South Downs part 2 – Serpents and Sculptures

On a showery and cooler September day another six of us met at Iping Common west of Midhurst, in the heart of the heathland area of the National Park. We set off along the Serpent Trail to the high ridge that runs across the Common. This trail leads 64 miles from Haslemere to Petersfield, connecting many of the pockets of heathland on its way. A crow would fly a lot less than 64 miles between the two towns, but the trail snakes back and forth, hence its name.

We left it at the ridge, with magnificent views in all directions a bit obscured by cloud, and headed north. We followed the River Rother a short way to Iping and made our way to Hammer Wood where the trees provided some shelter. Continuing north we met the Serpent Trail again, which we followed east to Older Hill and Woolbeding Common. This meant another climb to the viewpoint where we had lunch, taking advantage of a break in the rain. Unfortunately the far reaching views were in cloud. Just north of the little National Trust car park we came across a pair of Smooth Snakes sculpted in stone. This is one of seven stone sculptures on the South Downs’ heathland showcasing some of the history and fauna of the sites they sit on. We left the Serpent Trail behind again and headed west a bit and then south to the River Rother at Stedham Mill, crossing the ford by a narrow stone raised path at its side. A bit tired and damp by now, we followed the small road through the hamlet of Stedham, crossing the main A272 to reach Stedham Common and the Serpent Trail for one last time. A short walk west took us past another of the seven sculptures (a dragonfly at rest) and back to the start.

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