Foodie Trek – February 2018

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.DSC_0015

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.

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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

Ingredients

  • 200g of high quality plain chocolate
  • 120ml Orange Juice
  • 3 Large Eggs, separated
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • A few drops of orange extract

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg whites with the sugar until stiff peaks form, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Spoon the mousse into individual dishes and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Top with softly whipped cream, if desired.

 

 

 

Foodie Trek – January 2018

Bury, Bignor and Beef

Tough Circular Walk 15km (9.3 miles)

13th January 2018

My first blog of 2018 is a tough walk that tackles ‘The South Downs’ from the steeper north side. Parking up at Bury we headed off on the Literary Trail at the foot of the Downs towards West Burton, part of a long distance route that we followed last year. Shortly after starting we spotted a headstone just off the path in the wooded edge of a field, the stone was placed as a memorial to Fred Hughes; the farmer who owned Southview Farm below and his wife Winifred, what a great spot this is looking out over the farm he once run.

We continued on to West Burton a small village apparently dating back to Saxon times and is said to have had it’s water once supplied by a fresh spring emanating from the chalky downs. Heading south out of the village we started to ascend Westburton Hill, gradually at first and then in the wooded are making up part of ‘Egg Bottom Coppice’ the path became much steeper, certainly one for getting the heart pounding. The path circled around the steepest parts of the coppice, thank goodness, and after approximately 1km we met the South Downs way, took a few breaths then continued upwards.

As we neared the openness of the top of the downs we were met with a cold biting wind that numbed the chin, can’t complain too much as it is January after all. As we followed the South Downs way we passed Toby’s Stone near the top of Bignor Hill, the stone is made up of a few steps and is a horseman’s mounting block commemorating the huntsman James Wentworth-Fitzwilliam. As we descended slightly from Bignor Hill following the South Downs Way on looking south we could just make out the ridges of the ‘Barkhale Neolithic Camp’. It must have been tough living up here!

Bignor Hill car park is where ‘Stane Street’ crosses the downs, a roman road of 56 miles in length that once would have linked Noviomagvs (Chichester) and Londinium (London) in around 70AD. Today it is easily traceable on many maps by the straightness of some sections of the A29, A24 and A3 along with many straight bridleways. If drawing a line between London Bridge and Chichester Stane Street does not deviate any more the 6 miles from this direct route. Maybe a route to discover and blog in the future.

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On leaving the car park we headed to the two masts at Glatting Beacon that can be seen from miles around and this was the highest point of the day at 245m above sea level. We then start to descend the downs between Scotchers Bottom and Glatting Hangar, which gradually descends first and then steepens as you enter the woods. We followed the bridleway down which was quite difficult to make out as the ground here was a carpet of leaves over a path that looked like it was not used very often. Some quite big rocks were hidden under this leafy path so watching the footing was really required here. After having descended about 120m through the woods and with the embankment on your left we came across many trees that had very recently fallen and blocked the path, probably in the recent ‘Storm Eleanor’. Luckily after PK scrambled over the the first of the fallen trees we were to take the easterly path down the side of Glatting Beacon. On passing through the woods many more trees had fallen and needed scrambling over. Here we crossed another spring from the south downs as it trickles it’s way down. On exiting the woods we crossed the field to Glatting Farm, not the easiest of walking as the ground here was very fertile soft mud which has a tendency to clog up on the bottom of the boots making our feet so much heavier, it was like we were wearing lead boots.

At Glatting Farm we stamped our feet and cleaned our boots in the puddles but to no avail as we were very shortly going to be crossing another field exactly same that would once again clog our boots up.

Since descending the summit we were beginning to feel hungry and had made several references as to what we’ll have for lunch in the pub, “pie was good, soup a good choice or even a bowl of hot stew” we would say as the hunger pangs set in, we then joked about how the chef was off or they just stopped serving food meaning we would have had no lunch. The pub we were headed for was the White Horse in Sutton another small village at the foot of the downs, which also has the springs running through. We picked up the Literary Trail and took the route between the houses into the village, a small section that we clearly remembered. Just as we approached the road we could see the pub and our shoulders drooped a little as it did not looking as inviting as it did when we stopped here in the summer, as it was covered in scaffolding and the windows were very dark……….our hearts sank as we read the sign on the door which said that it was closed until the spring due to refurbishment. We sat in the bus stop opposite with a look of sorrow on our faces thinking about what to do, i had only eaten an apple and tangerine on the hills (as i had eaten my emergency rations on a previous trek, not as an emergency but because they were going out of date and i had not replaced them…..lesson learnt!). PK had had his snickers bar on the hill and was now making suggestions of phoning a taxi to take us to The Cricketers in Duncton.

The atmosphere had now changed and with no lunch in our bellies we decided to head off in the hope that Bignor Roman Villa was open and we could maybe get some cake in their cafe. We therefore headed back on the path through the houses and across field following the Literary Trail towards Bignor. At Bignor we passed the Mill, the church and took the path towards the Roman Villa. The Bignor Roman villa is classed as a courtyard villa and houses some fantastic mosaics on the floor, apparently some of the most intricate in the country. The villa was discovered by George Tupper in 1811, George was a local farmer and was plough his fields when he struck the ‘Summer Dining Room Fountain’. It was then excavated by a local man from Bignor and has been open to the public since 1814, however today the Roman Villa was closed, so no cake and coffee for us. We carried on past the vineyards that are in front of the villa and in a great sheltered position being shielded by the downs. I was beginning to tire now and very much feeling the fact the i had had no lunch, i mean i did want to start a diet to shed some of the pounds i gained over christmas, but not this much of a diet….haha.

Just passed the villa we crossed ‘Stane Street’ again and passed Grevatt Wood. On reaching a minor road we new we were then nearing the farm shop where we would be able to get something to eat at last, but first we needed to get there, so we followed the road a short way and was to take the second path eastwards, first of all we thought we had walked past it, then back tracked and still couldn’t find it, PK got his OS App out and still it was not apparent so we had to back track to the first path east and head across the fields; which was to be the last little bit before reaching the farm shop and where we had parked. Even these last few fields were proving quite a challenge to us as they were so waterlogged.

Eventually we got to Southview Farm where they rear a lot of the meat and dairy that they sell in Charlie’s Farm shop. So i took my exceptionally muddy and wet boots off, hopefully not too smelly but really pleased that my feet were bone dry inside and went into the farm shop. The farm shop is now owned by Charlie and Sarah Hughes of Southview Farm and has a great selection of locally produced foods along with a butchery selling beef, pork and rose veal that are all reared on the farm. High on the walls of the shop can be seen images of old photos of Charlie’s ancestors including Fred Hughes working on the farm, i found these pictures extremely interesting particularly as we had seen the head stone of Fred Hughes earlier on in the walk. I really wanted some rose veal but unfortunately they had none available so i opted to buy some steak for dinner that night; which by the way was really delicious and tender, cooked simply to a medium rare. I also got some cheese straws and a donut for PK from their bakery to eat there and then.

A short walk from here back to the car and the end of a really good walk. The recipe this month is inspired by the meat sold at Charlies Farm.

