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Worthing, Sussex, United Kingdom

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.