A 6.5 km (4 miles)
A circular walk through the beautiful Petworth Park. A great time to visit is in the autumn when the leaves are changing colours and England’s largest collection of fallow deer can be heard rutting.
The trek starts in the car park (furthest north from the house) and sets out in a westerly direction on the path leading out of the woods and into the rolling terrain of the park. Much of the park’s landscape has been laid out by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, in particular the ponds and the strategically planting of many of the trees.
Cross over the spring that supplies water to the upper and lower ponds via several miles of underground drains and tunnels and continue past Shepherds Lodge, heading up the hill to Upperton Tower. The tower, also known as ‘The Monument’ was built in 1816 at a point where the main house could just be seen. Although referred to as ‘The Monument’ it does not commemorate anything and there is very little history on this building. It sits at 125m, the highest point in the park and has some terrific views to the Sussex countryside beyond.
Admiring the views retrace your steps and follow the contours around a natural bowl in the landscape to a steep decent down to the stony track. Many of the fallow deer can be seen much closer here as it tends to be a quieter part of the park. Follow the path south which gradually rises and on reaching the top Tillington Church Tower can be seen in the distance and the Upper Pond will also come into view. Head towards the pond taking the grassy path down to the waters edge.
The Upper Pond was redesigned between 1752 – 1756 and to create the pond Capability Brown built a dam across the valley. The upper pond was captured by Turner in one of his pictures called ‘Dewy Morning’. As you descend it is clearly seen that the pond is designed to simulate a river flowing through the landscape.
Follow the iron fence around the pond to the unusual boathouse (also built by Brown in 1756), on top of the boathouse is a platform where views across the pond, it’s wildfowl and sussex countryside can be seen, look over the edge to see a ‘Neptune head’ sculpture embedded into the wall above the arches that was taken from the house.
Head away from the Upper Pond on the Lawns toward the house with it’s air of grandeur and prominence on the landscape. The wrought Iron gates lead to the ‘Pleasure Grounds’, designed to inspire a range of emotions, take some time here to discover the Doric temple, Ionic Rotunda and war memorial.
Petworth House was built in 1682 and for an additional fee the house can be entered to see the many state rooms including paintings by well known artists.
Once back in the park, follow the wall that borders the pleasure grounds and here can be seen the oldest oak in the park at 940 years old. Some recent archaeology has revealed what is thought to be the remains of Henry VIII banqueting or hunting lodge in the area just before the descent to Lower Pond.
Just past the pond was once the site of an army camp for American and Canadian airman. Post war it was used as a resettlement camp for displaced Polish families up until 1959. There is no evidence left of the camp and the entrances in the wall have long been filled in.
On the last stretch back to the car park look out for the ‘Beelzebub Oak’ which dates back to 1779 and marks the parish boundary, the name derives from a superstition that ‘beyond the parish boundary the land was spiritually suspect’.