Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Temple of the Winds From Fernhurst

Regular readers of these walks will know that one of my favourite spots in Sussex is Black Down, the highest point.  For me this is a corner of Sussex that has always seemed a bit of an enigma - so very different from the South Downs that I grew up with, but no less appealing.  After a few days of wintry weather that my children were very excited about I thought it might be the one place nearby that managed to hang on to the white stuff.  With a friendly looking weather forecast it looked like a good day for a winter walk.  This one is walk no. 17 in Pathfinder Guide volume 52 More Sussex Walks and walk no.19 in vol.66 West Sussex and the South Downs.

Upper Sopers
The day certainly started out pretty well - the cloud looked like it was going to give way to sunshine as promised as we started our walk at the village green in the small village of Fernhurst.  I have to say that if I had been with my wife and not the two girls I might well have been tempted just to stay in the pub as it looked so inviting overlooking the green.  As it was the girls were keen to get up high as soon as possible to make their acquaintance with the snow.  The path climbed slowly out of the village and as we reached the edge of the housing we got our first view of the brooding mass of Black Down.  I have to say that it didn't look too promising from this angle and with warming weather I thought that any lingering snow would just be wet and horrible anyway.
Range Rover Crowd
I needn't have worried - by the time we reached Upper Sopers, a large house at the top of the first slope we found our first snow.  That soon got the girls into a frenzy of excitement and snowball fighting ensued almost immediately.  It was as much as I could to get them moving along and only then on the promise that there would be better stuff further on :)  In truth I was slightly concerned about daylight - we had had a reasonably late start and I wanted to be sure that we would get round before it got too dark.  The weather suddenly looked a lot less promising than it had earlier too - the bits of sunshine that we had had were now completely gone and we just had leaden skies. 

Sussex Saddlebacks
It was with a bit of a heavy heart that I noticed that we were about to lose a lot of the height we had already gained as our path dropped steeply down to a set of fishing ponds.  There was no fishing activity today but the countryside set were out killing something else.  Their tell-tale vehicles were lined up in the adjacent field - what is with Range Rovers?  There is something about these vehicles that scream 'I kill stuff for fun'...

Splash of Colour
Having dropped steeply we had an equally steep climb the other side much to the displeasure of all of us.  Thankfully the underfoot conditions weren't too bad - much more in the way of mud would have been a problem with traction.  As we climbed I heard the first of the shots ringing out through the woods.  It drew questions of course - I explained that it was clay pigeon shooting and that seemed to satisfy the young ones.  They were much more interested in meeting a couple of pigs at the top of the hill.  These were a couple of Sussex Saddlebacks, a rare and local breed and most friendly too.

Valewood Park
We eventually reached a road and walked along it briefly before swapping cold cheerless woods for more open countryside and a good deal more snow.  The views out across the snowy landscape were quite something and I was rather fascinated by the two large houses overlooking the scene.  I could see why the National Trust had taken on this stretch of countryside - it is definitely worth keeping as it is.  We slowly dropped down to the Valewood Estate road and found some pretty marshy ground as we did so.  I managed to get through unscathed but both girls seemed to find the water traps and soon had wet feet.
Defiant Against the Cold

We crossed the road and slowly climbed the other side of the valley.  There were already very early signs of spring as the gorse was in flower, a welcome splash of colour on an otherwise bleak day.  We were now making the final ascent to Black Down and the girls had ceased complaining about the climb, so absorbed were they in their conversation.  Actually the last part of the climb is quite gentle and the countryside improves all the while.  The snow got a little thicker too and the promised sunshine finally started too, bang on time for the best part of the walk.  

Black Down
I love the landscape across Black Down.  The sandy soils support a heathland that is very handsome, sprinkled with some very large and stately looking Scots Pines.  Somehow the winter conditions suit the place particularly well.  Being sandy it is a joy to walk in the winter for mud is at a premium.  Having walked for several miles without seeing anyone it was a bit of a surprise to see lots of people out.  They were probably more sensible than us though - I'm sure they had all parked at the top rather than walk up from the village.  They weren't the only company we had for we soon came across a herd of Belted Galloway cattle stationed up here to keep some of the growth in check I suppose.  The National Trust seems fond of these grazers - they can often be found doing conservation work in these parts.

