Chichester Harbour Walk

Walks have been few and far between over the last few months but in the middle of October I met up with a couple of old school friends for a walk to explore part of Chichester Harbour. Armed with an Ordnance Survey Explorer OL8 map we set off early one Saturday morning from Chichester Railway Station.

Chichester To Itchenor

Road walking is never enjoyable and in order to reduce it whilst in the town  we headed in the direction of the Chichester Canal Basin. Here we begun to follow the towpath along the canal in a southerly direction. The canal formed a section of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal which was opened in 1822 and provided a link between Portsmouth and London.  Today the Chichester Canal has been restored and is a haven for wildlife. On a few lucky occasions I have seen Kingfishers along the bank but unfortunately this walk was not one of them. The canal conveniently took us underneath the very busy A27. About 500 yards past the A27 we  turned off the towpath and headed through a residential area to the A286 which takes people to and from the Witterings and Chichester and gets extremely busy during the weekends in the summer months. 

Unfortunately a little more roadwork as we headed south for half a mile until a footpath took us towards Apuldram. We kept heading in a westerly direction and after a few more minutes we got our first glimpse of the harbour. The vast natural harbour is home to large numbers of birds especially waders as well as various mammals such as seals, water voles and bats. Once at the edge of the waters edge we now turned north and followed the harbour to the outskirts of the village of Fishbourne. Fishbourne is home to the remains of Fishbourne Roman Palace. The Roman building was built in 75AD and is the largest residential building discovered from Roman times. The footpath now follows the course of the harbour on the western side. Eventually the footpath turned sharp right away from the harbour and we started walking towards Bosham. Bosham is a  picturesque coastal village which is a centre for sailing. King Harold sailed from Bosham in 1064 to Normandy to negotiate with William. It is also believed that Bosham was the scene where King Canute ordered back the waves. From Bosham we carried on heading south until we reached the Itchenor ferry pick up spot.   

Unless we were prepared to swim our only option to get onto the Itchenor side of the harbour was to catch the ferry. We took the dry option.. It was now low tide so a little walk and a few minutes wait to be picked up. Out of nowhere between anchored and moored yachts the ferry appeared. After trying to work out where the ferry will moor the ferry lowered a ramp and we jumped onboard. £2.50 well spent and soon we were across the water to Itchenor. We quickly found the local pub “The Ship” and popped in for coffees and teas. Although only a small village being a sailing community there was plenty of activity.

Itchenor To West Wittering

After a well earned rest we joined the long distance path New Lipchis Way which run alongside the harbour front and walked in the direction of West Wittering. The New Lipchis Way is a path between Liphook and Chichester  Harbour totalling 39 miles. There are splendid views of Thorney Island and East Head from the path. East Head is owned by the National Trust and is a Sight of Special Scientific Interest. The sand and shingle spit provides protection to the harbour from erosion and flooding.

Time was against us as well as tired legs and when we were level with East Head we took a footpath and turned inland to West Wittering. West Wittering is believed to be the last pagan outpost in England. In AD683 Wilfrid the exiled Bishop of York arrived and this coincided with a long draught ending. This helped him to win over the local population and convert the area to Christianity. It would have been quite handy if Wilfrid had appeared at my allotment this summer. The relentless evenings spent watering the plot would have been resolved. We stopped at the Old House At Home for some lunch in the beer garden. Sitting a little longer in the afternoon sun was quite a temptation but we had to get on. Now fully refreshed we set off for the journey back.

West Wittering To Chichester

We left West Wittering  walking eastwards along Elms Lane and then taking a footpath on the left hand side up to the B2179 road. This is a busy road and not very wide so we to keep an eye out to stay safe as there was no footpath in places. After about 300 yards a footpath takes you into a holiday park and then onto Redlands Farm. We carried on heading in a north westerly direction and soon joined the New Lipchis Way again which took us to Birdham Pool and Chichester Marina. At the marina we met up with the Chichester Canal again as it meets the sea. From the marina we headed north by taking the footpath across the farmland to Dell Quay. We were not aware at the time as the footpath is not showing on the Ordnance Survey map but we could have walked through Salterns Copse and along the shoreline path up to Dell Quay. Maybe that’s an option for another day. At Dell Quay we couldn’t resist another stop and so we paid a visit to the  Crown And Anchor. This pub has superb views across the harbour and a large outdoor terrace that we sat in and enjoyed the autumn evening. The fight against time had been lost, the sun was setting and dusk was on its way. We made our way back to the A286 and the inevitable road walking. Crossing the dual carriageway A27 has been made easy with the footbridge at the Stockbridge roundabout and the railway station was not far into the town.

