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Ebernoe Common and Balls Cross

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Ebernoe Common and Balls Cross
Author: Claire, Published: 17 Jul 2017 Walk Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
West Sussex, Petworth
Walk Type: Woodland
Ebernoe Common and Balls Cross
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 5 mile figure-of-eight walk around the woodland pasture of Ebernoe Common, just north of Petworth in West Sussex. The common, a National Nature Reserve managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust, is a wonderful dense ancient woodland with smaller patches of scrub and grassland. You will discover beautiful old oak and beech trees, long stretches of peaceful woodland paths, a classic village pub plus a lily-covered lake. There is plenty of history and wildlife along the way too.

As the walk is almost entirely in woodland with few landmarks, navigation will be tricky so the App’s live GPS map will be particularly helpful. The route includes a few gentle gradients throughout, plus one steeper section. The surfaces are almost all un-made woodland paths which can be very muddy after periods of rain (and wellingtons are recommended for the winter months). Some stretches are very narrow and can be a little overgrown in summer. There is a total of just less than a mile of road walking along quiet country lanes, so take care of traffic on these stretches. The central part of the common woodland is used for grazing cattle, although the woodland is dense and the area is very large so you could easily miss the cattle altogether. You will need to negotiate several bridle gates, kissing gates, sleeper bridges, fallen trees, steps plus one stile (that has a very large fence gap which should be suitable for any dog to pass through). Dogs are welcome in the woodland, as long as they are under close control. Allow 2.5 hours.

Ebernoe is a tiny hamlet located about 4 miles north of Petworth in West Sussex. Travelling north from Petworth, follow the A283 and then turn right onto Streel’s Lane. Follow this lane for 1.5 miles (eventually passing a red phone box on your left). Soon afterwards, turn right into the access lane for Holy Trinity Church (this turn is into a woodland track and the church sign is set slightly back into the trees, so it is easy to miss). Immediately before the church, turn right into the car park (which is used jointly for the church and the nature reserve). The nearest post code is GU28 9LD.

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Walk Sections

Start to Cattle Grid
Start to Cattle Grid

Start point: 51.0417 lat, -0.61 long
End point: 51.0398 lat, -0.608 long

Before beginning your walk, it is worth spending a moment admiring the church. It is a Victorian gem, built in the 1860s from local bricks of three colours to give an unusual architectural design. The churchyard is surrounded by walls to keep out rabbits and is a haven for wildflowers. Standing in the car park with your back to the church, turn right through the car park to reach a junction with the access track (with the single cottage, the Old School House, ahead). Turn right to join the main stone vehicle track.

Follow the track leading you downhill into the trees. At the first fork, take the right-hand branch (not the one signed to Furnace Meadow). Follow this track leading you downhill, bending right and then left and then climbing to reach a cattle grid. On the left at this point is an information board giving more details about Ebernoe Common National Nature Reserve, the ancient pasture woodland.

Cattle Grid to Sparkes Farm
Cattle Grid to Sparkes Farm

Start point: 51.0398 lat, -0.608 long
End point: 51.0299 lat, -0.6036 long

NOTE: Once past the cattle grid you may come across cattle grazing within the woodland. Pass through the bridle gate (just to the left of the cattle grid) and, just a few paces further along you will reach a three-way fingerpost at a junction. Turn right here and continue only until you reach another fingerpost on your right. Fork left at this point, passing between some upright wooden posts to join the side-branch of the footpath.

Follow this pretty path leading you deeper into the woodland. This common has a long history of local people exercising commoners’ rights. Centuries ago they would collect firewood and bracken for animal bedding as well as grazing their animals here. When commoner grazing ceased in the mid-1900s, the woodland soon became overgrown and the wood pasture habitat was lost. Cattle have now been reintroduced, restoring this scarce habitat where grazing prevents coarse grasses dominating the glades and also prevents tree seedlings taking over the lighter areas. This has recreated the wonderful delicate balance of trees, flowers, insects, fungi and birds that are thriving here today.

Further along, you will pass under the boughs of a particularly beautiful old oak tree, with far reaching branches. Immediately afterwards, continue ahead passing a fingerpost on your left, confirming that you are still on the footpath. Eventually you will come to the next bridle gate ahead, pass through this and follow the embankment path, crossing a small sleeper bridge between the two areas of marsh and pond.

Beyond this area, continue on the woodland path, soon crossing a long sleeper bridge and then winding on through the woods. Simply continue on the main path, following the footpath fingerposts. You will emerge out to a staggered T-junction with a stone vehicle track. Bear right to join the track and it leads you to an electric vehicle gate with a bridle gate alongside. Go ahead through the bridle gate (to leave the grazing common area) and a little further along you will pass the entrance drive and pretty grounds of Sparkes Farm on your left.

Sparkes Farm to Balls Cross
Sparkes Farm to Balls Cross

Start point: 51.0299 lat, -0.6036 long
End point: 51.0273 lat, -0.5934 long

Keep ahead on the gravel-topped access drive, later passing the gates for Highbuildings Farm. Soon afterwards, at the junction in the gravel drive (with a white fingerpost on your left), turn right and follow the beautiful gravel-topped driveway passing between more beautiful oak trees.

