Main Walk: 21 km (13.0 miles). Five hours walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 10 hours.
Short Walk, starting in Amberley: 16¼ km (10.1 miles). Three hours 45 minutes walking time.
Short Walk, finishing in Amberley: 12¼ km (7.6 miles). Two hours 45 minutes walking time.
Explorer OL10 (previously 121). Pulborough, map reference TQ043186, is in West Sussex, 18 km SW of Horsham.
4 out of 10 (less for the Short Walks).
The Main Walk climbs gently at first to give a panoramic view of the South Downs from the low hills above Pulborough. It joins the Wey-South Path to go past two medieval bridges across the canalised River Arun, which was part of an important transport link between London and the South Coast in the early 19thC. The walk then goes across the extensive water meadows of Amberley Wild Brooks, an important area for bird-life and wetland plants, coming to the unspoilt village of Amberley for a pub lunch.
In the afternoon, the walk continues through Parham Park with its Elizabethan manor house, then past the gliders at Parham Airfield. Towards the end of the day you have the opportunity to spend some time bird-watching in the RSPB Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve at Wiggonholt, which has a tearoom in its Visitor Centre, before a final stretch alongside the River Arun back to Pulborough.
The water meadows are deliberately flooded in winter and can be boggy at any time of the year after heavy rain. This walk should therefore only be attempted in relatively dry conditions.
In the afternoon you can save 3½ km by heading directly to Pulborough Brooks along a quiet country lane, although this omits an attractive section through Parham Park.
Directions are included (in both directions) for a route between Amberley village and its station, allowing you to do a Short Walk by either starting or finishing at this station. This link route is essentially the same as the end of Book 1 Walk 32 (Arundel to Amberley).
At Cootham you could switch to the end of either Extra Walk 8 (Billingshurst to Amberley) or Extra Walk 11 (Amberley Circular), which take different routes up to the South Downs ridge on their way to Amberley station.
For these additional options you will need to bring the appropriate book or print the directions from the relevant walk document.
There is a half-hourly service from Victoria to Pulborough (hourly in the evening and all day on Sundays), taking about 1 hour 15 minutes. Amberley is the next station down the line, but not all trains stop there; its service is always hourly.
If you want to take a bus from Cootham or Pulborough Brooks to Pulborough station, Compass 100 runs hourly up to around 5.40pm (Mon–Sat). At Pulborough Brooks the bus stop is on the A283 by the entrance to the Nature Reserve.
If driving, the station car park at Pulborough costs £5.50 Mon–Sat, £2 Sun (2016).
Take the train nearest to 09:40 from Victoria to Pulborough.
On the Main Walk the suggested lunchtime pub (after 9¼ km, on the road out of Amberley) is the Sportsman (01798-831787), which serves good food and has fine views over the water meadows from its terrace. This is also a possible early lunch stop on the Short Walk from Amberley but the Crown Inn (01903-742625) in Cootham (after about 9 km) is more suitably placed.
The Main Walk's original lunch stop (the Black Horse in Amberley) closed in 2012 and despite a local campaign shows no signs of reopening.
If you start late from Pulborough and are doing one of the shorter variations you could stop for an early lunch at the White Hart (01798-874903) at Stopham Bridge.
The RSPB Visitor Centre (01798-875851) at Pulborough Brooks is conveniently situated for tea and (like the Sportsman) has fine views over the water meadows. Its tearoom stays open until about 4.30pm.
There are a couple of tearooms in Pulborough itself, but at the time of writing they both close at 4pm or even earlier. The Oddfellows Arms (01798-875282) pub is just off the walk route as you enter the town, about 1½ km from the station. The Chequers Hotel on the A29 is closer, but doesn't go out of its way to attract walkers. There is no pub or café near the station but the taxi office there has been known to sell hot drinks and cakes (although it doesn't seem to advertise the fact).
If you are finishing at Amberley and want to stop for tea in the village, the Amberley Village Tea Room (01798-839196) is recommended (but is closed in winter, from November to February). At Houghton Bridge, near the station, you can choose between the Riverside Café & Restaurant (01798-831066) and the nearby Bridge Inn (01798-831619).
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).
