees.
5 - Follow the trodden path, behind the notice board, walking west along the edge of the woodland. The path descends into a shallow hollow, keeping the tree line on the right, then bears right up the slope ahead, arriving beside Shepherds Lodge, set into the boundary wall.
From the lodge, turn left down a wide service track that in 250 yards comes to a junction. Turn right onto the rising, grassy track and climb Monument Hill for about 300 yards, finally sweeping left around the west side of a hilltop copse.
On clearing the trees it is possible to see the imposing gatehouse up to the right. The big view, however, is on the left from above the steep drop known as The Concave. The sight takes in the wonderful parkland and distant views across the wooded Weald to the South Downs.
Earlier visitors to Petworth would have entered through the upper gate and been awed by the view beneath them as their carriage followed the drive down to the house.
Keep to the wide track above the sloping hillside as it begins a tree-lined descent, which soon becomes steeper and where care will be needed with baby buggies.
6 - At the foot of the slope turn right, climbing the well-defined track ahead. Walk beside an area known as The Paddocks, noting the Colt House across the meadow on the right. Keep to the main track over Snow Hill, through a beech copse, coming to an obvious leftward bearing at the edge of the woodland, and locate the faintly trodden path leading right – take this branch.
The path crosses parkland and the gatehouses at New Lodge come into view, head towards that objective (if you have stayed on the main track and missed the turn-off, continue to the main junction a short distance ahead, close to Upper Pond and turn right, back to New Lodge).
- Turner’s Sussex can be seen at Petworth House until March 13, Saturday to Wednesday, opens 10am, last admission 2.15pm. Tickets £10/£5, booking essential. Call 0844 2491895 or visit nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth
- Distance/Time: Four miles taking two hours
- By Car: New Lodges at Petworth Park are on the A272, half-a-mile west of the A272/A285 junction in Petworth. Park in lay-by or on forecourt, do not obstruct gates. (Not Cricket Lodge 300 yards from the road junction.) Start point GR SU967216
- By Public Transport: Bus service from Chichester passes along the A285 to Petworth. If alighting in Petworth town join walk at stage 3, otherwise it adds total of one mile to walk. Travel details from www.traveline.info, phone 0871 2002233
- What’s underfoot: Parkland walking with a couple of climbs, generally easygoing on well-defined paths but no path signs. Possible with a baby backpack and a cross-country baby buggy – care required on steep descent in stage 5
- Thirsty Work: Refreshments available in Petworth town and at Petworth House
- So you don’t get lost: OS Explorer Map 123 plus a compass for general direction