Rose Veal with Butternut Waldorf Salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 x 200g veal rump steaks
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 450g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 170g plain Greek yogurt
  • 80g cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Juicy and tangy apples, cored and chopped
  • 3 Sticks of celery, chopped
  • 170g Toasted walnuts
  • Mixed baby green salad leaves

Method:

  1. Coat butternut squash in olive oil, season and roast the chopped rosemary until tender and slightly caramelising at the edges. Leave to cool.
  2. To make the dressing lightly whisk the yoghurt, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, chives together and season to taste.
  3. Put chopped apple, celery, butternut squash and walnuts in a bowl and lightly coat with the dressing. Set aside.
  4. Preheat a griddle pan and season the veal, put a dash of olive oil on griddle with rosemary and cook the veal to your liking. Remember to leave it to rest after cooking.
  5. To serve, diagonally slice the veal and arrange on plate with butternut waldorf salad and mixed green leaves.
  6. Enjoy

Foodie Trek – December 2017

Blackdown Hill, Lurgashall & Vodka

Circular Walk 11.5km (7.2 miles)

17th December 2017

The trek today is a little further afield and takes in Blackdown Hill the highest point in West Sussex along with some Christmas ‘Spirits’ at the end. Visible for some distance Blackdown in the Low Weald is geologically part of the greensand ridge and sits on the Sussex/Surrey border. The Greensand Ridge is a distinctive escarpment in south east England and is made up of mixed greensand/sandstone which is often wooded. It runs from the East Sussex coast, around the Weald, which was formerly a dense forest stretching across Sussex, Surrey and Kent. Then back to the far eastern end of the ridge which forms the northern boundary of Romney Marsh.

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We parked up in the National Trust Car Park in Fernden Road, a small car parking space that will only take a few cars and started our trek by walking West through the woods along the road.

Shortly after starting out we pass Upper Blackdown Farm which was partly damaged on 4th November 1967 when a caravelle airliner plane owned by Iberian Airways crashed into the side of Blackdown Hill. The plane was on it’s way to Heathrow from Malaga in Spain and was bringing 30 tourists back from their holidays. It is thought that the crash was due to an error in reading the altimeter as the plane was on the correct flight path for Heathrow and the black box did not show up any technical faults. A memorial stone to the lives lost can be found in the Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey.

We continued along the road to the bend at Blackdown park  and then headed north west, keeping the park wall to our left, after approximately 200m where the wall stops we took the footpath heading north east up the hill, this part of the trek was to be the steepest and with all the huffing and puffing i sounded like Darth Vadar going up the hill. A short stop half way to catch the breath and also get some sneaky peeks between the trees of the views to come. The ground under foot was very soft as it was a carpet of brown leaves that had fallen from the trees in the Autumn, this provided a cushion between us and the soggy mud underneath. After ascending 100 metres we reach the top and started to see the fabulous views ahead of us. We headed for the Temple of the Winds’ and sat on the stone curved bench that was put there to honour WE Hunter, who donated the land in 1948 as a memorial to his wife. The Hunters are remembered by an engraving into the stone seat. Apparently the ‘Temple of the Winds’ is named after a bronze age circular bank.

The views from here are absolutely awesome, the viewpoint is looking south and so many points could be picked out, the rolling south downs were very distinct . The day was so clear that through a valley in the downs you could see the blue hue of sea with the newly constructed Rampion Wind farm in the distance. To the East Gatwick airport was visible and on talking to a couple it is really good up there at night as you can see all the lights of the runway.

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From here we headed north following the Serpents Trail along the plateau at the top of Blackdown Hill, the path through here is surrounded by heather, gorse and silver birch. We also saw the bog ponds albeit they were frozen over and in the warmer weather they are a haven for many dragonflies. We headed slightly off the path to find the triangulation point, so that we could officially say we had reached the highest point in Sussex. Then carried on through the beech Hangers; named such for the amount of beech trees in the area. Flint artefacts have been found at the top of Blackdown and show that there has been some sort of settlement on Black Down since the mesolithic period (c.6000BC), perhaps the name ‘Temple of the Winds’ was taken from one of these settlements.

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Following the path along the top of this hill we were following in the footsteps of Tennyson who lived at Aldworth house and would walk these paths daily. Our route takes us right past his house but unfortunately only a few glimpses through the trees could be made as the property is not very visible or open to the public. This house was designed by Sir James Knowles for Lord Tennyson and built in 1869. It was occupied by Tennyson until his death. Tennyson died in the house on the 6 October 1892

Continue to follow the serpents trail along the top and look out for the path that heads downhill on the right (the one that we missed and walked straight past), i am all for the traditional map and compass, whereas PK likes his technology with the map on his phone and especially taking pride in proving me wrong when i have take the incorrect path, like we did at the top here and ended up in the wrong car park. We start to descend down a narrow path by the side of Tennyson’s house which is quite a steep descent so watching your footing is a good thing.

The descending path brings you out on to a road on which we followed for a couple of kilometres, i try to avoid roads as much as i can however don’t be alarmed that we are walking on the road; as only one car passed in the whole time we were walking along it. On meeting the T junction cross over and take the path to the right of Shopp Hill Farm.

This path takes you over many styles and through a few fields and woodland. Most styles had easy access for dogs to pass through, except Cookie decided that she was going to try and squeeze through the fence rather than take the easy route, whereby getting her head stuck. After a quick rescue she was free and we continued through to Lurgashall.

We enterend Lurgashall via the church grounds of St Laurence Church and although we didn’t see it, it has a stained glass window celebrating the millennium showing the working lives through history, our boots were too muddy to go in. In Lurgashall we stopped at the Noah’s Ark pub for some lunch, a bowl of soup for myself, a Burger for PK and a dog treat for cookie with some water that she decided to tread in and spill all over the pub floor. The food was very good here and certainly refuelled our energy, so after lunch and we headed out of the village on Dial Green Lane and took the first footpath heading northwards. We followed the edge of a few more fields and pass by the side of Windfallwood Common which is made up of many Silver Birch Trees.

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Opposite Windfallwood common we stop at the Blackdown Distillery and Winery. The door was closed so we rang the bell and waited. A really friendly lady answered and invited us in to taste some of the drinks that they produce here. Vodka and Gin are both produced here and are filtered through charcoal to create a much smoother taste and then very uniquely are infused with the sap of the silver birch trees from Windfallwood Common. The Elderberry Liquer is also very good and made using local elderberries too, very good with cheese! They also do a christmas pudding flavoured vodka which unfortunately had sold out. So after trying many spirits and liqueurs and with a bottle of elderberry liqueur for Susan it was time to head back up the hill.

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Taking the path next to the distillery we gently started to ascend the base of Blackdown Hill. On this path you can see the many vines growing from Blackdown Ridge Estate, a local winemaker that would be good to revisit in the summer when in full operation. It was an uphill climb of approximately 100 metres before we got back to where we had parked but not as steep as the first section of the day.

December’s Recipe is inspired from the Gin from Blackdown Distillery and is used to cure some salmon that can be enjoyed over the festive period.

Gin & Beetroot Cured Salmon/Trout

Ingredients

  • 1 side of Salmon
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 2 oranges and zest
  • 2 medium raw beetroot
  • 150g sea salt flakes
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped
  • 50ml Blackdown Gin

Method

  1. Lay the salmon side out and pin bone them out with your fingers or tweezers.
  2. Grate the beetroot and drain most of the liquid from it.
  3. Mix all the remaining ingredients together with the beetroot to make the cure, can be done in a food processor to make a paste.
  4. Stretch two large sheets of cling film on a baking tray and lay the salmon side skin side down.
  5. Pack all the cure mix over the salmon including the sides until it is fully covered. and wrap up tightly in the cling film.
  6. Lay another baking tray on top and with down with some tins and put in the fridge for 24hrs.
  7. The day after remove salmon from fridge and scrape off cure mix, rinsing under the tap removing any remaining cure and pat dry.
  8. Serve thinly sliced with pickled cucumber.
  9. Enjoy

Foodie Trek – November 2017

Churches, Canals and Coffee

A linear walk of 12.5km (7.8 miles)

17th November 2017

Today’s walk will be going through historical smuggling coastal towns to a lost route to London with coffee on the way, i am joined by my son Matthew, my mate Paul and two dogs Cookie & Kiah.

