Search Results : sussex

Nov 142020
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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If I could just bottle a day like this and sell it, I’d be a millionaire and the lucky purchaser need never fear the onset of winter again. A sky of enamel blue lay over the Sussex Weald, and the views from the hilly lanes around Chelwood Common were twenty-mile prospects, out across the green and gold of the Wealden woods to the soft grey line of the South Downs clamped against the southern horizon.

Cyclamen made delicate pink half moons in the verges at Aggons Farm, and the holly hedges were thick with crimson berries and hung with scarlet necklaces of bryony.

The woods of Chelwood Common were running with water, their paths sodden, their rain-carved dells loud with the chatter of streams. Out in the open we passed Chelwood Farm, all red brick gables and tall chimney stacks, and in the fields beyond disturbed a herd of twenty-five roe deer feeding by Maskett’s Wood. They turned and fled into the trees, each animal’s movements mirrored by its companions as though one hundred-legged creature were scampering away.

Not so long ago Sheffield Forest was a hubbub of rural activities – charcoal burning, clay digging, coppicing, iron smelting in primitive bloomeries. If tree trunks were too heavy for horses to drag away to the sawmill, they’d be cut into planks on the spot in a hand-dug sawpit. A pair of sawyers would work with a great long saw between them, the upper man known as the ‘top dog,’ his colleague down in the sawpit as the ‘underdog.’ Searching for these old sawpits and bloomery hearths, we found only bumps and hollows – the forest had long swallowed them.

A snaking track led us down and across a damp valley, where the Annwood Brook flowed through a string of beautiful lakes.

Before taking the soft and squelchy homeward path we lingered under the trees at Sheffield Mill pond, watching the wind ripple the reflections of beech trees burnished gold and acid green by the declining sun of this perfect day.

Start: Coach & Horses Inn, School Lane, Danehill RH17 7JF (OS ref TQ 411287). Please ask permission to park, and give the pub your custom!

Getting there: Bus 270 (East Grinstead – Brighton)
Road: Coach & Horses is signed from Danehill on A275 (between Sheffield Park and Chelwood Gate)

Walk (7½ miles, woodland and field paths, OS Explorer 135): Up Coach Lane; cross road, on between gateposts. At Willowlands (418285) ahead through trees (yellow arrows/YA). In 400m, nearing Chelwood Farm, left (422286, stile, ‘Public Footpath’) across paddock. Follow YAs to lane (425286). Left; in 250m, just before road, right (electricity pole on left) across footbridge (427287), then through trees. In 200m, leave wood by stile (428286); left to cross stile without footboard. In 450m, opposite Maskett’s Farm, right on green lane (431283, stile, fingerpost). Follow YAs for ¾ mile to Bell Lane (430272).

Right; in 300m, right past barrier and ‘Sheffield Forest’ sign (429269). Follow forest road. In nearly 1 mile cross stream (421265); in 400m, cross another in valley bottom (421262); right at junction. In 250m on left bend, right downhill (419262) on grassy path. In 500m, fork right (416258, 3-finger post) across Sheffield Mill dam; up lane to road (409259). Right; in 250m fork right at Portmansford pond (409262); through gate to right of Rose Cottage. Follow squelchy path (YAs). In 600m pass between lakes (412267, YAs).

In 100m fork left; duckboard across stream; right to cross stile (422268). Keep right (YAs) along fence for 2 fields into wood (414271, stile, YA). Right to stile out of wood; left along field edge (YA) to stile next to gate (417272). At junction, ahead. In 200m at pond, ahead through gate (418274, YA) and on. In 600m pass Allins Farm (419278); in 700m, left over stile (419284, fingerpost, YA, ‘Paths to Progress’). Follow YAs across stream, up to lane (418285); left to Coach & Horses.

Conditions: Wet, muddy walk

Lunch: Coach & Horses (01825-740369, coachandhorses.co). Booking advised. – currently closed due to Covid

Accommodation: Griffin Inn, Fletching TN22 3SS (01825-722890, thegriffininn.co.uk) – fully Covid compliant

Info: Ashdown Forest Centre (01342-823583, ashdownforest.org)
satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:03
Sep 192020
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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After days of wild weather and whitened seas along the Sussex coast, a quieter morning dawned over the South Downs. In the hamlet of Walderton, master thatcher Chris Tomkins had his straw bundles and pegs laid out along the gutters of a flint and brick cottage, all handy for the day’s work.

Small clouds went jostling like sheep along the wooded skyline. Our path led east beside stubble fields, sheltered in that characteristic Sussex Downs landscape of dip and rise, every curve of the chalky land pleasing to the eye and heart.

We scanned the furrows as we walked, looking for the bevelled edges and teardrop shapes of Neolithic flint tools lost or left behind by our distant ancestors.

Down behind the neat cottages and carefully tended gardens of Stoughton stood St Mary’s Church, already here when the Normans landed, a blocky building with narrow windows high up. Inside under a simple beam roof a tapestry round the walls depicted the thousand-year story of the downland village in its cradle of woods and slopes.

