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Worthing, Sussex, United Kingdom

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Pulborough 16 May 2011

Whoops, have left out the whole of April and my adventures in Wales and along the Portsmouth and Arun canal. They'll follow, I've just been so busy lately that I haven't had time to write up my walks after taking them.

Went up to Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve today. It's changed a lot since my last visit a couple of months back, and as the waters recede from the flood meadows so the birds have moved on. A solitary lapwing patrolled the waterline, occassionally picking at the ground, while an equally solitary oystercatcher mooched about in deeper waters. A few swallows danced around above them, but on the whole the reserve was quiet.

As we walked the path that loops the reserve we saw common blue, common white and skipper butterflies, busying themselves around the hedgerows, which hid the odd baby rabbit making their first ventures into the outside world.

We took some time to walk the land north of the reserve and outside it's bounds where the soil is more sandy, and the trees conifers. Among these Angus cattle were cropping the grass, and pine cones littered the floor. We were in search of elderflower for cordial and vodka, but found only wood sage and had to block the lane on the exit, much to the annoyance of one old dear, to harvest enough for our needs. It seems some drivers just aren't cordial enough to wait.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Mad Miller

Too a short walk on Monday onto Highdown to look at the hill fort there and see how it fits into the plan of the other Sussex hill forts.

The route is short and simple, there's a car park just off the Littlehampton road by Highdown Gardens and with a conveniently placed cafe.

A few hundred yards walk north of west there is a tomb, a relic of one of Sussex's strangest stories. Here lies John Olliver who died in 1794, aged in his eighties. His tomb, however he had built 29 years earlier. The story is recounted better elsewhere, where there is more space, but in essence it is believed he used this tomb to hide contraband away from the customs men for the smugglers who he aied by setting his windmill sails at certain angles to indicate when it was safe to come ashore.

There are few mills left in Sussex now. However, walking west towards the fort reveals a house to the west built from a former mill. After exploring the fort, the highest point of this walk at 81m, continue towards the mill with fine views towards the Isle Of Wight. Looking back Cissbury Ring can be seen, and this shows how Highdown, formerly Ceaser's hill, forms a sort of satelleite for this giant among forts.

As you walk towards the windmill you are walking over the sire of a large saxon settlement, where fine finds have been discovered and are now on display in the Worthing museum. Among these are the stunning Highdown Goblet ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/aM0NVLpaQuGfZiJnxufGVA ). It's no wonder there are signs everywhere reminding the visitor that metal detecting is strictly forbidden.

Pass through a gate and head for the obvious windmill. Once at the windmill, the path south is obvious, and after a short distance turns back east through scrub and copse, and right above the vinyards, for which this is a fine vantage point.

Continue along this path until some steps appear on the right and ascend these north, with an abandoned quarry to your left (east), the site of fine wild flower displays.

Shortly you rejoin your orginal path just west of the hillfort, and another opportunity to explore should not be missed.

Retrace your steps to the carpark, and a welcome slice of cake in the cafe.


Monday, 28 March 2011

Around the Rings

A short bus ride from Worthing drops you in Findon, at the foot of Cissbury Ring, which I have described in an earlier walk. The familiar pull up the steep slopes, occasionally eased by cut steps brings the walker onto the northwest corner of this enormous ancient monument.

Today there are no views, it's claimed you can see the Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth from here, but early spring haze means the views extend only just as far as Littlehampton to the west.

The gorse is now coming into flower, and some of the scrub is thickening, offering the ubiquitous rabbit some cover when the rumble of walker's boots approach.

Traverse the hillfort and notice the view slightly east of north where the tree covered Chanctonbury Ring is visible on the horizon. Take the steps deeply down to the car park and walk straight through.

Here there were curious piles of luminous material. Not fall out from a Japanese nuclear reactor, and all was shortly revealed with a scout tent at the roadside and the masters standing around waiting for their charges to return from their orienteering run.

The path is easy to follow, gently climbing, and straight. Do not be tempted by the side paths leading east and west but pursue the northern path until it meets the South Downs Way and join this to turn west to shortly arrive at Chanctonbury Ring.

This is a good spot for lunch, and usually the views across the Low Weald and the Sussex market towns below are fantastic. Today, although the haze is clearing it's hard to see past Washington, and Shoreham is hidden totally, despite being so close.