From Barnham Station we followed Yapton Road under the railway bridge until the Murrell Arms; Originally a Georgian farmhouse and converted into a pub in 1866 by George Murrell who had inherited the property from his mother, he named the pub after their surname but unfortunately died in 1867, the pub was then sold on to the Anchor Brewery of Littlehampton. We decided that we best not stop here so early on in the trek as a pint would really have slowed us down and we wanted to get to Arundel before dark. We then headed south down Church Lane and probably about half way down passed an old property call Curacao, it is believed locally that this was an ale house at a much earlier time than the Murrell Arms. We continued to the end of this road where Barnham Court  a grand residence stands, built between 1630 and 1650 of hard red Sussex brick. Next to this and on our right at the end of the road is St Mary’s Church. This place of worship has been here since before the 1086 doomsday survey.  If you go into the church look out for the rare 15th century graffiti in the wall on the way to the vestry, written in latin it translates as “Pray for the soul of my father who died at Agincourt” it’s incredible that this inscription has been here for over 600 years and is considered rare because few people could read or write at that time. The immediate area around the church is where the original village of Barnham was situated, a tidal inlet came right into this village in the middle ages making it predominantly a fishing village, with smuggling also taking place here, apparently there is a secret underground passage leading to the church, however with the advent of the railway and the station meant that the modern village was developed further north.

From St Mary’s Church we took the cycle track opposite that links Barnham with Felpham and followed for a short way until coming across the remains of an old bridge that once crossed the Arundel to Portsmouth canal. This is part of ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’, a route that took barges inland from Portsmouth to London City thus avoiding the dangerous sea going route during the napoleonic war, unfortunately the demise of the canal was also to be blamed on the introduction of the railway (further details of this route can be seen in my ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ walk and blog). At this point the remains can be seen of one of the many swing bridges that crossed the canal allowing farmers to cross to their fields

The old canal here is quite distinct, albeit empty and we walked eastwards on the raised bank which i assume is the old tow path. On this section to the north of the canal can be seen John Baker’s Windmill, named after the miller in 1882. There has been a mill on this site since c.1760s and the current tower mill replaced its predessor that was destroyed in a storm in 1827. This mill has been in operation grinding corn from 1829 to 1863 and has had several millers working there.

Trekking past the mill the canal is easily followed and at Drove Lane we continued over the road and along the edge of a field, the canal at this point has disappeared. We took the  twitten and dropped down by the edge of an old bridge that once crossed the canal, be extremely careful here as when i was walking down, my foot lost its grip and i started to slip, i thought that i would be able to steady myself, but no, i slipped all the way down the steps, falling on Cookie as i went, who gave out a yelp. I picked myself up at the bottom, brushed myself of and thankfully everything was still intact, however everyone else was more concerned with Cookie than me, i know my place! We were now in The Pines (a residential street that is built on the line of the canal) and we followed until Canal Road, we turned left then immediatly right into the Main Road. This was to be the tricky bit as i had left the map in the car and was going to have to put my memory to use in remembering the route that we took the previous year. Opposite the shops we crossed diagonally through car park and into Downview Way. At the end of Downview Way we crossed over the road and took the twitten between houses. At the end of this path was more remnants of an old canal bridge, after passing under we headed across the field and walked alongside trees that you can see are growing in the recess of the old canal. At the end of this small visible section we headed north and followed the path around the edges of the tree lined fields until reaching Ford Lane.

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The footpath emerged into Ford Lane and directly opposite we stopped at Edgcumbes Roastery, a coffee supplier since 1981 that buys beans in from all over the world and roasts them on site in a roaster called ‘Big Bertha’ which can be seen through the window of the cafe. The cafe barista was Nancy and i have never met a barista so enthusiastic and passionate about coffee, that also really knows her stuff. We did some ‘cupping’ on three single origin coffees. Nancy was so helpful talking us through the cupping process and how to taste the coffee properly even down to slurping each spoonful properly to get all the flavours. We tried Ethiopian, Kenyan and Columbian coffee and was well guided by Nancy on the flavours of each one, she also ran through the various brewing techniques and grind size too. Nancy also mentioned that she aspires to becoming a coffee roaster too in the future. Before we left we had a cup of the Sussex barn blend cappuccino style and bought some Kenyan Coffee for the recipes below.

After taking a break and perking ourselves up with coffee we left the roastery, turned Left into Ford Lane and followed for a short while (be careful on this road as it can be busy at rush hour), we left the road at Flintstones and took the concrete farm track opposite, then took the path going diagonally across the field to Station Road, this path again follows the route of the canal, but unfortunately no evidence of it here remains here until you get to the River Arun. The other side of the road we could see the track leading to St Andrews Church-by-the-Ford. This saxon church has been here since c.1040 and was rebuilt by the Normans in the 12th century. The white bell tower was painted in brilliant white to help the ships on the river with navigation. The church is also noted for it’s fine paintings inside, ‘The Doom’ as it is called is a large painting in the chancel arch of the nave that was discovered in 1899 and is said to be dated c.1512.

We Passed by the church on the footpath to the left and headed for the River Arun. At this point the canal would have met the river and the only evidence left is the concrete from two lock gates that were in place to allow barges to pass through at high tide and keep water in the canal at low tide.

From here we headed northwards along the River Arun, under the railway bridge towards Arundel. On our approach to the town the light was fading but we could still make out  ‘South Marsh Mill’ on the other side of the river. This tower mill similar to John Baker mill was built in 1830 and was used to grind corn up until 1922, the windshaft broke in 1915 in a storm so was operated by engine for the last few years. although the mill is protected by grade 2 listing there is no evidence left of the wharf that it had on the river from when it was operational.

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As the sun had set and darkness was upon us we entered Arundel via Tarrant Street, so named after the previously being called the river Tarrant before it was named the Arun. We turned right into Arun Road then left onto River Road, along here we passed the old Eagle Brewery just before reaching the river in the town centre, unfortunately the Arundel Brewery shop was closed when we got there but perhaps i can return to pick up some Chilgrove Vodka for the ‘Espresso Martini’ and probably some ales too.  At the main bridge across the river in Arundel we headed out of town on Queens Street to the station and after a short wait we caught the train back to Barnham.

Peanut Butter Tiramisu

Ingediants:

  • 250g Tub of Marscapone Cheese
  • 568ml pot Double Cream
  • 75ml Amaretto
  • 5 tbsp golden caster Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 200g Pack Sponge Fingers
  • Dark Chocolate
  • 500ml Strong Kenyan coffee
  • 1 Tbsp Brandy

Method:

  1. Put the cream, mascarpone, sugar and peanut butter in a large bowl and whisk until thick, stir in the amaretto.
  2. Dip sponge fingers in coffee/brandy mix and arrange in serving dish, then spread over the cream mix, grate some chocolate over and repeat with another layer of sponge and cream mixture until all used up, finishing with a cream mix on top. Dust with cocoa powder.
  3. Cover and chill for a couple of hours then serve.

Espresso Martini

Serves 2

For the sugar syrup

  • 100g golden caster sugar

For the cocktail

  • ice
  • 100ml Chilgrove Vodka
  • 50ml freshly brewed espresso coffee
  • 50ml coffee liqueur (i used Kahlua)
  • 4 coffee beans (optional)
  1. Start by making the sugar syrup. Put the caster sugar in a small pan over a medium heat and pour in 50ml water. Stir, and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Put 2 martini glasses in the fridge to chill.
  2. Once the sugar syrup is cold, pour 1 tbsp into a cocktail shaker along with a handful of ice, the vodka, espresso and coffee liqueur. Shake until the outside of the cocktail shaker feels icy cold then strain into the chilled glasses. Garnish each one with coffee beans if you like.

Foodie Trek – October 2017

Pottery, Pumpkins and Picnic Parties

Circular Walk – 11km (6.8 miles)

6th October 2017

Who would think that a medieval deer park was once a beach and that a folly hosting parties would play a critical role in the war.

