Blakes Mead Art Trail

Blakes Mead Art Trail (Felpham)

This months trek follows on from the success of the Bersted Park Art Trail and continues the theme by exploring the wooden sculptures situated within the new Blakes Mead housing estate in Felpham. These works of art have been commissioned by ADC and funded by the developers of the estate to bring some magnificent features. 

This local trail is accessible to all, starting at the Felpham Community Centre it takes in eight sculptures that have been created by local chainsaw carver Simon Groves and are designed to reflect Felpham’s connection with the sea, agriculture, nature and William Blake.

The first sculpture situated by the community centre is a ‘Trail Guide*’ that gives details where the other seven sculptures can be found. This route differs from the Bersted Park trail as it is more developed, however this article details the best way to navigate around the trail taking in as many green spaces as possible.

From the community centre follow the public footpath towards Felpham. The first sculpture sited at the end of a grassed area and centred between a triangle of three newly planted Oak trees is a ‘Giant Acorn*’ that represents the wood used for the sculptures and will change in perspective as the oak trees surrounding it grow taller.

Site of Giant Acorn

Continue on the footpath and over a small bridge that is crossing one of the many flood relief tributaries to another small open grassed area where a giant ‘Sycamore Seed’ has been carved out as a bench and shaped as a giant replica of the seed.

Sycamore Seed

Join the cycle track that leads away from Felpham and which borders the western end of the estate to the main A259. At this point a public amenity space is being created and great views can be had of the south downs. Take a right and follow the grassed areas behind the raised tree laden bank which provides a sound barrier from the road. Walking round the flood relief ponds that are extremely dry at the moment to the far end of the recreation field and take a rest on the ‘Animal Tracks Bench’, which is very simple in design but cleverly features the wild tracks of the rabbit, heron and deer all of which can be spotted nearby, particularly so, if extending your walk to the fields beyond.

Continue to follow the northern border, past more relief ponds and on a small grassed circle where paths converge is the ‘The Seaside Totem Pole’ that links Felpham with the sea, it has been carved very cleverly incorporating many creatures and features of the sea, How many can you see?, every time i look at it i find something different.

Still keeping to the edge, cross the entry road and remain on the grass, just before a further play park is the amazing ‘Tyger Tyger Bench’ which is a link to William Blake depicting his famous poem, this sculpture showcases a life size tiger on a bench, that is so realistic it’s unreal. 

From here pass amongst the trees that have been kept in place and once made up the original footpath from the end of Normans Drive to estate edge and follow to the pond that was put in with fountains as a decorative feature to the estate outside the first show homes that were built. Aptly situated by this pond is the ‘Kingfisher statue’, towering above the ducks below. Look carefully as fish can be seen in the pond and herons are often seen here stalking them. The fountains have long gone but the pond remains as a lovely feature.

Kingfisher Statue

A short cut can be taken to the last carving but i prefer to continue around the edge, passing through the trees to the last flood relief pond and back through to the far end of the trail where there is the ‘Way Marker’ indicating local sites in Blakes Mead and beyond, the base it sits on features Felpham’s links to agriculture and farming. Head in the direction of ‘Felpham Rec’ sign and work your way back to the community centre to complete this trail.

* Sculptures not in place at time of writing but are due to be installed soon

A Walk in the Park

More of a stroll this month than a trek, taking in some more magnificent wooden sculptures created by Simon Groves along with exploring the hidden areas and history of Hotham Park. The 9 hectare (22 acres) of park can be explored by any route following the many paths but the suggested route below takes in the main features and some lesser known areas.

Starting off at the car park by the Lodge, once the Bognor Museum and now the HQ for the Hotham Park Heritage Trust head on the tarmac drive towards the bandstand, where a variety of music can be enjoyed on certain days throughout the summer. The main Hotham House stands proud at the end of the drive and was built in the late 1780’s by Sir Richard Hotham who developed a lot of Bognor that we know today. When the house was first built it was known as ‘Chapel House’ and the clock tower is all that remains of the chapel, built next to the house it chimes 156 times every day. The house has also had some notable owners that have all made their mark over the years. John Fletcher bought the house in 1857 and renamed it ‘Bersted Lodge’. William Fletcher inherited the estate in the late 1800’s, he changed the name to ‘Aldwick Manor’ and developed the grounds, planting many of the trees. One notable tree in the park is the cork oak, which allegedly was planted in the 1870s when Mrs Fletcher picked up the acorn at Goodwood. It was to be their own special commemoration of the year that they got married 

Next to the house can be seen the new sundial made by Harriet James, this replaced the 17th century one that was made by Henry Wynne and had suffered much damage and vandalism over the years. The new dial is based on the original design albeit a little simpler, it shows time, compass directions and date curves for the summer/winter solstices and also beholds the crest of Sir Richard Hotham.

Follow the drive around to the boating lake that has provided recreation for many years. Although fenced off access is via a gate and a walk around the lake will reveal a Mediterranean Garden to the south that is adorned with many palm and olive trees. To the north of the lake behind the cafe is the Winter Garden where many plants flourish in the colder climes. 

The Hotham Park railway station can also be seen just by the boating lake. A miniature railway has been operating in the park since 1969, however in 2005 it was removed and then replaced in 2007 with a 12 1/4” track gauge that is still running today.

The rose garden can also be seen by the railway station that was created following the 1987 storm which destroyed many trees in the park. 

Looking out from the cafe and beyond the grass mound is the wildlife conservation area. A fenced off area and pond that has been left to develop naturally attracting many flora and fauna. Much nature can be seen in the park from squirrels scurrying around to woodpeckers tapping high in the trees.

Head to the area known as the William Fletcher’s arboretum which is central to the park, take a moment to enjoy the ornamental pond or a rest in the Mary Macfie pavilion. The arboretum not only contains a fine selection of trees planted by William but added more recently is a series of wooden sculptures featuring characters from Alice in Wonderland, the theme chosen by local schools. Look out for Alice, The White Rabbit, Queen of Hearts and even enjoy a picnic with the Mad Hatter at his table, There is also a memorial bench that has been carved to remember Danny Johnston a soldier who served in the Prince of Wales Royal Regiment (PWRR Tigers).

Whilst on the stroll look out for the hidden gem that is a carved wooden owl, not easily discovered but can be found in one of the areas mentioned above.

To discover more about the trees in the park and Sir Richards Hotham influence on the town then visit https://bognorregistrails.co.uk where more historical trails created by the bognor Regis Heritage Partnership can be found.