2nd June 2016
Newbridge to Amberley – 20.91km (13 miles)
PK and i caught the train to Billingshurst which is the nearest point to todays walk and trekked across the fields for a few kilometres to where we left off last time. The grass is quite long at the moment and paths over grown with nettles, good job i didn’t put the shorts on today, however as i was to find out the long grass will play havoc with mine and PKs hay fever. On heading down the hill from Billingshurst towards the old canal a young deer leapt up out of the grass and ran across the field in front of us, speedily bounding and skipping away.
We are still following the Wey South Path and today will be the last leg of this recognised long distance walking route, but not the end of the challenge. The canal will only be recognisable in stages with some of it passing through private land. The first part of the walk was through fields next to the River Arun, which is still only a few metres wide and the canal is barely recognisable at this point, mind you a little further on it became more apparent. After rejoining the canal for a short way we reached Lordings Lock, Aqueduct and water wheel. The Lock is completely dry now but was once filled by the water wheel lifting water up from the River Arun and into the lock, the waterwheel is totally functioning and after a bit of research i found photos online when it was filled up in 2007.
We were able to follow the canal for a couple more kilometres, which although had water in was exceptionally overgrown with weeds and reeds, the canal society need to get the jungle busters in on this section! At Haybarn Farm we come across a working swing bridge which at this point is the only functional bit, as the canal is still very overgrown here. At this point we leave the canal for a while and walk through some more fields, woods and a road before we meet it again briefly at Pallingham Quay, that in it’s day had some minin docks and a stone workshop. From here to Stopham the route involves mainly walking along country roads that left the river and canal and passed by Coombelands racing trainers and the gallops where they train many winning racing horses.
After walking through the woods at Pulborough Park Plantation you can see that the Arun has over millions of years cut a valley into land with some really steep sides, almost gorge like. As we came out the woods the pub was there in front of us and lunch was a welcome break, for lunch PK ordered the mandatory Steak Pie and i had a Halloumi and Mediterranean Vegetable sandwich. The River here is now considerably wider than it has been previously and Stopham Bridge spans across the banks that in the 17c was a drawbridge that was later altered by raising the central arch which allowed the larger barges through.
After lunch we continued south following the route of the Arun Navigation which was built to cut off a corner of the River Arun and save about three and a half miles to do this route they had to build a tunnel at Hardhat that passed under a road and railway as well as a hill. The Hardham tunnels are now not passable as they are blocked in the middle and are also hidden away from the path, however PK and i found the the Southern Entrance to these tunnels through the nettles and behind some metal grating, as we peered in you could feel the cold air coming out, huff was on our breath as we breathed. Back on the path and the cowslip was as tall as us and brushing past this is really setting off the hay fever, we also heard the chirps of baby birds and looked up to see holes cut in the trees where the sound was coming from, these nests must have been made by a woodpecker. At Greatham Bridge we once again briefly rejoin the Arun and the opportune moment to have a game of poo sticks (Yes! PK won), but there was no sign of where the canal actually joined. Greatham bridge in the main is a fine example of a stone bridge but following a storm was damaged and the portion that was washed away of the bridge was replaced with a steel section.
We follow the river for a short way and then leave it to wend off a little way from us as we walked through the Amberley Wild Brooks, an area that i think would be impassable in the winter as the ground was quite soggy in places and it’s been so dry recently. I have never walked across these brooks as in our teenage years we set out through here on a night hike and got freaked out for some reason and legged it back, however during the day there was nothing to be afraid of. Coming out of the wild brooks and swamps we enter the old village of Amberley, it reminded me of an old french town and you can imagine a really good community spirit here.
The end of the walk is met with a 68m climb up the downs to the South Downs way where the Wey South Path finishes, i was hoping that they would be some sign that we were either at the start or the end, but no there was nothing apart from the South Downs Way sign…….doh!. A short walk down the hill and we were back at the station and the car, a long but good walk today however all the long grass and overgrown paths meant that our hay fever has been a problem, we also both managed to see a rabbit and dragonfly but no kingfishers……….