The walk consisting of three sections starts and ends at the Park Lane car park, Slindon. On leaving the car park the first section takes you into the medieval deer park an area with history dating back to the iron age that is now managed by the National Trust.  From the car park pass through the five bar gate opposite the entrance and follow track a short way into the woods, at cross paths turn left, following pink NT signs. This first part of the wood in spring has an abundance of bluebells carpeting the forest floor in a beautiful aromatic blue mist, well worth returning to see this lovely spectacle. Continue through woodland on the path that runs along the edge of park and then into an open area, with few trees and raised banks.

Around the 13th century the deer park was set up and the route for this walk follows the raised banks called ‘Pales’ which formed the old medieval boundary of the park. The remains of the ‘Pales’ can clearly be seen today, however back in the day an angled fence on top would have retained the seasonal livestock and meant that deer leaping over the fence from outside landed in the inner ditch and had no means of escape. Continue to follow ‘The Pale’ and the NT signs which bear right and take you through the eastern side of Slindon woods. As you follow this track heading north take a break at the raised beach and imagine that this incline would have been a 75m high cliff 500,000 years ago and you would be looking out to sea, the coastal towns we know today would have been the seabed back then. An information board at this point gives more details of the land formation in this area.

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More recent history of the park can be seen by the many fallen beech trees that were sadly blown over in the 1987 storm, these trees were planted circa. 1700 around the edge of the park and 90% of them fell during this great storm. Look out for Druids Grove just past the raised beach, here a small collection of the original beech trees that survived the storm. It is also good to see that there is evidence that some trees have rerooted themselves and started to grow up again. Continue following NT signs and at the top end of the park exit via a gate, a short rest can be had here on the walled bench, once part of a regency tearoom that was burnt down in the 1940s. On exiting the park you will pass by a camping site and meet an unnamed road. Turn right here and follow NT sign along path amongst trees at the side of the road.

The second section of the walk heads more into open downland and up Nore Hill where Slindon Folly is nestled on the side 112m above the sea. At this stage the walk can be shortened by continuing on path and into Slindon Village to join the third section. However if carrying on to the Folly, then head down Nore Wood Lane a single track road on the left, be careful of any passing cars and follow the road downhill for a couple of hundred metres until you reach Courthill Farm. Turn onto bridleway on your left, continue on track until you reach Row’s Barn. Looking to your right, you’ll see the folly so take track here and head up the hill. The ‘Folly’ was built by a local flint worker at the request of the Countess of Newburgh in 1817. Originally a thatched tearoom was built behind and the Countess would hold picnic parties for the many hunting groups. In both world wars the Folly was employed as a wireless station receiving morse code messages and forwarding them onto telegraph operators stationed at Dower House in Slindon village. Views are fantastic from here across to Portsmouth and the Isle of wight beyond, many ships can be seen in the channel too and during the war years the Folly was used by ships as a navigational landmark.

Beyond ‘The Folly’ continue to follow track up hill and into Nore Woods; another part of the Slindon Estate that is also managed by the National Trust. Continue through the woods keeping to the left paths at each junction until you reach ‘The Plain’ at a T junction. Here there was a prisoner of war camp that was managed by the Canadians where timber was cut for pit props and trench supports. Venturing into the woods here means you can discover many remnants from the POW camp days, such as graffiti from the POWs on the trees that were not destined to be felled, airship anchor points and apparently the old incinerator can be found here too, although i have not found it yet! At ‘The Plain’ turn right and continue downhill. Keep straight on this path for approximately 1km and at second cross paths turn right on to track that passes Northwood Cottages. Just past cottages and shortly after joining paved road, bear left onto bridleway and up hill towards Little Down, glancing back at the folly on the hill behind you. At top of hill and at T junction, turn right and follow path south. Walking back towards Slindon the Folly can clearly be seen across the valley commanding it’s position over the village and in the other direction there are great views of Littlehampton and the Rampion wind farm beyond. Keep on path until you meet junction where several paths meet, find the sign to Bignor and head south (opposite way to Bignor) following middle bridleway which takes you to Mill Lane.

The third section of the walk re-enters the village via mill lane, here an old cattle pound can be seen, which was used to house stray livestock in the days when cattle was driven across the downs to market. On entering the village turn into Top Road, pass Bleak House where Hillaire Beloc once lived and on to the Pottery shop that is known for creating great pottery since the mid 70’s. This little shop was originally the estate wheelwright and carpenters shop and is run by the pumpkin farmers wife.

Further along Top Road is the pumpkin farm that has provided a spectacular display since 1968. Each year a display is set up showcasing the many different squashes that are grown here. It takes about 10 days to set up the display and the theme each year varies right up to the last minute depending on the colours of the years crop. Many different varieties of squash can be bought here. I’ll always pick up something different here and at the end of the blog i have devised a recipe using these unusual gourds.

The final part of the walk takes you along the remainder of Top Road and left down Church Hill through the village and past the pond that is fed by a natural spring, look for the large fish swimming just below the surface. At School Hill turn right and continue downhill until you reach ‘The Forge shop’, a local store, deli and cafe run by the community. Five years ago this derelict blacksmiths was renovated and converted into the deli/cafe that it is today. The ‘Slindon Forge’ is a welcome stop to re-energise with one of their delicious sausage rolls, baked daily on site to their own recipe, they are a hot favourite as we arrived at 12:45 and after we bought two they then only had one left out of the thirty that was cooked earlier in the morning. Some home made cake and coffee finished off the lunch very nicely before walking the last leg back to the car park. Turn back on yourself until you reach park lane, take footpath heading due south and follow footpath to main road, Here turn right and take westerly path through the woods heading back to car park.

Some more great local ingredients were bought and used to create a favourite recipe of mine……..Risotto!

In this recipe i have used Starship and Onion Squash that i picked up from the ‘Pumpkin Farm’ along with a locally produced cheese called Sussex Charmer that i picked up from the ‘Slindon Forge’ (see below for substitute ingredients if not available)

Roast Squash & Sage Risotto

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 210g         Starship Squash (Patty Pan)*, skin and pips removed
  • 210g         Onion Squash*, skin and pips removed
  • 2 Tbsp     Olive Oil
  • 1               Onion (Chopped)
  • 1               Garlic Clove (Finely Chopped)
  • 100ml        Dry White Wine
  • 400ml      Good Quality Vegetable Stock
  • 200g         Arborio Risotto Rice
  • 90g           Sussex Charmer Cheese**
  • 2 Tbsp     Fresh Sage (Chopped)
  •                  Crispy Baked Sage Leaves
  •                  Salt & Black Pepper

*Butternut Squash or any other squash can be used if Starship and Onion Squash is not available.

** If Sussex Charmer not available then substitute with Mature Cheddar and Parmesan.

Method:

  1. Preheat Oven to 200/180 Fan or Gas Mark 6
  2. Chop both squashes into small chunks and toss in 1 tbsp olive oil with 1tbsp of the chopped sage until evenly coated, spread out on baking tray and place in pre heated oven, roast for 40 mins or until soft and started to brown
  3. Fry onion and garlic in remaining Tbsp of olive oil until softened
  4. Add rice to frying pan and cook a couple of minutes until evenly coated with oil, pour in the dry white wine, cook until reduced and fully absorbed.
  5. Gradually add some stock, when absorbed add a little more. Add remaining fresh chopped sage and continue adding stock and stirring until rice is ‘al dente’ (approximately 20 minutes)
  6. Stir in grated cheese until fully incorporated and creamy, then stir in roasted squash. Season to taste
  7. Serve with crispy baked sage leaves on top.
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Foodie Trek – September 2017

Blackberries, Pears & Ice Cream

Dell Quay circular – 18.5km

1st September 2017 

 

It’s been a while from when i last blogged and since completing ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ PK, Cookie and i have walked the Downs Link from Bramley to Shoreham (58.7 km) and the Literary Trail from Horsham to Chichester (89km). These are both great trails where you can see Sussex in all it’s full beauty, so definitely well worth doing.

