Drovers Estate from Hat Hill to Levin Down

This month’s trek is an 8km (5 mile) circular walk from Singleton and explores the lesser-known Drovers Estate, situated just north of the village the estate now belongs to the National Trust.  Nestled amongst rolling ancient pastures and woodland the Drovers Estate takes a step back into a timeless rural life, the traditional flint barns and cottages retain their local building styles and have not changed much over time.

Drovers had long been a sporting estate and was once the centre of an extensive medieval deer park owned by the Earl of Arundel in 1327, Fallow deer still reside here and can be seen on the walk along with wild hare, red kites, mice, cattle, and sheep. The large house that once stood on the estate was unfortunately destroyed by 1815.

The best way to enjoy this part of Sussex is to park up in the village of Singleton and follow the National Trust walking route through the estate which is waymarked by white permissive route signs.

Cross the main A286 and join the public footpath behind the cricket pavilion that leads towards Hat Hill, at 156m this is the highest point on the estate. Turn right immediately after passing between the walls of an old railway bridge that crosses the disused Chichester to Midhurst line. Opened in 1881 the line serviced Singleton and Goodwood and the old station is now a private residence nearer to West Dean, the last service ran in 1953. The disused railway tunnels nearby are home to many species of protected bats including Brown Long Eared, Whiskered, Pipistrelle and Natterers.

The route follows the old disused railway for a couple of hundred metres before the permissive route heads uphill on a chalky track. As you pass Honeycomb Copse be sure to look back at the fine views of Singleton village and Goodwood racecourse. Near the top of the hill are some old farm buildings and rusty shepherds hut, giving a glimpse of farming history. Descend through the open meadow with more great views to Wellhangar copse. This open access woodland is easy to navigate by following the white signs, which takes the route across the A286 and on to Nightingale Wood.

Pick up the bridleway at the far side of the wood and follow to the east side of Levin Down. Managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Levin Down is a nature reserve that supports a wide variety of chalk downland flowers, trees and shrubs. The juniper colony on the southern slope is said to be the best in Sussex. The name of the hill is believed to be derived from the Saxon for ‘Leave-Alone Hill’. Unlike the surrounding agricultural fields, the steepness of the down would make it difficult to plough which means that it has been left alone. Grazing of sheep and sometimes Exmoor ponies keep the grass short on the upper slopes and greatly increases the diversity of plant species.

Although the route goes around Levin Down there are still some steep climbs on this section. The last part of the walk descends from the down, across the River Lavant and back to Singleton village.

Further details of the walk can be found on the following links:

Drovers Estate (ordnancesurvey.co.uk)

Hat Hill to Levin Down | National Trust

Levin Down | Sussex Wildlife Trust

A Stroll Around Bersted Brooks

This month’s featured walk is a 3km (2mile) stroll around Bersted Brooks in North Bersted. Established as a Local Nature Reserve in 2010, Bersted Brooks covers an area of 19 hectares and with its many habitats is an important site for wildlife. The reserve borders Rowan Way, Shripney Lane and the Aldingbourne Rife and is spread over three separate fields, it has wide areas of meadow, narrow reedbeds, ditches, ponds, and a floodplain woodland of Willow and Elder as these trees can live with their roots in water. The Brooks floods every winter, making it a good place for wetland wildlife. 

The brooks can be explored in a variety of ways; however, a good way round is walking the perimeter of each field before moving on to the next. From the car park just off Rowan Way is the first field, a wide-open meadow with a small circle of black Poplar trees that borders three ponds of differing depths, in the winter following heavy rain these ponds tend to overflow and become one. There is a purpose made path which is accessible to all that goes around half of the meadow and I believe is planned to be extended all the way round. The far end of the meadow just beyond the trees is known as ‘Crickets Field’ and on a quiet summers day you can hear a whole chorus of crickets. Follow the Aldingbourne Rife and the narrow reed bed leading to the next meadow.

