After reading Sarah Davey’s feature last month about staying at home and discovering local areas i thought it would be a great idea to feature a local walk that is accessible to all. So this month a 3km (1.8 mile) trek takes in all the wooden sculptures at Bersted Park that have been created by local chainsaw artist Simon Groves. Bersted Park is the new housing development in North Bersted and is bordered by the redirected A259, within the 26 hectare site are large areas that cannot be built on and now feature the art trail along with a trim trail, lake, sports pitches and a community centre. Arun District council are managing this area in an environmentally friendly way with fields of wild flowers. Over a two year project Berkeley Homes have funded a total of 10+ sculptures as part of their conditions for this new development. Local residents were consulted for ideas on what the sculptures should be and each piece has been expertly carved out of locally sourced sustainable oak. A trail map can be found on the Arun District Council’s website which can be printed off and shows three routes of varying lengths.
The walk starts at the Bersted Park Community Centre and to the right of the building at the edge of the car park can be found the first sculpture featuring a ‘Trail Guide’ showing the three routes. The route featured in this article is the full route marked in yellow. Follow the trail into the fields towards the second sculpture which is a tractor and bales of hay, great for children who can sit on this and imagine that they are farming the fields.
Keeping to the edge of the field continue to the lake, this small body of water has been strategically created as flood relief to this low lying area. It is connected to a number of streams and drainage ditches and ultimately links up with the Aldingbourne Rife. At the end of the lake is a carved wooden sofa where you can sit and take in the native wetland habitat, Yellow Flag Iris can be seen along the edge amongst many wild flowers and the rare water vole may even be seen. In the middle of the lake is an island that features an egrets sculpture, the white of the birds can just be seen above the bushes.
The route goes round the lake and along the southern edge of the park to the trim trail, made up of various outdoor exercise apparatus this is great for those who want to further workout and burn a few extra calories. At this point a rest can be had on the dragonfly bench and whilst sitting here the orchid sculpture can be seen a little further on.
Double back and follow Barton’s lane to the entrance of the sports field where a great sculpture depicting a football boot and cricket stumps stands. From here the walk continues outside of the sports field, however an eleventh sculpture can be found on this field which is well worth taking a detour to, as the artwork is really amazing.
At this point in the trail swifts can be seen circling around, some great views of the South Downs can be had and a group of three grazing sheep can be seen strategically placed in the middle of the meadow.
Just past here is the WW2 Pill Box, one of thousands that were built along the south coast in 1940 which would have been manned by the home guard to hamper any enemy invasion.
At the far corner of Bersted Park can be seen the waymarker pointing to key areas like Eastfield conservation area and Bersted Brooks that are also worth further exploring if you want to extend the walk.
Follow the sign’s direction and head back to the community centre where the last sculpture called historic piece can be seen on the trail. A great walk for all the family to enjoy.
A 14 km (8.5 miles) linear walk from Chichester to West Stoke taking in Ashling Park Vineyard.
In the past i have walked many of the LDPs around west sussex, created a route from London to Portsmouth that follows the line of the canal’s which we called ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ and now it’s time to create a new trek. West Sussex has more vineyards than any other county in the UK and what better a trek to do than to try and link them all up, hopefully visiting each vineyard to see how operate and taste their wines, which i can then feature as part of my blog. It will cover over 290km (180 miles) and include over 20 vineyards and many great features of West Sussex.
The first section is a hike of 14km (8.5 miles) with many contrasts, after starting in the city centre, it passes through water meadows and finishes in aromatic bluebell woods. It’s a long, mainly flat linear walk, however much smaller walks can be enjoyed exploring the water meadows and Stoke woods as both have many footpaths and access routes.
We parked up in West Stoke and after a short walk to the bus stop we caught the bus to chichester, timing was crucial here as as buses are every two and a half hours, not one to miss. The trek i have decided officially starts and finishes in the centre of Chichester at ‘The Cross’, just thought it was a good point in the county town of Sussex. The elaborate 15th century Market Cross in the centre of Chichester is built of Caen stone, this structure replaced the previous wooden cross that had been erected on the same site, it was used as a market place giving the poor people of Chichester somewhere to sell their wares. PK wanted a chocolate bar and ended up traipsing around Chichester trying to find one, a slight delay at the start which i will remind him of later.
From the cross head out via West Street, a busy street that passes the 11th century cathedral. The 84m tall spire has been a landmark for sailors for many years as it can be seen for miles across the flat marshlands and is in fact the only medieval cathedral that can be seen from the sea. It is well worth spending some time looking around the building, the bell tower and its grounds.