Beside the flinty lane that led away from Stoughton stood a plain granite pillar. In the adjacent field 23-year-old Pilot Officer Boleslaw Własnowolski – ‘Vodka’ to the other chaps in the mess of 213 Squadron at Tangmere – died in November 1940 when his Hurricane fighter was shot down by a Messerschmitt Me-109. The Polish flag that swathes the pillar, and the poppy wreaths at its foot, show how this young foreign flyer is still remembered here.

The lane ran up to the crest of the downs, where the little grassy domes of the Devil’s Humps lay in line astern. From these Bronze Age burial mounds we had a stunning view south over the glinting inlets of Chichester Harbour, where the spire of Chichester Cathedral lanced into the cloudy sky against a backdrop of trees, creeks and the dull silver plain of the sea.

Flint-cobbled tracks led us south, skirting the scrubby slopes of Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve, a marjoram-scented heaven of wild flowers and butterflies.

We turned for home along a downland highway past the brooding wreck of a great flint barn, and on through woods of oak and beech where the wind whistled and loose leaves pattered earthwards like multi-coloured rain.

Start: Barley Mow Inn, Walderton, Chichester PO18 9ED (OS ref SU 790106). Open again. Please ask permission to park, and give pub your custom!

Getting there: Bus 54 (Chichester-Petersfield)
Road – Walderton is on B2146 (signed from Westbourne, off A27 Portsmouth-Chichester)

Walk (7½ miles, easy, OS Explorer OL8): Right along road. In 50m, right across bridges; grass path to road. Right; in 50m, left (788107, fingerpost); right along field edges. Cross road (792110); on (occasional ‘Monarch’s Way’/MW signs). In 400m, path forks (796113); keep ahead across field to trees (796116). Inside trees, right (MW, ‘bridleway’/BW); immediately keep ahead downhill to road in Stoughton (801114).

Sharp left to church; return to road; right for 150m. By Tythe Barn House, left (801113, BW) up lane. In 350m pass war memorial (804111); on up to top of rise. Forward to 3-finger post (812106, BW); left along track. In ½ mile pass Devil’s Humps (819110); in another ½ mile, right (824115, white arrow in blue circle/WABC) up path; in 150m, right (blue arrow/BA) up stony bridleway.

In 250m cross bridleway (825113, 4-finger post); on downhill. In 550m pass Kingley Vale signs (827108, KV); on down for 500m, right at 4-finger post (828103). In 550m pass KV gate (824100) and on (BW). In 150m, fork right uphill at edge of trees. In 650m, at KV gate on right, fork left (819102, WABC). In ¼ mile, entering yew grow, fork left at 3-finger BW post (815104).

In 650m, at edge of trees, don’t fork left downhill, but keep ahead (809104) into open. In ½ mile, right at ruined barn (800104); inside trees, left along track. In 650m, fork right (794105) downhill past Walderton Down notice to road (792107); left to pub.

Lunch: Barley Mow, Walderton (02393-631321, thebarleymow.pub) – booking advised. Take-away service also available.

Accommodation: Coach & Horses, Compton PO18 9HA (02392-631228, coachandhorsescompton.co.uk) – open and Covid-compliant.

Info: Chichester TIC (01243-775888, visitsoutheastengland.com); satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:10
Jul 042020
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A cool, windy morning over the South Downs, with the village of Rodmell dreamlike in muted colours, its flint and weather-boarded houses lining the lane down to the River Ouse.

Looking out on the lane is Monk’s House, a modest building of weatherboard and brick, bought by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1911 and loved by them as a country retreat for themselves and their Bloomsbury friends. Virginia composed most of her best-known novels – Mrs Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, Orlando, The Waves – in her writing lodge in the garden.

From Monk’s House we followed a stony lane across a flat floodplain of rough cattle pasture to the banks of the River Ouse. Here Virginia came on 28 March 1941, distraught at a recurrence of her mental illness, to drown herself in the river, having filled her coat pockets with heavy stones to weigh her down.

Melancholy overhangs the spot, but we felt it lift with the clouds and the landscape as we passed the church at Southease with its Saxon round tower and climbed into the higher countryside of the downs.

It’s all Bottoms around here, dry valleys that wriggle into the flanks of the chalk downs. A rushing mighty wind blew through Cricketing Bottom, where a ramshackle farm displayed a hundred and one varieties of ancient cars, buses, tractors, lorries and harvesters. Looking back from the far ridge, it was a pure Eric Ravilious scene – white chalky tracks, a twisted thorn tree, long curves of dark flinty ploughlands and green corn.

Through tiny, tucked-away Telscombe where the hedges were a-twitter with sparrows, then up and away on breezy downland tracks. Up here the lonely marble monument of Harvey’s Cross marks the spot where John Harvey of Bedfordshire was killed in a fall from his horse on a June day in 1819.