Apart from my family, two great passions in my life are food and walking, i love creating dishes from local ingredients, particularly when holidaying somewhere different and whenever i can, i’m out walking discovering new trails. So i thought it would be terrific to bring the two together for my next series of blogs by having a food and/or drink theme keeping them local to Sussex too. On each trek I will try and seek out food that is produced, supplied or grown in Sussex, purchase some and then create a delicious (hopefully) recipe using the food/ingredients that i picked up.

So the first entry in my foodie trek blog will be something seasonal for September and after pondering over the map thinking where to go i decided that the trek should take place on the Manhood Peninsula which is just south of Chichester, here we would be able to take in two very different food producers, The Apuldram Centre and Caroline’s Dairy.

This trek starts at the small sailing hamlet of Dell Quay and heads north along Chichester harbour following the waters edge. Along this stretch of harbour can be found an abundance of blackberries and many sloe berries. We picked a tub full of perfectly ripe blackberries as they are definitely local, wild, free and great for a dessert. The sloe berries we’ll leave to those who make sloe gin……….

With the tub full of blackberries we then headed away from the harbour eastwards towards Apuldram. St Mary the Virgin Church dated from the 12th century can be seen across the field to the right. Just across the Apuldram Road we joined the Salterns Way (a cycle route linking Chichester with The Witterings).  Heading south on the track and shortly after joining the Salterns Way you’ll come across a small gate that leads into the back of the Apuldram Centre, this the first foodie stop of the day.

What a great little find the Apuldram Centre was, principally it’s a charity for adults with learning difficulties that provide them with opportunities to learn about working in the community and on site, it also has a cafe and a shop. The shop sells produce that is grown on site and the day we visited they had tomatoes, courgettes, beetroot, beans, butternut squash and pears available to buy, so i chose a few pears to go with the blackberries that we picked earlier. The cafe also serves some lovely looking cakes that are made by the students in the kitchens on site and are great with a tea, coffee or a cold drink, Lucy and Luke served us in the cafe and both were very friendly, they enthiusiastically told us a little more about the charity, what they do and how they prepare their students for work life. Such a great find so early on in the walk, it was definitely a chance to refuel on tea and cake giving us energy for the rest of the day.

On leaving the Apuldram Centre we followed a short part of the Salterns Way before heading across fields towards Hunston. On the way we crossed the main Witterings road and then passed through a very aromatic field that was growing coriander and parsley, in the distance you could see the workers picking and packing some crops which i’m sure will be destined for the shelves of the major supermarkets along with the herbs growing here. Before long we crossed the canal and arrived in Hunston.

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We left Hunston heading East and passed by St Leodegars Church, another place of worship that has also been here since the 12th century; although it was rebuilt in the 1800s. The trek also took us on to the outskirts of the rural hamlet of South Mundham, passing through more agricultural fields. This particular area is great for farmers as the Isle of Wight gives some protection & shelter from strong winds and the flat land attracts good light from the sun, making it ideal for growing salad crops and fruit. In addition, being in the south of England, the area is relatively warm and frost-free. From South Mundham we continued the walk along part of the ‘Bill Way’, a cycle route that takes you from Chichester to Pagham Harbour, it follows part of the old tram way that would once have linked the Selsey Peninsula with Chichester. As we progress along the ‘Bill Way’ the arable fields soon gave way to dairy fields and here we keep a keen eye out for the cattle herds that provide Caroline’s Dairy with the milk for her ice cream. Just as we see some cows in the distance we had to leave the cycle track and headed towards Chalder Farm, incredibly a young deer shot out from a field in front of us and on to the track, it looked surprised to see us, so it immediately retreated and darted back in to the field.

Caroline’s Dairy is a luxury ice cream maker based at Chalder Farm near Sidlesham and has been in production since they started in 2008, they use milk from their own herds along with local ingredients to create their many flavours of delicious ice cream. Unfortunately, they don’t sell their ice cream on site, but do at many local stockists, which is where i later managed to pick up some salted caramel flavoured ice cream.  The public footpath goes right through the farm and in the barns we saw some three week old calves, which i would imagine will one day be producing milk for the delicious ice cream. It was unfortunate that we walked through so late in the day as we didn’t meet anyone to talk to.

On leaving Chalder Farm we began to head back to where we started, firstly passing by Sidlesham Common; where we had to tackle some overgrown paths and then cross more fields in which another deer was spotted, but this time it was leaping over the crops in the far corner. We passed through the outskirts of Birdham, which is mainly a residential village as it has no pub and only one shop, apparently it also has no defined centre. From Birdham we cut through a small twitten that led us in to Chichester Marina, where many yachts are moored. As we walked through the marina the sun was beginning to set, some yachts were heading out into the sunset, paddle boarders and kayakers were enjoying the calm waters of the balmy evening and the Boat House Cafe was buzzing, serving some great looking evening meals. We then walked along the edge of the harbour all the time keeping an eye on the sun that was setting over Bosham Hoe.

The end of the trek took us back to Dell Quay and quite conveniently to the Crown and Anchor pub; where they have a Crab & Burger Shack serving great food in a seating area outside overlooking the harbour, idyllic!

It was a great trek around the Manhood Peninsula taking us on many paths that were not commonly used, from the calm waters of the harbour to the diverse farmland just inland. With what i saw and bought during the day i was inspired to create a dessert made up of a light sponge that is cooked in the oven and when turned out on to a plate the fruit sits on top, this is best served with salted caramel ice cream from Caroline’s Dairy.

Upside Down Pear and Blackberry Sponge Pudding served with a generous helping of Caroline’s Dairy Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Pears
  • 200g Blackberries
  • 30g Granulated Sugar
  • 175g Butter
  • 175g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs, Separated
  • Grated Zest & Juice of 1 lemon
  • 150g Self Raising Flour
  • Caroline’s Dairy Salted Caramel Ice Cream to Serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/GM 3. Peel the pears and chop up into small chunks, wash the blackberries and put fruit into a small pan with 30g of granulated sugar and stew down until fruit is soft.
  2. Grease 6/8 ramekins (quantity varies depending on size of ramekin) then put a spoonful of sugar in each and swirl around until all lightly coated with butter and sugar. Put a dollop of stewed fruit at the base of each ramekin.
  3. Beat the butter with the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and lemon zest and then gently stir in the flour and lemon juice. Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dryad fold through into the mixture.
  4. Pour mixture into each ramekin on top of fruit mixture until evenly divided between ramekins. Then bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until cooked through, inserted skewer should come out clean. (Can be cooked in one big bowl, but cooking time will need to be increased.
  5. Turn out onto a plate and serve with Caroline’s Dairy Salted Caramel Ice Cream.
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Langstone to Portsmouth

8th July 2016

Langstone to Portsmouth – 19.76km (12.28 miles)

On the 20th March 2016 i started with my block of gold at the ‘Bank of England’ in the City of London on a journey to travel by foot and carry it to Portsmouth following the canals and channels known as ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’. Today is the last section of this walk reaching either the final port of call for the barges bringing the wages and arms to the navy at Portsmouth or the start of the Journey if heading to London. There has certainly been some adventures on the way.

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Starting at Langstone it was PK and Cookie walking with me today and the treks wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t some kind of dilemma and just as soon as we got out the car today’s crisis was soon to become apparent, i had remembered to pack some food and water for Cookie, i also remembered to bring Cookie but a critical thing i did forget was her lead. Some quick thinking and boy scout skills were to come into play as in my rucksack i had a spare pair of boot laces, which i knotted up and attached to her collar, i’m not too sure that Cookie, sporting her new look, was that impressed with this idea.

