A Lavington Circuit (9.5 miles)
From: A circular walk from Lavington Common to Duncton with lunch at Graffham Church. Parking is available at the Lavington Common NT Car Park. Postcode for those of you with satnavs: GU28 0QL. It's a large car park, but on the day we went, there were Ramblers, a large NT work party and a search and rescue practice team.
Length: 9.5 miles.
Average Walk Time: Around 5 hours.
Terrain: Undulating. There is one small hill before coffee, but it's not too long or too steep.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: Two wonderful country houses and some great views across the South Downs.
Leave the car park by the path on the right side (as you enter) with a barrier marked "Circular Woodland walk, 20 minutes". Almost immediately, turn left along a well-defined and well-marked path for the Serpent Trail. The full trail is 64 miles and runs from Haslemere to Petersfield through many of the heathland commons. It's a very wiggly (serpentine?) route, as the two towns are only 11 miles apart as the crow flies (assuming it hasn't been bitten by an adder). However, we're going to stay on it for a few miles, so enjoy the good path and route while you can.
Head East across Duncton Common for 1.5 km until you hit the main road. The heathland is peppered with paths, but keep going straight. There are no problems route finding, but if in doubt, look for the white circular signs with the purple serpent waymarkers.
At the main road (the A285) turn left and then right after 100m. The path is signed. 150m more and you cross a small road. The public footpath sign points you down a small farm road, which you follow. Keep going to the very imposing Burton Park, where the Serpent slithers off. The Park house is very impressive, with its own private estate church. Unusually, the church is dedicated to St Richard, The house itself was built in the late 1820s and has been a stately home for the Gorings, the Biddulphs and the Cortaulds. In the Second World War, it was requisitioned by the Army and then became a girls' boarding school. It is now split into private apartments.
After revelling in the glory, turn right and continue down the estate road, ignoring the inviting footpath. 150m past the house, the estate road turns right, but you continue straight on, using a well-marked footpath. 500m more and the path starts to go uphill. Coffee beckons, so take a deep breath and slog up. The climb is only 30m, and when you reach a T-junction, you can pause for a rest. That's the only climb of the walk done, so celebrate. After a break, turn right at the T and head downhill. 150m more and the path jigs left (at a small road) and almost immediately right again. Cross a field to Manor Farm, where you walk through the farm and take a left turn to the large road ahead. BE CAREFUL crossing the road. There is a nasty bend and the A285 can be busy. Assuming you cross the road successfully, take the tiny road, Beechwood Lane, opposite, which turns right.
After 1 km, turn right into the impressive grounds of Seaford College. Set around the former Lavington Park Hall. This is another 18th-century country house, taken over by the Army in the war, which was bought by a school. However, in this case, the school retains the property and has made a grand job of developing the site. Seaford College is extremely well appointed.
The facilities are impressive, but we have to continue. Pass the college and stay on the road, enjoying the wonderful views over the downs to your right. Eventually, you meet a small road, where you turn right and almost immediately have Graffham church on your left. HOORAY! It's lunchtime. Have a quick look at St Giles, dating from the 1870s, although there are four late-Norman pillars. OK, enough rest! Time to go on. Walk around the corner of the church on the road and continue West. 100m more and take a footpath on the left when the road turns right.
200m more at Tagents Farm, you appear to have the choice of the farm track or a footpath. Your choice – both end up at the same place 200m further on. Keep going along the track (can be muddy), until a magnificent blockage of trees and brush pushes you out through a gate on the right onto a field. Anyone would think the farm owner doesn't want you to go on any more. 200m past the blockage and the gate, you arrive at a field gate with a choice of routes. Turn right to the farm building (50m) where another gate takes you into the farmyard. At the building, turn left, walk around the corner, and double back on yourself on the other side of the barn into a courtyard. This you cross diagonally (it's not as confusing as it sounds). Leave Hayland Farm on its track, heading North.
The track turns half-right a couple of times, until it reaches a minor road at Woodcote Farm. Now the road forks half left, but you take a footpath on the right, between a farm gate and a gated track into Marsh Farm. A soggy field takes you to a pair of stiles, which frame a bridge across a stream. The second stile negotiated, turn left and walk for 200m across a stream to a final stile and the minor road into Graffham village. Here you turn left and follow the minor road.
Now look for the War Memorial (on your right) and turn right here down a track. 500m more and you get to the village of Upper Norwood. Go straight ahead on the road and look for a well-signed footpath on the left (100m from the corner where you joined the road).
You're on the home straight! After 150m turn left on a farm track, then after another 150m turn right, ignoring the tracks into the NT land. Pass through the farm and almost immediately take a path/track on your left. Enjoy the last 400m walking across Lavington Common and there's the Car Park ahead of you.
I hope you enjoyed this glorious walk across the rare heathland and the views. I'd like to thank Ian of Farnham Ramblers who showed us around this glorious route. Great day, thanks, Ian.