A kestrel went flapping over a cornfield, struggling to rise against the wind and the weight of the prey it had pounced on. At last the raptor let go its prize – a partridge poult, one of a trio that had been scuttering along the South Downs Way ahead of us. We stepped out the last blustery mile, under a blue sky scoured of clouds, to Mill Hill and the sloping lane to Rodmell.

Start: Abergavenny Arms, Newhaven Rd, Rodmell, BN7 3EZ (OS ref TQ 418060)

Getting there: Southease station (500m from walk); Bus 123 (Newhaven-Lewes)
Road – Rodmell is signed off A27 at Lewes

Walk (10½ miles, easy, OS Explorer OL11): Left down lane (‘Monk’s House’). Beyond Monk’s House (421063), follow stony lane to River Ouse (432068). Right to Southease Bridge (427053). NB For Southease railway station, left across bridge. To continue walk: Right from Southease bridge past Southease Church to road (422053). Right (‘South Downs Way’/SDW); in 50m, cross road (take care!); up Gorham’s Lane. Immediately right through gate; follow SDW. At foot of slope, left (421055, SDW). In ⅔ mile SDW turns right(413049), but keep ahead past farm. In ⅔ dogleg left/right across Cricketing Bottom (407042); up slope to road (406038); right through Telscombe. Where road ends at cattle grid, right on track (403031, ‘St Michael’s Landour’). At cattle grid by fancy gate posts, right (399033); in 50m, through gate and on. In 1½ miles, pass Harvey’s Cross monument (386052); in 200m fork right for 1¼ miles to SDW (391067). Right for 1½ miles to Mill Hill (413053); left (‘To the Pub’) to Rodmell.

Picnic: Above Cricketing Bottom.

Monk’s House: 01273-474760, nationaltrust.org.uk (phone for opening update)

Info: Lewes TIC (01273-483448), satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:21
Sep 282019
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A cock crowed from a farmyard and wood pigeons cooed in The Rookery as we walked out of Eartham. The distant calls bestowed a sense of peace on this breezy midday after weeks of summer heat.

This corner of West Sussex countryside dips and rolls from cornfields to woods. The clouds in a grey and silver sky pressed down, sealing in pockets of heat among the recently harvested fields. I followed the outer row of stubbles for the pleasure of hearing the dry stems swish and crackle against my boots.

A path in the cool shade of Nore Wood led north in a subaqueous green light to Stane Street, one flinty holloway among many converging under the beeches. Out across the open landscape of the downs we followed this 2,000-year-old way, built by the Romans soon after their invasion as a thoroughfare between their coast port of Noviomagus (Chichester) and Londinium. The raised ridge of the agger or road embankment, metalled with flints and mounded between ditches, still stood man-height, a seam of rabbit-burrowed earth and stones running northeast in a ruler-straight line.

We walked in the shelter of a clump of whitebeam, their green fruits swelling among the crinkly leaves. Some of these old trees were huge; I stepped out round the skirt of one enormous low-growing veteran and reckoned a circumference of at least 200 feet.

From Gumber Corner, another meeting place of ancient tracks, we went south over Great Down on a ridged, grassy path between fields of dark Zwartble lambs sporting white tail tufts. The Sussex coast spread out ahead, from the snout of the Isle of Wight on a blue-grey sea to the white miniature alps of the sunshades at Bognor’s Butlins.

Shady green Butt Lane was floating with thistledown parachutes. We passed derelict Downe’s Barn, a handsome old brick and flint building for which the National Trust have great plans after repair – bat and owl boxes, wildlife ponds and outdoor adventures.

Past Courthill Farm, where writer Hilaire Belloc found escape from his high-pressure London life in the early 1900s, and past a large triumphal arch perched on Nore Hill, a folly conceived as a picnic shelter by Anne, Countess of Newburgh, to give employment to local men out of work after the Peninsular Wars.

We came down to Eartham towards evening, the declining sun polishing the harvest patterns in the stubble fields and turning the empty flower cups of knapweed into a sprinkle of reciprocal suns among the grasses.

Start: George Inn, Eartham, West Sussex PO18 0LT (OS ref SU 939094) – please ask permission to park, and give The George your custom.

Getting there: Bus 99 (Petworth-Chichester)
Road – Eartham is signed off A285 (Petworth-Chichester)

Walk (8 miles, easy, OS Explorer 121): From inn, right along road; round left bend (‘Slindon’); on next right bend, fork left down lane (fingerpost/FP; yellow arrow/YA; pink arrow/PA). In 700m, ahead across field (947094); inside wood, left (949095, FP ‘bridleway’/BW). North through Nore Wood, following PA and blue arrows/BA. In ⅔ mile, at post with YA and BA (952102), sharp left (BA) downhill. At bottom of slope, The Plain, go across track (951105; ignore BAs pointing left and right). Ahead up forest ride for ⅔ mile to 6-way meeting of tracks at bench (952114, 6-finger post).