Belted Galloway
We walked around the top of the hill enjoying the snow and the sun peeking through every so often.  Eventually we got to the wonderfully named Temple of the Winds.  Sadly the 'Temple' is no more and only the viewpoint remains, but what a viewpoint it is!  It is possible to see a sizeable chunk of our home county from the top and even into Hampshire and East Sussex.  As we stood and enjoyed the view the sun highlighted different stretches of countryside as it poked through the clouds.  It looked for all the world that the weather would clear and we would get the sunshine that the weathermen had predicted.  What happened was quite the opposite - within minutes the rain had started and it got heavier and more persistent.  This wasn't good news for we were at the highest and most exposed point of our walk.

Black Down View
 We put our skates on and headed down the steep side of the hill.  This wasn't easy as we seemed to have found all the mud that was missing from earlier in the walk.  In fact as we went further and further down the hill it only got worse and we all had a hard time not getting absolutely filthy.  The problems culminated in small daughter going over and getting covered - luckily she saw the funny side!  I cannot say that the descent from Black Down was enjoyable - anything but...   The trial seemed to go on for quite some time too - the path seemed a lot longer than any of us had expected.  All I can say is if you come in the winter beware this stretch - it might be advisable to find an alternative route or save it for a frosty morning.  The last time I had done this walk it was a sunny September day - a much better day for it!


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Arundel Park and South Stoke

Daybreak at the Castle
Sometimes it is necessary to use the end of the day in order to get the best conditions but more often than not the real magic is afforded to those who get up early for daybreak.  This was definitely the case on this particular walk.  I was up long before dawn and on this particularly frosty day I was anxious not to go to far from home.  I plumped therefore for this walk, one of the closest to home in Pathfinder Guides volume 66 West Sussex and the South Downs (walk 18).  It is a walk I have done many times but not blogged.  I have also never done it in the depths of winter so this was to be a new experience.  One of the reasons I wouldn't contemplate it is that it can be a mudfest - the heavy frost this morning neutralised that aspect.

In The Deep Midwinter
I had the pick of parking spots in Arundel - another benefit to getting here early.  Arundel is justifiably a very popular place for walkers and visitors who want to browse around the small selection of interesting shops.  This means that parking can be at a premium later in the day but no worries before the sun came up!  After being in my nice warm car the cold was bitter - how glad I was of my woollens wrapping me up against the frost.  I took the short path from the road to the riverbank and as I did so the sun slowly rose above the trees off in the distance.  This orange ball of fire looked at odds with the frozen land over which it now glowed.  

The river looked extreme;y cold and perhaps would be frozen too if it weren't for the fairly strong flow and the twice daily influx of salt water that rushes in on the tide.  Over in the distance the castle was now starting to glow orange with the rising sun.  For a rather grey and austere building at the back it looked amazing with a dose of red glow on it!  Along the river the first hint of fog started as soon as the sun came up.  The misty conditions seemed to increase the frostiness around me and my hot breath was playing havoc with my camera as I seemed to need to demist it every time I took a shot.  The frost seemed to cling to every piece of vegetation, dead or alive.  In fact the skeletons of the dead vegetation seemed particularly enhanced by a coating of the white stuff.

Jack Frost
Progress along the riverbank was slow as I enjoyed all of my surroundings.  I wasn't alone despite the early start.  At least three dog walkers were also out and we all agreed what a fabulous morning it was.  Eventually I turned to face the iconic view of Arundel Castle and as I did so I realised that the pictures are surely taken from the opposite bank as I could not quite get the angle for decent reflections. Eventually as I reached the bottom of the castle the sun had changed from orange to a golden glow and the frontage of the castle was bathed in the most beautiful light.