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Langstone is the last village before Hayling Island which was only accessible at low tide by a causeway, this became impassable in 1820 when a channel was dredged out between the mainland and the island so that the barges could pass through, this also meant that they then had to build a bridge across for access to the island, the original wooden bridge was replaced with a concrete one in the 1950’s as there was a weight limit on the original, apparently if a bus was full and wanted to cross the bridge then some of the passengers would have to get out and walk so as not to break the weight limit. Running alongside the modern concrete bridge you can see the remains of the swing bridge that carried the ‘Hayling Billy’ across the water, this was a steam railway that used to run between Havant and South Hayling taking holiday makers in the summer months to the beach and their accommodation. This unfortunately stopped in 1965 when the bridge was deemed unsafe and beyond economic repair. Apart from the struts of the bridge, the only other building that remains is the Old Station Masters cottage sited on the main road, looking in a bit of disrepair and needing some TLC. The cottage borders the route of the old railway that is now a cycle path all the way to South Hayling.

From Langstone we cut down Mill Lane to the harbour edge and from here you could see virtually the entire walk around the harbour and in the far distance the area where the canal cut in at Milton, it looked miles away, in fact it was miles away, we joked that if we had a boat we could have got across in no time time at all. Its been a week since we walked from Bosham to Langstone and on that leg the tide was low and coming in, however for this stage we would be watching the tide go out as it was high as it could possibly get lapping at the edge of the harbour wall. We set off around Bridge Lake on the raised harbour wall that was holding back the water from spilling into the cattle fields behind. After a couple of kilometres following the waters edge we then headed inland around a small inlet where the barges would have pulled up to pick up corn and meal from Brockhampton Mill, there are no remains of this mill apart from a small tranquil stream running over a weir and into the harbour. The rest of this area has been built up with many industrial units, including a gravel merchants that stands on the site where the barges would have moored, at least this part of the harbour is still in commercial use. The quick detour around this inlet soon saw us back on the harbour and heading west and not before long you could start to hear the drone of the motorway by which we will be passing quite close. As we got nearer, the noise of the Friday rush hour and tyres speeding across the tarmac got louder with commuters heading home from work or families going away for the weekend.

Thankfully it was only a short walk beside the motorway as it was incredibly noisy, we left the rushing traffic behind and headed out to go around the peninsula of Farlington Marshes which is a nature reserve with coastal grazing and lagoons attracting many species of wild fowl. Several signs were displayed saying that Cookie would need to remain on the lead as cattle roam freely on the marshes, we had so far got away with not having her on the lead too much, however, i don’t think she liked her makeshift lead as she kept stopping suddenly and just looking at me with a face that just said….”Really!!, do i have to wear this”. Anyhow i persevered with the stop/start routine even though i knew that if i let her off she wouldn’t go any further away than my ankle, she certainly wouldn’t cross a ditch, fence and bushes that were between us and the cows. It’s a good job though that i did keep her on the lead as we were then to pass two wardens walking around the marshes too, occasionally looking through their binoculars at whatever bird caught their eye.

It was a longer walk out to the head of the peninsula than it was back to the motorway and at points the sea water was splashing over the harbour wall. Back at the motorway was a couple of car parks, this built PK’s hopes up of an ice cream, but unfortunately only cars were parked up there. The way into Portsmouth was down the busy Eastern Road with lots of people travelling out the city and queueing up as they approached the roundabout, how glad was i that i was not in that queue.

A lot of sea defence work is being carried out along this edge which meant that we had to walk further along the road than we wanted too. However we stopped off at the Great Salterns pub for a lime and soda over and sat on the balcony overlooking the Langstone harbour contemplating the distance that we had already travelled today. We decided not to eat here but to carry on, and further defence works meant that we had to cut through Milton Common rather than walk around the harbour, however we did find a cut through by the edge of the fence which albeit a little overgrown would lead us back to the harbour edge and near to the Milton Locks.

The tide had gone out considerably now which meant that we could walk into the old lock at Milton, there were no gates on it but remains of the old posts that held them can be seen coming out of the silt. It was a little squishy underfoot but great to get down and amongst this lock and see the enormity of the wall thickness. Today the lock and inlet here only goes in about 100 metres and is used to launch boats into the harbour. The canal would have gone much further than this into the city centre and was fed by the sea water at high tide, however this part of the canal was only operational for three years as the local residents complained that the water leaking from the canal was contaminating the wells used for drinking water and subsequently was shut down and rerouted around the north of Portsea Island to the docks. The pub was right on the edge of Lock Lake another inlet from the harbour and a steak pie soon recharged the batteries again.

The last few kilometres of the trek was now going to be through the built up suburbs of Portsmouth and ultimately into the city centre, quite different to the fields and harbours that we had been previously walking around. From here there is not much evidence of the canal apart from the road names and that the route of the canal which is now a footpath can clearly be seen at the backs of the houses in Locksway Avenue, this led us into Goldsmith Ave and along to Fratton.

At Fratton the canal route was now where the railway runs and when the canal was drained the railway used the beds as it’s route into the city. On approaching the city centre there were street names such as Canal View and Arundel Street which is the last road that led us to where the basin once was.

 

My preconceptions of the end was just a shopping precinct with ‘Debenhams’ the department store just standing on where the basin once was, however to my delight and i was so pleased to see that this area had had some regeneration with plagues giving information about the basin along with boulders scattered on the walkways that were taken from the docks and canal, a perfect photo opportunity with my (fake) block of gold that i have carried all the way in my rucksack. I was so impressed that this area had been revived, as this canal was a big part of history for the south coast and visitors to Portsmouth can see this while going about their shopping.

The route from London to the Sea may be lost but it certainly has not been forgotten; with many volunteers forming restoration societies along the way, giving up their time to bring these waterways back to life whereby enabling visitors to enjoy the canal both on and off the water.

Since the 20th March 2016 it has taken 13 days (62 hrs) to walk 228 km (142 miles) from the Bank of England in the City of London to Portsmouth burning a mere 17,226 calories which on many occasion were replaced by a pie of some sort. This whole journey has been so varied from city centres to remote woods, from navigable canals to ruins of locks but nonetheless a fantastic walk that i would recommend to anyone to do, even though i never got to see a kingfisher. Well that’s my D of E Platinum Challenge complete, what will be next?

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London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Bosham to Langstone

1st July 2016

Bosham to Langstone – 17.74Km (11.02 miles)

It was just PK and me walking today, i left cookie at home because of anticipated pebbles and long grass, both of which she would hate and both of which we encountered so leaving her behind was a kind option. The trek today is going to be all coastal, following the route that the barges would have taken through Chichester Harbour. The 1st half of the day’s walk was all the way around Chidham and Cobnor point, a peninsula of land that you can only walk around at low tide as the path at Cobnor Point on the southernmost tip floods at high tide and is totally impassable, that is so annoying if you are caught out and what happened to Susan and i when we did the Pier to Pier trek last year.

The day started off a little overcast however the wind was pretty relentless and with such a force that just kept blowing, because of this the clouds dispersed quite quickly leaving a lovely clear sky for the afternoon albeit that the wind was with us all day, usually it’s me with that problem, so i didn’t take the blame for once………lol.

The East side of the peninsula started off by going through farmers fields, passing through Chidham and then around the shoreline to Cobnor Activity Centre. The tide was at it’s lowest now and the harbour was mainly mud, silt and weed with a channel down the middle where boats can pass up and down. From the activity centre was a purpose made accessible path to Cobnor point, from this part of the path you have great views up the Chichester Channel where the barges would have come down and around Cobnor Point. At the end of this path were some steps that led you down to the pebbly beach and the part that can only be passed at low tide. This part of the walk was on pebbles in front of a high grassy covered bank with oak trees stretching out over the shore, or are they reaching back with their roots so that they don’t drink too much salty water, nonetheless they were pretty amazing that they have adapted themselves to such a harsh environment with the salty water and air along with the exposure to the wind and sun. There was quite a bit of erosion on the bank and a new path further inland had been created for a safer route, but as it was low tide we could follow the shore round safely and keep to the route of the barges. The bank has had attempted repairs on it using concrete but the forces of nature have taken it’s toll and had broken a lot of the concrete up.