It was an enjoyable walk of just over 20 miles on flat terrain with the weather on our side. As well as plentiful wildlife and varied geology I hadn’t realised the history in those 20 miles. From the largest Roman palace, the last Pagan stronghold, King Canute unable to control the elements, King Harold’s trip to the continent and possible burial at Bosham Church up to the modern times and the Rolling Stones drugs bust at Redlands in the sixties. If time doesn’t allow a full day the walk can easily be shortened at Itchenor. Go east on the New Lipchis Way to Birdham rather than west to East Head. Maybe for another time a walk on the Chidham peninsular to the west of Bosham could be an idea.

The Tank On Kithurst Hill

Originally published on 31st December 2017 in www.urbanescapist.wordpress.com

I normally set out on a walk with an intention to look at different aspects of nature depending on the season but my walk last Thursday was to be different and it was to visit the Canadian Mark ll Churchill tank left on Kithurst Hill after the 2nd World War. This part of the South Downs from the Southdowns Way between Chantry Hill and Rackham Hill and then south to Wepham Down and Angmering Park has become a favourite place to walk for me over the last few years. There are various routes I normally take to reach my destination but today because my 5 year grandson was coming with me and together with my two youngest daughters who are in the middle of a fitness regime I chose the shortest from Kithurst Hill car park. Using a 5 year old as a cover to hide my excesses and over indulgence during the festive period is a little lame but I think I got away with it. Anyway he was pleased to find some snow that had settled on the top of the downs from the wintry showers we have had over the last couple of days. The car park can be reached by taking the road off from the B2139 linking Amberley and Storrington. The route to the tank can be found quite easily from the car park by taking the south easterly path over the field which leads to a patch of trees and a crossing of paths. Turn right and follow the path a few yards in a south westerly direction and then as the trees finish the tank appears on your right. Every time I visit this spot I am taken aback by the silence and calmness of the surroundings which 75 years ago would have been a contrast to today when the area was used for military training by the Canadian army.

The tank left on the downs was part of the 14th Canadian Army Tank Battalion who were preparing for the raid on Dieppe on the 19th August 1942 and was to prove unfortunately very costly to the Canadian forces. The tank had broken down due to mechanical problems and possibly due to the forthcoming Dieppe Raid and the replacement by the Mark III it was deemed not worth repairing. Instead it was handed over to the 2nd Canadian Army Division who used it for target practice . The amount of bullet holes in the side of the tank is evidence of this. When the war finished due to lack of accessibility to the spot where the tank was left the clearance teams rolled it into a nearby bomb crater. In 1993 the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers dug the tank back up. The turret and various other parts were removed and taken to the Tank Museum in Dorset where they were used to repair other exhibits and the remainder of the tank was left where it remains to this day.
The tank is just one reminder of the presence of the Canadian army in the area during the second world war. Other reminders are the Canadian memorial on Worthing seafront near to the Grand Avenue junction and in Durrington many of the roads where the Canadian camp was situated are named after Canadian towns and cities. On the downs themselves there is also a barn called Canada on the road coming from North Stoke near Camp Hill where troops were training. Too much of a coincidence not to be connected I guess.

Lords Piece, Fittleworth

Originally published on 13th November 2017 in www.urbanescapist.worpress.com

I paid a visit this Sunday to Lords Piece which is just to the west of Fittleworth, West Sussex and can be reached by driving either along Coates Lane from Fittleworth or easterly along Burton Park Road from the Burton Mill Pond direction.

There are two car parks which are both on the western side, one to the south towards Bury and the other called Broad Halfpenny which is located in the north western corner on Coates Lane where I parked. Watch out for the pot holes in the car park but quite frankly it is better than parking at the side of the road and the repair money for the holes can be spent on more beneficial things. Lords Piece and Sutton Common is an area of heathland with roaming access frequented by dog walkers and ramblers. There are plenty of old Oaks and Pine trees in between the heather where cows graze to control and maintain the habitat. To the south west lies a small pond which gives the area more natural diversity.

The heathland is full of natural history and home to various rare species. There is an endangered colony of Field Crickets and I must pay a visit here during the summer months in order to hear their distinctive sound. There are also breeding pairs of Nightjars, Woodlarks and Dartford Warblers. Work has been carried out on the sand quarry to attract Sand Martins to the area as well.

Whatever the time of the year or whether you have 10 minutes or an afternoon free this is a beautiful spot and really worth visiting.