Walk Options ( Main | Short )
Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.
- Main Walk (21 km)
Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.
If you are doing the Short Walk from Amberley station, start at §5.
- Pulborough Station to Stopham Bridge (2¼ km)
- Stopham Bridge to Greatham Bridge (2¾ km)
- Greatham Bridge to Amberley (3½ km)
- Amberley to Amberley Station (3¾ km)
- Amberley Station to Amberley (3½ km)
- Amberley to West Lodges (3 km)
- Through Parham Park (2 km)
- Parham Park to Hurston Lane (1¾ or 2 km)
- Route across airfield (1¾ km)
- Route via Cootham (2 km)
- Hurston Lane to Pulborough Brooks (1¾ km)
- West Lodges to Pulborough Brooks direct (2 km)
- Through Pulborough Brooks (1 km)
- Pulborough Brooks to Pulborough Station (3 km)
- Detour to the Oddfellows Arms (+200m)
Turn left out of the station and take a footpath on the other side of a chain link fence up to a road. Turn left to cross the railway and follow the road round to the left, then keep ahead on a footpath across a field. At Park Farm join the Wey-South Path, initially along the edge of a wood and then down to cross the A283 by Stopham Bridge.
After leaving the station building, do not go down to the main road but instead turn left. Head briefly towards the main car park but almost immediately veer right by a small bicycle shelter to get onto a public footpath on the other side of a chain link fence, with the car park on your left and a service road to an industrial estate on your right.
In 300m this footpath comes out onto a minor road by a railway bridge. Turn left, crossing over the railway, and follow the road as it curves round to the left. Where the road bends to the right after 300m, bear left onto a public footpath which climbs gently through a field, heading W. There are soon fine views of the South Downs and Pulborough Brooks on your left.
In 350m the path passes a WWII pillbox and heads into some trees, where it turns left and then right to meet the driveway to Park Farm. Cross over the driveway and head uphill on a broad path with wooden railings on the right. You are now on the Wey-South Path1, which you will follow all the way to Amberley.
At the top of the rise turn left at the bridleway sign just inside the wood, with Park Mound2 up on your right. Follow this attractive path gently downhill near the edge of the wood for just under 1 km, ignoring ways off, until it descends to meet the A283. Cross over this main road carefully, take the footpath opposite and turn left on a lane to go past the White Hart pub (with a fine view of the medieval Stopham Bridge3 on your right).
Go past the White Hart pub on a lane which curves round to the left. Just before it joins the A283, bear right onto a footpath which goes across fields and footbridges to a pumping station. Follow the path as it turns past buildings, crosses the railway and comes to the A29. Cross over and take a footpath just off to the right which leads into and through a narrow strip of woodland and eventually reaches a minor road. Turn left to reach Greatham Bridge.
Continue on the lane as it climbs gently uphill and curves left to go parallel to the A283. Where the lane swings left to join the main road opposite a garden centre4, bear right and go through a kissing gate to take the public footpath heading SE. This goes past a bend of the River Arun and then crosses the river on a substantial footbridge. On the other side, bear left to head SE across a potentially muddy field, leaving it via a kissing gate. Go up some steps, over a bridge across the River Rother and past a pumping station.
Immediately after going through a new wooden gate, turn right at a public footpath sign along a concrete track. Turn left in front of an industrial building onto a path with a hedge on your right. Go through a metal fieldgate and turn right onto a broad track5. In 150m turn left at a public footpath sign and head for a bridge across the railway. Go over this and down to the A29.
Cross this busy road with great care and turn right along the pavement for 25m. Just past Priory Cottage, go over a stile on the left and follow the public footpath across a small field. On the far side go through a wooden kissing gate and down a slope into a long narrow strip of woodland, which follows the course of an abandoned stretch of canal. In just under 1 km this rather overgrown path comes out onto a lane, where you turn left to reach the other medieval bridge on this walk, Greatham Bridge.
On the other side of the bridge, cross a stile on the right to go onto a riverside path. This soon leaves the riverbank and climbs to reach a farm track. Follow the footpath signs around farm buildings and eventually down into Amberley Wild Brooks. Head south through these water meadows for 2 km, initially on a grassy path and later farm tracks. Turn left when you reach Amberley village.
