Around Arundel Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5446862/Arundel-Park

Chidham Coast Walk

This month’s trek was completed just after the easing of lockdown, it is a walk I have done many times and is a peaceful coastal walk of 9km (6 miles) around the headland of Chidham and Cobnor. Careful planning of this walk is required by checking the tide times beforehand, this peninsula of land cannot be walked around at high tide as the most southerly part of the path near Cobnor Point floods at high tide and is therefore impassable.

The walk starts at the small Cobnor Amenity car park just south of the village of Chidham and is a circular trek taking in both the village and the coast, that also incorporates part of the ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ long distance path too. 

From the car park head towards the village of Chidham on the well-kept path through the fields past Chidmere Pond, a private lake in the grounds of Chidmere Farm. The pond cannot be seen, as it is hidden behind some tall hedging, however I believe the gardens and lake are stunning and have been open to the public in the past as part of the National Open Gardens day. At the village you can either go past St Mary’s church which was built c.1210 and then through fields or you can take the road through the quant village past the 18th Century pub, I prefer the quieter field route.

Approximately 300m to the north of the village, on the left, is the footpath that leads to the western shore of the peninsula, on reaching the raised path at the shoreline head south and keep to the coastline. Just past Chidham point the route will be on the stony shore as there has been extensive erosion of the sea wall, which has had many attempted repairs on it, but the forces of nature have taken their toll and broken a lot of the concrete repairs up. A new path further inland has been created as an easier route that cuts across the fields leading to the southern edge of the peninsula, however keeping to the shoreline will ensure you get great views across the wide mudflats of Nutbourne Marshes. A Site of Special Scientific Interest that covers 956 acres of the harbour, the marshes are not accessible but can be viewed from the path, a very tranquil spot where the sounds of the many feeding wildfowl can be heard.

Continue further along the shore to the tip of the peninsula where a line of ancient oaks cling to the bank, all twisted and battered by the salty winds, sea waves, and sun. It’s amazing how they have adapted themselves to such a harsh environment. A great spot for a break sitting in the shade of these trees that overlook Pilsey Sand and East Head Spit with many pleasure yachts passing through the busy Chichester Channel. There is a hide at this point which enables some additional birdwatching and has some local information which is worth stopping to read.

A further short walk on the pebbly shore past Cobnor Point leads to some steps up to a purpose made accessible path to Cobnor Activity Trust, a centre that has been delivering outdoor activities for youths since the mid 50’s. From this part of the path you have great views up the Chichester Channel and across to Itchenor. The footpath is well signposted and easy to follow past the activity centre, be sure to take a look at the old Thames barge ‘Pride of Sheppey’ that has been moored here since 1963, then head up the eastern side of the peninsula on a high raised bank, it is very evident that this side is more protected from natures elements and therefore has much less erosion. Just before leaving the shoreline you can look across to the far side of Bosham Channel to see the pretty waterside village of Bosham itself, with the houses seemingly all clustered around the village church. A short path inland takes you back to the car park to complete the walk.

Further details of route can be found at:

https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5227499/Chidham-Coastal-Walk

Pico Ruivo

In this difficult time of lock down and the fact that our walking exercise has been restricted to local areas only means it has not been possible to get out to the places that we have had on our list to walk. So the choice was to either write up about a walk round the block or to think back to a trek we did a while.

Two years ago, Susan and I holidayed on the beautiful island of Madeira, a walker’s paradise where many walks can be taken along any of the 200 Levadas (water channels created for irrigation) or across the mountain ranges. I had it on the holiday list to hike up to Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on Madeira. It can be reached only by foot, either by a strenuous hike from Pico do Arieiro (3rd highest peak) or the shorter easier trail that we took from Achada do Teixeira, besides we were on holiday!

Pico Ruivo stands at 1,861 metres (6,106 ft) high and gives some of the most incredible views of the island from coast to coast. We were not disappointed as the August day we chose to do the trek was 30°C+ and clear skies, albeit with a little low-level cloud to the north, it was a hot walk so plenty of water is a must, however being so high means that unpredictable weather conditions can at times make it quite dangerous.

We stayed in Funchal, hired a car and drove round the coast to Santana before taking the narrow winding road inland to Achada do Teixeira which sits at 1582m above sea level, leaving a climb of 304m (1116 ft) to the summit.

