Just the other day I went for a rather nice walk along the valley of the river Arun in Sussex, more particularly I walked between Arundel and Amberley which mark the southern and northern edges respectively of the river valley’s cut through the ridge of the South Downs. The train stations at the town of Arundel and the village of Amberley were very convenient as start and end points to the walk – which must have been about 3 or 4 miles. This is a beautiful and picturesque part of the country and not a bad place to see some wildlife too.
I had done this walk once before last winter when it was rather frosty and muddy, it was really very lovely to repeat it on a very mild, sunny and colourful autumn day. It is just the right length for an afternoon walk; not too long and not too short, it is mostly flat ground and easily done in 2-3 hours. Plus there’s a good pub at the end!
Being an undeveloped, quiet river valley with the high downs on either side it is a great place to attract birds of all sorts, especially birds of prey – I saw Buzzards, Kestrels and 3 Red Kites soaring around the valley when I walked it the other day. In the winter the valley attracts waterfowl such as geese and swans – sometimes even Bewick’s Swans, I have seen Snipe here too in the floodplain fields.
At the start of the walk as you walk out of Arundel town you pass close to Swanbourne lake which is a recommended stop for birders in winter especially as it holds good numbers of duck and gulls. The footpath turns off the road just before the WWT reserve and this area is good for Firecrests and Redpolls in winter – the reserve has several hides overlooking pools and reedbed. As my friend and I walked along the river-side path just up from Arundel we had good views of 3 Stonechats which had likely bred in the area earlier in the year.
As we approached the tiny collection of expensive-looking houses that form the remote hamlet of South Stoke, a raptor flew into sight and landed atop a pine tree that grew from the garden of one of the houses. Looking at it through my binos it was clearly a female Kestrel, seemingly rather excited as it was calling loudly for a few minutes. After crossing the footbridge we walked through a small wild copse and came across an impressive Oak tree which was very gnarly and had a decent girth – probably around 3-400 years old at least.
There is a rather handy and thoughtful information kiosk inside an old red telephone box as you enter the metropolis that is North Stoke, it has various maps of the area and leaflets on walks. As we walked along the quiet country lane towards Amberley I spotted a flock of Long-tailed Tits flitting about in the trees alongside the railway track, there must have been at least 10 of these charming and entertaining little birds calling constantly to each other.
A quick stop for a drink and a pack of crisps at the Bridge Inn was most welcome before catching the next train home from the quaint station just next to the river. It is worth taking your time with this walk as you will have more chance of seeing wildlife and it isn’t that long really – there is plenty of scope for going further though as the South Downs way passes through Amberley and there are many other footpaths criss-crossing through the river floodplain and up over the downs. A beautiful and quiet area of country at any time of year but with the warm autumn sun shining and the trees turning delicate shades of orange and yellow it was just perfect.