Meandering around Midhurst
A host of delights awaits on this town and country walk, which follows the pretty River Rother to the ruins of Cowdray House.
Midhurst is one of those classic Sussex towns crying out to be discovered and explored on foot, with many splendid buildings and a wealth of history. H G Wells attended school at Midhurst and wrote: ‘I found something very agreeable and picturesque in its clean and cobbled streets, its odd turnings and abrupt corners, and in the pleasant park that crowds up one side of the town.’ Midhurst became the model for Wimblehurst in his book Tono-Bungay.
Look around you on this walk and you’ll spot the vivid yellow paintwork of houses owned by the Cowdray Estate. The grounds of Cowdray Park are famous for polo matches. Not so well known are the majestic ruins of Cowdray House, seen from the car park at the start of the walk and viewed up close just before you finish it. The house, built for the Earl of Southampton, dates back to about 1530 but was largely destroyed by fire in 1793. However, the shell survives and, if open, you can see around the Great Chamber, the Great Parlour and the Chapel.
Begin the walk by embarking on a town trail. Old photographs of the town taken in the early part of the 20th century show the part-16th-century Angel Hotel and the building which now houses Barclays Bank. The famous tile-hung library has been preserved too, and the medieval interior is certainly worth looking at. Built in the early part of the 16th century, the building was thought originally to have been a storehouse or granary. This part of Midhurst is known as Knockhundred Row. The delightfully evocative name is thought to date back to the time when Midhurst had a castle, and the owner could exercise his right to summon 100 men to defend the castle by knocking on the doors of 100 households in the town. The road passes the old chemist shop where HG Wells worked before attending Midhurst Grammar School. His mother was housekeeper at nearby Uppark House. In the middle of the street, flanked by striking houses and shop fronts, lies the town’s war memorial on which the names of several regiments are recorded. Follow the road to the church of St Mary Magdalene and St Denys. The walk, ideal for a summer’s evening, eventually leaves Midhurst and heads for rolling, wooded countryside. But it’s not long before you are returning to the town, following a path running through woodland above the Rother. Here you can step between the trees on the right to look down at the river and across to Cowdray House. This vista is one of the highlights of the walk, a moment to savour on the homeward leg. The walk finishes by following the Queen’s Path, a favourite walk of Elizabeth I.
From the car park at the north end of the town turn left and walk along North Street, passing The Angel Hotel. Bear left into Knockhundred Row; the road bends right and becomes Church Hill. When it splits (one-way traffic) keep left, passing the war memorial on your right and the church on your left. Continue into South Street past the historic Spread Eagle Hotel.
Turn left by South Pond into The Wharf, keeping right along the road beside industrial buildings and flats. Turn right to cross a river bridge and pass a cottage on the left. Keep the wooden fencing on the right and avoid the path running off to the left. Go through a kissing gate, then continue ahead along the edge of fields, keeping trees and vegetation on the right. Go through another kissing gate and follow the path to the right of the polo stables. Come armed with a stick to beat back the nettles that devour this path in summer.
Keep left and follow a pleasantly wooded stretch of road. Pass some pretty cottages, and on reaching a bend keep ahead along a bridle path signposted ‘Heyshott and Graffham’. Follow the track as it curves to the right.
Veer left at a fingerpost just before the entrance to a house and follow the waymarked path as it climbs quite steeply through the trees, passing between woodland glades and carpets of bracken. Drop down the slope to a junction and turn left along a sandy track. Keep left at the fork and follow the track as it bends sharply to the right.
On reaching the road, turn left and, when it bends left by some gates, go straight on along the bridleway towards Kennels Dairy. Pass between two rows of stables and carry on ahead. Continue on the path and, when it reaches a field gateway, go through the gate to the right of it, following the path as it runs just inside the woodland.
Continue along to the junction, forming part of the outward leg of the walk, turn right and cross the bridge. Keep ahead past the access road/bridleway on the left (your outward route), then bear right to rejoin the riverbank. Keep going until you reach a footpath on the left leading up to the ruins of St Ann’s Hill. Follow the path beside the Rother, curving right. Continue to a kissing gate, bear left and carry on to a bridge which provides access to Cowdray House, where there is free entrance to a walled garden and tea rooms. After viewing the house, go straight ahead along the causeway path to the car park.
Pavements, field, riverside tracks and country road
Midhurst town and its beautiful rural setting on the Rother
Off lead on tracks and stretches of riverside; on lead on roads and busy streets in Midhurst town centre
OS Explorer OL33 Haslemere & Petersfield
Car park at north end of town in North Street
At car park
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover West Sussex
Divided from East Sussex back in 1888, West Sussex is so typically English that to walk through its landscape will feel like a walk through the whole country. Within its boundaries lies a wide variety of landscape and coastal scenery, but it is the spacious and open South Downs with which the county is most closely associated.
In terms of walking, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Studying the map reveals a multitude of routes – many of them to be found within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park – and an assortment of scenic long-distance trails leading towards distant horizons; all of them offer a perfect way to get to the heart of ‘Sussex by the sea,’ as it has long been known. If you enjoy cycling with the salty tang of the sea for company, try the ride between Chichester and West Wittering. You can vary the return journey by taking the Itchenor ferry to Bosham.
West Sussex is renowned for its many pretty towns, of course. Notably, there is Arundel, littered with period buildings and dominated by the castle, the family home of the Duke of Norfolk, that dates back nearly 1,000 years.