After crossing the River Arun, go over a stile on the right and up to a path heading S along the riverbank. In 200m the path leaves the river and reaches a farm track, where you turn right. In 125m bear right at the top of the rise. In a further 200m follow the track round to the left by the entrance to Quell Farm House.
In 250m, having veered around some farm buildings, turn right onto a path in front of a wood. Follow this path around the wood, then down a slope to pass Hayles Barn. Go through a wooden fieldgate and turn left along a grassy path. Finally, go through a metal fieldgate and turn right. After all these twists and turns you are now in Amberley Wild Brooks.
You will be heading S through these water meadows for the next 2 km. Initially the path is quite faint and overgrown in places, with plank bridges and boardwalks over some boggy stretches, then widens into a broad grassy path between ditches. Later it merges with (potentially muddy) chalk tracks used by farm vehicles and turns half-right before curving back to the left to head S again.
Eventually the track climbs a short slope and comes out between houses onto a street (Hog Lane) in the very pretty village of Amberley. Turn left to reach a junction with High Street in 125m, with the Black Horse pub (closed 2012) ahead on your right.
The Main Walk continues ahead into East Street (coming to the Sportsman pub in a further 800m); the Short Walk turns right into High Street (with the Village Tea Room 125m down this road).
To continue the Main Walk, go to §6 (or follow the Short Walk directions below as far as you like to explore the village and then return the same way).
Go through the centre of the village on Church Street and continue on a footpath over the railway line and across the water meadows to the River Arun. Turn left and follow riverside paths to the B2139, crossing the river at the footbridge after 1 km. Go across Houghton Bridge, passing several possible refreshment places, then back under the railway and up the station approach road.
Amberley station is 1¾ km away and you could reach it directly by simply heading south and turning right onto the B2139. The recommended route is essentially the same as that in Book 1 Walk 32 (Arundel to Amberley).
For the Short Walk, head S down High Street, passing the Village Stores. With the Amberley Village Tea Room ahead on your left, turn right into Church Street and follow this lane W through the village. Towards the far end you pass St Michael's church6 and continue down a short slope. This takes you onto a path going below the walls of Amberley Castle7 and then to the railway line.
Cross the tracks carefully and continue on a grassy path between hedges. In 250m you go over a stile into the water meadows and turn half-left as indicated. You cross several more stiles and ditches as you make your way across these meadows (you may have to detour around some boggy areas). Eventually you climb onto an embankment and turn left along it, with the River Arun on your right.
Continue along the riverbank for just over 1 km to the substantial footbridge carrying the South Downs Way and turn right onto it. On the other side turn left and follow the riverside path to reach the B2139 at Houghton Bridge.
Turn left onto the road, taking great care as there is no pavement and the road is quite busy. On the other side of the bridge the Riverside Café is on your left and the Bridge Inn on your right. For the station, continue along the B2139 under the railway bridge and turn right up the station approach road. Cross the footbridge for trains to London.
Go down to the B2139 and turn left under the railway bridge, then immediately right onto a footpath. This soon comes to the River Arun and you follow the riverside path for 1½ km. Opposite Bury church, turn right and head east across the water meadows and continue through Amberley village to East Street.
Leave the station at the London end of the platform, coming out opposite a small building with toilets and an exhibition about the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre, which is worth a look. Go down the station approach road and turn left briefly onto the B2139, passing under the railway bridge.
On the other side immediately turn right onto a gravel track, signposted as a footpath. Go over a stile and follow the path round to the left behind a caravan park. 200m from the road you reach an embankment and climb onto it to continue alongside the River Arun, heading NW. You now follow this riverside path for 1½ km, keeping the river on your left and passing the substantial footbridge carrying the South Downs Way.
Opposite Bury church on the other side of the river, turn right at a yellow footpath marker on a post to head E across the water meadows (you may have to detour around some boggy areas). You cross several stiles and ditches, turning half-left after the second stile. A third stile takes you onto a grassy path between hedges which leads to the railway line.
