From Sea to Source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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