 

 

Black Down

Originally published 1st November in www.urbanescapist.wordpress.com

Walking along the upper reaches of the River Adur I looked south towards the crown of Beech trees that form Chanctonbury Ring and realised what a good feeling my only worry this weekend was where to walk on Sunday. The clocks were due to go back in the early hours and the day of the year I least looked forward to was fast approaching. This year, though, I was determined to view Winter differently and not as a few cold months of darkness that delays the arrival of Spring. Instead I am intent to find the hidden beauty of winter many people speak about but has so far eluded me. As I walked back to the car and the last rays of the Autumn sun did their best to recapture their lost strength of mid summer I knew that to get me on course for the next few months I needed to visit my favourite spot in West Sussex and perhaps the south of England – Black Down.
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Before I left on Sunday I decided on a change from my normal walk which started at one of the National Trust car parks off Tennyson Lane at the top of Black Down. Instead I would walk to the top starting from Haslemere. A quick look at the map and I noticed that some of my route would venture onto the Serpent Trail. I had heard of this walk and a few minutes later with the help of Google I learnt the path was 64 miles long winding its way between Haslemere and Petersfield. The two towns are only 11 miles apart so this snake shaped path sounded very intriguing. Maybe walking the length of the path in stages is a project I can look at another time but today I guess I can say I did a few miles at the start and hopefully in time I can fill in the gaps.

It was a pleasant afternoon and definitely not the dark and dreary day I always imagine it will be after we lose the hour of daylight. Just past Petworth House heading towards North Chapel on the A283 the dark slopes of Black Down appear rising from the Low Weald on the left hand side. At 280 m it is the highest point of the South Downs National Park. On arriving at Haslemere there are a couple of car parks located on the left of the High Street as I faced north so parking was easy and with the special bonus of free parking on a Sunday. Time was against me today and I only had a couple of hours walking time so I hastily sped off in search of the start of the Serpent Trail. Nearly failing at the first hurdle I couldn’t find the start but eventually saw a sign on Well Lane marking the Serpent Trail’s beginning. The path took me down towards Swan Barn Farm which is a National Trust owned site and within just a few yards the noise from the town’s High Street had disappeared. Going over a stile there was a notice stating a bull was in the field so please take an alternative route. Already running late, having lost about ten minutes trying to find the start, I could have done without that but thankfully the path I needed veered away from the field with the bull in. Following the path in a south easterly direction I soon came to the B2131 Petworth Road which I crossed and the path carried on but this time now running along the bottom of the north eastern side of Black Down. I noticed it was taking me downhill so that was causing some concern that the uphill stretch maybe steeper than I wanted it to be. The Ordnance Survey map shows a waterfall to the left of the path about half a mile from the road but I couldn’t see it or hear it and time was against me to take any detours so I guess that’s one for another day to explore. There was a stream running down the hill so probably a vantage point a little lower down and looking up would have given me the answer to where the waterfall was. Soon the path started to ascend and this carried on until I reached Tennyson Lane. Turning right into Tennyson Lane the gradient certainly became a lot more challenging and the Serpent Trail headed upwards along the road until I came across the second National Trust car park which is situated on the left hand side. Tennyson Lane is a quiet country road and I was only passed by the odd car and a couple of cyclists. There were plenty of Chestnuts on the ground from the surrounding trees but I didn’t have time to collect them for roasting later as the clock was ticking.

Once in the car park the Serpent Trail enters the National Trust site at Black Down through a gate and the tarmac from the road disappears and is replaced by dusty sandstone paths. As I walked down the path very soon on my right appeared two Dew ponds. From memory I don’t ever seem to remember these running dry even in the hottest of summers. When walking on Black Down my aim is always to visit the Temple of the Winds. This is a magnificent view point at the southern end of Black Down with views across the Weald to Devils Dyke, Chanctonbury Ring and some say on a good day the sea towards Littlehampton. The area has a certain mystical and spiritual feel about it and it’s always such a relaxing feeling admiring the view sitting on the curved stone seat. Unfortunately today I just did not have the time to walk down to this view point but as I visited it earlier in the Summer whilst walking with one of my daughters I wasn’t too upset, there will always be next time and hopefully not too far off. A few hundred yards past the gate I turned off the Serpent Trail and headed westwards along the Sussex Border Path which took me along some attractive heather heathland and I shortly regained the Serpent Trail which had double backed on itself onto the Sussex Border Path after it had travelled to the Temple of the Winds.

The path carries on in a westerly direction where different fungi were growing on the cut timber piled at the side of the path. One of the good points of managed woodland and heathland is that there is always plenty of cut timber for fungi to grow and I just wish I knew more about identifying the different types. After a steady decline the path eventually reaches the bottom of the hill at Stedlands Farm and where it meets the country lane take a right heading north back towards Haslemere. Cross Scotland Lane and then an alley way with playing fields on the left heads back to the Petworth Road B2131 and from there turn left back into the town centre.
Overall it was a pleasant walk and although I was a little disappointed to miss the Temple of the Winds a nice way to spend Sunday afternoon. I am sure I will be back there soon and lets hope Winter won’t be too dreary this year and I do discover its natural beauty over the coming months!