Pottery, Pumpkins and Picnic Parties
Circular Walk – 11km (6.8 miles)
6th October 2017
Who would think that a medieval deer park was once a beach and that a folly hosting parties would play a critical role in the war.
The walk consisting of three sections starts and ends at the Park Lane car park, Slindon. On leaving the car park the first section takes you into the medieval deer park an area with history dating back to the iron age that is now managed by the National Trust. From the car park pass through the five bar gate opposite the entrance and follow track a short way into the woods, at cross paths turn left, following pink NT signs. This first part of the wood in spring has an abundance of bluebells carpeting the forest floor in a beautiful aromatic blue mist, well worth returning to see this lovely spectacle. Continue through woodland on the path that runs along the edge of park and then into an open area, with few trees and raised banks.
Around the 13th century the deer park was set up and the route for this walk follows the raised banks called ‘Pales’ which formed the old medieval boundary of the park. The remains of the ‘Pales’ can clearly be seen today, however back in the day an angled fence on top would have retained the seasonal livestock and meant that deer leaping over the fence from outside landed in the inner ditch and had no means of escape. Continue to follow ‘The Pale’ and the NT signs which bear right and take you through the eastern side of Slindon woods. As you follow this track heading north take a break at the raised beach and imagine that this incline would have been a 75m high cliff 500,000 years ago and you would be looking out to sea, the coastal towns we know today would have been the seabed back then. An information board at this point gives more details of the land formation in this area.
More recent history of the park can be seen by the many fallen beech trees that were sadly blown over in the 1987 storm, these trees were planted circa. 1700 around the edge of the park and 90% of them fell during this great storm. Look out for Druids Grove just past the raised beach, here a small collection of the original beech trees that survived the storm. It is also good to see that there is evidence that some trees have rerooted themselves and started to grow up again. Continue following NT signs and at the top end of the park exit via a gate, a short rest can be had here on the walled bench, once part of a regency tearoom that was burnt down in the 1940s. On exiting the park you will pass by a camping site and meet an unnamed road. Turn right here and follow NT sign along path amongst trees at the side of the road.
The second section of the walk heads more into open downland and up Nore Hill where Slindon Folly is nestled on the side 112m above the sea. At this stage the walk can be shortened by continuing on path and into Slindon Village to join the third section. However if carrying on to the Folly, then head down Nore Wood Lane a single track road on the left, be careful of any passing cars and follow the road downhill for a couple of hundred metres until you reach Courthill Farm. Turn onto bridleway on your left, continue on track until you reach Row’s Barn. Looking to your right, you’ll see the folly so take track here and head up the hill. The ‘Folly’ was built by a local flint worker at the request of the Countess of Newburgh in 1817. Originally a thatched tearoom was built behind and the Countess would hold picnic parties for the many hunting groups. In both world wars the Folly was employed as a wireless station receiving morse code messages and forwarding them onto telegraph operators stationed at Dower House in Slindon village. Views are fantastic from here across to Portsmouth and the Isle of wight beyond, many ships can be seen in the channel too and during the war years the Folly was used by ships as a navigational landmark.
Beyond ‘The Folly’ continue to follow track up hill and into Nore Woods; another part of the Slindon Estate that is also managed by the National Trust. Continue through the woods keeping to the left paths at each junction until you reach ‘The Plain’ at a T junction. Here there was a prisoner of war camp that was managed by the Canadians where timber was cut for pit props and trench supports. Venturing into the woods here means you can discover many remnants from the POW camp days, such as graffiti from the POWs on the trees that were not destined to be felled, airship anchor points and apparently the old incinerator can be found here too, although i have not found it yet! At ‘The Plain’ turn right and continue downhill. Keep straight on this path for approximately 1km and at second cross paths turn right on to track that passes Northwood Cottages. Just past cottages and shortly after joining paved road, bear left onto bridleway and up hill towards Little Down, glancing back at the folly on the hill behind you. At top of hill and at T junction, turn right and follow path south. Walking back towards Slindon the Folly can clearly be seen across the valley commanding it’s position over the village and in the other direction there are great views of Littlehampton and the Rampion wind farm beyond. Keep on path until you meet junction where several paths meet, find the sign to Bignor and head south (opposite way to Bignor) following middle bridleway which takes you to Mill Lane.
The third section of the walk re-enters the village via mill lane, here an old cattle pound can be seen, which was used to house stray livestock in the days when cattle was driven across the downs to market. On entering the village turn into Top Road, pass Bleak House where Hillaire Beloc once lived and on to the Pottery shop that is known for creating great pottery since the mid 70’s. This little shop was originally the estate wheelwright and carpenters shop and is run by the pumpkin farmers wife.
Further along Top Road is the pumpkin farm that has provided a spectacular display since 1968. Each year a display is set up showcasing the many different squashes that are grown here. It takes about 10 days to set up the display and the theme each year varies right up to the last minute depending on the colours of the years crop. Many different varieties of squash can be bought here. I’ll always pick up something different here and at the end of the blog i have devised a recipe using these unusual gourds.
The final part of the walk takes you along the remainder of Top Road and left down Church Hill through the village and past the pond that is fed by a natural spring, look for the large fish swimming just below the surface. At School Hill turn right and continue downhill until you reach ‘The Forge shop’, a local store, deli and cafe run by the community. Five years ago this derelict blacksmiths was renovated and converted into the deli/cafe that it is today. The ‘Slindon Forge’ is a welcome stop to re-energise with one of their delicious sausage rolls, baked daily on site to their own recipe, they are a hot favourite as we arrived at 12:45 and after we bought two they then only had one left out of the thirty that was cooked earlier in the morning. Some home made cake and coffee finished off the lunch very nicely before walking the last leg back to the car park. Turn back on yourself until you reach park lane, take footpath heading due south and follow footpath to main road, Here turn right and take westerly path through the woods heading back to car park.
Some more great local ingredients were bought and used to create a favourite recipe of mine……..Risotto!
In this recipe i have used Starship and Onion Squash that i picked up from the ‘Pumpkin Farm’ along with a locally produced cheese called Sussex Charmer that i picked up from the ‘Slindon Forge’ (see below for substitute ingredients if not available)
Roast Squash & Sage Risotto
- 210g Starship Squash (Patty Pan)*, skin and pips removed
- 210g Onion Squash*, skin and pips removed
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Onion (Chopped)
- 1 Garlic Clove (Finely Chopped)
- 100ml Dry White Wine
- 400ml Good Quality Vegetable Stock
- 200g Arborio Risotto Rice
- 90g Sussex Charmer Cheese**
- 2 Tbsp Fresh Sage (Chopped)
- Crispy Baked Sage Leaves
- Salt & Black Pepper
*Butternut Squash or any other squash can be used if Starship and Onion Squash is not available.
** If Sussex Charmer not available then substitute with Mature Cheddar and Parmesan.
- Preheat Oven to 200/180 Fan or Gas Mark 6
- Chop both squashes into small chunks and toss in 1 tbsp olive oil with 1tbsp of the chopped sage until evenly coated, spread out on baking tray and place in pre heated oven, roast for 40 mins or until soft and started to brown
- Fry onion and garlic in remaining Tbsp of olive oil until softened
- Add rice to frying pan and cook a couple of minutes until evenly coated with oil, pour in the dry white wine, cook until reduced and fully absorbed.
- Gradually add some stock, when absorbed add a little more. Add remaining fresh chopped sage and continue adding stock and stirring until rice is ‘al dente’ (approximately 20 minutes)
- Stir in grated cheese until fully incorporated and creamy, then stir in roasted squash. Season to taste
- Serve with crispy baked sage leaves on top.