Cross the tracks carefully and continue on the path, soon going below the walls of Amberley Castle7 and then up a short slope onto a lane going past St Michael's church6. Continue along Church Street through the picturesque village of Amberley, ignoring side streets. At a T-junction in front of the Amberley Village Tea Room, turn left. Go past the Black Horse pub (closed 2012) and turn right into East Street.
Head east out of the village on a minor road, in 800m passing the Sportsman pub. After the last house turn left onto a footpath which goes down through fields and past the disused Rackham Mill to reach a wood. Turn right and go along its edge to emerge on Rackham Street by the Old School. Turn left and follow this past a road junction to the entrance to Parham Park.
Head E out of the village along East Street. In 800m you come to the Sportsman pub on your left, the Main Walk's suggested lunchtime stop. In a further 500m, soon after the last house on the left (Whiteoaks), turn left off the road onto a public footpath. This goes half-right downhill across a large field, heading NE.
At the field boundary go through a hedge and across a ditch on a plank bridge. Keep ahead across a smaller field and go over a stile in the corner onto a path through a small wood. This emerges between a house and a disused outbuilding, Rackham Mill. After passing these the path heads N towards a wood, with views across the water meadows on your left.
In 250m the path crosses a brook on a footbridge. On the other side turn right at a three-armed footpath sign to go along a path just inside the wood. In 200m there is a short cut going uphill to the left, but it is more interesting to keep ahead on the gravel path. This leads into a small open area, with sandstone rocks to the left and Rackham Old School on your right.
Go up to the road (Rackham Street) and turn left. In 150m keep ahead at a road junction (where the short cut mentioned above rejoins the route), following the sign to Wiggonholt. In a further 150m you come to a pair of lodges on your right, with an information panel about Parham Park.
If you are taking the direct route to Pulborough Brooks, omitting Parham Park, go to §10.
Go through the gate on the right to enter the park and follow the driveway past a lake. At a T-junction, keep ahead on a grassy path which then merges with the main driveway to Parham House. Follow this out to the A283.
Turn right and go through a kissing gate to the left of the main gate to enter Parham Park. Continue E on the driveway, in 500m passing a lake (with a view of Parham House8 beyond) and later going alongside a stone wall.
Where the driveway comes to a T-junction, with private roads off to both sides, keep ahead (slightly to the right) along a grassy path, as indicated by the “Footpath to Cootham” sign. In 250m the path curves left to merge with the main driveway to the house, which is now behind you on your right. Leave Parham Park at Douglas's Lodge and continue along the driveway9 to a junction with the A283.
Head east along the A283 and then either take the first footpath on the left across Parham Airfield, or continue into Cootham to visit the Crown Inn and then return to take a different footpath around the edge of the airfield. After the two paths meet continue along a grassy path which curves round to the left, then veers right through a small wood to Hurston Lane.
There is a choice of routes. The shorter and more interesting route goes across Parham Airfield where you may get to see gliders taking off and landing, but if you want to visit the Crown Inn you will need to take the alternative route via Cootham in §8b.
On both routes, take care in the vicinity of the airfield and stay on the signposted public footpaths. Gliders are quiet and can only take limited avoiding action if you stray into their path when landing.
Head E briefly along the A283. In 50m cross the main road carefully and go up the signposted footpath. Follow this enclosed path for about 200m, going over a stile and round to the left along the edge of Parham Airfield.
At the end turn right onto the grass, aiming for the right-hand edge of a field of crops up ahead. Head NE all the way along the edge of the airfield. In 800m you come to a three-way footpath signpost in front of some trees, where you turn left.
Head E along the A283. In 350m cross the main road carefully to the Crown Inn on the outskirts of Cootham.
After visiting the pub, briefly retrace your steps along the A283 but almost immediately turn right into Dukes Row, signposted as a footpath. Go up to a row of houses and turn left, parallel to the main road and heading W. At the end of the houses, follow the lane round to the right to go through an estate of (im)mobile homes.
At the end of these well-kept homes, bear left to take a potentially muddy footpath leading into a strip of woodland. In 50m ignore an unoffical path on the left going up to the airfield, staying on the main path as it crosses a brook and comes to a path junction.
Turn left here and follow the woodland path for 150m alongside (and later back over) the brook. Eventually you emerge onto Parham Airfield and continue around its edge, with trees on your right. In 350m keep ahead at a three-way footpath signpost near the trees.