West street finishes by a roundabout, cross over and keep going straight which now takes you through a suburban residential area with some fine houses. Cross the railway via the bridge and pass under the main A27, which leads into Fishbourne, a small village that in AD43 was invaded by the romans.
Cross the old A27 and down a footpath past a house with two sculptures in the garden and the landscape changes immediately from urban to meadows. Now silted over the water meadows was once the old roman harbour and is now an AONB and part of the Chichester Harbour. An exceptionally clear stream ‘The Fishbourne’ meanders through the flat surroundings of the meadows along with many other water courses, springs and Mill Leats. This is an area abundant with wildlife, from flora and fauna to a large swan guarding a newly laid egg on it’s nest amongst other wildfowl that can be seen as the route follows the top end of Chichester harbour through reeds higher than many a person before emerging at the waters edge of the Fishbourne Channel with views across to Dell Quay. (Spring tides at this point may mean route is not accessible). The wind here was quite a strong southwesterly.
After a short walk along the waters edge the route heads inland, at this point we have been heading away from any vineyards, but a route that is really good and varied nonetheless. A mixture of quiet roads and paths takes us through some very fertile arable fields situated on the rural outskirts of Bosham where many different salad crops and vegetables are grown. We headed north towards Broadbridge at the old A27, crossed the railway and then the new A27 via a bridge and it’s quite something watching the traffic hurtle past underneath on their daily business whereas we are enjoying the peace of a coast and countryside trek.
North of the main roads we headed a short way along the road before leaving on a path that leads past a house and into a meadow which borders some private copses, the path is well signposted and soon enters the woods, you can’t leave the trail here as taping through the trees prevents you from wandering into the woods, these woods are very sparse on the ground with little growing in them, it looks like they are currently being managed.
The path exits the woods and cross dairy cow farmland to East Ashling, near to where we caught the bus. After about 100m turn down Sandy Lane which heads towards West Ashling. The road soon comes to an end and through a small alleyway we are led into another arable field which the farmer has kindly left the path marked very distinctively and easy to follow. At the far end of the field you might think you are at an ancient ceremonial site with some large stones arranged in a circle in the grounds of a horse trainers, not sure if they are just a modern piece of sculpture or of more historical interest.
We meet Southbrook Road and head north past ‘Ashling Park’ the first vineyard on this mammoth trek, as we walk along the road we catch glimpses of the vines through the trees, there is no public right of way through this beautiful estate, so i had to return for a visit after contacting the Managing Director Gail. The gates automatically opened and on driving up to West Ashling House the vines could be clearly seen in their regimented rows. What an incredible setting for a vineyard in a lovely sheltered position that is only 3 miles from the sea, with some of the best weather in Sussex and soil perfect for growing grapes, you can certainly understand why their wines are award winning. We met Gail at the house that was once owned by Lord Portal who was second in command to Lord Churchill, unspoilt this place would have certainly seen some history. Gail really welcomed us to the estate and offered us a glass of their award winning cuvee, this sparkling white has stood out from 16,000 other wines to finish in the top 10 with a Gold medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards and i have got to say that i can see why, it was a lovely wine, fruity with a clean finish and i could certainly imagine enjoying this in the countryside with a great picnic. Gail showed us the plans for the visitor centre and lodges (designed by William Hardie from TV’s Amazing Spaces) which are set to be opened in October this year. The plans that have undergone much scrutiny by the national park and have been designed with the environment at the forefront, they will most definately be an asset to the park. The luxury lodges will all have a view of the vines or lake and the visitor centre will allow Ashling Park to showcase their wines, vines, carry out tastings & tours of the vineyard and have special events such as pop up restaurants. Gail was very excited of these future plans and i got to admit it is an idealyc setting among the 50 acres of Ashling Park. The sun was shining, so we couldn’t leave without a tour of the vines. Firstly we saw their latest Baccus vines that have only just been planted, standing at only a few inches tall it is incredible to think that in a few years these will be producing grapes for a still white wine. Walking through the vines that have been planted in the converted hay meadows, Gail explained who worked there and how looking after the vines is a family affair, her children also getting involved with the weeding and bottle labelling. The care and attention that they all give to the vines means that they could know each plant almost by name and are always to be sure to get the most from each plant. As we headed back to the house we got caught in a short sharp shower, however it did not dampen a great afternoon that we had had with Gail, she is a lovely person that will be a great host to all the future plans and i certainly look forward to revisiting once they have all been completed. For more information and to be able to purchase their wines please visit www.ashlingpark.co.uk or you can follow their progress on facebook.