Golden Glow at the Castle
I pressed on through the town and as I climbed the hill I bumped into the first of the dog walkers I had seen on the riverbank and we passed the time of day before going our separate ways.  I passed the cathedral, also getting a good dose of the light now developing.  As I walked I spent much of my time wiping the mist from my camera lens - there was nothing for it after that, I would just have to stop using the viewfinder!

My route took me up the side of the cricket ground and past Hiorne Tower.  By now the whole town seemed alive with dog walkers - not sure I have ever seen so many!  Seeing the bright morning must have made the early walk that much easier though!  Hiorne's Tower was apparently built by Francis Hiorne to impress the 11th Duke of Norfolk sometime around 1800.  The 11th Duke was also the one responsible for the massive building programme at Arundel Castle, turning it into the version we see today.

Hiorne Tower
I dropped down into Swanbourne valley from the tower and the mist that I had first encountered at the river was hanging around here too.  This suggested that I might be lucky and see an inversion from the top of the park.  This made me quicken my step somewhat and the hill on the other side seemed a lot less of a struggle than the last time I climbed it back in the summer.  At the top of the hill the path follows the edge of the trees at the crest and prolongs the anticipation of the view.  For my money the view from the top of Arundel Park is one of the best anywhere in Sussex and it certainly lived up that billing today but for a very different reason.  

Swanbourne Valley
I could see nothing of the valley floor as it was completely enveloped in fog.  All I could see where the hill tops sparkling in the sun.  Most of the frost in the sunny areas had melted by now leaving green areas highlighted by the sun and frosty areas lurking in the shadows.  I lingered for a few minutes taking in the view before descending into the valley.  This path can be treacherous when there is lots of mud but the surface was just about staying solid if icy away from teh glare of the sun.  Areas where the sun had penetrated were dripping with meltwater.  It made for a different sort of beauty as the beads of melting frost glinted in the sun like little jewels.

Arun Valley Mist
I was pleased that the path through the woods at the bottom was still solid - this can be quite horrific during wet weather, hence I don't come this way usually in the winter.  As I wandered through the woods I finally had the countryside to myself - this was too far from the nearest car park for all but the most determined dog walker.  As a result I was pleased to see lots of birds although as a consequence of the cold they didn't stay in one place long enough for me to get any pictures.  My only opportunity proved to be the best sighting of all - a large buzzard that flew over the field I passed by.  It then sat in the tree looking at me, staying slightly too far away for me to get a reasonable shot of it.

Approaching South Stoke
I soon reached the hamlet of South Stoke and surprisingly the fog layer that looked so thick from my lofty viewpoint half an hour earlier was now anything but.  I am not sure the fog had lifted though - just a trick of the eye I think.  Anyhow the trees around the delightful South Stoke Church looked like they had been decorated by a confectioner.

South Stoke Church

 From here it was the long walk along the riverbank to the car about two miles away.  This was enjoyable but I felt that the best of the day was already done by this point and it was still only about 11am!  The path was definitely getting stickier all the time as the frost melted and by the time I reached The Black Rabbit pub I was just looking forward to getting to the end of the route.  Happily there wasn't much further to go and as I neared where I had parked I saw lots of families embarking on their day out.  I felt smug knowing that I had already had the best of the day!

Arun Walk

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Three Commons Walk

Iping Common
I have decided that INSET days are lucky as we seem to get very good weather and opportunities for walks that don't seem to exist at far too short weekends.  Autumn had sadly rather passed us by so it was a stroke of luck that we had a beautiful frosty day on our spare day.  With daylight hours short and a daughter that was a bit more reluctant to go far in the cold weather I chose for us walk number 3 in Pathfinder Guide number 52 More Sussex Walks.  This was one that we had last done when she was small enough to go in the backpack more than 10 years ago!  At 4 miles it is a pretty easy stroll but crucially it also misses the worst muddy conditions as the sandstone heaths over which most of the path passes is thankfully dry in the winter.
Flowering Gorse

We parked in the small car park on Iping Common.  We were by no means the only people there - the car park was unusually full for a weekday and we were soon greeted by the first of many dog walkers as we left the car.  Iping Common is a delight.  Open and airy and studded with mostly the odd birch tree and even small clumps in some places.  Few places look their best in the winter but I'll wager that Iping Common is one of them.  The low golden sunlight picks out the silvery bark of the birch trees and the dead grass very well giving the whole location a warmness that is missing from so many landscapes at this time of year.