Follow Stane Street/Monarch’s Way/MW (3rd right, ‘Bignor’) NE for 1¼ miles. At bench and 4-finger post, go through gate (967126); right (MW, PA, BW); in 150m, right at Gumber Corner (BW) to follow BW south across Great Down. In 1⅔ miles, just before gate, right (967101, FP, BA); in 40m, through gate; left (FP) along track. In 700m pass BW turning on right (965095); in another 250m fork right (965092, FP); in 30m, FP points left, but fork right to pass Downe’s Barn in 100m (965091).

In ½ mile, right at road (960086); in 100m, right (‘Bignor Hill’); just before Courthill Farm buildings, left up stony lane (960088). In ½ mile pass Row’s Barn (953091); in 200m, round right bend; in 30m, left along edge of trees (951092). At top of slope, enter trees (949092); right up green lane (BA); in 200m, left (FP) across field and back to Eartham.

Lunch: George Inn, Eartham (01249-814340, thegeorgeeartham.com)

Accommodation: Blackmill Spinney, Blackmill Lane, Norton, Nr Chichester PO18 0JU (01243-543603, blackmillspinney.co.uk).

Info: Chichester TIC (01243-775888); visitchichester.org; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:40
Sep 052019
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Famous figures from British history lined the arcades inside St Mary’s Church, Chidham – Sir Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, The Beatles in their round-collared suits. Each little doll had a teasel for a head. Sunday School is obviously a lot of fun for the children of Chidham.

What a charmed place they live in, too. The Chidham Peninsula, in profile like a horse’s head, bulges southward from the inner shoreline of Chichester Harbour. This flat salient of land, its cornfields bounded by hedges and its margins bright with wild flowers, lies among countless mudbanks and creeks where the whirr and screech of seabirds is heard all day long.

From the church we followed country lanes and the margins of stubble fields to the eastern shore, where the pale mauve rays of sea aster and bushy purple heads of sea lavender smeared the saltmarshes with colour.

Across the ebbing tide stream of Bosham Channel the stumpy church spire and red brick houses of Bosham rose beyond gleaming mudflats draped with brilliant green weed. There was a pungent whiff of salty mud drying into cracked squares, and a distant chink of halyards and flap of sails as a squadron of children put out from Cobnor Hard in a flock of tiny dinghies.

The seawall path led south, dividing the marshy tideway from the dull gold of the Chidham Peninsula’s wheatfields. Away to the north, the darkening woods of summer rode the long ridge of the South Downs. This was West Sussex encapsulated – swelling downs, rich farmland and a level coast deeply indented by the creeping sea.

Down at the southern end of the peninsula the path rounded Cobnor Point. A line of gnarled old oak trees, stunted by salt, leaned arthritic limbs towards the sea. The view opened out towards the still invisible mouth of Chichester Harbour, where the ebbing water scudded with yachts and home-made sailing boats – a vigorous, active, outdoorsy scene.

A stiff south-westerly breeze caused all the boats to heel as one. It caught the skirts of our coats and sailed us up the western flank of the Chidham Peninsula, wind-tossed and heading for harbour in the Old House At Home inn.

Start: Old House At Home Inn, Cot Lane, Chidham, West Sussex PO18 8SU (OS ref SV 787040)

Getting there: Train to Nutbourne Station (787058 – 1 mile). Road – A27 to Chichester; A259 Havant road to Chidham; left at Barleycorn Inn down Cot Lane; Old House At Home, 1 mile on right.

Walk (5½ miles from Old House At Home, 7½ from Nutbourne Station; easy; OS Explorer 120): Leaving Old House At Home, right past church; on along road. At corner of Cot Lane and Chidham Lane (791040), ahead (fingerpost/FP) on grassy verge past glasshouses. Field edge path to road (794041). Turn left; in 50m, right (FP, ‘Pedestrians Only’) along private road. At end of road, hedged path (FP) to shore (799040). Right for 3¾ miles to Chidham Point on west side of peninsula (779042). Here coast path turns inland and rejoins the newer inland floodbank path. In another 200m, right at 3-finger post (781046); follow field edge path to Cot Lane (788044); right to Old House At Home.

Conditions: Coast path on west side of peninsula can be flooded at top of tide. Tide times: tides.willyweather.co.uk

Lunch: Old House At Home, Chidham (01243-572477, theoldhouseathome.co.uk)

Accommodation: The Bosham B&B, Main Road, Bosham PO18 8EH (01243-572572, chichesterbedandbreakfast.co)

Info: Chichester TIC (01243-775888); visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 16:23
Jan 272018
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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It’s hard to haul yourself out of bed on a chilly morning at sunrise, no matter what the weatherman has prophesied for that day. But there were rewards for our early-birdery. The commuters of West Sussex were still scowling their way to work as we set out from Kithurst Hill along the nape of the South Downs, under a blue sky and with a view that stopped our yawns in their tracks.

To the south-west the slender walls of Arundel Castle rose sunlit above their encircling trees, like a stronghold in a fairy tale. The plastic pavilions of Bognor Regis caught the sun, too, and beyond them a bright white ferry crawled past the grey snout of the Isle of Wight over a pale blue sea.

