Burton Mill Ponds
Easy Level walk around Burton Mill and Chingford Ponds Nature Reserve
6.43km (4 miles)
Following a bout of flu and bad weather; this month was always going to be a challenge in getting a good hike in, so on my recovery i decided that it would be good to pick up on the foodie element of chocolate as a pick me up and then keep the miles down with a nice easy stroll around the nature reserve of Burton Mill and Chingford Ponds.
The day started by visiting Petworth Farmers Market and in particular Mike from Noble and Stace Chocolates. I was particularly interested in visiting his stall and tasting some of the chocolates as he uses local ingrediants in his chocolate to set them apart and make them unique, the great thing also is that some of the chocolate themes have been inspired from previous foodie treks i.e. edgcumbe coffee, blackdown distillery and Arundel brewery. Mike Noble makes quite a variety of handmade chocolates and each one made is a work of art not only in visual appearance but also taste, both created from the many processes that has gone into making just that single chocolate. We tasted the chilgrove gin along with a cream truffle and langhams beer chocolate, all were very smooth and subtle show casing the quality of the chocolate with just a hint of the special ingredient, my favourite of the day was the gin.
After stocking up on chocolate, dinosaur pasty and smoked salmon pate it was time to do a small trek so we headed south a few miles from Petworth and parked up at the Burton Mill Pond nature reserve which is managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. It was a beautiful day, there was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was shimmering on the ponds and the wind was not so raw here as we were sheltered by the trees, although the air temperature was only a few degrees above zero. These ponds really remind me of the lakes we visited in canada, both by the beauty of the setting but also the bogs that surround the ponds too.
We (Susan, Cookie and I) parked in the small car park next to Burton Mill, which is now a private home. A mill has been on this site since the 11th century, however in the 1700’s this area had a huge iron making industry, so the streams were dammed to form ‘Hammer Ponds’ that fed the water wheel in the mill whereby driving a hammer which was used to produce cannons for Spain. The current mill built in 1780 on the foundations of the old iron forge was used to mill flour up until late 1990’s. On leaving the car park you get your first glimpses of these beautiful ponds, however we started by following the nature trail signs and walking though the woods called Newpiece Moor to the the west of Burton Mill Pond. The walk through here was quite sparse today as it was a cold February day, the birch and alder that make up this wood were bare, at least the ground underfoot was hard. The path is relatively straight through this moor with marshland between the path and the pond. From the path a detour can be taken through the marshes to the waters edge to catch a glimpse of the many dragonflies and wildfowl that reside here.
At the far end of the moor we could see ‘Burton Park’, a large 19th century country house that has been a private residence up to the 2nd WW when it was requisitioned by the army, following the war it was used as a girls boarding school up to the 1980’s and then a police dog training centre before being converted into flats in the 1990’s. The trail does not immediately pass the house but is worth taking a small detour to see the norman church of St Richard, a grade one listed building that stands in the grounds. There were some giant chestnut trees too, that must be many hundreds of years old and have an incredible girth of over 10m.
We however continued on the signed trail passing Snipe Bog and through the small residential estate of Lodge Green. As we were approaching Chingford Pond the sound of running water can be heard from the dammed outlet that winds its way to Burton Mill Pond. After ascending a small embankment the beauty of this tranquil lake can be fully seen. The wild fowl were swimming quite happily on the icy cold water and the sun was glistening on the lake as it was low in the sky. When you here the word ‘pond’ you think of a small village pond where there are a few ducks and lillies, however both Burton Mill Pond and Chingford Pond are each approximately half a mile long, but quite narrow. The lake is passed at it’s narrow end and on leaving Chingford Pond the path soon drops down into ‘The Moor’, another small piece of woodland home to some very tall pine trees that have the smallest pine cones imaginable. The moor runs along the side of Burton Mill Pond and leads to Burton Pond Woods which is home to the acid peat bog called the ‘Black Hole’, we safely crossed via some restored boardwalks, however we didn’t see any dragonflies as it was too early in the year, perhaps a return visit is in order.
Shortly after crossing the boardwalks the woods finished and the land before us changed from the peaty bog to a much drier piece of heathland called Welch’s Common which lies just above the marshes, such a contrast with it’s drier acidic soil and heathland grasses. We ambled across the common but didn’t see any of the lizards or adders that reside here, on the far side we exited the common via a gate and decided to cut our trek shorter so did not carry on following the nature trail but joined the road instead which took us back to Burton Mill and where the car was.
The recipe this month is a chocolate orange mousse and is inspired by the chocolate that we tasted at the start of the day, the orange could be omitted from the recipe below and a Noble & Stace flavoured chocolate could be used instead giving the mousse a different subtle flavour
Chocolate Orange Mousse
- 200g of high quality plain chocolate
- 120ml Orange Juice
- 3 Large Eggs, separated
- 50g Caster Sugar
- A few drops of orange extract
- Place the chocolate and orange juice in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of just simmering water. Heat gently, stirring, until the chocolate is melted.
- Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks and orange extract with a wooden spoon until well combined.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg whites with the sugar until stiff peaks form, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
- Spoon the mousse into individual dishes and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Top with softly whipped cream, if desired.