Frosty Detail
Inevitably the gorse was already out in flower.  No matter how early I think it comes out into flower it always confounds me by being even earlier.  The only thing I can say with confidence is that it doesn't flower during June.  I think I have seen flowers on a gorse bush pretty much every other month of the year!  The odd splash of yellow did enhance the landscape even more.  As for other life - mostly this was in the form of small birds.  We managed to see a few of them, including chaffinches, sparrows and great tits.  I think this is supposed to be a good place to see more unusual species but sadly we didn't see any.

Vintage MG
Unlike my last visit here on the Serpent Trail this time I managed not to take a wrong turn and we headed across the Common pausing to take a look back when we got to the far end.  Over the brow of the small hill the path took a route down the shady side of a small wood and the frost had not even started to melt here.  That left some wonderful frosty shapes on the leaf litter and the grass - these are such a joy!

Eventually we found our way down to the lane where I seemed to walk forever on the Serpent Trail.  Happily we took a right rather than a left and headed away from the lane almost immediately.  It didn't go down too well with my daughter though as we had to climb a small hill.  So small in fact as to be inconsequential!  This passed by the back of the pub where we had lunch one summer day back in 2005 when we last passed by.  Sadly the pub is gone now and serves only as a private residence.

Approaching Stedham
We crossed the main road and walked down a tree lined lane for a short distance.  As we reached a small row of houses we turned right again (eventually when we found the sign) and headed along some field edges and screening woodland.  This was a most attractive section of the walk with some fine views northwards across the Weald towards the Greensand ridge a few miles away.

Daughter Racing Ahead
Below us the River Rother followed us in parallel and we were soon heading down towards its level.  The river was clearly a bit warmer than the surrounding air as it was generating a small amount of localised mist.  At the bottom of the valley we came upon the small village of Iping.  This is a very agreeable little place centred mostly around a mill on the River Rother it seemed.  Our acquaintance with the village didn't last long.  Once across the road we climbed up above the River once again and it was gone almost in the blink of an eye.  The river meandered away from us for a bit and we continued through another frosty hollow of trees until it came back to meet us about half a mile further on.

Former Pub, Stedham Village
At the next road we came upon the village of Stedham and this one was marked by an arched bridge across the river of some antiquity.  Alas our oath didn't take us that way but into the village itself.  With daughter I don't expect to have any nosy deviations from the walking route for fear of getting a moody backlash :)  Stedham is impossibly pretty and even daughter was smitten with the place as we wandered through.  Our eyes were particularly drawn to a phone box that has been converted by the locals as an information kiosk.

Information Kiosk
Just before leaving the village we hooked a right turn and walked down towards the pub on the edge of the village.  We had thought about using this as a lunch stop but were glad we hadn't banked on it as was shut this Monday lunchtime.  Luckily daughter had a change of heart earlier in the day and we had some lunch procured from a Worthing bakery waiting for us in the car when we got back.  By now daughter was looking forward to this and she was most surprised when we crossed the main road and walked across a short stretch of heathland to find the car once again.  I think the length of the walk rather surprised her - it was rather shorter than she thought it would be!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Compton and Loseley Park

Compton Church
Autumn had arrived and despite the continuing good weather it was quite clear that days were getting colder and the dew more pronounced.  Hence on this walk despite the wonderful conditions we ended up with very wet feet!  My daughter had a rather random inset day in the middle of the week and with most of her friends away doing something else she decided that she wanted to make the most of a wonderful autumn day and have some fresh air with me.  She picked out this walk as an introduction to the North Downs for we have some intentions of doing this as a family walk next year.  It is walk 14 from the Pathfinder guide number 65 Surrey Walks.