Follow the right-hand field edge for 350m to a footpath signpost at the corner. Turn left onto an enclosed path and follow it for 200m, turning sharply right halfway along. At the end veer right to continue on a path heading N through a lightly wooded area. Go through a wooden gate and continue along this short woodland path to a minor road (Hurston Lane).
Turn left onto the lane and then immediately fork right onto a bridleway. Follow this up to a house and all the way round its garden to the other side. Join its driveway and follow it out to the A283. Cross over and bear right onto a bridleway which crosses a lane and goes into woodland. Keep right, staying close to a car park on the right, to come to the RSPB Visitor Centre at Pulborough Brooks.
Turn left onto the lane and then immediately fork right along a driveway at a bridleway sign, heading NW. In 600m ignore a footpath on your right and bear left with the path, with a large garden containing a long narrow pond coming into view on your left. At the end of the garden the path crosses a stream and turns sharply left to go back along its other side.
In 125m you pass a wooden gate on your left leading to a house and bear right onto its unsurfaced driveway, which in 400m comes out onto the A283. Cross the main road carefully and take the bridleway opposite (slightly to the right) onto the edge of Wiggonholt Common.
The RSPB has bought part of this wooded common and is restoring its original heathland habitat. There are gates leading onto new permissive paths through it which you could take. After crossing a lane onto the main part of the common make your way round to the Visitor Centre, on the north side of the common.
For the direct route, follow the bridleway as it bears right to run parallel to the main road for a short distance, then turns left. Go straight across a lane into more woodland, where the bridleway is less clearly defined. At some point you need to veer right towards the Nature Reserve's overflow car park (before the bridleway goes down a gully). After going along the edge of the wood for a short distance turn right at an RSPB sign for the Visitor Centre into the main car park. The Visitor Centre is ahead on your left, with a side entrance to the tearoom on the left of the building.
To continue the Main Walk, go to §11.
Continue north on Rackham Street until it comes to a T-junction. Go straight ahead onto a bridleway into Wiggonholt Common and follow it round to the right. At a three-way path junction fork left onto a path which leads up to the RSPB Visitor Centre at Pulborough Brooks.
Continue on this quiet road for a further 1½ km, heading N. In 800m the road bends slightly to the right and passes an unusual round house. You finally come to a T-junction where you go straight across Greatham Lane onto a bridleway into Wiggonholt Common.
The RSPB has bought part of this wooded common and is restoring its original heathland habitat. An information panel just inside the wood has a map showing new permissive paths on both sides of the public bridleway and you could detour onto these if you wish.
For the direct route, stay on the bridleway as it curves gently round to the right. 450m from the road, fork left at a three-armed footpath sign to climb a slope. At the top turn left at an RSPB sign for the Visitor Centre into the main car park for the Nature Reserve. The Visitor Centre is ahead on your left, with a side entrance to the tearoom on the left of the building.
Go onto the Visitor Centre's access road and turn left onto a footpath which leads to Wiggonholt church. Turn left onto a track going down to the RSPB reserve and follow a public footpath which runs across it.
If you are an RSPB member, or are prepared to pay the entrance fee, you can visit the reserve and its bird hides. Afterwards, make your way towards Little Hanger hide, where the public footpath which runs through the reserve crosses the perimeter path and leaves it on a wide chalky track. If you do this, complete the directions at §12.
To continue the walk on the right of way, leave the Visitor Centre to join the access road leading out of the main car park. Almost immediately, turn left onto a public footpath signposted to the Church, heading N between hedges. The path soon dips through a more open area and then climbs back up to the hamlet of Wiggonholt.
The footpath continuing north past the Rectory leads to the A283 just outside Pulborough (see the Walk Map) and in the past it would have been necessary to take this in very wet conditions, but the footpath on the main route has been improved and should be feasible even if the water meadows are partially flooded.
For the main route, turn left onto a broad grassy track in front of the tiny Wiggonholt church10, going past its lychgate. The track goes downhill and in 250m comes to the perimeter path around the RSPB reserve.