The second meadow is much more wooded than the others and adds a different perspective, more than 11,000 trees have been planted across the brooks since 2000 mainly Alder, Crack Willow and Grey Willow, this particular meadow has been renamed ‘Friends Field’ in acknowledgement of the contribution the friends make to Bersted Brooks. In this meadow along the rife, scrapes with gently sloping edges have been created to improve access for both birds and water voles.

The third meadow is also a mixture of woodlands and meadows. It contains an area that is fenced off providing a dog free wildlife sanctuary, this allows ground nesting birds such as skylarks to be undisturbed. An intriguing bench is situated by the rife in this meadow and is a great opportunity to take a rest. At the far corner of the field is an exit to Shripney Lane where the walk can be extended if so desired.

The walk back to the car park is along the northern edge of the Brooks that borders farmland. In the northern corner of the first field is an old farm pond, the mature reeds, and trees around makes it a good habitat for voles and other small mammals. The pond itself is home to many dragonflies.

The walk can be done as a stroll just around the Bersted Brooks or part of a longer walk taking in the Bersted Park sculptures the other side of the relief road.

Further information about Bersted Brooks can be found on their website Friends of Bersted Brooks | A nature haven on the outskirts of Bognor Regis (wordpress.com)

Felpham Parish Border Walk

At the time of writing this feature we were still in lockdown and unable to travel, this meant being imaginative with local walks, which in turn led me to finding out so much more about the area which I thought I knew so well. I have highlighted three walks which I hope will give some inspiration to really explore the beautifully place where we live.

A 12km circular walk following the civil parish border of Felpham.

It’s surprising how much of the border of Felpham can be followed and where the furthest extremes are, North, South, East and West.

The route from Flansham follows the main A259 passed Rookery Farm and on to the edge of Worms Wood, cross the A259 where it heads south along what was once the old Littlehampton Road.

The border of Felpham then passes along the edge of Larksfield and through the residential areas of Flansham Park and Summerley Fields to the sea. Technically the furthest point east is in a private garden and cannot be accessed however the furthest accessible point to the East is at Hannah’s Groyne on the edge of the Middleton greensward. The breakwater known as ‘Hannah’s Groyne’ marks the border between Felpham & Middleton and in 1795 was the site of a signal station built by order of the Admiralty to maintain a watch against potential French invasion, an ideal location that had great sight lines out to sea and along the coast, it was run by Royal Navy Lieutenants with staff of up to three men. The station along with Middleton church that was nearby have long been lost to the sea.

The border heads west firstly along an unmade path for a couple of hundred yards and then joins the main promenade which is then followed all along the seafront to Butlins. Much history is noted about Felpham beach and some of this can be seen in my other blogs. Being that this is about half way round the walk there are plenty of opportunities here to grab a tea or coffee or even lunch.

A Special Site of Scientific Interest is sited along a 1 hectare stretch of coastline from Canning Road to Sea Road and is one of only three sites in Britain to have fossils of flora dating back 66 million years to Paleocene period.

Sea defenses have been constructed at the mouth of the river since the 15th Century and been rebuilt many times over the years after being breached by the sea. Just behind the sea wall of Longbrook can be seen the railway bungalows, these carriages would have originally come from old rolling stock of the ‘London Brighton and South Coast Railway’ in 1918. The majority of carriages have been built around, however original features are still evident on some. Apparently the residents kept a dinghy under their carriages as the area frequently flooded.

Continue along the promenade to the edge of Butlins at the junction of Longbrook, this is the point situated furthest south, walk through Longbrook on the path with exercise machines for toning up.

The lower part of the rife can be tracked north through Longbrook Park and in 680AD this part was called ‘Brynes Fleot’ and would have curved through the site that is now Butlins.

The eastern side of Longbrook has a memorial to a Hampden bomber that crashed here in 1942, it took off from Rutland to bomb Dortmund in Germany but for unknown reasons crashed on the way.

Continue to walk around Butlins and then keep following the Aldingbourne Rife along the Felpham Way, through Felpham Recreation Field and the fields at the rear of the Arun Leisure Centre and schools The point furthest west is on the river edge in these fields with Shripney supermarkets just a stone’s throw away. Woodpeckers can often be seen in these fields and the odd deer too.