On leaving the car park the trail to the top and back is 5.5km (3.4 miles) and steadily ascends along a well-worn track on the ridge that separates the cliffs of Faial and those of Santana. Views from this ridge take in the other great peaks of the central mountain massif towards the south and the coastline of the North including Queimadas Forest park.

Along this first part of the ascent there are several small open shelters where refuge can be taken, as the change in climate can be sudden with the area often becoming covered in a sea of clouds. For ourselves they were ideal places to escape the sun and cool down.

Further along the track is the Pico Ruivo government house, which is now a rest house situated at the junction of three other much longer hiking trails that will take you to different parts of the island.

After a packed lunch and short rest at the government house we headed up the steeper last section to the summit, a bit tougher, but on reaching the viewing platform at the top the views were spectacular and well worth the climb. 

Looking south, the ‘Nuns Valley’ (Curral Das Freiras) can be seen, a huge valley that was either created by erosion or volcanic eruption, however it is so named as the nuns from the Santa Clara Convent in Funchal would flee here with the convent treasure to escape the pirates that attacked the town.

On very clear days the island of Porto Santo lying 27 miles to the northeast of Madeira can be seen and also the uninhabited nature reserves of the Desertas islands that sit 16 miles south east of Madeira.

Looking east the Ponta de Sao Lourenco can be seen and is a headland at the Eastern most part of the island which is also great for walking.

The route back descends along the same track to the car park at Achada do Teixeira where the “Standing Man” can be visited, a basalt formation which can be found down the cliff, just past the Achada do Teixeira government house.

Certainly a place we will return to in the future to explore the levadas and the many other walks the island has to offer.

Centurion Way

Following on from last months Hayling Billy Trail I thought it would be good to feature another walk along a disused railway line, that I did just before the UK went into lockdown. 

The Centurion Way in Chichester runs for 9km (5.5 miles) and follows the old Chichester to Midhurst railway line that opened in 1881 to improve access to London, it once had eight stations and three tunnels. The decline of the railway started when passengers services were withdrawn in 1935 and the line north of Lavant was closed completely in 1957. The line between Chichester and Lavant was used for the transportation of sugar beet and gravel until 1991.

The Centurion Way can be joined or left at various places along it’s route, however i parked up in West Dean and caught the number 60 bus (runs every 30 mins) to the Cathedral which is the nearest stop and walked from the city centre to the start of the trail as it leaves Westgate between the school and railway. 

The first part is very reminiscent of an old railway, straight paths and treelined, with a few remaining telegraph poles that can be seen dotted along the route as well as old brick constructed bridges.

The trail is very easy going under foot which is mainly tarmac leading on to compacted gravel towards the end at West Dean. A couple of kilometres in is Brandy Hole Copse a 6.5 hectare local nature reserve that has three dipping ponds and a diverse range of flora and fauna, it also has a fantastic display of bluebells in the spring. Within the Copse there are two Iron Age boundaries known as the Chichester Entrenchments that contain some examples of WWII defensive structures. The copse also has many smugglers tales as being so close to Chichester Harbour it was a handy place for smugglers to hide their stash. The local stories tell of the secret tunnels, smugglers’ caves and all manner of illicit activity.

Along the route are sculptures which commemorate various aspects of local Chichester history such as ‘The Chichester Road Gang’ situated where the ancient Roman road to Silchester crosses the old railway line, it depicts an army of spade wielding Centurion workers and is made from old gas cylinders and railway fittings. A replica 100m diameter amphitheatre has also been created here on the site of a former quarry.

Further along the line at the edge of Lavant can be seen animal cut-outs hanging from the underside of a bridge. All of the animal shapes were drawn by local school children before being enlarged and reproduced in steel sheet. The route at this point passes the site of the historic Lavant Station which unfortunately is now flats and continues through a residential estate.

On leaving Lavant the trail is very much more rural as it follows the course of the River Lavant, which was in full flow following the recent rains that we have had. Views up to the Trundle are plentiful as you walk towards West Dean. A short way back from West Dean the route splits, the original route of the line continues straight on, but a more accessible route diverts slightly off to avoid steps at the end.

I carried straight on to West Dean and right up to the entrance of the first tunnel which has been blocked off and is the end of the trail. A 100m back from the tunnel are the steps which take you off the line and into West Dean to complete the trek.

Oh and if you are wondering why an old railway line is called the Centurion Way, it was suggested by a local schoolboy who entered a competition to name the route and was inspired by the roman connections in the area.