Go straight ahead through a wooden kissing gate into the large field opposite. Continue alongside the hedge and keep ahead where this turns right to head for a gap halfway along the right-hand field edge. Go through this gap into the next field and head NW towards its top left-hand corner. Go through another kissing gate and turn half-left onto a wide chalky track, crossing the perimeter path again and leaving the reserve.
Leave the RSPB reserve in its north-west corner on a footpath going across the water meadows. On reaching the River Arun, turn right onto its embankment. After crossing a footbridge over a stream, keep ahead towards houses and go up a lane to the A283. Turn left onto the main road, then go up a ramp on the right and cross a field to reach a lane. Turn left to go past the Chequers Hotel, across the A29 and along a lane. Just before a railway bridge, turn left onto a footpath leading to Pulborough station.
Go downhill on the track, heading NW. In 100m follow this round to the right and go through a kissing gate beside a fieldgate into the water meadows11. Turn half-left onto a low embankment across these (sometimes flooded) meadows. At the far end continue up to another embankment protecting the River Arun and turn right onto it.
Follow the path along the top of the embankment, with the river on your left. After 750m, where you can see a footbridge ahead on your left, drop down off the embankment to cross this bridge (over the River Stor). On the other side, go over an embankment and take the left-hand of two footpaths across the grass, heading N towards a row of houses on the outskirts of Pulborough.
After reaching a water channel and going alongside it for about 150m, the path climbs gently. Go through a new wooden gate and continue uphill on a narrow lane to the A283. Unless you want to detour to a pub, turn left onto the main road.
Turn right onto the main road. The pub is about 100m along the road, on the right. Return the same way and continue along the A283.
If you are in a hurry, you can reach the station directly by continuing through the town on the A283, but the route given below is more interesting and not much longer.
Cross over the main road at some point. 300m from the lane, just before Allfreys Wharf, bear right up a ramp and into a field. Follow the tarmac path up the slope and bear right at the top (with a fine view of the South Downs behind you) to reach a lane.
Turn left onto the lane and go past the Chequers Hotel to the A29. Cross this busy main road with great care and go straight ahead into Church Place (you can detour through the churchyard, but St Mary's church12 itself is usually locked).
In 250m, just before the lane crosses the railway, turn left onto the footpath the Main Walk started out on. In 300m veer right towards Pulborough station and go round the left-hand side of the station building to reach the platforms. Go under the tunnel to the far platform for trains to London.
- The 58 km Wey-South Path runs from Guildford to Houghton Bridge, following the route of the River Wey, the River Arun and the canal linking them.
- Park Mound on the right of the bridleway is the site of a motte and bailey fortress, built shortly after the Norman Conquest.
- Stopham Bridge was built in 1423, replacing an earlier wooden bridge. The central arch was raised in 1822 to allow barges to pass. The bridge was still being used by traffic until the new A283 road bridge was constructed alongside in 1986.
- The South Downs Light Railway Society operates an extensive 10¼" gauge railway in the grounds of the garden centre on the other side of the A283.
- This is the trackbed of an old railway line, which ran to Midhurst and Petersfield.
- St Michael, Amberley is Norman, with the nave and chancel arch dating from about 1100. There are medieval wall paintings to the right of the arch. The church was enlarged in 1230 and much altered in a Victorian restoration.
- Amberley Castle was built as a palace for the Bishops of Chichester soon after the Norman invasion. It was owned by a prominent Royalist in the Civil War and partly destroyed by Parliamentary forces. It is now a luxury hotel.
- Parham House is a fine example of an Elizabethan manor house, with a Walled Garden and 18thC Pleasure Grounds. Close to the house, St Peter's church dates from the 12thC and has interesting box pews and Gothic revival features.
- A Heritage Trail panel beside the driveway tells the history of some of the more eccentric owners of Parham House, and its connection with a famous variety of apple.
- Wiggonholt church (which is undedicated) has some original walls dating from around the 12thC.
- The RSPB has restored the original wetland habitat by carefully controlling the water levels in Pulborough Brooks, which had become drier after engineering works to the river in the 1960s.
- St Mary, Pulborough dates from the 12thC, although the nave is 15thC. The church is only open for a few hours each day and is usually locked after 4pm.
» Last updated: November 2, 2016