Pick up the public footpath through the golf course and the point where the path rejoins the Rife is the furthest north. The route leaves the border at this point as it continues through the golf course and private land, following the path to the edge of Blakes Mead will pick up the border again as it goes round the flood relief ponds on the far side of the Charley Purely Way as it heads back to the start.

The convenience of this route is that it can be started at any point.

From Sea to Source

A trek following the Aldingbourne and Lidsey Rife from the sea to where they start.

So here we are in this lockdown again and need to stay at home with exception to do our local daily exercise. I am beginning to run out of local paths to walk and continuing to look for new adventures and less crowded places.

Being inspired by Simon Reeve after his 2019 tour, he said that there is always an adventure to be discovered and that we should go out there and do something new, like trace a river to it’s source, so that’s what I thought I would do.

The Aldingbourne Rife and Lidsey Rife amalgamate near Glenwood and run through Felpham to the sea, but where does it originate? The easier watercourse to follow is the Lidsey Rife, so this walk takes us inland to where it starts.

This walk is a 9km route from Felpham beach that follows the Lidsey Rife to its source. The Rife meets the sea through a sluice just west of the Felpham SSSI, a 1 hectare site of coastline which is one of only three sites in Britain to have fossils of flora dating back 66 million years to Paleocene period. Sea defenses have been constructed at the mouth of the river since the 15th Century and been rebuilt many times over the years after being breached by the sea.

The lower part of the rife can be tracked north through Longbrook Park and in 680AD this part was called ‘Brynes Fleot’ and would have curved through the site that is now Butlins. In 1953 during the construction of Butlins the Rife was straightened and can be picked up again by following the perimeter of the holiday resort.

The rife provides a natural border to the west of Felpham and winds its way from here through fields between Glenwood and the school. At this point the river splits and one section heads towards Shripney known as the Aldingbourne Rife, whereas the Lidsey Rife continues to the golf course and beyond.

The river can be followed through fields that i call ‘Woodpecker Meadows’ as you can usually see a woodpecker or two flying around here. The other side of the rife can be seen the former LEC airfield which is now home to the Bognor Regis Gliding Club. The airfield dates back to 1943 when it is believed that flying commenced from what was a farmers field, however it became known as LEC airfield after 1946 when Charles Purley started his refrigeration business alongside. The company had it’s own aircraft and would use them to fly across Europe to other factories.

The route now deviates a little from the rife as the public footpath that goes through the golf course does not directly follow the river. Follow the public footpath through the golf course, look out for the many rabbits that have their burrows on the path and rejoin the river further up. Continue on footpath out of the golf course and keep left to head under the viaduct and continue following river north. Look out for Heron and Little Egrets that all nest nearby, in the winter months these fields are known to flood, so be sure to wear wellies if we have had a lot of rain.

The Barnham cycle path runs parallel to the river as it begins to narrow and many tributaries can be seen leading into the river including the Ryebank Rife by the Bilsham solar farm. Keep a close eye out as roe deer can often be seen in the surrounding fields, sometimes hiding amongst the tall grasses.

The cycle path turns ninety degrees to the north and the rife continues through agricultural fields looking out over the field the course of the rife can be made out as it further decreases in size. Follow the cycle path until it meets the old Arundel to Portsmouth Canal and then head east following the route of the canal. The rife is rejoined at its source where it can clearly be seen as a pipe emerging from under the path of the old canal near to Tile Barn Farm.

The rife from here can be tracked back a short way and is a mere ditch with a small trickle of water in during the winter and dry during the summer. After crossing the last two bridges on the Lidsey rife the footpath heads back towards Bilsham and then Flansham.

Many tributaries can be seen and the route back also crosses the Ryebank Rife too, which winds its way through Elmer towards Climping.

The route is completed by heading back to Felpham by whichever way you choose.