You will come to a T-junction with a quiet road. Turn right along this, taking care of traffic and passing the entrance for Great Allfields on your left and then various properties on your right. At the end of this lane, Pipers Lane, you will reach a T-junction in the centre of the village of Balls Green. Turn right here (signed to Petworth) and pass the village pub on your right.

Balls Cross to Common Gate
Balls Cross to Common Gate

Start point: 51.0273 lat, -0.5934 long
End point: 51.0282 lat, -0.6029 long

Keep ahead on the road beyond the pub, still taking care of traffic. Continue for a further 800 metres to reach the last cottage on your left (called Hollands). NOTE: The next footpath can be difficult to find so pay close attention to the next directions. Keep ahead along the road edge for just 40 paces more and then look on your right for a narrow, subtle path into the trees. (This can be a bit overgrown and the waymarker was broken when we walked). Turn right onto this footpath and follow it through the woodland belt.

Cross straight over a farm access track and continue on the footpath ahead (passing a fingerpost on your right). Follow the woodland path leading you through the beautiful beech trees and holly bushes. Further along the path swings left, leading you down to cross a small stream via a sleeper bridge. Immediately after crossing a second sleeper bridge you will reach a fork in the small path.

Take the right-hand branch and 20 paces later you will reach a fingerpost on your left. Turn right here (as directed by the fingerpost). The narrow path winds through the trees for some distance, eventually reaching a wooden gate (an elongated version of a kissing gate) which takes you back into the woodland pasture common (where you may come across cattle once again).

Common Gate to Bridle Gate
Common Gate to Bridle Gate

Start point: 51.0282 lat, -0.6029 long
End point: 51.0336 lat, -0.6108 long

Keep ahead on the main footpath and eventually you will emerge to a junction with the stone track, directly alongside the electric vehicle gate which you should recognise from the outward leg. Turn left along the track (heading away from the gate and staying within the woodland pasture) for just 40 metres to reach a fingerpost. At this point, fork left onto the side footpath and follow the unmade path through the trees (soon bending right and then left).

Continue through a stretch of coppiced beech and hazel trees and stay on the main footpath, following the fingerpost and then a yellow and black arrow (ignoring a wooden gate across to your left). Later, the path continues with a wire fence on your left and a meandering stream within the beech trees to your right. Continue just until you reach the three-way fingerpost on your left, marking a junction with a path to your right.

Turn right here, initially with a wire fence on your left and soon bending right away from this. Soon you will come to the next fingerpost (marking only one official footpath). Turn left to follow this footpath and eventually you will cross a footbridge. Continue to reach a three-way fingerpost on your right (with an elongated kissing gate on your left). Do NOT take the gate, instead follow the main path as it bears right with wire fence on your left.

As you reach the next gate on your left, again do NOT take it, instead turn right heading directly away from it (signed as the footpath). The path leads you between some large fallen trees (the trunks have been cut to allow easy passage) and then crosses two footbridges to reach a bridle gate ahead.

Bridle Gate to End
Bridle Gate to End

Start point: 51.0336 lat, -0.6108 long
End point: 51.0419 lat, -0.6099 long

Pass through the bridle gate (leaving the woodland pasture) and bear immediately left to follow the grass path with a fenced open glade running to your left. On your left, you will pass an isolated brick house with a wonderful mature orchard, Sibland Farm. Continue ahead on the track for just 200 metres, and look for a three-way fingerpost on your left. Turn left along a short stretch of track to reach wooden gates ahead.

Pass through the bridle gate and walk directly ahead through the pretty meadow, staying close to the hedgerow on your left. This meadow is a riot of colour and noise in the summer months with plenty of wild flowers, butterflies, bees and crickets. The insects that these glades support provide an important hunting ground for the bats that are resident in the woodland. The woodland is home to 14 of the 16 UK bat species, using holes in the ancient trees for roosts.

At the far side, cross the stile ahead and follow the path leading you steeply downhill into the next stretch of woodland. Walk only to the bottom of the slope (just to a point before you cross the first ditch and a second ditch with footbridge - do NOT cross either ditch). Turn right here to join a narrow path with the small ditch running immediately on your left. Further along this path, keep your eyes peeled through the trees to your left where you will have a view across the waterlily carpeted old furnace pond, a large woodland lake.

During the 1500s, production of iron was a major industry here in the Weald and furnace pond was constructed to drive the waterwheel and bellows for an iron furnace on the common. There was also a brickworks nearby, which continued working until the 1930s.

Eventually the path drops down, leading you alongside the edge of the pond and then crossing the footbridge across the water overflow. Continue on the woodland path to reach a junction. Take the left-hand branch (still alongside the pond) and climb the flight of woodland steps. The path passes the church on your right to emerge directly into the car park where the walk began.

Remember...the best way of following our walking guides is to use the iFootpath App (iOS and Android) where you will have all the information in the palm of your hand and see your exact location on the live map as you travel. You can also add comments, photos, ratings and track your own routes.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


1 comments for "Ebernoe Common and Balls Cross"

Great walk, even in February! Though I know the area well it’s nice to have a purpose and I love spooky Ebernoe. There’s nowhere quite like it!

By CateOsmaston on 18 Feb 2018

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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