Walking up the western edge of the peninsula was exceptionally windy as the prevailing south west wind would just not let up making it hard work to walk against. The western edge would be following the Thorney Channel which the barges would have taken and across the water and mud you could just make out the inlet called the ‘Great Deep’ (sounds like a monster should live there) where the barges would have crossed Thorney Island. At the top of the channel we started to head west as we had completed the peninsula and we were both hoping that an ice cream van would be parked up at Prinstead, selling lovely creamy 99’s with a plain chocolate flake, but unfortunately no such luck and at this point PK wished he had stocked up on chocolate earlier. We left the harbours and crossed Thorney Island at the top end as this was the nearest point to the ‘Great Deep’ and this path passed through fields and by a water treatment plant, we seemed to have passed a few of these and this one did not smell as bad as the others as they seemed to be spraying a scented mist into the air, however just as we approached the plant we were totally swamped by midges, i had never known so many and you felt like you couldn’t breath as you walked through the clouds of the horrible critters, i was frantically waving the map around thinking it would help clear a way through, eukk!

On the other side of Thorney Island was Emsworth Marina which again had some lovely boats moored in and many out of the water being renovated, here there were futuristic type houses on stilts, probably holiday homes. As we exited the marina we walked by Slipper Mill which would have been a port of call for some of the barges taking goods to London and then past slipper pond into Emsworth. At this point we were now getting hungry so we thought about stopping here for food, pie was on our minds again. But this was not an easy task as the 1st pub we passed was closed, the 2nd wasn’t serving food in the evening and the 3rd didn’t start taking orders until 6:30pm which was an hour away (and they had steak pie on the menu). We had to accept that food was not happening in Emsworth, so we decided to have a beer along with some nuts and crisps in the Bluebird before carrying on.

From here it wasn’t far to Langstone Harbour, so we headed out of Emsworth on the causeway around Mill Pond and then along the shoreline, looking back you could make out where the canal route would have come off of Thorney Island and back into the harbour channels. We again headed inland a short way through fields and passed Warblington church, cemetery  and castle before heading back to the shore, the tide was still a long way out and we could pass along the coast here easily as this also was a tidal section. On arriving at Langstone we passed the mill that used to refine corn and has been standing there since 1730. Behind the mill is a small pond with ducks, coots, moorhens and loads of white egrets nestled in the trees. We decided to eat at the Ship Inn which overlooked the harbour, but all the window seats were reserved so couldn’t look out. We were in the pub for about an hour enjoying our pint of San Miguel along with a Smoked Mackerel and Potato & Caper salad and  PK’s burger and chips, yum!

When we went into the pub the tide was still a long way out and it was absolutely incredible that on leaving the pub the tide was all of a sudden high, it had come in so quickly and covered the mud, we worked out that it would have risen by 500mm in 15 minutes and at that speed it could so easily catch you out at Cobnor if your timings were not right. From here we were to leave our trail for the short walk to the station following the Shipwright way.

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Chichester to Bosham

25th June 2016

Chichester to Bosham – 16.68 km (10.36 miles)

Quite a clan of us embarked on the trek today that included Susan, Cookie, PK, Belinda, Tim, Kiah and myself.  You could say that we had formed a walking group, so lets call it  H.M.T.S., an abbreviation that will become more apparent later in the blog.

We parked up at Bosham  Station and caught the train to Chichester,  you could see the tall steeple of the cathedral as you looked east down the tracks from the station, in actual fact it  wasn’t that far to Chichester but the walk today will not be as straight but instead a big loop round and back. With all the recent delays i was surprised that the train arrived pretty much on time, so we all bundled on for the short journey. On the train Susan commented that she liked Tim’s T-shirt, which had a forest scene with Alaska written on it, he replied saying that he had not been to Alaska and that he only bought it from a well known supermarket and that it wasn’t an exclusive t shirt from ‘Hunky Men R Us’ (believe it or not, is no such store), this really cracked Belinda and Susan up and would be with us for for the day with many off the cuff comments.

On arrival at Chichester we started our walk at the canal basin, which again is where we finished last time. In the basin was one of the canal boats with all the tables laid up for brunch or lunch and people were arriving for their excursions. The water in this part was actually quite clear and Tim straight away was scouring his eyes over the it like a Heron looking for it’s lunch, It wasn’t long before he spotted a pike, a perch and some rudd that could all clearly be seen below the surface of the water. The actual start of the tow path south was guarded by a big swan who seemed to have had a bad start to the day as he would hiss and snap out at everyone that passed too closely, but really he was only keeping strangers at bay and looking out for his young cygnets that were on the water with mum. Today there also seemed to be lots of baby coots and moorhens, some really tiny and others who’s fluff was turning into feathers, all with their mums who were chirping away at us as we passed by.

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Not long after we started the heavens opened and it started raining, the weather forecast said that there would be some showers with some of them prolonged and heavy, although we had the waterproofs with us just in case, i didn’t expect that we would need to be putting them on so soon, sheltering under the A27 road bridge we decided that this was probably a sensible time to put them on.

The first few kilometres on the towpath was heading south retracing our steps back from Chichester and down this branch line of the canal to Hunston. The last trek that Susan joined us on we started playing the ‘penny game’ and named some things to see, since then we have seen plenty of dragonflies and rabbits but no kingfishers (this is what i called out as i have really been hoping to see one on this challenge), well Susan pointed out to me that the boat on it’s way back to the basin was called ‘Kingfisher’, not sure that counts but probably the nearest i’m going to get, is it worthy of a penny in the ‘penny game’ though?……

At Hunston we rejoined the main canal that would have connected Portsmouth to Arundel and this section is known as the ‘Chichester Ship Canal’, they  would have to have been really small ships as this part of the canal was no wider than any of the others we had encountered. Along this stretch were many remnants of concrete that would have supported the swing bridges, one of which would have taken the old selsey railway over the canal, this has long been disused now and some of it has been turned into a cycle path. There were two main roads that we needed to cross connecting Chichester to the coast that in the days when the canal was operating would have been swing bridges, but now have been replaced with a modern concrete and tarmac bridges that has such a small span underneath no boats could pass through anymore.

So funny, as on this stretch we met an elderly man who was walking his dog, he briefly stopped and chatted to me, PK and Tim about the weather (typically British) and then carried on, Susan and Belinda were a little way behind at this stage, i think the talking was slowing them a little….lol! However the same gentlemen commented to the girls that that was a big group of men, referring to us. Later when they told us what he had said Tim suggested that we were the H.M.T.S. which means ‘Hunky Men Trekking Society’ once again we all cracked up, the only bit of the H.M.T.S. that is true is the fact that we were trekking, this name seemed to stick with us all day, not sure what sort of characters it would encourage though if there was such a group.

We next arrived at Chichester Marina which was at the end of the ship Canal, it was a long entrance and the walk was on the road that took you into the marina at this point we found a lock hidden behind some overgrown bushes that had the upstream gates closed and although they were leaking and looked a little bit in need of repair they were holding back the water very well. As we got further into the marina there was houseboats on the canal, some being repaired and one being built, however the majority were very square and not boat like. We soon reached the lock at the end of the canal that had the upstream gates closed holding back the water in the canal and the downstream gates were in such disrepair that they would not been capable of closing. This lock when operational would have been tidal and could only have been accessed during periods when the tide was high. This last lock was the end of the chichester ship canal and would lead into the harbour and from here on the barges would be towed by tugs follow the various channels to Milton near Portsmouth. Before the modern marina was constructed this part of the canal was used to store the yachts, but demand for more space to keep them meant that the chichester marina was expanded to take the many millions of pounds worth of boats that are in there today. The entrance to this is also controlled by a lock so that the marina always remained full of water. The gates on this though were controlled mechanically so not much muscle needed here.