The last part of the walk takes us into the ancient woodland of Ashling and Stoke Wood and we are soon met with the sweet aroma of bluebells as they carpet the forest floor, what a great time to walk through these woods and see the beauty of these delicate flowers. The soil of this woodland has been under tree cover and leaf litter for hundreds of years and in the spring a mist of blue can be seen on the forest floor with vast broadleaf and conifer trees emerging upwards from the hue. A lot of these woods are private but a good network of paths means the best of the area can be explored. Detours around these woods can be made, but only by keeping to public footpaths to see the flowers in all their glory. After taking many pictures it was time to head back to the car and find a pub for some well deserved refreshment. A quick check on the map with the compass ensures we take the right path, much to PK’s annoyance as he likes to use his phone app and find where we are quicker; at which point i did remind him that we could have been in the pub now if he hadn’t taken so long trying to find that Bounty chocolate bar in the centre of Chichester………..
A circular trek of 5km (3.1 Miles) rising up 81m (266 ft) to the top of Highdown Hill which on a clear day will give some amazing views across Worthing to Beachy Head in the East and the Isle of Wight in the West. The walk starts in the car park at the base of the hill however a shorter route can be taken by parking at the higher car park approximately half way to the top.
Over the road from the car park and behind the hedge is the footpath that ascends Highdown, it follows the edge of an arable field and leads firstly to the upper car park at 43m high. With the entrance on the left a visit could be made to ‘Highdown Gardens’, these were once the grounds of the nearby hotel. The gardens started their creation in 1909 in one of the many disused chalk pits by Sir Frederick Stern and his wife, owner then of the Highdown Hotel, He developed the site until his death in 1967. In 1970 the gardens were passed to Worthing Borough Council who since the mid 1970s have restored them to Sterns’ original design.
From the gardens head on upwards until reaching an unmissable burial chamber known as the ‘Millers Tomb’. So called after the miller ‘John Olliver’, who In the 18th century had this tomb built 27 yrs before he actually died in 1793. Many claim that he was the leader of local smugglers and used the tomb to store contraband. He would arrange the sails of his windmill at varying angles to indicate the absence of customs men to his fellow smugglers out at sea. The mill is said to have been damaged in a storm and since demolished, however the brick base of the mill can be seen as a mound at the south west corner of the hill fort.
Take the downward path a short way, then follow westwards along the lower part of the hill, the path passes many disused chalk pits and gives some great views across Worthing. The Highdown vineyard can be seen nestled on the lower south slopes, with great soil and plenty of sun, this working vineyard produces both still and sparkling English Wines. Further along can be seen the Roundstone Farm that got its name from an incident with a runaway millstone rolling down the hill following an accident.
Just past the large chalky escarpment, the path continues west and is then shielded from the hill behind a hedge, giving refuge to many birds. Before long Ecclesden Mill comes into view and is situated just above Ecclesden Manor. This brick tower mill is said to have been built shortly after the demise of John Olliver’s mill in 1826, Milling ceased at Ecclesden Mill in 1872 and the sails were blown off in a storm in 1880. It has since been renovated and is now a private residence.
Walk northwards past the mill and then head up the hill on the well worn track to the top at 81m. The Bronze age saw the first settlers and a hill fort was constructed in the early iron age. Later on, this site also became an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and a number of unusual glass objects can now be seen in Worthing Museum. In more modern times the ancient archaeology of the site has been considerable damaged by a radar station that was built During World War II and many uprooted trees following the Great Storm of 1987.
On heading back down the hill, take a break in the Highdown Hotel built in 1820 as the family home of the Lyons family. In 1909 the house and surrounding grounds were bought by Major Stern and his wife, who’s surname was used as the name of a night club in the 80’s. A short descent from here leads back to the car park at the start.
A 9km (5.6 miles) circular walk starting in Eartham.
When i walked this route it was mainly in the darkness, such that i could get a different perspective of the sights & sounds of this area along with great night time views from Nore Hill. However i recommend that the walk is carried out in daylight which will show case the beauty of this area much more.
Park up in the village of Eartham and take the road south towards the church. The gates to Eartham House are on the left which was constructed by Thomas Hayley in 1743, albeit much smaller than it is today. Following Thomas’ death the house became home to his son and poet William Hayley who lived in the house from 1774 to 1800. The grade 2 listed house has been extensively enlarged and rebuilt over the years and is now occupied by Great Ballard School.