Blakes Trail

Lockdown has really given me time to explore the local area. I thought I had discovered most trails locally, but this month’s featured trek is circular walk through Felpham and part of Bognor Regis following a trail that tells us more about Felpham’s most famous resident William Blake.

The Blake’s Trail was set up by students from Felpham Community College after receiving a grant from the National Lottery. The route takes in some key sites and follows a series of information boards highlighting William Blake, his contacts and significance in the local area. The FCC have also created a website about the trail and have made videos reciting some of the poet’s work. www.blakestrail.org

The 4.3 km (2.7 Miles) circular trail starts at the westerly entrance to Hotham Park, just off the High Street but can be joined at any point throughout its route. The first information board outside the gates of the park explains a little about Sir Richard Hotham and the land he sold to William Hayley who in turn employed Blake to paint pictures for his library in Turret House.

The trail leads into the park and past Hotham House. A previous featured walk around the park highlights the best of this public space and could be combined with this trail. Leave the park at the far side and take path under subway to Hook Lane which leads to Felpham Recreation Field where cricket is played in the summer. The information board at this location is currently missing.

Follow the path around the recreation field, cross both the B2259 & Aldingbourne Rife and head towards St Mary’s Norman Church built in the 12th Century with its square tower, a key landmark that can be viewed from many places around Felpham. Walk through the churchyard and exit through the lychgate that was erected in 1897 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.

In Limmer Lane and opposite the Thatched House Pub was the site of Turret House. The poet William Hayley built himself a house on this land and lived there from 1800. The house had a square turret over the entrance with a circular lookout giving fine views towards the coast. Unfortunately, the original house was demolished in 1961 and replaced with flats. An information board can be found on the wall of the pub featuring Blakes friendship with Hayley.

Further along Limmer Lane is Old Rectory Gardens. The grounds of the rectory were redeveloped in the 1950/60s, half the land was used for housing and the remaining garden space has been divided into a private garden for the existing house (now flats) and a public open space that is a real hidden gem in the village. The trail passes right through the gardens that display some formal planting amongst some more mature trees. Take time out in this peaceful garden to count the goldfish in the pond bordered with Yew hedging or take a rest in the story telling corner made up of carved seat and a zigzag bench.

Exit the gardens at Vicarage Lane and turn into Blakes Road. Blakes Cottage is situated on the left and was William Blake’s home for three years from 1800 – 1803.  The board located on the grass verge describes an incident that occurred between Blake and a soldier. Blake was arrested at the nearby Fox Inn after allegedly making seditious remarks to the soldier.

Continue to the seafront along Blakes Road and turn towards Bognor Regis, the next board is sited on the greensward in front of the iconic beach huts. Felpham beach would have looked very different in the latter part of the 18th century when it first developed as a holiday resort and at the time Hayley would have taken regular childhood swims.

The trail continues as a lovely stroll along the promenade, it is worth stopping to look back along the coast and admire the beautiful view whatever the season. The last board can be found on the long straight promenade at the edge of the pebbles outside Butlins. Follow the perimeter of Butlins back to Hotham Park to complete this informative walk.

Around Binsted Woods

This month’s trek is a 6.5 km (4 miles) circular walk around the village of Binsted and nearby ancient woods, situated west of Arundel this parish has an immense amount of history. Parking is limited in the area, but the walk can be started at various points on the route. Sadly, this walk will look vastly different in years to come as it will be altered forever when the A27 bypass is constructed, cutting through this ancient and tranquil landscape.

This trek starts at the 12th century St Mary’s Church, a flint building that stands high and looks across the steep sided Binsted Rife Valley, which is thought to have been formed in the last ice age by glacial water running from the South Downs, it is now a rare chalk stream fed from nearby springs.

Follow the quiet lane northwards keeping the fields to the right and views across the valley to the left. On the far side of the valley are remains of a Roman villa and bath house and barely visible are Iron Age earthworks that run North/South and formed part of the Chichester entrenchments.