Detailed route can be see at:

https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5228901/Centurion-Way

Hayling Billy Trail

A linear route of 8 km (5 miles).

This months trek is a beautiful and very scenic 5 mile route exploring the lost ‘Hayling Billy’ railway line that used to travel from Havant to South Hayling along the western edge of the island. The old line has since been made into a trail that can be walked or cycled in either direction. We chose to catch the number 30 bus down to West Town and walk back northwards along the trail to Havant, with the wind behind us.

On 28th June 1867 the first passenger train arrived at South Hayling Station. The station here consisted of 2 platforms, a large goods shed and three goods sidings. The trek today starts in West Town at the beginning of the Billy Trail, just off Station Road and the first building to be seen is the old goods shed with its distinctive look, that has now been restored and converted into a 144 seat theatre. There are plenty of information boards at the start here, describing the history, showing the route and displaying some great pictures of the past.

Heading north on the trail, the straightness of the track is very reminiscent of an old railway line; it passes alongside the waterfront to one side and cattle fields the other, so can be quite exposed to the elements on windy days. Looking out across the harbour gives great views towards Portsmouth.

Hayling Island and the Billy Line soon became a popular holiday & day trip destination and by the 1920s the trains were carrying up to 7000 passengers on peak days. However during WW2 the island’s priorities changed and many of the holiday camps were used to house troops. The Billy Line became crucial in transporting soldiers and heavy equipment to the island, particularly as the old timber road bridge was not even strong enough to carry a bus full of passengers. Pillboxes were also constructed to form a line of defence on the island and there are around a dozen that can still be seen, a fine example of one will be passed roughly halfway along the trail. 

The trail is very easy to follow and continuing northwards the old site of the North Hayling Halt is now a small car park and unfortunately not recognisable anymore. Farmers transporting their goods off the island would have used this interim station, it was designated as a request stop for anyone wanting to get on and off. A further information board situated here shows what the halt would have been like. 

Just a little way up the trail from this halt can clearly be seen the oyster beds. Oyster seeds imported from France would spend the winter here before being transported to Whitstable for the summer, the train played an important role in transporting the oysters back and forth, a platform and siding was built to cope with the 700 tonnes of oysters every year, however this ceased in 1925 and active farming ended in the1970s. The area is now West Hayling Nature Reserve and an important breeding ground for seabirds.

A little further north and the trail comes to an abrupt end as the old swing bridge that would have carried the trains across the harbour is now only a series of struts in the Langstone Channel. The last train to journey down the line was in 1963 and in 1965 the old bridge was deemed unsafe and beyond economic repair. An old signal at this point has been restored and stands proud on the old route.

After walking to the remains of the bridge you’ll need to back track and take the small path around the harbour to the road bridge, the route uses this bridge and crosses the small channel here, caution is required as this is a very busy road. Back on the mainland is the village of Langstone where the Old Station Masters cottage was sited, unfortunately it was burnt down in December 2018 and only the two chimneys remain.

The trail crosses the road and the final stretch enters the suburbs of Havant. Just before Havant Station the track passes under an old bridge and passes original level crossing gates by the station. 

Further Detail and Map can be found at:

https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5229267/Hayling-Billy-Trail

Fira to Oia Hike – Santorini

10.5 km (6.5 Miles)

During January and February Some of you may have seen that Julia Bradbury featured in a television series which took her back to her ancestral roots in the Greek islands where she has been discovering places ‘Off the beaten track’. In one of the episodes she visited Santorini and sought out the best alternative places to see the world famous sunset. It is great to see such a programme on these cold dark winters nights and it took my mind back to an amazing hike we did last year whilst visiting Santorini. If any keen walkers should be visiting the island in the future then this trek is a must.

Santorini is part of the Cyclades islands in the southern Aegean Sea. It was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, creating its shape, the underwater caldera (crater) and the small islands around it’s rugged landscape. Whitewashed towns and villages cling to the cliffs, which from a distant gives the image of snow.

The trail we followed is one of the islands top walks and a well trodden route between the two principal towns of Fira and Oia, where some of the most magnificent views of the island and it’s caldera can be had. It will take you through the small whitewashed villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli as well as across the rugged landscape that forms the rim of the caldera high above the sea below.

The path is made up of a mix of pavement, cobbled streets and dirt tracks so good shoes are a must. We visited the island in April when it wasn’t so busy but this walk should be started early in the morning so that the midday sun is avoided, take plenty of water with you as it will take about 4 hours.

We stayed in Fira and our hotel was ideally situated directly on the route of this trail about 100m in from the start. The route starts at the Atlantic Hotel opposite the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral and first takes you through the narrow walkways of Fira with its many jewellery and gift shops, although well signposted it’s easy to get a little lost here but any detour is well worth exploring. A walk descending the 587 steps to the Old Port for trips over to the volcano park on Nea Kameni Island is also a worthwhile detour. There is also a cable car that carries you up and down should the steps prove to much.

Continue through the narrow streets to Firostefani, although a different village it tends to blend in to Fira, so you probably won’t realise that you have walked in to the second village. Stop at the much photographed Virgin Mary Orthodox Church with its whitewashed walls, iconic blue domed roof and unique three bells, with great views across the caldera. 

The route heads uphill winding through the narrow streets to Imerovigli, a village at the highest point of the trek at 370m. Imerovigli has panaramic views of both towns, Fira and Oia.

A detour to Skaros Rock will add approximately an hour to the trek but is definitely worth visiting the ruins of the settlement that incredibly once consisted of 200 homes, many eruptions of the volcano and earthquakes was the demise of this town, but a monastery known as the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti survived and remains in use today.

Heading out of Imerovigli the hotels become more exclusive and sparse and many more iconic churches will be passed. From here the route changes from pavements to stoney tracks that pass over the rugged landscape that reaches a peak with more terrific views of Oia on the descent. 

As you enter Oia the stoney track turns into pavements and tiled walk ways. The pinnacle of Oia has a ruined castle which is the end of the trek. Oia has many restored churches, handicraft and jewellery shops and the recognisable windmills that sit amongst the roof lines.

However Oia is most famous for the uninterrupted sunsets over the sea. Watching the sunset can be very busy and is the most popular point on the island to watch it go down. For the more adventurous other quiet locations can be sought.

The bus back to Fira can be very busy with long queues, particularly after the sunset, so careful planning is key or take advantage of one of the many restaurants before returning.

Octagon Parish Walk – Part 2

Following on from last month, this trek is a 18km (11 miles) walk around the remaining four churches of the Octagon Parish 

The trek starts at Stansted House, which started out as a hunting lodge in the 11th century. The original house was burnt down in 1900, and was rebuilt in 1903. The House and Estate are now owned by Stansted Park Foundation. The history of Stansted Park since the 12th century is told in Lord Bessborough’s book ‘The Enchanted Forest’ and is open to the public from Easter to September. 

Follow the southern edge of Stansted Deer Park onto Park Lane towards Racton and the ruined folly that is Racton Monument. Built between 1766 and 1775 it is situated on the hill with views over Chichester Harbour and to the Isle of Wight, it was commissioned by the 2nd Earl of Halifax as a summerhouse to the nearby Stansted House, though it was more likely to be built so he could watch his merchants ships dock at the port at Emsworth. The triangular four storey tower has been abandoned for over a century and fallen into a state of ruin with many haunted stories to tell.

Just along the lane at Racton is the small 12th century aisle less downland church of St Peter. It contains significant monuments to the Gounter family who owned Racton Manor opposite (now demolished) and music is played on a fantastic example of a French Alexandre Harmonium.

Head away from the Church Northeastwards on B2147 and pick up the footpath which passes Lordington House, built around 1500 this house has seen much history with owners such as Sir Geoffrey Pole, Sir Geoffrey Hornby and in more recent times politician Sir Micheal Hamilton whose family now run it as a guest house.

If the season allows a short detour is a must to Lordington Lavender when on open days you can sit amongst the rows of Mailette lavender and immerse yourself in the calming aromas, a French Provencal lavender is farmed for its high quality oil and is harvested once a year.

Continue on the path by the River Ems, a seasonal chalk stream that used to power mills and feed watercress beds. At Walderton pick up the Monarchs Way and follow to St Mary’s at Stoughton, the largest church of the Octagon Parish which has not changed much since the 11th century when it was built. St Mary’s has a fine ring of six bells.