Explore the site here, and find the stumps of beeches first planted in the 18th Century, destroyed by the storms of 1987, and now new growth which is slowly restoring the site's profile. On the fort are remnants of two Roman era temples, built on the orignal neothlic site, itself protected by cross dykes - noticebale when you walk the South Downs Way.

Below, sadly untraceable today but visible in good light ran the Sussex Greensand Way, which joined the road north to London at Barcombe, and crossed the river at Stretham, mentioned in my earlier Adur walk.

Continuing west the path leaves the South Downs way after a cattle grid and descends gently to emerge on the road that leads to the car park we crossed earlier.

Follow this road down, and have your senses assaulted by the noise of the A24 for about 500m, before turning into Findon village.

Fortunately the bus was missed and a difficult two hours was spent waiting for the next one in the local pub, which serves a good pint of well-kept Harveys.


Saturday, 26 March 2011

180 degrees « Ben Saunders

180 degrees « Ben Saunders

Just thought I'd share this, in lieu of any further recent updates.

Ben is attempting the North Pole speed record, and his blog is excellent reading.

Everest season starts soon, and I'm looking forward to following expedition progress on various blogs.

Off onto the Downs above Findon tomorrow for a bit of a stroll, so there'll be another route uploaded this week.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The City of Chichester

Took the train out to Chichester today, a journey I enjoy as it passes one of the best views, if not in the whole of the British Isles, certainly in the south - that of the town of Arundel with it's castle and cathedral. It's every tourist's idea of what Britain looks like, but it's a stunning view that I never tire of.

The same cannot be said for Chichester outside the walls. The station is a hideous modern construction, and the environs seem to have been constructed in an orgy of misguided planning in the last fifties. The austerity of the times is reflected in the buildings, which wouldn't be out of place is some grim east European town, or one of those grrotty new towns, like Peterborough. One day someone will love these buildings, but hopefully by then they will have been thinned out from the built environment by judicious use of the wrecking ball.

Thankfully a walk around the walls soon takes one away from the austeroty of the post-war years and back in time to middle ages.

It's not difficult to find the walls, follow them east (right) from near the station and toward Priory Park.

Priory Park is all that's left of the monastic settlement here, washed away at the Reformation by the cash hungry clerks of Henry VIIIth, that great and terrible monarch, just a solitary building stands testement to the great community that once flourished here.

The walls can be walked for quite some way. Chichester is fortunate that a large part of the city walls have survived intact, much as they have at Chester. The difference is that the walls at Chester are Roman and of the local red sandstone, here they are later and constructed in the abundant local flint.

After walking the walls as far as the Bishop's garden, descend through attarctive flower beds, past the Bishop's Palace and toward the cathedral. Recent restoration has tidied up the building, as it has with recent work on several major religious houses across the country. Outside stands a delightful bell tower, the very top of which is a replica of the latest section of the West Tower at Ely Cathedral.

Inside the cathedral is sparse. It doesn't have the abundance of tombs and memorials found elsewhere, which has an uncluttered feel. There is no great painted ceiling, as at Ely, nor does it have the size and atmosphere of Canterbury. There are several modern works of art, but more impressively some intact original medieval drawings on the walls. There are also early carvings found elsewhere and transferred here, and a glimpse of the Roman buildings that stood here before the cathedral was built.


Exiting the cathedral turn left, and retrace your steps past the Bishop's garden toward the deanery, turn left along Canon Place and walk through one of the orginal precinct gateways, a right turn will lead you south back to the station.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Cissbury in the sun

It's something of a truism that we don't appreciate that which is on our doorstep, and I thought the other day that although it's only a few minutes away I have spent little time on what is arguably Sussex's finest ancient monument.

Cissbury is a magical place, the largest neolithic structure in the south east, and part of a network of similar forts across the South Downs. The approach from the bottom is steep and the concave slope denies the walker views of the ramparts until the last minute, probably a intentional design feature. The ramparts are now covered in turf, but I imagine that in it's heyday this part of the structure would have been stripped back to the bare chalk, no doubt a formidable sight in ancient times, visible from miles away.

The true scale of this site can only be gauged from a visit, even the short hour I spent there today is insufficient to cover all the ground. There is truly something for everyone, the amatuer historian will scrape away at the flints thrown up around the rabbit holes in the hope of finding an axe head or similar artefact, the ecologist will poke around in August looking for signs of the adders that are occassionaly found sloughing their skins on the site, and children will delight in open land and huge ramparts to play on.

