The 16,500 acre Cowdray Estate, with offices in the tiny village of Easebourne, surrounds the town of Midhurst. Approaching from the east along the A272 road several miles from Easebourne, Benbow Pond, is a very welcome journey-break. Lying in a sheltered valley it has a wood to the east and the 16 acre John Cowdray Arboretum to the west. Inland from the pond is a quiet and very beautiful valley where trees of great age dot the grassy hillside, having been left undisturbed for centuries. The oldest is the Queen Elizabeth Oak which is about 1000 years old. Queen Bess is thought to have sheltered under it when she visted Cowdray in 1592.
Benbow has a small metalled car park – it’s free - and a further grassy area edging the pond which together take about 30 cars
If you want to walk your dog and stretch your legs the main ride on the same side as the arboretum takes you, after 300 yards, to the Midhurst Way – look for the swing gate on the right hand side - Steward’s Pond, the Queen Elizabeth Oak and the newly planted avenue of lime trees. Alternatively you can go straight up the slope from the Benbow Pond, inland, for a longer circular walk. It’s all quite open and easy to find your way: paths are signposted
The Cowdray Holiday Cottages are tucked away behind the trees, with complete privacy, to the east of the pond and have their own short access drive.
Most folk seem content to sit by the pond and enjoy the bird life: swans, ducks, geese, moorhens, seagulls and even cormorants. Some birds are so tame they’ll eat out of your hand. If you want a rustic table and seats for a picnic, walk up the first ride in the arboretum, westwards, for 50 yards to the centre point – see picture. This is a wonderful place to bring children, a grassy wonderland full of small trees of many varieties, colours and shapes. The views are in all directions and breathtaking. Remember to bring your camera.
I’ve been coming here for a long time witnessing all the seasonal moods and never get tired of it. I don’t think you will either.
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