The lane passes the popular Black Horse pub which has been at the heart of the community for generations, it sheltered villagers during WW2, has been the venue of Music Hall sing-alongs and today serves great food in a terrific setting. The field opposite has the buried remains of a tile kiln that once produced ‘Binsted Ware’ pottery, traditionally known for its jugs with faces on the handles.

A little further north is a fork in the road where Hedgers Hill meets Binsted Lane. This area was known as ‘All the World’ and would have been a busy junction between other medieval tile kilns situated in the area. Take the lane to the right and head round the bend, the woods to the north of the lane called Hundred House Copse contain earthworks believed to be the remains of a Moot Mound, an Anglo-Saxon meeting place. The mound is also situated right next to further iron age earthworks. If taking a detour into this copse then it is essential to keep to the path as this area is also used by archery clubs. On the bend take the bridleway eastwards known as Old Scotland Lane, so called because the adjoining land may have owed a customary payment (or scot) on it. Scotland Lane was also identified in the 1940s as the route of the Roman road from Chichester to the Adur, but recent surveys suggest that the road may be slightly to the north.

Follow the path along the edge of the field, look towards the middle and see one of the many great oak trees that are scattered around the locality. At the far side of the field enter the 250 acres of ancient woodland that is Binsted Woods. Follow the straight path further into the unkept deciduous wood and keep an eye out to catch a glimpse of its abundant wildlife. Notice the change in the smell of the woodland as you cross the parish boundary into Tortington and enter the pine plantation.

At the road junction you can either head south or stroll through Tortington Common to the Madonna Pond. Much folklore surrounds this pond one saying that it is bottomless and has swallowed up many a person. The Madonna statue was originally erected in 1952 by Lorna Wishart a local artist, unfortunately the original statue was vandalised and has since been replaced.

The walk heads back through the southern part of the woods following ‘Lovers Walk’, part of a 19th Century path that linked the church to Arundel. Leave the woods and head across the fields taking care not to miss the wooden Waymarker sculpture by the junction of four paths at the end of Church Lane. The Waymarker depicts the Green Man, bubbles arising from the Knucker Hole and the dragon/serpent that lived there.

Head back along Church Lane to the church to complete the trek.

Further details on route can be found here: Around Binsted Woods (ordnancesurvey.co.uk)

Further photos and video can be found here: Binsted Woods – YouTube

Secrets of Kingley Vale

Beneath many parts of the South Downs National Park lies a secret landscape revealing the lives of people who resided, visited and worked on the hills. This months featured trek explores the National Nature Reserve of Kingley Vale, which not only is one of Englands most important archaeological sites containing 14 scheduled monuments but also has a unique ancient Yew forest.

This moderate 9km (5.5 miles) trek starts at the West Stoke car park and follows a nature trail route around the reserve. From the car park take the well trodden path passing between arable fields for about 1km where a gate and wooden sculpture marks the start of the special area of conservation that is Kingley Vale.

The nature trail starts by gently ascending through the centre of the Vale, where in the late 1800’s through to WW2 the enclosed hills were used as a military firing range. Evidence of this can be seen by the shrapnel marks in some trees and craters on the ground. In 1990 a clearance of the site removed over 6000 munitions of varying types.

Keeping to the eastern edge of the reserve the path passes through some of the oldest, gnarled and twisted trees, a short way on and the ascent becomes steeper leading you through more ancient Yew woods on the side of the Vale up to Bow Hill. The tangled grove of trees are amongst the oldest living things in Britain, several are at least 500 years old with some claiming to be between 900 & 2000 years old, the oldest of the Yew trees measure more than 5 metres in girth. Very little daylight filters through the entwined branches which gives an eerie feel as you walk amongst them, the ground is very bare and carpeted with dry needles.

At the top follow the wooded trail northwards for about 1km and take the Monarchs Way path downhill a short way to the iron age settlement of Goosehill Camp. The undulating ground hidden in the woods was once a small settlement probably for a family group, who may have only spent time here when tending to their flocks. The views from here in 500BC would have been fantastic across the valley and up to the Trundle Hill Fort.

