Halnaker Windmill Trail

This particular area has long been on my list to explore and I recently discovered a lovely 8km (5 mile) trail showcasing Sussex at it’s best. Established by Boxgrove Parish Council the ‘Windmill Trail’ meanders through tree lined vineyards up to the iconic Halnaker Windmill with breathtaking views across the coast of West Sussex. The trail then returns to the historical priory and village.

Start at Boxgrove village car park and head north on The Street, the entire route is signed so should be easy to follow. Cross the road at the end of the path and into the field. The first sightings of the Halnaker Windmill can be seen northwards across the field, standing at 128m above sea level atop Halnaker Hill it can be seen from miles around.

The trail follows the field around all three sides and leaves on the far side through an avenue of trees that border the edge of a vineyard, at this point you could easily think you were in France.

At Tinwood Lane the footpath is offset and continues across a meadow before going through beautifully golden cornfields.

At the far side carefully cross the busy A283 and turn into Mill Lane. This track was once the ancient roman road from London to Chichester known as Stane Street. The archway of trees here are locally known as the ‘Halnaker Tunnel of Trees’ and are very different in every season, it is a very popular spot for photographers too.

After the magical tunnel the trail heads to the top of Halnaker Hill, where the windmill is sited. The original mill was first recorded in 1540 and built for the Duke of Richmond as the feudal mill of the Goodwood Estate. The exact age of the surviving mill is not known but thought to date from the 1740s, however the Listed Buildings Register dates it as 1850. The windmill was a working mill until it was struck by lightning in 1905 damaging the sails and windshaft. For many years there was also a small millers cottage on the hilltop, but was demolished in 1902 with no trace left nowadays.

Halnaker Mill also appears in a poem by Hilaire Belloc in which the collapse of the Mill is used as a metaphor for the blight of the moral and social system.

Also located around the hilltop are the brick built base remains of four old WW2 timber ‘Radio Direction Finders’. During the war RAF personal stationed in these towers monitored and reported radio messages they picked up from aircraft flying nearby. 

Retrace your steps down the hill and back to Tinwood Lane. Head south down the lane passing Tinwood Vineyard, a 65 acre estate that has been producing quality sparkling wine since 2009, vineyard tours, wine tasting and luxury glamping can all be done here.

To the left of the lane is Boxgrove quarry where in 1993 the shinbone of a man was found that dates back 500,000 years, known as the Boxgrove man this is the earliest hominoid remains to be found in the British Isles. A few years later teeth, animal remains and flint tools were also found. The route back to Boxgrove wanders through the vineyards, along tree lined avenues and enters the village via Church Lane. 

The Church of St Marys and St Blaise is worth exploring as this was the priory church before the suppression of monasteries. The small Benedictine priory was founded in about 1107, originally for just three monks, however only the lodging house and part of the church remain.

The west part of the church was demolished in the 18th century but the chancel, central tower, transepts and easternmost bay of the nave survive as the present-day parish church.

After visiting the church head through an arch to the site of the ruined 14th century lodging house. it is now roofless, but the north and south gable ends still stand to their full height.

Inside the church is a model of how the buildings were set out giving an understanding of the layout of the monastery.

A short walk back past Priory Hall Farm to the car park completes this circular trek. 

Further details of the Windmill Trail can be found on the leaflet provided by ‘Visit Chichester’ at https://www.visitchichester.org/sites/default/files/Boxgrove_Trail_Final.pdf

Map of route can be found by filling this link https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5831042/Windmill-Trail

Around Arundel Park

The walk around Arundel Park is always a popular walk for me and my family at anytime of the year, with each season being different. The 4.5km (2.8 miles) walk takes you through the centre of historic Arundel and then through the beautiful rolling hills of the 134 hectare park between Arundel and South Stoke. The park was created in late 1780’s following the rebuilding of the castle. A hundred years on and the old deer park had nearly a 1000 fallow deer. Indian cattle, cashmere goats, llamas and south American ostriches were also kept in the grounds at the same time. The red deer remained in the park up until their dispersal in 1959.

Starting in Arundel town centre, head up the picture postcard High street with the castle wall on your right, passing the many unique and independent shops, at the top of the hill turn left into London Road following the route of the Monarchs Way.

A short way up is the french gothic style Cathedral Church of our Lady and St Philip Howard, that was built between 1869 – 1873 for the catholic diocese of Arundel. Opposite is the St Mary’s Gate Inn which was named after the nearby gate to the castle. 

Just past the pub and opposite the school is the Old London Road that leads to the modern Arundel Park. The first building on the right is the Butlers Lodge and the cricket ground beyond is situated on the castle’s original ‘Little Park’. Continue along road keeping the old ramparts to the left and pass through the red gates into the park. 

As you ascend glimpses of ‘Arundel Park House’ can be seen to the left, which was built between 1958/1962 for the 16th Duke of Norfolk and his family, to give them privacy when the castle started opening to the public. 

Leave the road and take the footpath by the Hiorne Tower, built in 1797 by Francis Hiorne to prove himself to the 11th Duke of Norfolk in a bid for the contract to rebuild the castle. Hiorne never won the contract and he died two years later, but his tower did achieve great success as it starred in an episode of Doctor Who in 1988, as the setting for the invasion of Cybermen.

Just in front of the tower stands a Greek alter found in the museum at Sebastopol on the fall of the place in September 1855.

Cross the gallops to pick up the chalky path that heads down hill, the top end of Swanbourne lake can just be seen on this decent.

In the valley the tranquil route doubles back towards the lake. However it’s worth taking a detour up the hill northwards that’s facing you. It is quite a climb up to 116m but gives some great views north over Amberley and towards the North Downs.

On reaching Swanbourne lake take the left path that rises above its shores. The lake dates back to the 11th century and started life as a mill pond for the castle. It is fed by underwater springs known as the ‘Blue Springs’, due to the colour of the water as it comes out of the ground. In 1797 the pond was enlarged to form the lake we see today. On 13th August 1940 a German aircraft was shot down by Tangmere based Hurricanes whilst en-route to bomb Farnborough. The plane crashed through trees on the western embankment before coming to rest in the far end of the lake. In 1989 the lake dried up and four unexploded bombs were removed, one can be seen on display at Arundel Castle.

The path leads round to Swanbourne lodge. Built in 1852 it is now a cafe and the area around is a popular place to sit and feed the wildfowl or hire a rowing boat.

Exit through the red gates and head back towards the town via Mill Road to complete the walk. On the way back in the watercourse at the side of the path you might catch glimpse of the rare water vole that was reintroduced to the area in 2005.