Back track a little from Stoughton and cross open downland to Watergate Hangar, where a Roman Villa had been excavated, pottery found at the site indicates that it was occupied between the 2nd and the 4th centuries. On the northern perimeter of Stansted Forest can be found Christchurch at Forestside, which was built in 1852 by Charles Dixon, a wealthy Victorian philanthropist and the owner of nearby Stansted House, to serve his estate workers and the village of Forestside. The East window contains an unusual dragon in the bottom right hand corner and the heads on the chancel arch are a young Queen Victoria and a Bishop of Chichester. A school once adjoined the church but has but is now a private house.

From here there are many routes through Stansted Forest back to the start and this final stretch culminates with fantastic views of Stansted House itself.

The last church in the parish is the Chapel of St Paul which was built between 1812-16 by Rev. Lewis Way to reunite the Jewish and christian faiths, this is depicted in the unique East window and is believed to be the only window in a christian church with Jewish symbolism. The chapel was also an inspiration to the poet John Keats when he was writing The Eve of St. Agnes and the Eve of St Mark. The windows were all refurbished after being blown out when a german aircraft crashed nearby in the battle of Britain. This chapel is only open once a month for prayer and on special services. 

A visit to the garden centre, farm shop, tea rooms and miniature railway is also a must whilst in the area.

Further information and walks can be found at http://theoctagonparish.org.uk

Blakes Mead Art Trail

Blakes Mead Art Trail (Felpham)

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

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

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

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

Site of Giant Acorn

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

Sycamore Seed

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

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

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

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

Kingfisher Statue

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

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

Further detail and map can be found at:

https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5229523/Blakes-Mead-Art-Trail

A Walk in the Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Four Falls Trail

5th August 2019

9km (5.5 miles)

This months local trek was meant to be a follow up on the Bersted Park Trail, but unfortunately not all the new sculptures are in place yet, which means that I need to postpone this publication until the trail is all complete.

So instead, I thought I would share a fantastic walk from a recent holiday that encompasses four incredible waterfalls all in one trail. The walk is much further afield and situated in the beautiful Brecon Beacons near to Aberdare in Wales, so if you happen to be up that way then this is a must. It is a strenuous walk of 9km (5.5 miles) over some exceptionally narrow, steep and rocky trails which will take 4 to 5 hours to do.

Park in the pay and display car park at Gwaun Hepste, that charges £4 for the day, so make sure you have change as there is no card payment here. (Cwm Porth is an alternative car park).

The circular route is a red waymarked trail and is made up of a wide gravel track into the forest, which is steady underfoot at the beginning then starts to descend towards the river Afon Mellte, where it provides a safe route on the rocks. Each waterfall is then accessed by a much more difficult link path waymarked in green that are very narrow, particularly rocky and steep with many steps, these tracks are tough but will lead to the best views of the falls. 

After about a 35 minute walk from the car park the rushing sound of the first waterfall can be heard and a short link path leads to Sgwd Clun-Gwyn fall, meaning the ‘fall of the white meadow’. The river pours over a third of this broad rock with a relatively big drop into a small pool where thrill seekers can sometimes be seen canyoning. Sgwd Clun-Gwyn is also the first of two sets of falls that are a few hundred metres apart on the river. Head back up to the red trail as this is the safer route to Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, it seems a long way round with the long steep rocky link path that descends 150m back to the river with over 90 steps, however following the river edge is very dangerous with some steep drops and should be avoided. The lower twin of the previous fall is a picturesque river that cascades over tiers of rock like a giant staircase into a steep gorge.

A short rocky walk back along the river leads to the beautiful Sgwd y Pannwr falls whose Welsh name reveals that it was once used for washing wool. It is made up of four separate tumbling falls of water spilling over channels in the rock to a shallow pool below. 

A steep ascent from these falls back to the trail and a further descent of 150m and 170 steps brings us to the most magnificent of the falls Sgwd yr Eira meaning ‘waterfall of snow’. A large expanse of water tumbles over the high rocks creating a thundering curtain of water that has a fairly narrow ledge behind where farmers used to lead their sheep, presumably in single file to get to the other side of the river, this is a magnificent experience to be able to walk behind such a truly amazing phenomenon, on sunny days the colours of the rainbow can also be seen in the mist of the water below. 

Listening to a waterfall is a great way to wash away your daily worries and de-stress, the strenuous walk to these ‘hidden gems’ is certainly worth getting back to nature and away from all the hustle and bustle.

On heading back to the car park take time for a slight detour into the woods to see the eerie moss covered trees where very little sunlight gets through the thick leaf cover above.