The north west corner is littered with evidence of flint mining, and from here the visitor can see the satellite forts at Chanctonbury and Highdown Hill, conveniently placed to watch across the Low Weald, and provide warning back to the main camp, from where in good light one can see the other major sites at Whitehawk Hill and Mount Caburn.

That these places met a violent end when the Romans came is not in doubt, artefacts found at Caburn have suggested a ferocious last stand, but no such evidence has been found at Cissbury that I know of. Maybe it was just too well defended and the Romans contented themselves with conquering all that surrounded and leaving Cissbury to stew, cut off and alone.

Walking around the ramparts shows just what a comanding position the site has, and how well chosen it is for such an important site, with access to huge quantities of flint and defensive views out across what would have been salt marsh to the open sea, and back inland for miles on either side. On a good day the Isle of Wight is clearly visibile, and yet the highest part of the site is tucked away near a back corner with only a trig point to identify it.

It was here I found shoulder from a chill north easterly behind an ancient oak to enjoy my lunch.

There are ghosts here, those from the ancient past, and even some of my own from previous visits - when I passed through with Bernie last year on our way to a picnic at Chanctonbury, when Mandy fell and broke her flipflop after ignoring my advice to wear slightly more substantial footwear, and when I came here alone in the wet winter of 2000/01 wondering which path to take in my life.

Today though was the first time I felt I had actually been to Cissbury, actually visited, rather than passing through on my way somewhere else. The peace here is a privelege to be enjoyed and a reminder of a time centuries past when the loudest noise a person would ever hear was the cry of the war trumpet or the bark of a dog.

Two pheasants startled me, breaking cover from some gorse just entering it's first flower and sqauwing their warning cry as they rose in unison to fly into the hazy late winter sun. Other than that the place was silent except for the faint hum of a tractor as a farmer far below in Findon ploughed the land ready for this year's crops, as his ancestors have for a thousand years or more in the valley below the ring.

The route can be found here:


A good place to donate your spare pennies is


Friday, 25 February 2011

SSaR Training

I guess it counts as a walk, so I thought I'd mention the 6 or so miles I covered on the 20th Feb, on my first Search and Rescue Training exercise.

Rocked up at 1000 and got fispatched very quickly to go and search a chruchyard for a missing person, said to be suicidal, or in SSaR terms, despondent.

This was my first visit to Stanmer Park in many years, and I had forgotten about this little piece of history tucked away on the edge of Brighton, seemingly left in early modern history, set out much as manorial estate would have been before the acts of Enclosure.

We were retasked to search a quadrant right up by Ditchling Road, and this gave me a chance to follow a route up past some ancient woodland, and large fields, notable for the vast quantities of chalk that litter them. There was also a significant amount of flint, and this may provide a good site for a bit of sneaky fieldwalking sometime in the future.

The weather on this Sunday was perfect for walking, but the ground is still very slippery underfoot, and it makes wading uphill through the mud tiring on the calf muscles.

There's also a good deal of MTB trails, and I plan to take the bike up there later in the spring.

Sussex Lowland Search and Rescue is a worthwhile cause to donate any of your extra pennies to.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Nothing Doing

In TGO this month there was a long route for the Low and High Weald east and south of Burgess Hill.

I liked the look of this, especially as it would fit another piece in the South Downs Way jigsaw in very nicely for me, but the route at nearly 14 miles was a bit long for the day before I return to work.

Half an hour with the OS map was enough to cut off a bit of the walk, while saving it's key features, and the bag was packed ready for the day out.

It wasn't to be. The forecast wasn't good, and with high winds and heavy rain predicated for later I ate my packed lunch on the sofa and watched the clag form over the Downs, exactly as predicated at 2pm.

It'll be another week before I can get out, but hopefully we'll get the weather the route needs then.

A short walk along the beach at high tide had to do, the sea rough in the gale with heavy rollers driving all except the hardiest of gulls up onto the beach, strewn with storm debris.

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Adur from Henfield to Shoreham

Got up early and well prepared after tearing back from Search and Rescue training and spending several minutes poring over the map ready for this one before going to bed.

Took the 106 Bus up from Worthing to Henfield, it's the first one in that direction and doesn't get in tell nearly 1000, but you're dropped handily in Henfield High Street, and suitably provisioned up I was on my way.

The temperature today hovered around 5 degress C, disappointingly as I had hoped for it to be cold enough to freeze the ground, and save me the stomp through ankle deep mud that these riverside walks generally involve at this time of year.