Nearer at hand, the chalk billows of the downs pitched and rolled. Old trackways and bridlepaths drew green seams through the pale ploughlands and stubble. We picked one running south past a windwhistle copse of beech and sycamore towards Harrow Hill’s green hummocky profile.

Harrow Hill might be, as some local stories say, the last place in England the fairies were seen dancing. It’s certainly a remarkable piece of chalk downland, pierced and riddled with the deep shafts and subterranean galleries of Neolithic flint mines. The northern flank is hollowed by a giant chalk pit, its sides as cleanly cut as though they’d been cored out with a scalpel.

We followed a grassy bridleway that skirted Harrow Hill and ran north beside a hedge of handsomely pollarded old beeches. As so often when walking these Sussex downs, we were struck by the immaculate fettle of the land.

A red kit quartered the roadless valley that opened below us, the sun catching the burnt orange of its wings as it swung this way and that on the wind. Incredible to think that these lovely creatures were all but extinct in Britain only 30 years ago.

A long straight climb to the South Downs Way at the crest, and time before the homeward trudge to lean on a gate and study the view, fifty miles in sunshine, from the wooded weald of Sussex in the north to the glinting sea far down in the south.

Start: Kithurst Hill car park, RH20 4HW approx (OS ref TQ 070125)

Getting there: Kithurst Hill car park is signed at entrance to lane on B2139, 2 miles east of Amberley towards Storrington.

Walk (6½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 121): Beside ‘Kithurst Hill Car Park’ sign by car park entrance, go through metal gate, and wooden gate opposite (‘Public Bridleway’, blue arrow/BA). Half left across field; aim right of water tank to fingerpost/FP (073121). Cross path; follow FPs and BAs for 1 mile to Lee Farm (076104). Left; where drive swings right, ahead through gate (078103, BA). Right across field, through gateway (078099), up rising track. Gate (BA); grass track; in 150m fork left across field for ½ mile to gate (082093). Ahead down drive; in 250m, left through gate (084090, BA). Half right across pasture; at KG and FP, left (086090) on gravel track. In 400m fork left (087092) on fenced grass bridleway. In 500m fork right through gateway (089098); ahead across pastures. In ⅔ mile, through gate (090105); in 100m, right (gate, FP) on bridleway. In 300m, left (093109, BA) for ½ mile to SDW (093117); left to car park.

Lunch/Accommodation: Sportsman Inn, Amberley BN18 9NR (01798-831787, thesportsmanamberley.co.uk)

Info: Chichester TIC (01243-775888)
visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:27
Oct 212017
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Beech leaves twinkled like gold coins in the cold autumn sunlight as they rained down from the trees of Buckhurst Park. It was just the day to be walking the well-tended and waymarked paths of this prosperous piece of parkland on the northern borders of Ashdown Forest. Cricket field, lake, sheep pastures, neat little estate cottages with red-tiled roofs and walls – Buckhurst is carefully looked after, and it shows.

On the ridge beside Coppice Wood we stood to admire the southward view over a shallow valley rolling upward to meet the fringe of Five Hundred Acre Wood – AA Milne’s ‘100 Aker Wood’, where Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear had their many cosy adventures. Christopher Robin Milne and his parents lived just across the hill at Cotchford Farm, and this billowing, thickly wooded countryside was their enchanted place, a gorgeous snapshot of a mythic England on this brisk autumn afternoon.

On the lane past Whitehouse Farm our boots scuffed drifts of oak leaves and crunched the acorns that the squirrels had not yet gathered for their winter hoards. A tang of woodsmoke hung round Friar’s Gate Farm with its gipsy caravan, shepherd’s hut and wheeled wooden henhouse.

In the fringe of Five Hundred Acre Wood old ponds lay rust-red with iron leached out of the underlying sandstone. We found enormous ancient oaks big enough to accommodate Wol and all his tribe, and carpets of beech mast and acorns that could have fed a thousand Piglets. No hoard of Hunny, though.

At Fisher’s Gate the estate cottages stood neatly in a row, looking back across the valley to the tall chimneys, great mullioned windows and Elizabethan gables of Buckhurst Place, carried aloft on a sea of gold and green treetops. On the lane back to Withyham the flailed hedges were dotted with brilliant autumn colours – scarlet rosehips, crimson haw peggles and spindle berries whose bright orange seeds had split their lipstick-pink cases and were pushing on outwards.

On the far side of Withyham we crossed the slow-flowing infant River Medway and looped back to the village along the Forest Trail railway path, a tunnel of pink elder leaves, roofed and floored with oaken gold.

Start: Dorset Arms, Withyham, Hartfield, E. Sussex TN7 4JD (OS ref TQ 496356)

Getting there: Bus 291 (East Grinstead – Tunbridge Wells)
Road – Withyham is on B2110 between Tunbridge Wells and Hartfield.

