Around Binsted Woods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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