Head down the footpath opposite the church that passes the the graveyard, continue down the hill and across the fields, shortly the path will start to ascend Long Down, which is the site of some Bronze Age Flint Mines, now a scheduled monument the only trace that can be seen is the knolls of uneven ground when looking south of the path, apparently there are at least fifty infilled shafts and many of the shafts are now under the cultivated fields having been levelled by the ploughing.
Continuing upwards, Halnaker Windmill soon comes into view and can be seen straight ahead, at dusk it prominently stands as a dark silhouette against the setting sun behind it. A windmill has been on this site since 1540 and the current mill dates from the 1740s. The tower mill was built for the Duke of Richmond to service the Goodwood Estate and was working up until 1905 when it was struck by lightning. The mill has been subject of a Hillaire Beloc poem called Ha’nacker Mill.
The path soon meets the A285 which is part of ‘Stane Street’ turn right and head towards Londinium, this long straight path was once an important roman road linking London Bridge to the harbour at Chichester. Following the long straight path known as ‘Stane Street’ should be easy as it heads through Eartham Woods. Look out for deer as they are often spotted leaping amongst the beech trees of these woods.
Continue on path until the Six-Ways signpost is reached and where many paths converge. This sign is known locally as ‘Shippams Poste’, named after a local family who donated it. From here take the 1st path on the right that is signed towards Slindon (be careful not to take the firebreak). This long straight path passes through woodland known as North Wood. North Wood was once a large area of ancient woodland, but during both the 1st & 2nd world wars a huge demand on timber meant that many beech trees were felled to support the war effort. The fields were then ploughed and farmed to support British food production. By taking the opportunity of a short detour here through the gate and into National Trust reserve you’ll be able to see where 75 hectares of the arable farmland are being turned back into woodland. A massive project by the trust to recreate the special landscape and encourage much wildlife to return.
Head west, through Nore Wood and up to the 18th century Folly which was used by the Countess of Newburgh for many picnic parties. Take a moment here to catch your breath and admire the fine views across Sussex and on to Hampshire.
Leave the Folly heading towards Puck Lane Coppice, then take the westerly path back to Eartham. On this path can be seen the brick and flint octagonal pump house that once supplied the nearby great house. This path leads into Eartham and a short walk along the road back to the start. Before leaving however, Why not take the opportunity to refuel at the local pub.
A 5.5 km (3.4 mile) circular walk along the Roman Walls that surround Chichester. Starting at the canal basin the walk heads to South Street where the official walls walk can be picked up, brass plagues inlaid into the pavement will indicate the way and many information boards on the walk explain more about the history.
City gates would once have stood at the four entrances of North, South, East and West Streets, but unfortunately no trace of these gates remain. Continue on South Street to the Old Theatre (now Zizzi’s) which was built in 1791 for the population of Chichester, turn into Theatre Lane and walk to the car park opposite where the first glimpse of the Roman Walls can be seen. Now a scheduled monument, more than 80% of the original structure has withstood the test of time and the majority of the walls are accessible to the public.
The South East Quadrant walls are found in a small park behind iron fencing and has a great example of one of only four remaining bastions. Standing at half its original height it was used as defences for the city, these bastions would have housed large crossbows capable of firing bolts up to 500m.
Exit park and continue through the car park into St John’s Street where St Johns Church chapel can be found, a rare example of a Georgian Proprietary Chapel, built in 1813 the chapel would have provided additional capacity for the existing parish churches meeting the spiritual needs of the growing urban population.
Cross East Street and look for the silver wishbone hanging below the clock above the old entrance to the Shippam’s paste factory. Shippam’s have been in the city since 1750 when Sergeant Shipston Shippam opened a small warehouse in West Street selling butter, cheese and meat from the west country. Shippam’s also provided provisions for the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. The meat paste factory in Eastgate opened in 1892 and prided itself on sourcing ingredients from all over the world to make into its famous pastes, production continued until 2002 when the factory was taken over by Princes and moved to Terminus Road. The smell of chicken stock was often smelt across the city and the silver wishbone above the door symbolises the great pile of wishbones left from the many carcasses that came in every day, they would have been given to visitors of the factory to take away as good luck tokens.
From the factory head north and stroll along the wide promenade created on the wall to Priory Park. Enter the Park and continue round the elevated walkway on the walls, that give a grand view over the park. Priory park has two additional scheduled monuments; the Guildhall that opened in 1292 as a Franciscan Friary and used by the Greyfriars that were resident in the park for over two centuries. The second monument is the Norman Motte where once stood Chichester Castle, built by local Lord Roger de Montgomerie. Also look out for the remains of the hospitum walls of the friary and the aviary that houses many budgerigars.