Walk (7½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 135): Beside Dorset Arms take driveway (‘High Weald Landscape Trail’/HWLT). In ⅔ mile, 100m past lake, fork left (502350, HWLT). At gate in ⅓ mile, left over stile (506347, HWLT); half left up to corner of wood; half right between 2 trees, on down slope. In ¼ mile, left over stile (504342, HWLT); turn right downhill inside edge of wood to cross B2188 (503341).

Up road opposite. In 300m HWLT turns left (503338), but continue along lane. At right bend, fork left (502335) up farm drive. In 350m, on right bend leading to sewage works gate (501331), bear left over stile. Left up field edge past Friars Gate Farm buildings to drive (499329). Follow it to road (499325). Right (take care!) to B2188 (497331). Right; in 200m on sharp right bend, left along drive (‘Private Road’). In ½ mile, fork right (491336, yellow arrow); in 60m, fork right, and right again beside gate (‘Weald Way’/WW). Skirt a section of driveway to stile (490338) and follow WW north along drive for 1¼ miles to B2110 in Withyham (493356).

Left for 50m (take care!); right (stile, WW) across 2 fields. Cross Forest Way cycle track (491363, WW) and River Medway beyond. Continue on WW (stiles) for ¼ mile to driveway at building (495368); follow it to road (498366). Right; in 250m, right on Forest Way. In ½ mile, left (491363); WW back to B2110; left to Withyham.

Lunch/Accommodation: Dorset Arms, Withyham (01892-770278, dorset-arms.co.uk) – stylish place, great food.

Info: East Grinstead TIC (01342-410121)
visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 08:24
Jul 152017
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Walking the old holloways under the beeches on Henley Common, Jane and I looked out between the trees to see the dull green wall of the South Downs backlit with early light diffused by mist to an apricot glow.

Under recently coppiced sweet chestnuts the light fell cool and grey between the saw-edged leaves. The slender rods of the chestnut stems were footed in thick mosses. I pushed my finger in as far as the second knuckle, and still could not reach the trunk inside the soft moss jacket.

Woolbeding Common fell away from its high viewpoint in a great slump of land, bracken-strewn and thick with silver birch and gorse. Three dogs hared up and bounced around us, tremendously pleased to be lords of all this heathy open space. Lowland heaths are rare commodities these days, thanks to agricultural and housing development, but Woolbeding and Pound Commons are carefully managed by the National Trust for their ground-nesting nightjars, their adders and lizards, the dragonflies and the deadly little hobbies that hunt them.

An old horse came slowly up the track, picking its way very deliberately among the stones, pulling a light two-wheeled gig with a blond-haired woman and her son on board. At that moment it looked the nicest thing in the world, to be jogging at an idle pace behind a stout nag over a common of golden gorse, purple bell heather and fresh green bracken.

We followed the heathery pathways down past handsome Woolhouse Farm. ‘Hammer Wood,’ said the map. ‘Hammer Pond, Hammer Hanger, Hammer Lane.’ Reminders of medieval times when these Wealden woods, the heart of England’s iron-making industry, were loud and smoky with smelting and hammering.

Between the holly stems on Lord’s Common we glimpsed the sharply peaked gables and long red roofs of the King Edward VII Hospital. This great tuberculosis sanatorium, built with its Gertrude Jekyll-designed gardens at the turn of the 20th century, is undergoing conversion to state-of-the-art accommodation. The sanatorium’s star architect, Charles Holden, planned it so as to admit as much daylight and fresh air as possible to the patients – a revolutionary approach at that date.

The midday sun came in through the leaf canopy to brush our faces as we turned for home along hollowed ways tunnelled by badgers since long before these hills knew houses, hammerponds, or humans themselves.

Start: Duke of Cumberland PH, Henley, Midhurst, West Sussex GU27 3HQ (OS ref SU 894258)

Getting there: Bus 70, Guildford-Midhurst.
Road – Henley is signposted off A286, 4 miles north of Midhurst. Ample parking on road verge near pub.

Walk (8 miles, woodland paths and holloways, OS Explorer 133): From pub, right up road. In 200m, right across footbridge (fingerpost/FP, yellow arrow/YA, ‘Serpent trail’/ST), up bank. At drive, right (black arrow/BLA) up bank to cross A268 (893256, FP, ST) – please take care! Follow woodland path (BLA, ST) to Verdley Edge. Pass The Lodge (887260) and turn left (ST). In 30m, fork right (3-finger post, ST); in 100m, fork left uphill off track (ST). Follow ST for 500m to edge of wood (881258); right on track along wood edge.

At gateway into open field (879259), aim for roof in trees ahead, following right-hand edge of field (BLA) to gate. Pass to right of barn (875258); follow track into trees. At T-junction with a track on edge of common, turn right (873258, ‘New Lipchis Way’/NLW). In 250m, left (871260, FP) and follow NLW, ST downhill to cross car park, then lane to reach bench and viewpoint (869260).

