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.