Double back up the hill and take either path through the open access woodland back towards Bow Hill. Nestled in the woodland just below the summit is Tansley’s Stone, a memorial to 20th century ecologist Sir Arthur Tansley who was instrumental in the campaign to get Kingley Vale registered as a national nature reserve.

A few hundred metres to the west of Bow Hill are the Devils Humps (Kings Graves) the most familiar archaeological feature of Kingley Vale. These large tumuli are superb examples of bronze age burial mounds. There are four barrows in total consisting of bell and bowl barrows, the difference is down to the ditch that surrounds them, the bell barrow ditch is separated from the mound by a narrow step whereas the bowl barrows ditch take the shape of an upturned bowl. Many folklores and legends surround these barrows such as how the men of Chichester defeated a Viking war party in the Vale, the Viking leaders were buried in the Devil’s Humps hence their alternative name of the Kings Graves. Many of the Vikings died where they fell, under the Yew trees and on the slopes of the hill. Their ghosts are said to haunt the Yew groves, and the trees themselves are said to come alive and move at night. This folklore may have had its origin from a battle in AD 894 between the men of Chichester and the marauding Danes.

From the Devils Humps the route descends through Yew Tree Grove on the western edge of the reserve. Look out for the WW2 ‘Home Guard Auxiliary Units’ observation post which would have been linked to an underground patrol base near the bottom of the valley. Follow the same well trodden path back to the car park to complete the trek.

Pulborough WildArt Trail

This months trek features a 4km interactive trail between Pulborough RSPB Wild Brooks and Pulborough Station. It pass through the flood plains of the Arun valley following part of the river, then goes through the town and up to the station.

The trail is great fun for families as it is fairly easy going and is made up of sculptures & signposts that feature local history and wildlife. To complement the walk an app from the ‘Discover Horsham District’ website can be downloaded. There are two parts to the app, one giving lots of information and an augmented reality version for the children and bigger kids alike, use the App at each sign post and the Pulborough Giant will give you an informative guided tour and then quiz you at the end. The route is well signposted and is easy to follow.

If travelling by train the trail can be started at the station or if driving then park up at the other end by the RSPB centre at Pulborough Brooks where there are plenty of spaces. It is worth allowing time to visit the shop, cafe and nature reserve before or after the walk. The RSPB nature reserve covers 256 ha. of wet grassland, woodland, hedgerows, meadow and heath. The reserve is declared a special conservation area that protects the populations of resident and migrating wildfowl along with the specialist plants and invertebrates that can be found in the ditches.

From the RSPB centre car park the path heads north to the hamlet of Wiggonholt which consists of a farm, house and church. The tiny 12th Century church of unknown dedication is built of rubble and remains largely unchanged, it overlooks the brooks and its secluded rural location makes it a lovely church. Keep a close look out for the first sign here then head across the fields to meet up with the River Arun. The river at this point flows much slower and the tranquil environment makes it extremely popular with kayakers and paddle-boarders.

The trail follows the raised bank along the river edge and giving the best opportunities to spot wildfowl both on the river and in the brooks. A Roman Road called the Greensand Way runs right across this part of the Arun Valley, it would have linked Lewes in East Sussex to the Roman Station at Hardham on Stane Street. Although the road is not visible, its route has been traced to just north of Wiggonholt at Lickfold where the remains of a Roman Bath House have also been identified.

The trail leaves the low lying brooks and enters Pulborough via Barn House Lane an older part of the town with many listed buildings. It then follows Lower Street and heads uphill across fields to Old Rectory Lane where the listed 18th century Chequers Hotel is situated at the junction of the main A29. On crossing this road you will be crossing Stane Street, the modern name for the 56 miles of roman road that in 70AD linked Chichester to London Bridge.

The 12th Century St Mary’s Church that stands on a low ridge above the River Arun is on the left as you enter Church Place, although a Norman church the tower and Nave were built much later in the 15th Century, which may explain why they appear to be slightly off centre. Continue along Church Place and the last WildArt trail sign can be found at the railway bridge.

