Bury, Bignor and Beef
Tough Circular Walk 15km (9.3 miles)
13th January 2018
My first blog of 2018 is a tough walk that tackles ‘The South Downs’ from the steeper north side. Parking up at Bury we headed off on the Literary Trail at the foot of the Downs towards West Burton, part of a long distance route that we followed last year. Shortly after starting we spotted a headstone just off the path in the wooded edge of a field, the stone was placed as a memorial to Fred Hughes; the farmer who owned Southview Farm below and his wife Winifred, what a great spot this is looking out over the farm he once run.
We continued on to West Burton a small village apparently dating back to Saxon times and is said to have had it’s water once supplied by a fresh spring emanating from the chalky downs. Heading south out of the village we started to ascend Westburton Hill, gradually at first and then in the wooded are making up part of ‘Egg Bottom Coppice’ the path became much steeper, certainly one for getting the heart pounding. The path circled around the steepest parts of the coppice, thank goodness, and after approximately 1km we met the South Downs way, took a few breaths then continued upwards.
As we neared the openness of the top of the downs we were met with a cold biting wind that numbed the chin, can’t complain too much as it is January after all. As we followed the South Downs way we passed Toby’s Stone near the top of Bignor Hill, the stone is made up of a few steps and is a horseman’s mounting block commemorating the huntsman James Wentworth-Fitzwilliam. As we descended slightly from Bignor Hill following the South Downs Way on looking south we could just make out the ridges of the ‘Barkhale Neolithic Camp’. It must have been tough living up here!
Bignor Hill car park is where ‘Stane Street’ crosses the downs, a roman road of 56 miles in length that once would have linked Noviomagvs (Chichester) and Londinium (London) in around 70AD. Today it is easily traceable on many maps by the straightness of some sections of the A29, A24 and A3 along with many straight bridleways. If drawing a line between London Bridge and Chichester Stane Street does not deviate any more the 6 miles from this direct route. Maybe a route to discover and blog in the future.
On leaving the car park we headed to the two masts at Glatting Beacon that can be seen from miles around and this was the highest point of the day at 245m above sea level. We then start to descend the downs between Scotchers Bottom and Glatting Hangar, which gradually descends first and then steepens as you enter the woods. We followed the bridleway down which was quite difficult to make out as the ground here was a carpet of leaves over a path that looked like it was not used very often. Some quite big rocks were hidden under this leafy path so watching the footing was really required here. After having descended about 120m through the woods and with the embankment on your left we came across many trees that had very recently fallen and blocked the path, probably in the recent ‘Storm Eleanor’. Luckily after PK scrambled over the the first of the fallen trees we were to take the easterly path down the side of Glatting Beacon. On passing through the woods many more trees had fallen and needed scrambling over. Here we crossed another spring from the south downs as it trickles it’s way down. On exiting the woods we crossed the field to Glatting Farm, not the easiest of walking as the ground here was very fertile soft mud which has a tendency to clog up on the bottom of the boots making our feet so much heavier, it was like we were wearing lead boots.
At Glatting Farm we stamped our feet and cleaned our boots in the puddles but to no avail as we were very shortly going to be crossing another field exactly same that would once again clog our boots up.
Since descending the summit we were beginning to feel hungry and had made several references as to what we’ll have for lunch in the pub, “pie was good, soup a good choice or even a bowl of hot stew” we would say as the hunger pangs set in, we then joked about how the chef was off or they just stopped serving food meaning we would have had no lunch. The pub we were headed for was the White Horse in Sutton another small village at the foot of the downs, which also has the springs running through. We picked up the Literary Trail and took the route between the houses into the village, a small section that we clearly remembered. Just as we approached the road we could see the pub and our shoulders drooped a little as it did not looking as inviting as it did when we stopped here in the summer, as it was covered in scaffolding and the windows were very dark……….our hearts sank as we read the sign on the door which said that it was closed until the spring due to refurbishment. We sat in the bus stop opposite with a look of sorrow on our faces thinking about what to do, i had only eaten an apple and tangerine on the hills (as i had eaten my emergency rations on a previous trek, not as an emergency but because they were going out of date and i had not replaced them…..lesson learnt!). PK had had his snickers bar on the hill and was now making suggestions of phoning a taxi to take us to The Cricketers in Duncton.
The atmosphere had now changed and with no lunch in our bellies we decided to head off in the hope that Bignor Roman Villa was open and we could maybe get some cake in their cafe. We therefore headed back on the path through the houses and across field following the Literary Trail towards Bignor. At Bignor we passed the Mill, the church and took the path towards the Roman Villa. The Bignor Roman villa is classed as a courtyard villa and houses some fantastic mosaics on the floor, apparently some of the most intricate in the country. The villa was discovered by George Tupper in 1811, George was a local farmer and was plough his fields when he struck the ‘Summer Dining Room Fountain’. It was then excavated by a local man from Bignor and has been open to the public since 1814, however today the Roman Villa was closed, so no cake and coffee for us. We carried on past the vineyards that are in front of the villa and in a great sheltered position being shielded by the downs. I was beginning to tire now and very much feeling the fact the i had had no lunch, i mean i did want to start a diet to shed some of the pounds i gained over christmas, but not this much of a diet….haha.
Just passed the villa we crossed ‘Stane Street’ again and passed Grevatt Wood. On reaching a minor road we new we were then nearing the farm shop where we would be able to get something to eat at last, but first we needed to get there, so we followed the road a short way and was to take the second path eastwards, first of all we thought we had walked past it, then back tracked and still couldn’t find it, PK got his OS App out and still it was not apparent so we had to back track to the first path east and head across the fields; which was to be the last little bit before reaching the farm shop and where we had parked. Even these last few fields were proving quite a challenge to us as they were so waterlogged.
Eventually we got to Southview Farm where they rear a lot of the meat and dairy that they sell in Charlie’s Farm shop. So i took my exceptionally muddy and wet boots off, hopefully not too smelly but really pleased that my feet were bone dry inside and went into the farm shop. The farm shop is now owned by Charlie and Sarah Hughes of Southview Farm and has a great selection of locally produced foods along with a butchery selling beef, pork and rose veal that are all reared on the farm. High on the walls of the shop can be seen images of old photos of Charlie’s ancestors including Fred Hughes working on the farm, i found these pictures extremely interesting particularly as we had seen the head stone of Fred Hughes earlier on in the walk. I really wanted some rose veal but unfortunately they had none available so i opted to buy some steak for dinner that night; which by the way was really delicious and tender, cooked simply to a medium rare. I also got some cheese straws and a donut for PK from their bakery to eat there and then.
A short walk from here back to the car and the end of a really good walk. The recipe this month is inspired by the meat sold at Charlies Farm.
Rose Veal with Butternut Waldorf Salad.
- 4 x 200g veal rump steaks
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 450g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 170g plain Greek yogurt
- 80g cup light mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Juicy and tangy apples, cored and chopped
- 3 Sticks of celery, chopped
- 170g Toasted walnuts
- Mixed baby green salad leaves
- Coat butternut squash in olive oil, season and roast the chopped rosemary until tender and slightly caramelising at the edges. Leave to cool.
- To make the dressing lightly whisk the yoghurt, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, chives together and season to taste.
- Put chopped apple, celery, butternut squash and walnuts in a bowl and lightly coat with the dressing. Set aside.
- Preheat a griddle pan and season the veal, put a dash of olive oil on griddle with rosemary and cook the veal to your liking. Remember to leave it to rest after cooking.
- To serve, diagonally slice the veal and arrange on plate with butternut waldorf salad and mixed green leaves.