The route runs west from the High Street, down to the church, where a timber-framed cottage is decorated with whimisical cats, and a little detour path encourages you through the churchyard with it's rows of neatly trimmed yew.

Continuing east the route crosses the Downs Link bridleway for the first time today, the road crossing a hump where the old rail bridge once was, and to the left the ironically named Beechings estate where Henfield station had stood for a hundred years or so, before the good Doctor got his hands on the branch lines. The last train passed through in 1964.

Sticking with the road and finally escaping the built environment, but not the dogs barking at the lcoal kennels, you pass a run of six cottages built in 1911, and then an older building from 1873. Before the road ends in the hamlet of Wood End, a muddy footpath runs north opposite some new buildings and creeps up a well-kept but narrow lane before breaking out into an open field. Cross the field in a straihgt line and reach the road, where a east (left) turn takes the walker towards Blundens Farm. There are a series of path junctions here, go straight on at the first, then take the right hand path, generaly north through a gate signed Henfield Angling, Private fishing.

From hereonin no map is required today, it's a case of following this track as it bears round to the left down to the river, where one joins the bank at the confluence of the eastern and western arms of the Adur.

This is a pretty spot, with a good view back to the church at Worth Abbey, which towers over the landscape. Both rivers flow over small weirs, and so it's the end for anyone travelling by boat along the river here.

Turn south now and follow the riverbank, where there are options to walk on the embankment, or down by the river itself, but with the ground boggy and sticky today the high ground was favourite for speedy progress.

I prefer to stick to the East bank here, at least until Bramber, as it makes the road crossing at the Bramber/Beeding bridge easier.

A heron rose languidly from the river with lazy wingflaps taing it in a broad semi cricle to avoid me, before plopping slowly back into the river, sending three mallard franctically climbing into the air.

After a couple of miles, one passes the site of the deserted medieval village of Streatham and the ancient Roman river crossing, where the Greensands Way made it's way from Hardham to Barcombe Mills where it links up with the Lewes Way to London. Now almost totally disused in any form this was once a major route linking several important villa sites, and passing udner Chanctonbury Ring, site of a Roman temple.

Here, at Streatham Manor, which takes it's name from the road, the Adur was crossed by a wood pile supported bridge, and here stood the ancient Bishop's Palace. Some of the buildings can be seen still in use as a doemstic dwelling just south east of where the route crosses the Downs Link for the second time. Just north of the Link is a field of lumps, humps, bumps and mounds. These are all that remains of the palace and it's moat.

Here the river is small, but the view is wide. Chanctonbury Ring, our companion for most of the early part of the walk dominates the western horizon, and to the south the northern scarp of the South Downs draws the eye east to Ditchling Beacon.

There's a grassy bank just over the bridge which is the perfect spot for a lazy lunch in the winter sun.

Here there's a cormorant, and washed up on the plain that floods at high tide is a polo ball from the All England club, miles upstream. The cormorant flies low, a few inches above the river, disturbed by two anglers calling across the river to a farmer striding along the opposite bank with his labrador dancing behind him. He grips a brace of pheasant in one hand and his shotgun over his shoulder.

An hour south of the Downs Link and it's intact rail bridge Bramber is reached. This ancient village was once dominated by a castle, and astoundingly the Adur was navigable as an estuary to here, where a port once stood. A church is seperated from the rest of the vilage by the river which can be crossed by a footbridge.

Taking the western bank from here avoids the mess that is the former cement factory on the east bank, standing derelict for 30 years or so, and puts space between the walker and the busy road, so that the drone of the traffic here doesn't interfere too much with the peace and tranquility a riverside walk should afford.

This is easy going, and familiar ground, a walk I have often repeated, striding purposefully south towards Lancing College, which joins us on the horizon. The largest gothic place of worship that had been built since medieval times when Woodard constructed it late in the nineteenth century. It distracts the eye from the cement works, thankfully, and helpfully marks the end of the walk.

A meander in the Adur can be avoided by taking the permissive path over Passie's farm, just south of the eponymous fishing lakes, and in summer this can be a real treat, today with tired feet it is a welcome diversion.

Soon, the ancient bridge over the Adur is reached leading to the Red Lion pub. This bridge always puts me in mind of Trigger's brush from Only Fool's and Horses. I suspect the signs saying the bridge has been there since the 1700s should read 'a bridge', given the amount of recent restoration and rennovation. There can only be a tiny amount of the orginal timbers in situ.