The North East Quadrant of the walls finish as they lead into Priory Lane and the North West quadrant starts after crossing North Street. Another elevated section that continues around the city outskirts overlooking the houses of Orchard Street and giving some great views in places towards the cathedral.
After crossing West Street, the South West Quadrant is the last section of wall and this part has no promenade on the wall so is followed by a path alongside, take time to visit a hidden gem that is Bishops Palace Gardens, the peaceful gardens are situated just through a gap in the wall and next to the cathedral. Return to the walk which leaves the wall just past the gardens and follows the course of the River Lavant back to South Street, a short back track down Southgate will lead back to the start at the canal basin.
A circular walk through the beautiful Petworth Park. A great time to visit is in the autumn when the leaves are changing colours and England’s largest collection of fallow deer can be heard rutting.
The trek starts in the car park (furthest north from the house) and sets out in a westerly direction on the path leading out of the woods and into the rolling terrain of the park. Much of the park’s landscape has been laid out by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, in particular the ponds and the strategically planting of many of the trees.
Cross over the spring that supplies water to the upper and lower ponds via several miles of underground drains and tunnels and continue past Shepherds Lodge, heading up the hill to Upperton Tower. The tower, also known as ‘The Monument’ was built in 1816 at a point where the main house could just be seen. Although referred to as ‘The Monument’ it does not commemorate anything and there is very little history on this building. It sits at 125m, the highest point in the park and has some terrific views to the Sussex countryside beyond.
Admiring the views retrace your steps and follow the contours around a natural bowl in the landscape to a steep decent down to the stony track. Many of the fallow deer can be seen much closer here as it tends to be a quieter part of the park. Follow the path south which gradually rises and on reaching the top Tillington Church Tower can be seen in the distance and the Upper Pond will also come into view. Head towards the pond taking the grassy path down to the waters edge.
The Upper Pond was redesigned between 1752 – 1756 and to create the pond Capability Brown built a dam across the valley. The upper pond was captured by Turner in one of his pictures called ‘Dewy Morning’. As you descend it is clearly seen that the pond is designed to simulate a river flowing through the landscape.
Follow the iron fence around the pond to the unusual boathouse (also built by Brown in 1756), on top of the boathouse is a platform where views across the pond, it’s wildfowl and sussex countryside can be seen, look over the edge to see a ‘Neptune head’ sculpture embedded into the wall above the arches that was taken from the house.
Head away from the Upper Pond on the Lawns toward the house with it’s air of grandeur and prominence on the landscape. The wrought Iron gates lead to the ‘Pleasure Grounds’, designed to inspire a range of emotions, take some time here to discover the Doric temple, Ionic Rotunda and war memorial.
Petworth House was built in 1682 and for an additional fee the house can be entered to see the many state rooms including paintings by well known artists.
Once back in the park, follow the wall that borders the pleasure grounds and here can be seen the oldest oak in the park at 940 years old. Some recent archaeology has revealed what is thought to be the remains of Henry VIII banqueting or hunting lodge in the area just before the descent to Lower Pond.
Just past the pond was once the site of an army camp for American and Canadian airman. Post war it was used as a resettlement camp for displaced Polish families up until 1959. There is no evidence left of the camp and the entrances in the wall have long been filled in.
On the last stretch back to the car park look out for the ‘Beelzebub Oak’ which dates back to 1779 and marks the parish boundary, the name derives from a superstition that ‘beyond the parish boundary the land was spiritually suspect’.
This months trek is a circular walk of 14km (9 miles) from Arundel Bridge to the top of Barpham Hill and back taking in some fine views along the route. This trek is inspired by a DofE expedition that I recently assessed.Starting at Arundel Bridge head east along the river passing the Lido, which has been popular with locals since 1960. The 16th Duke of Norfolk donated the land in celebration of his daughter, Lady Anne’s 21st Birthday. After a period of closure and refurbishment the Lido is back open and now run as a charity. Continue along the raised river bank further out of the town and into the open farmland, following the river that was once ‘London’s Lost Route To The Sea’.At Warningcamp the railway meets the river and at this point there would once have been a wharf supplying local trade to the villages. Carefully cross the railway and follow the Monarchs Way through the sleepy hamlet, along the road and then into the woods that leads through a valley of Warningcamp Hill.
