This month’s trek is an 8km (5 mile) circular walk from Singleton and explores the lesser-known Drovers Estate, situated just north of the village the estate now belongs to the National Trust. Nestled amongst rolling ancient pastures and woodland the Drovers Estate takes a step back into a timeless rural life, the traditional flint barns and cottages retain their local building styles and have not changed much over time.
Drovers had long been a sporting estate and was once the centre of an extensive medieval deer park owned by the Earl of Arundel in 1327, Fallow deer still reside here and can be seen on the walk along with wild hare, red kites, mice, cattle, and sheep. The large house that once stood on the estate was unfortunately destroyed by 1815.
The best way to enjoy this part of Sussex is to park up in the village of Singleton and follow the National Trust walking route through the estate which is waymarked by white permissive route signs.
Cross the main A286 and join the public footpath behind the cricket pavilion that leads towards Hat Hill, at 156m this is the highest point on the estate. Turn right immediately after passing between the walls of an old railway bridge that crosses the disused Chichester to Midhurst line. Opened in 1881 the line serviced Singleton and Goodwood and the old station is now a private residence nearer to West Dean, the last service ran in 1953. The disused railway tunnels nearby are home to many species of protected bats including Brown Long Eared, Whiskered, Pipistrelle and Natterers.
The route follows the old disused railway for a couple of hundred metres before the permissive route heads uphill on a chalky track. As you pass Honeycomb Copse be sure to look back at the fine views of Singleton village and Goodwood racecourse. Near the top of the hill are some old farm buildings and rusty shepherds hut, giving a glimpse of farming history. Descend through the open meadow with more great views to Wellhangar copse. This open access woodland is easy to navigate by following the white signs, which takes the route across the A286 and on to Nightingale Wood.
Pick up the bridleway at the far side of the wood and follow to the east side of Levin Down. Managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Levin Down is a nature reserve that supports a wide variety of chalk downland flowers, trees and shrubs. The juniper colony on the southern slope is said to be the best in Sussex. The name of the hill is believed to be derived from the Saxon for ‘Leave-Alone Hill’. Unlike the surrounding agricultural fields, the steepness of the down would make it difficult to plough which means that it has been left alone. Grazing of sheep and sometimes Exmoor ponies keep the grass short on the upper slopes and greatly increases the diversity of plant species.
Although the route goes around Levin Down there are still some steep climbs on this section. The last part of the walk descends from the down, across the River Lavant and back to Singleton village.
Further details of the walk can be found on the following links: