The Fox Goes Free at deep-sunk Charlton is one of my favourite Sussex pubs, especially when it’s warm enough to sit in the garden with a pie and a pint, looking out across the flint wall and over the grazing sheep in the meadow beyond to the double swell of Levin Down and North Down. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Those seductive hills soon called Jane and me away, up along North Lane and past open sheds at Ware Barn full of hay bales and sacks of wool from last year’s clip. Old-man’s-beard hung soft and white in the hedges, and loose flints chinked under our boots as we climbed a dark holloway through an old yew grove.
From the broad whaleback of Levin Down we had a wonderful southward prospect across Singleton’s grey houses huddled in their valley, over to the flags and white pavilions of Goodwood’s racecourse and the round knoll of The Trundle, crowned with the ramparts of an Iron Age hillfort. It’s a view from a patriotic wartime poster, a landscape worth fighting for, thousands of years of history rolling out in plain view. And if this is one of southern England’s great views, it’s outdone by the panorama from The Trundle itself – Chichester Cathedral spire, the twin grandstands of the racecourse, the sails of Halnaker windmill, the silvery windings of Chichester Harbour, the Isle of Wight lying like a cloud along the smoky blue bar of the sea.
On the ramparts of the fort we sat and stared. At the height of summer the race meeting aptly nicknamed ‘Glorious Goodwood’ fills the downland racecourse with noise and colour, but today it lay quiet, a green snake of grassy track rollercoasting below us between its white railings. A childhood memory came to Jane – watching an excavation at the foot of The Trundle, a female skeleton being unearthed, and the archaeologist pointing out the woman’s excellent teeth – ‘Because there were no sweeties in those days!’
The Trundle’s embanked fort was built well over 2,000 years ago, but the remnants of an enclosure three times as old underlie the stronghold. It’s a resonant place with a stupendous view. Two sparrowhawks skimmed the ramparts, hanging with heads down as they scanned the banks, and a pair of lovers lay in the long grass at the summit, talking quietly, as lovers have surely been doing here since long before men fortified the hill.
Start: Fox Goes Free Inn, Charlton, West Sussex PO18 0HU (OS ref SU 889130)
Getting there: Bus – Service 99 (pre-book on 01903-264776; compass-travel.co.uk), Petworth-Chichester
Road – Charlton is signed off A286 Chichester-Midhurst road at Singleton.
Walk (7 miles, easy/moderate, OS Explorer 120): From Fox Goes Free, right along road; in 150m, right at crossroads up North Lane. In ⅔ mile, a footpath forks to right (891140), but you keep to track; in 200m, left (bridleway fingerpost). Track climbs through trees; in 350m, near top, you pass yellow arrow/YA footpath marker on left; in another 100m at T-junction, go left (889145, ‘Singleton’) through gate. Bear half right across open grassland of Levin Down between 2 woods to far corner of Lady Wood on right (886143); follow fence over skyline for ¼ mile to gate (883138). On for 100m; bear right past fingerpost for 300m to kissing-gate (880135, ‘New Lipchis Way’); descend to cross road in Singleton (879132).
Bear half left across green; on between houses; in 100m, right (880131) along The Leys. At T-junction, dogleg right and left past houses, across end of recreation ground, past church gate to T-junction at end of churchyard (878130). Left (YA, ‘The Trundle’). Through farmyard, up steep grass path and on for ¾ mile to lane (880119). Right to cross road (880113); follow fingerposts up steps and path to The Trundle hillfort. From summit (877111), left/east past ‘Monarch’s Way/MW’ arrow on post, through wood to join track; left (MW) to road (882110) opposite Goodwood Racecourse.
Right along verge; in 250m, left (883107) beside road past racecourse on grass verges/woodland edge for 1 mile. 100m past end of racecourse, turn left (897114); hairpin back left along first track of several, through gateway (unwaymarked), following Chalk Road track for 1¼ miles back to Charlton.
Lunch: Fox Goes Free, Charlton (01243-811461, foxgoesfree.com)
Goodwood Racecourse: goodwood.co.uk
Information: Chichester TIC (01243-775888; visitsussex.org)