The path will start to rise and after a short steep incline will bring you up to Gibbets Piece, named after the gibbeting of Jack Upperton. A post has been placed as a memorial to the Wepham resident who was executed in Horsham in 1771. Jack was a poor labourer and in his 60s when he and an accomplice robbed the local postman, who was carrying mail to Arundel along the old Lewes to Chichester highway. Although only a pound was netted in the robbery, Jack was caught by locals that noticed his increased spending. Following his execution Jacks tarred body was placed in the gibbet as an example to others and to also ward off similar crimes. This old highway has long been downgraded to a bridleway and forms part of the Monarchs Way. It leads into and is surrounded by the woods of Angmering Park when in the spring blooms into mists of blue with many bluebells on the forest floor.
Follow this old highway through the mixed woods of Angmering Park, at the clearing head north leaving the Monarchs Way and ascend to the triangulation point at the top of Barpham Hill some 142m above sea level. On a good day terrific views can be had here reaching far along the coast and the Rampion wind farm is clearly seen standing prominently out to sea. Barpham itself now only consists of two farms but in 12c there was a church and village near Upper Barpham Farm, however in 1348 the black death swept through the village and many locals were buried in the vicinity. The church no longer exists and only small traces of it can be found today. Many sheep dominate the hills now.
Descend from the top of Barpham Hill and pick up the steep path down the side of Perry Hill to Coombe Lane and into Burpham. This path is part of an old medieval route known as the ‘Lepers Way’ that linked an old leper colony at Lee Farm with the church of St Mary in Burpham. There is a window that still exists today known as the lepers window through which the poor victims of this disease could view the service and be blessed by the priest inside the church.
Opposite the church is The George pub built in 1738 and a great opportunity for some refreshment. From the pub head across the village green and down ‘Jacobs Ladder’ once part of a saxon fort that defended the village from the vikings and later was used by smugglers when coming from the river to the pub with their brandy and silks.
The base of the steps meet up with the River Arun which leads to an easy route back through Warningcamp to Arundel Bridge to complete the trek.
A 12.5km (8 mile) linear walk along the coast from Bognor Pier to Littlehampton’s West Pier.
A great walk to be had on a lovely sunny day arriving in time to see the sun set over the shimmering sands of West Beach.
Bognor pier opened in 1865 and has been a significant icon for the town, in it’s heyday it would have entertained locals & tourists alike and during the war it served as a Royal Navy observation station nicknamed HMS Barbara, it was manned with anti aircraft guns that shot down a German bomber in February 1943. A memorial to this can be seen in front of the pier. Unfortunately in 1964 storms damaged the end of the pier causing the pavilion to collapse beyond repair.
Head east from the pier along the promenade and you’ll see a handful of traditional fishing boats and lobster pots ready for the next catch. Continue along the promenade to just past Butlins, where Longbrook can be explored, with exercise machines for toning up and the Aldingbourne Rife for the opportunity to spot some wild fowl. The eastern side of Longbrook has a memorial to a Hampden bomber that crashed here in 1942, it took off from Rutland to bomb Dortmund in Germany but for unknown reasons crashed on the way. Just behind the sea wall of Longbrook can be seen the railway bungalows, these carriages would have originally come from old rolling stock of the ‘London Brighton and South Coast Railway’ in 1918. The majority of carriages have been built around, however original features are still evident on some. Apparently the residents kept a dinghy under their carriages as the area frequently flooded.
Continue along the promenade to the end and take the short muddy track to the greensward at the end of Sea Lane. The breakwater known as Hannah’s Groyne marks the border between Felpham & Middleton and in 1795 was the site of a signal station built by order of the Admiralty to maintain a watch against potential french invasion, an ideal location that had great sight lines out to sea and along the coast, it was run by Royal Navy Lieutenants with staff of up to three men. The station along with Middleton church that was nearby have long been lost to the sea.
If the tide is out you can continue the walk along the sands otherwise a slight detour inland will be required before rejoining the beach near Elmer.
Walk along the path on top of the sea defence that is protecting the land behind, once known as Elmer Pool this area regularly flooded and was a fishery for eels.
Just past the large rock breakwater you’ll need to take extra care as the the concrete sea defences have fallen away along with a large chunk of the farmers field due to coastal erosion, at low tide you can make out the flint wall and foundations of a building that stood in the field. Cudlow a small port in the Middle Ages and the hamlet of Islham situated near here succumbed to the waves and were washed away in the 17th Century. A few cottages of Atherington remain and this hamlet would have been twice the size before it was also besieged by the sea.
The last part of the walk takes in the 30m high sand dunes of West Beach, one of only a few undeveloped coastal areas of sussex that has been designated as an area of special scientific interest as it has much wildlife including some rare sand lizards. West Pier is at the end of West Beach and marks the entrance to the River Arun.
Not a trek that you would immediately think of but one that takes in some interesting ‘off the beaten track’ places. Starting at Flansham we walked along the newly constructed cycle track towards Littlehampton. This seems to have taken so long and such a relief that it is now finished as it certainly caused some traffic delays in it’s construction.
We passed the 150 acres of Rookery Egg Farm that has been providing organic free range eggs locally for over 20 years and you’ll see some of the many chickens scratching about in the field, a little parched at the moment from the hot summer but the birds look happy enough.
We continued on the noisy cycle path with quite a few lorrys thundering by and then crossed the road to enter Worms Wood, a 33 acre woodland area with oak, ash, maple and birch trees that were planted in early 2000 as part of the ‘Woodlands Trust Woods on Your Doorstep’ project. It is now well established with the broad leaved trees flourishing to provide a true woodland feel. We headed through the centre of the wood, but many a time i have been through these woods and taken one of the many tracks to further explore amongst the trees. The wooden bench commemorating the millennium is situated in the central glade and here we saw some rather large rabbits running around. The wood also has an abundance of flora and fauna and last year we took a guided walk and discovered so much more.
We left the wood via the gate onto Larksfield, our first house looked over this field and looking back many memories were made here, the trees on the field have really matured too reaching quite a height, mind you we did move out 22 years ago. We headed towards Yapton Road and couldn’t believe that the small farm where we used to get some eggs and occasionally vegetables too was overgrown, derelict and all boarded up, such a shame.
We crossed the road and followed Ancton Lane eastwards passing many cattle fields and the old Ancton House Hotel which was built in the 17th century as a farm but is now a private residence. Just round the corner from here we turned into Sunnymead Close and walked to the end where there is a small Twitten into Elmer woods, a long elongated established wood that is nestled between farmland and residential estates, we took the path through the centre of the woods being careful not to fall over the mounds that local children have built for jumps on their bikes. At the far end we crossed over Grevatts Bridge which spans the deep Ryebank rife, an artificial channel which once flowed west and east linking two streams and forming the border between Middleton and Yapton. On leaving the wood we followed the edge of the wheat field, through waist high grass to the A259 (thank goodness i took a hay fever tablet), evidence of the old road can clearly be seen at this point, we then crossed over and headed through the lettuce fields towards Bilsham, the ground was exceptionally dry and the farmers had gigantic reels gradually pulling a water sprayer back across the fields, we tried to work out how long each would take to get across the field and decided that it would be several hours, i hasten to add we didn’t hang around to see if we were right. The land here is designated by DEFRA as grade one agricultural, so is of great importance for the growing of food such as potatoes, salad crops, and wheat.
Just after the allotments we got to Yapton Road, we followed for a very short way before crossing over and entering the hamlet of Bilsham by the old chapel, now a private residence but once the chapel at Bilsham consisted of a single undivided space that was originally built of flint with sandstone in the 14th century, and served as a chapel until 1551 after which it was used as cottages and storage.
From Bilsham pass through more prime agricultural land to Whetstone Bridge which also crosses the Ryebank Rife, but here the river is much bigger and has a lot more water in, swans and ducks can often be seen here paddling their way through the green weed but no such luck for us as only the remains of a trail could be seen in the weed. At this point the Bilsham Solar Farm is in full view with the bright sun reflecting off the panels. If you follow the edge of the field to the north you’ll come across an information board that explains that the Farm was built in 2014 on land that is situated between the Lidsey and Ryebank Rife. The developer worked with environmental specialists to ensure that the wildlife unique to the area can thrive here and on the site was also found some Bronze Age artefacts which suggested that there may have been a settlement here too. In 2016 the farm produced 16221 MWh of power which is the same amount to power 4000 homes.
We headed back to Flansham through the meadows and brook lands and these would suggest that the second part of the hamlet of Flansham’s name means ‘meadow’ (hamm) rather than ‘settlement’ (ham).
A chapel of ease also once stood in Hoe Lane and by 1547 it had fallen into ruins the foundations discovered indicate a building similar to Bilsham chapel, i believe that tis is likely to be in the rear of someones garden. A further short walk from here brought us back to where we started in Flansham.
The fact that the egg farm is based here suggested that i should do a recipe with eggs and what better way to celebrate the humble brown oval than with a Spanish Omelette that i have been meaning to make for ages.
1 red onion
Mixed roasted pepper
5 large free-range eggs
Salt & Pepper
Peel the potatoes and cut into thin slices. Parboil the potatoes until just soft, drain and leave the steam to dry them
Finely slice the onion, then drizzle some oil into a small frying pan and over a medium heat fry the onion until soft, then add the potato.
Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, season with a tiny pinch of salt and black pepper, then whisk together with a fork.
Remove onions and potatoes from the pan and carefully tip them into the eggs. Transfer the mixture back into the frying pan and place over a low heat for around 20 minutes, or until there’s almost no runny egg on top.
Slightly lift and loosen the sides of the tortilla and carefully flip over in the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
Turn out the tortilla onto a serving board and cut into 6 wedges.
A 10km (6 mile) circular walk from Arlesford, the watercress capital of England and around the beautiful Hampshire countryside.
We started the trek by having a look around Arlesford Station on the preserved heritage railway known as ‘The Watercress Line’. The station was open but unfortunately no trains were running today, apart from a couple of diesels that they were restocking with beer ready for the ale train that would be running later in the week. The Mid Hants railway started in 1865 and was intended to link Alton with the main route from London to Southampton, the line was in full service for 108 years, playing an important role in both wars before it was closed in 1973. It has since been restored and is now a successful visitor attraction.
We left the station and headed to Broad Street in the centre of this beautiful Georgian town, that for many years was a prosperous wool town and is now the UK’s capital for watercress. Before we turned off of Broad Street and headed to the watercress beds we caught sight of the tiny old fire station that was built in 1882 to originally house a horse drawn fire engine.
At the northern end of town we took the Wayfarers Way trail to the tranquil River Arle, with it’s crystal clear waters and gently wavering riverbed plants that can have you memorised for ages. We continued for a short way along the river and came to ‘Fulling Mill’ that dates from the 13th century, it was built to make the fulling of cloth easier and for many centuries the hammering of the fulling stocks would have been heard as they tightened and shrunk cloth into a closely woven product. The mill was disused in the early 19th century when larger mills took over this process. We crossed the river at the mill and headed towards Old Arlesford passing the first watercress beds of the trek, some empty and presumably resting whilst others were a sea of vibrant green as the watercress is coming into full bloom.
Just on the outskirts of Old Arlesford we headed east on quite a defined bridlepath through the bright yellow fields of rape. With a slight incline we followed this path all the way to Abbotstone, the site of an old medieval village. The distinct ridges in the ground indicate where the village once stood and the few trees standing eerily amongst the mounds could probably tell a story or two.
We joined a minor road here which led us through this tiny hamlet with its many river tributaries and we then headed up to ‘Itchen Stoke Down’. After climbing for some time we were due for a well earned break and at the cross paths near the top we decided to stop and to take in the varied wildlife such as the yellow tipped butterfly, cowslip growing in the path edges and kites hovering above, looking for their next meal. I also tucked into a pink kitkat that i bought earlier, which was made from the new rose chocolate. We took in and admired the great views across the Hampshire countryside to the edges of Winchester where the white domes of the science museum could be picked out too. The raised mounds of the tumuli in the surrounding fields that are known as Itchen Stoke Down Barrows were also clearly visible too.
Continuing on the Wayfarers Way we then headed back down towards Arlesford passing further watercress beds before reaching the River Arle again, where wildfowl such as ducks with their ducklings and little egrets were going about their business. We also met up with a swan that albeit behind a fence was very grand in it’s demeanour.
We strolled along the banks back towards the town, passing the ‘Eel House’ that straddles the river. Built in the 1820’s its purpose was on dark moonless nights between August and November to trap mature eels at the start of their amazing migratory journey to the sargasso sea. For more than 160 years the river keepers would catch the eels in nets and sell them live to merchants from billingsgate market. It was only a short walk back from here through the town and past the church to the station that completed this months trek.
This months recipe is inspired from the fresh watercress that was seen growing in the fields.
Cook the pasta following pack instructions. Meanwhile, put the watercress and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and blend for a few secs until finely chopped. Add the grated cheese, half the almonds, the olive oil, lemon juice and sugar. Season well, then blend until you have a smooth purée consistency.
When the linguine is cooked, drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan and pour over the pesto, using a little pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Stir everything together and divide between 2 bowls. To serve, top with the shaved cheese and remaining almonds.