From here you can either take the path to the station and return to the start by Compass bus number 100 (Mon – Sat) or retrace your steps back to the town centre, but rather than following the exact route back i recommend continuing on lower street and taking the path at the most eastern edge of the brooks heading back to the start.

Please note that parts of the Brooks can flood during periods of heavy rain, however the trail would still be accessible in the village of Pulborough and at the RSPB nature reserve.

https://www.discoverhorshamdistrict.co.uk/things-to-do/pulborough/pulborough-wildart-trail

Ouse Valley and Ardingly Reservoir

This months trek is inspired by a screensaver picture that popped up on my laptop recently, usually the many images are of far flung places around the globe but this particular one was in West Sussex. The walk is little further afield but features two incredible trails near to Ardingly taking in one the most elegant viaducts in Britain and also the very tranquil Ardingly Reservoir. 

In total the two routes cover 10km (6 miles) but can easily be split into two. The walk is not circular or linear like my normal treks, but instead back tracks along footpaths walked, which in it’s own way works well by offering different perspectives of the same walk.

The best place to park is the Reservoir car park to the rear of Ardingly College, the first thing you’ll notice here is the steep slope of the 280m long by 17m high dam that was built in 1979 to block a tributary of the Ouse called Shell Brook, whereby creating the 74.5 hectares of reservoir. The valve tower seen here is used to release water from the reservoir either directly into the treatment works or into the River Ouse when water flow is low, this ensures that there is enough water flowing in the River Ouse to protect the aquatic wildlife. The smaller overflow bell mouth, allows storm water to overflow into Shell Brook and stops the reservoir from flooding. The reservoir contains 4.7 million litres and is 14m at its deepest.

To reach the Ouse Valley Viaduct, head out past the activity centre and follow the Sussex Ouse Valley Way which rises up and across the fields. Although not evident this first part actually follows part of the route of the London to Brighton roman road. The path heads down hill where two small bridges are crossed. From here keep the River Ouse on your right and follow along its banks, the river is not very big at this point as it is only 10 km from its source near Lower Beeding but ultimately much wider where it enters the sea at Newhaven. As you follow along the Ouse Valley the first glimpses of the magnificent viaduct come into view.

Built in 1842 the viaduct is located on the London-Brighton line just south of Balcombe, it spans 450m of the lowlands of the River Ouse and at its highest is 29m. It was designed by the engineer John Urpeth Rastrick and its elegance was enhanced by architect David Mocatta who built a stone cornice with balustrade along the top and erected classical pavilions at each end. The grade 2 structure comprises of 37 arches and 11 million bricks with 4/5 trains thundering overhead every hour.

The path passes right underneath and one of the best views can be had by looking down through the arches as they create an illusion of infinity, access can be gained to the river allowing you to further explore the viaduct. 

Retrace your steps to the reservoir and back at the dam take the path known as the Kingfisher Trail along the eastern shore of the reservoir. The kingfisher trail closely follows the edge of the water and passes through many copses both old and new that contain a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees and are home to much wildlife including Bats and Dormice. There are also two hides located at the south edge and north edge of the reservoir where you can see the many bird species that reside here and also that stop off here on their long migratory journeys.

The trail meanders around the shoreline and continues along a causeway that bisects part of the body of water created by the Ardingly Brook and then continues on the bridleway north towards Balcombe. On the Balcombe arm of the reservoir great views can be had looking back towards the dam.

Information boards along the trail provide more detail of the reservoir. Unfortunately you cannot walk around the whole reservoir as the western shore is private property belonging to the Balcombe Estate, so retrace your steps back to the car park to complete the walk.

Further information on the Kingfisher Trail can be found here: http://www.highweald.org/downloads/publications/exploring-the-high-weald/nature-reserves/821-ardingly-reservoir-kingfisher-trail/file.html

Detailed route on OS maps can be found here: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5983399/Ouse-Valley-Viaduct-Ardingly-Reservoir

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