Back to lane. Right for 100m, left up gravel track. In 30m fork right on grassy path across common. In 500m, right at track crossing (872255, FP, YA); follow west, soon with wall on right, along edge of common. Follow YA and NLW. In 600m straight across road (866254) and on. In 200m cross larger road and on (NLW). In another 400m, at 3-finger post (861251, NLW), keep ahead past Ivy Cottage and Woolhouse Farm. In 250m, fork right off roadway (862248, 3-finger post). In ⅔ mile NLW forks right (875241), but keep ahead. In 150m, opposite Ash House, bridleway forks right (blue arrow/BA), but keep ahead up path curving left (YA) out of woods.

At Tote Lane (862241), left past Woodgate Farm; in 100m, right (FP) up field edge. Keep hedge on right till track turns right through it; ahead here through woodland to cross road (868242). Ahead (FP, ‘Dene House’) on stony track across Pound Common. In 200m a path forks left (869243), but keep right (ahead). In 150m at crossing of tracks, keep ahead uphill. In 400m track forks (873247); keep to right-hand track (YA) at edge of trees, and cross track to Eastshaw Farm (874247).

On through woods, passing King Edward VII Sanatorium on your left (glimpses through trees). Track bends right (882247), passes a BLA, and in 100m you turn left/north (4-finger post). In 150m fork left, in 350m, at 4-finger post, dogleg left-right up left side of house/garden to cross road (885251). On through trees (FP). In 300m cross Madam’s Farm track (885255, stiles, FP); continue through trees for 500m to descend to Verdley Edge (887260). Turn right and retrace steps to Henley.

Lunch: Duke of Cumberland, Henley (01428-652280, dukeofcumberland.com) – lively, very popular pub with great food. Booking advised!

Accommodation: King’s Arms, Fernhurst GU27 3HA (01428-641165, kingsarmspub.co.uk) – 1 mile.

Info: Chichester TIC (01243-775888)
visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:56
Jan 072017
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Rye Harbour is a strange old place. The ivy-strangled Martello tower and the grim Second World War bunkers tells you that this is a coast that has lain under constant threat of invasion. And the enormous expanse of flint pebbles, spreading inland for more than a mile, betokens the incursions of thousands of tons of shingle, dumped here by the restless sea.

This is moody country on a cold morning. A whistling east wind drove us along the beach. Lesser black-backed gulls sulked on the sandbanks, and redshank foraged fastidiously with jerky steps in the pools of Rye Harbour nature reserve on the inland side of the sea bank.

A pair of human figures patrolled the tideline, probing the beach with long rods as they sucked out lugworms for fishing bait. I set off to find out what they were doing, and sank without warning up to my knees in glutinous mud that I had mistaken for sand. I struggled out, mud-splattered all over. ‘See you found a mud hole!’ grinned a passing man in a van. ‘Lucky you didn’t go in over your head, eh!’

King Henry VIII built Camber Castle as a coastal stronghold to keep the French at bay. Now, five centuries later, the stark grey fortress stands more than a mile inland among wide fields where a thin skin of grass overlies a wilderness of pebbles. We walked a circuit of the eroded bastion walls, then made for a hide on the shores of Castle Water where green-headed shoveller drakes swept the water with heavy spatulate bills. Elegant terns hung over the water on crooked wings, and the big black outline of a marsh harrier ghosted quietly across the reed beds.

Back on the shore we found the gaunt blocky shed from which a crew of Rye Harbour men launched the lifeboat Mary Stanford on a bitter November morning in 1928. She was lost with all hands; 17 men from one tiny village. The lifeboat house has remained locked and unused ever since – a downbeat memorial to bravery and death on an unforgiving shore.

Start: Rye Harbour car park, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7TU (OS ref TQ 942190)

Getting there: Bus 313 (Northiam-Rye Harbour)
Road – Rye Harbour is signed off A259 between Rye and Winchelsea.

Walk (8¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 125): From car park follow sea wall past Lime Kiln Cottage info centre (946186) to river mouth (949181). Right along beach or coast road. In 1 mile pass old lifeboat shed (932172); in another 650m, right inland on path past info board (928168) over 2 crossings (925171 and 921173) for ¾ of a mile to road (917175). Right; just past Castle Farm, fork left (920176) to Camber Castle (922185). Clockwise round castle; on east side, path along fence to wooden gate (924185) leading to bird hide. Return to gate; left through metal gate; field edge south. Left across end of Castle Water to junction (925179); right; in 400m, left through gate no. 9 (923177). On past Camber Cottage (921174); through gate, then left for ½ a mile to shore road (928168). Left to lifeboat house; in 300m, left on gravel track (934174). In 300m, through left-hand of two gates (934176); ahead to junction (931178); right on gravel track for 1 mile to road (939191); right to car park.

Lunch: Inkerman Arms (01797-222464) or William the Conqueror PH (01797-223315), Rye Harbour

Accommodation: Ship Inn, Rye TN31 7DB (01797-222233, theshipinnrye.co.uk) – friendly, fun atmosphere.