Watts Gallery
We parked up by Watts Cemetery just outside the village of Compton.  I have been through here many times and always think how attractive it is.  It also reminds me of the famous footballer/ cricketer from days gone by.  The idea of any sportsman excelling in two sports simultaneously these days is unthinkable.  The start of our walk was alongside a road, which wasn't the best introduction especially as it was so busy on this Wednesday morning.
Sunken Path
It was a relief when we got to the Watts Gallery, home of 500 pieces of work of the famous painter and sculptor G F Watts.  I wasn't sure it was open as we passed by but made a metal note of perhaps visiting some time in future for a closer look.  We joined the North Downs Way at this point and would follow the path almost all the way to Guildford.  The path ran steadily uphill for quite a while but not so much as to be noticeable to daughter (she seems allergic to hills at the moment).  The path was very pleasant, passing along field boundaries, through sunken sections and across stretches of woodland, now showing advanced stages of autumn.  The sunken section of the path hinted that this was an ancient thoroughfare, perhaps between the village of Compton and Guildford.
North Downs Ridge

Along the way I had the best chat with my daughter as we admired the surrounding countryside.  Walking really stimulates good conversation I always think.  This walk sparked conversations about history mostly - surrounding us were relics from pre-history in the shape of tumuli and from World War II in the shape of pillboxes.  Daughter seems to be particularly enjoying history at school at the moment so relating what she learns there to the landscape around really sparked her imagination.  On the way along this section of this path we passed a large group of ramblers.  I was thankful they were going the opposite way to us.
Former Guards Van

Eventually at the top of East Warren we reached the summit of the walk and it was downhill into the Wey Valley.  This is a section of the North Downs Way that I remember from my outing in 2004.  Back then I was faced with a field of sheep mostly gathered around hay dispensers.  There were none now and the field looked like it had been grazed for a while so lush was the grass.  We looped around the field and I looked out for an old railway guard's van that I had spotted last time.  I was pleased to see it was still there although noticed that it had disappeared further into the vegetation.  Eventually I suspect that nature will reclaim it completely.
Weald View

Just before we reached the main road that leads into Guildford we took a sharp right and headed up a steep hill that took us around the perimeter of the Surrey Police College of Brabhoeuf Manor.  This looked like a very well appointed place for would-be police officers and had a magnificent setting overlooking the Weald.  The path stuck rigidly to the perimeter fence as we went up and over the ridge on which it sits.  Eventually when we got to the bottom of the hill we reached the corner of the fence and went our separate ways.  For us we turned right again and headed back towards Compton.

Considering that we were only about half a mile from the path on the other side of the ridge the character of the path could not have been more different.  We passed by the hamlet of Littleton and then crossed into Loseley Park.  The house at the centre of the park, which we could see from a distance, seems to have been made up from other treasures taken from earlier buildings.  Much of the stone came from Waverley Priory while some of the internal panelling came from Nonsuch Palace, places I have visited on other earlier walks.  The house looks like a treasure to be visited next year with our newly acquired membership of the Historic Houses Association.

We passed by the fishing lake at the bottom of the estate and round the perimeter until we reached the former main drive.  This was a magnificent avenue of trees, now starting to shed leaves and conkers and the path was becoming littered with autumn debris.  The scene was rudely interrupted by the group of ramblers that we had encountered earlier.  It looked very much like they were doing the same walk as us albeit in the opposite direction.
Loseley Hall

At Polsted Manor we changed direction, heading along the metalled Polsted Lane into the village of Compton.  We had intentions of a pub lunch in Compton at the Harrow pub but when we arrived it wasn't open.  It seems to be a Thai restaurant these days so not sure we would have gone for that in any event.  The last stretch of the walk though Compton village was along the main road, which wasn't the nicest way to end any walk but we did at least get a good look at the church and even crossed the road so we could get a good look inside.  A most attractive church it was too, especially decked out with autumnal flowers and ready for any harvest festival service that might be held.

