Blakes Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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