Lime Kiln Cottage info centre; open 10-4 (wildrye.info); visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit harpercollins.co.uk and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122

 Posted by at 01:09
Aug 062016
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A breezy, hazy summer’s day on the West Sussex downs, with the stubbles of the recently harvested wheat crop crunching beneath our boots as we crossed the fields from Sutton’s old White Horse Inn to Barlavington Farm. Behind the weatherboarded barns we found St Mary’s Church, plain and graceful under its rafters. A plaque inside commemorated Amy Louisa Bragg, ‘a pioneer in the backblocks of New Zealand,’ and another in the churchyard was marked simply: ‘Stan Mayes, 1917-2014 – A Countryman.’

It was Sussex countrymen, generations of them, who coppiced the ash trees by the sunken holloway up the wooded slopes of Barlavington Hanger; and countrymen who ploughed up the sheep pasture across the heights of Barlavington Down for wartime crops. Gold tides of wheat and barley still roll across the downs. Up there we found a sloping haven of old-fashioned flowery sward grown long and ungrazed – field scabious, yellow-wort, eyebright and harebells, yellow rattle and agrimony. Common blue butterflies flickered among the yellow plants, the males all a dusty blue, the females with orange and black scallops to the edge of their wings.

We sat down to admire the view along the downs, perching on a stone inscribed in memory of Sir Ian Anstruther of that Ilk, local squire, writer and splendid gentleman (he drove an Aston Martin DB5, was once stopped by the police for driving too slowly, and always dressed for dinner in velvet slippers with bells on the toes). Then we followed flinty tracks that dipped and rose to Bignor Hill before wriggling away down the holloways to West Burton and the field path to Bignor.

‘When my great-great-great-great grandfather George Tupper struck a large stone whilst ploughing on the 18th of July 1811…’ begins the foreword of the guidebook to Bignor Roman villa. The Tupper family owns the site today, as they did two centuries ago when the villa with its tiles and statues, its lead water pipes and wonderful mosaic floors was unearthed at the clang of George Tupper’s horse plough.

It was the mosaics, so skilfully and sensitively crafted, that caused us to linger in the villa until closing time. Ganymede in the embrace of an eagle, child-like gladiators tumbling and sparring, a bathing beauty naked to the waist – and as a chill corrective to the luxurious life, a cameo of Winter with pinched white cheeks and hollow eyes, clutching a leafless twig. The Romans, too, had intimations of mortality.

Start: White Horse Inn, Sutton, West Sussex RH20 1PS (OS ref SU 979152)

Getting there: Bus 99 (Chichester-Petworth).
Road – Sutton is on minor road between A29 at Bury and A285 near Duncton.

Walk (8½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer 121): Up path beside White Horse car park. At ‘Private’ gate sign, right through adjacent gate. Up steps; right (yellow arrow/YA) past barn and on through garden into field. Half left across field; cross bridleway (976155, fingerpost/FP) and on to cross footbridge (975158). Half right across field, up to cross stile; left up hedge, then green lane to Barlavington Farm. Opposite barn, left (973161, FP) to chapel.

Follow path through churchyard to far corner; left (YA) along lane. In 100m (971161), right up gravel path and on (YA) along green lane to cross road (970162, FP). Up steps, along field edge; cross stile beside gate; on to cross road (968164). Through pedestrian gate, up green lane into woods of Barlavington Hanger (966162). In 400m, at fork of bridleways (963160, 3-finger FP) keep ahead uphill. Path rises, then falls to cross green lane at corner of Northcomb Wood in valley (963152). On south up path across field; on through Access Land. Through gate at south end of Access Land (963144); on in tunnel of trees. In 450m, at T-junction (962140, 3-finger FP), bear right; in 20m, arrow points uphill along chalk track. In ½ mile, pass NT ‘Bignor Hill’ sign (966133) and keep ahead along track for 900m to car park (974129).

Cross road; on up hedged track over Bignor Hill along South Downs Way (SDW). In ⅔ mile pass Toby’s Stone (983132); in another 400m, left (SDW), descending for 400m to T-junction of tracks at 3-finger FP (989132). Left (SDW) to another T-junction with barns to your right; left here; immediately right; then immediately fork left on grassy path through trees. Descend for ⅔ mile to road junction in West Burton (996139). Left (‘West Sussex Literary Trail’/WSLT); path beside stream, then along field edges, following YAs for ¾ mile to road (986144). Right for 100m; left to Bignor Roman Villa (988147).

Back at Roman Villa car park entrance, turn right through tall deer gate (unwaymarked) along path to road in Bignor (984146). Right (WSLT); round left bend; opposite church, left (982146). In 100m, right through gate (WSLT); on across a lawn; on along grassy path, then beside stream to Bignor millpond. At T-junction of paths (981148, FP), right to cross footbridge; cross 3 fields to Sutton.

NB: Detailed directions are recommended. Download them with online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk.

Lunch/accommodation: White Horse Inn, Sutton (01798-869221, whitehorse-sutton.co.uk) – smart, well-run inn.

Bignor Roman Villa: Open 10-5, March-Oct; 01798-869259, bignorromanvilla.co.uk

Info: Chichester TIC (01243-775888)

www.visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:09