A very popular family walk around the magnificent Petworth Park, in the South Downs of West Sussex.
With a herd of over 900 fallow deer, views to the North and South Downs, plus wide open lawns to fly kites, Petworth has to be one of the most popular National Trust venues in the South East for family leisure time.
Petworth Park Walking
You do not have to be a member of the National Trust to enjoy the walk around the estate, just for free access to the main house. There are modest car park charges if not a member of the NT.
Avoid Petworth Town!
What I mean is avoid parking at the main Petworth House car park in the town centre. I start this walk from the car park that is located 1.4 miles (2.25 km) north of Petworth, on the A283 road; look out for the sign on your left as you head north towards Milford / Godalming.
As this is a circular walk the departure direction doesn’t matter too much but I always take the obvious path that leads westwards, following the northern boundary of the park (which would be on your right). As you walk west, leaving the wooded car park area behind you, the land drops down. A great spot for the kids to run down the hill (don’t sue me – just have fun!)
The Spooky Trees of Petworth
Despite the best efforts of the infamous 1987 hurricane in Southern England, Petworth still retains many ancient trees, some over 1000 years old. The enlightened National Trust even leave log piles around the Park to encourage wildlife and children to thrive!
My sense of balance it would seem, is not up to that of a 7-year-old girl! Always maintain 3 points of contact when climbing and one of them shouldn’t be your head.
As you walk westwards and begin to climb a hill, look out for the fantastic trees on your left. With hollows big enough for adults and low boughs like giant arms, these are genuine spooky trees.
Spooky trees; trees to be found in Petworth and other places that are full of monsters and huge tree spiders and magical stuff!
Keep walking westwards and take the smaller path that leads up a steep hill. The views from this hill are far and wide. You have fleeting glimpses of the South Downs and clear views of the North Downs and most of the lowland between them. Another big sky location.
A delight hidden away in the northwest corner of Petworth Park is the Upperton Folly. Commanding high views over the deer park this is a lovely quiet spot for a photo or three. I don’t know much about the history of the Petworth Park Folly so if anyone can shed some light, please leave a blog comment.
Now the path turns to the south, just follow your sense of direction (and the stone wall / fences). If you walk quietly and don’t have a dog with you, it is fairly common to see deer close up at Petworth. Perhaps not as close as Richmond Park in Surrey, where the deer are so used to people and traffic that taking bad photos of them is impossible. Petworth it is claimed, has the largest herd of fallow deer in England.
Petworth Park Lake
Keep walking south and you will see fantastic glimpses of Petworth House and Upper Pond (the large lake). There are numerous benches, wooden seats dotted around the park, many placed perfectly for a view. Eventually the high ground becomes the low ground and you reach Upper Pond on your left.
More benches, an excuse to sit down and take a few photos of the wildfowl. Just beyond the lake on your left, the great grassy lawn beckons families to eat picnics and fly kites. A busy spot on a warm day.
As you walk towards Petworth House, on your left as you look at it, is an ornate iron entrance gate. Through this gate are the ornamental gardens, depending on the time of year it can be a riot of colour. There are easy to navigate paths, so people not wishing to walk the 4 or so miles around the estate can park close to the house and just explore the gardens. Same parking fees apply.
National Trust members (or non members paying entrance fee) can turn right and explore the house and servant’s quarters, non members can still explore the gardens to the left. Our kids loved the Rotunda, pretending to be Romans, ancient Greeks, ancient Roman Greeks?
From the Rotunda you can either walk off the edge of the world in front of you (you’ll see what I mean when you visit) or retrace your steps and find the path that leads towards the House car parks and eventually back into the Park grounds. Sometimes the gate at the end of the path heading north is closed and with a bit of a scramble you can gain access back into the Park.
Otherwise from the Rotunda you would have to head back out of the gardens, towards the Upper Pond, this time keeping to the right of the lake as you walk north. It all ends up at the same location – just with some extra walking.
Petworth – The Return Walk
Once you leave the house and gardens behind it is a straight walk northwards back to the Park car park, a mile or so north of you up the hill. You can walk back with the park boundary close by, and the noise of the A283 on your right, or you can take a parallel path that runs more central through the estate, with the chance of spotting more deer.
All paths lead to home (well the car park) eventually. You just need to head uphill and the starting point car park will be in the northeast corner of the Park. There is a smaller pond to visit, called Lower Pond which is approximately half way back.
You cannot really get lost on this short walk and it is suitable in most places for people of all ages. The circular walk (with a few deviations) is popular with runners too, easy to do a 3-5 mile run here, with food, toilets and car parking close by. The Park is a wealth of wildlife, not just deer but kestrels, butterflies, dragonflies. So much to see during every season.
Route: Petworth Park north car park to Petworth House and back.
Download Map of Route
Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)