A picture in the pub lists tolls and prices for the bridge, which, incredibly still carried the main road until the early 1970s. I know this because it's where my walk ended, with a restorative pint of something wet, local and delicious.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A New Route

I've spent a couple of hours this evening working on my new route, I'm hoping to create something that I can persuade whoever decides these things to adopt as an official local 'trail' on the lines of the Downs Link or the Pilgrim's Way.

My thoughts initially are for a route that follows the Arun from it's source near Horsham as it winds it's way to the sea at Littlehampton, through some of West Sussex's most attractive towns. Except Littlehampton, which is a dump.

There exists a network of public footpaths already and the challenge is to link these using public and existing rights of way to create a continuous walk that doesn't stray too far along the river itself.

I'll need to plan the route and walk it, to ensure it's feasible for use. I already know the route from Arundel down to Ford, I walked it a couple of times with Bernie last year, and it's fairly straightforward.

So this week it's time pouring over maps of the Horsham area and trying to pull the green dots and dashes together to make something worthwhile and attractive that spends as little time as possible in the built enivronment.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Washington to Amberley

First walk on the Downs of the year today, in crisp winter weather. The wind was cold, but the route I took from Washington to Amberley wasn't too exposed so it wasn't a huge problem. Unlike the sticky mud after last night's storm, which made going slippery in places and slidey in others. The chalk here turns to a sticky soup when saturated and can be hard work to tramp through.

The first part of the route was steep but the views behind made the stops worthwhile, with Chanctonbury ring in the hazy distance, the low winter sun giving it a ghostly silhouette, so different from my last visit in August.

The walk along this section is straightforward and no map is required, so with hands tucked firmly in pockets I slithered along in good time to emerge on Rackham Hill with the best views of the day over the flooded Pulborough Brooks and Amberley Swamp down to Amberley castle, and south to another silhouette, this time Arundel Castle.

A short wait was required to negotiate a logging truck loading up on the top of the hill just west of the Chantry Post. Something I hadn't ever seen on the Downs, but the wait gave chance to watch a chattering Magpie going from branch to branch in the leafless copse. I thought an early Skylark rose from the field when I eventually passed, but it was too far away to see clearly, the flight pattern certainly seemed similar. The song drowned out by the crane of the truck.

I recalled, sadly, how Bernie and I had managed to get lost in the swamp last September, negotiating drainage ditches and a herd of angry cows (Bernie took the unusual step of throwing her rucksack at one in an effort to scare it off after it stamped and snorted, and left me to fetch the same from the herd...) - now it would actually have been easier as everything except the path is under water and teeming with birdlife. It put me in mind of Welney wash back home in east Anglia.

The descent to Amberley is steep and must be hard work in reverse on a bike, as it was when we climbed it on foot in August for a chilly late evening picnic. I remembered this and walked past the spot where we had sat and discussed the merits of getting married at Amberley Castle, and a meloncholy mood descended on me.

I was a few minutes late for the hourly train back from Amberley, I saw it leave the station, but with sandwiches to eat and a flask of hot coffee it was a pleasant hour. In contrast to the girl who missed the hourly nothbound service who shouted profanities at it as it left. The driver cannot have heard her as he didn't stop.

Another half hour wait at Ford for the connection to Worthing, but I was still home by 3. The walk of six miles was comfortably covered in 3 hours.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Point Me At The Sky

So a new year has started. I'm on leave from work, and was due to go to Cumbria for some winter fun on the hills, but as those of you who followed my Nepal blog know I came back quite sick at the end of November, and still get breathless at any exertion. So I've spent a couple of days down at Pulborough Brooks, Bernie bought me a RSPB membership before she disappeared off the radar. I thought it was a really shit present at the time, but to be fair to her it's quite nice down at the Brooks, and I have lowered the average age of the clientele by about a decade.

I went up onto the Downs today met Si for a brew while he was fishing, unsuccessfully, down at Passie Ponds. I found the 200m climb up to Lancing Clump hard going, so probably Cumbria was out of reach. It's disappointing not to have got there again this season, but I am still intending to head up to Scotland in April, hopefully with my Norwegian friends from the Nepal trek.

Anyway, as I was up on the hill I remembered the blog, and how much I had enjoyed writing it, cathartic in parts and entertaining to look back on. So I've decided to try and keep one going for 2011, the first year for a long time that can't be made into a stupid pair of glasses. Join me on my journey through what I hope will be an eventful year.

Generally my life is like a soap opera, so hopefully it'll make this worth reading.