Now that the canal has joined the harbour, the walk will be of completely different scenery, and we will be walking as close to the route through the harbour as possible. The first part is walking down alongside the chichester channel that is lined with fields and small estates of some very exclusive properties overlooking the harbour, some with there own access and boats. We were all beginning to get hungry now and Belinda by now had asked several times if we were nearly there yet. The rain also was beginning to get heavy now, so the pace was stepped up so that we could get to ‘The Ship’ pub for lunch. Inside the pub it was very busy and luckily a table was just leaving as we arrived, on looking at the menu all of us but PK decided to go for the fish and chips, which i had beer battered hake…..mmm

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After re-energising with lunch we set off on the afternoons leg, the rain had stopped now and occasionally when the sun came out it was really warm on your back. We walked down the main street of Itchenor with it’s seaside cottages to the harbour and we then had to get the Itchenor ferry across the channel to the side where Bosham was, when i say ferry it’s a small dory type fishing boat, but nonetheless saves us a lot of walking.

There was no jetty on the Bosham side of the harbour so the boat beached itself on the pebbles and put down a big ramp for us to walk down, we set off around the shoreline of the harbour and was now following the Bosham Channel, this bit was not used as the main canal route but would have connected Bosham with any trade from the sea. This path is also tidal and with the tide coming in raised a few concerns in my mind as to whether we would make it all the way round without being cut off, however at the moment its all still accessible. The last little bit of shoreline just before the road was very nearly blocked as the tide had come in quite a way leaving just the narrowest of pebbles that we could walk on, five minutes later and i think we would have been paddling. My boots are beginning to wear out and a part of the stitching is coming away so the water had leaked through them making my feet wet, Susan also had a problem with water getting in too, looks like a trip to the outdoors shop for some new boots for the pair of us, i can’t complain though as they have certainly covered some miles. . The road around to Bosham was also beginning to flood but luckily we only had to wade through a small part of the water as the path was raised up high than the road in most places. The rain was now beginning to return as we approached the village of Bosham, so once again we sped up. In the village we sat undercover in a tea room courtyard eating ice cream, caramel and honeycomb was the flavour for today, with a plain chocolate flake……..yum. The weather was so erratic today and as the rain had subsided again we head off on the last section by the side of the harbour to the cars at the station. As we were approaching the end of the walk the sky was really blackening and just before we got to the cars the heavens finally opened once again. Another great walk on this journey and although it rained heavily on and off that didn’t really matter as i had great company for the day and lots of laughs on the way……

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Ford to Chichester

12th June 2016

Ford to Chichester – 18.78km (11.67 miles)

We started after lunch today, Matt and Gemma had stayed over the night before, so it was great to spend the morning with them and debating the weather on our phones, it was amazing that all three had different forecasts, me the optimist stuck with what my phone was saying which wasn’t far wrong, rain in the morning and clearing up in the afternoon; which it did…..

PK picked Cookie and i up early afternoon and we parked at the station in  Ford (don’t mention to PK about reversing into the wall of the station, even though he had the reversing beepers on the car……..ooops!). We headed down the road to where we left off from last time, and on this short bit of road you could see a small section of the old canal going under the road and past a couple of houses that were built in 1877, i would guess that in the day they probably had a role to play in the operation of the canal. On leaving the main Ford Road it was straight into the farmers fields and the path took us right across the middle and through the crops, apart from on the map there was no evidence of the canal here at all, it suddenly stopped at the back of the cottages and became the field of crops.

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From Ford to Yapton it was mainly going through and around crop fields until we reached the outskirts of the village when the canal started to become apparent again, you could make out the distinctive dip in the ground and generally a line of trees too. A lot of new houses have sprung up here and you could tell that this canal has made it’s mark in history as the roads were named after it, like Navigation Way and Canal Road this naming of roads was also seen later in the day as we approached Chichester too. Incredibly we found some more evidence of the canal amongst this urban area as an old bridge is semi hidden behind some bushes and trees, it’s absolutely amazing that it has stood the test of time and remained intact, the bridge sadly served no purpose any more and was just overgrown. We stopped at the Co-op in Yapton so that PK could pick up a Mars bar to boost his energy and then we carried on and out of the village, on leaving there is a fine example of a bridge that i would imagine has got a preservation order on it, as all around it there are houses with some actually built on the path of the canal.

The disused canal from Yapton onwards is now quite evident as to the route it took and the path runs along with it too, on this section that passes Barnham there are many remnants of the  ‘Hollingsworth Swing’ Bridges that used to operate on this canal allowing farmers access to their fields.

A couple of miles to the South of this section of canal is home and we could pick out some distinguishing points, like the two tall trees by PKs house, Fitzleet flats and Butlins. The grass again was quite long on this section and every now and then i would see a cloud of pollen get kicked by PK out of the tufts of grass, which did not do me any good at all, from amongst the long grass was a small grass snake just basking in the sun on the path, he/she was lucky that we didn’t tread on them. A little further on and after crossing the railway line we were greeted with the most foul stench that got stronger the further we walked, we eventually found out that it was the main sewage plant for Bognor, it was disgusting. We crossed the A29, the main road that leads to London and also in the main follows an old roman road called Stane Street, hence it is pretty straight.

On the other side of the road the grass is surprising well kept and nicely mown and every so often there was a test pipe with a gas tap on the top, these are for the gas that is drawn off the local landfill site, as you can see from the blog that this little section of the disused canal is not that pleasant, however although disused and overgrown the canal is still quite evident on our left. When the neatly mown track finished it went to quite the opposite and we were battling against some really overgrown path, of which later we found out that there was an easier route around. The fields all of a sudden changed and were full of poly tunnels that had strawberries and raspberries growing in them, you could smell the sweet aroma and also see the the big juicy fruit growing too, so tempting, it makes you also wonder how many get eaten by the staff……We walked past these tunnels for quite a way through Colworth, across the A259 and finally on to Merstham where we would leave the overgrown paths and join the road for the next few kilometres, this was much to cookies delight as she was so fed up with the long grass. At this point the only evidence we could find apart from on the map was a dilapidated bridge, again very overgrown and in a lot of ruin.

The route of the old canal would have gone straight across the fields, which there is no footpath so we need to leave the paths here and follow the road for a short way, a little bit risky as it was single track, however on reaching Mundham there was a proper pavement which made it much safer. At Mundham we decided that a 15 minute rest is in order so we stopped off at the Walnut Tree for a quick lime and soda, makes a change from the water that I’m carrying. From here to Hunston meant following the road as this main route to Chichester follows a small part of the canal which is very evident next to the road, parts of it even contain water.

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At Hunston the canal divides, you have the branch line which goes into Chichester and the main canal which carries on to Portsmouth, we are to take the branch line today that will take us alongside a working section that regularly run trips, especially Easter Bunny and Santa trips during the holidays. This section of the canal is also very tranquil and you often see anglers with their rods out, today though it was more joggers and walkers. After passing under the A27 we are coming in towards the city and the canal basin, you also have here the only working ‘Hollingsworth swing bridge’ that is predominantly in the open position, i have seen them close it once in the past.

The basin in chichester is home to the two pleasure barges the Kingston and the Richmond and also many small rowing boats that you can hire, the canal society also keeps it’s working vessels here too, which one year i managed to invest some explorer scouts on.

Since leaving the Walnut Tree we had both decided that we really fancied eating at a local carvery as being a Sunday we really fancied a roast. So after catching another delayed train, picking up the car, dropping off cookie and arriving at the pub we could not believe that the kitchen was closed……unbelievable! We were running out of choices and ended up in The Fox in Felpham where we had something completely different to what we had psyched ourselves up to……..