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Worthing, Sussex, United Kingdom

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