Compton Village
This was not an especially challenging walk but was full of wonderful views through the best sort of countryside Surrey has to offer.  Although bounded on all sides by some very busy roads they did not impinge on the enjoyment of the walk at all.  Moreover it gave me a good opportunity to enjoy my daughter's company - a rare thing in these otherwise busy times.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Snowdogs by the Sea


At last we had a local Wild in Art Trail!  As you know we have become big fans of these trails and until now we have had to journey away from our home county in order to find one.  To be fair it was probably only a matter of time until one came to Brighton and when it came it was the theme of Snowdogs.  I'm not entirely sure why this was the theme chosen but it may have had something to do with local author Raymond Briggs and his famous creation 'The Snowman', which is still shown every year on television at Christmas.

Beach Huts

As with the zebras it was only myself and youngest daughter for this trail and we started out at Hove Lagoon for the first snowdog.  We didn't start too well actually for we found this one quite tricky.  It was called Boomer and eventually found it inside the café.  The dog was dressed up like a cassette recorder (remember them?) as a tribute to his sponsor Norman Cook aka Fat Boy Slim.  This DJ is now popularly associated with Brighton and is a massive supporter of the local football team.  He also happens to own this café so perhaps it wasn't any great surprise that we should find Boomer there.

Hove Promenade

Our route then ran along the seafront towards Brighton City Centre.  It was quite obvious that we weren't going to manage to see all of the Snowdogs on foot on this first day.  The shortest route between them was apparently more than 10 miles and we only had a limited time available.  I therefore devised a route that would find the most that we could with a view to coming back the following week to find the remaining ones in the car.  Thus we skipped number 2 and headed for number 3, the rather lovely fuzzy Snowbrador by Medina Terrace.  It was at this point that we realised that it wasn't going to be easy to get pictures with each one of the dogs for there seemed to be dozens of other people on the hunt too.  Perhaps it was because we walked the trail while they were still pretty new and the weather was still very warm.
Palmeira Square
Number 5 was next (there were 45 in total) and this was in Palmeira Square.  We discovered that we would have to quicken our pace between the dogs for we seemed to be caught in with a bunch of people that wanted to linger at every dog and clearly that was going to slow us up considerably.  This one was called Dave the Dog and had a motoring theme - this was probably about the sponsor rather than its location for I expected it to have a floral theme to fit in with the floral clock, which is housed in the middle of the square.  After our quick detour inland it was back to the seafront to see Pebbles back on the promenade.  This was a much more appropriate theme for it fitted in with the nature of the beach, which is famously made of shingle (much to my disappointment as a child).


As we continued towards central Brighton we passed the bandstand, still looking resplendent after its makeover a few years back (in fact I couldn't be sure whether it might have had another one since then?).  Flower was stationed outside (number 7) and number 8 was by the i360 a little further on.  Long time readers of my blog may remember me mentioning this installation being planned when I came last time a few years ago.  Well, now it is completed and despite the teething troubles since its summer opening, it is becoming established as a popular tourist attraction.  The original intention was that it would help pay for a replacement West Pier, but looking at the state of the old thing I cannot imagine it ever being rebuilt now.  My daughter and I looked longingly at having a go on the i360 but the queues were enormous so we continued on our way.  Bobby, the police dog (number 8) was keeping guard on the masses.

A little way past the i360 and we headed inland through the modern shopping centre of Churchill Square where we found one inside and one outside.  Getting pictures of both was quite difficult although the one outside was due to a very chatty cleaner who seemed to be acting as a personal groom to the little fella.  She explained that she needed to keep him spruced up as he was very popular.  He was called Blot the Dog.  The one inside recalled the Mod era of Brighton, which a nod to the film Quadrophenia, which was filmed here and recorded the struggles between the mods and rockers who fought on the beaches during the 1960s.

We had a bit of a walk to the next ones which were situated at Brighton Station. Smart Vibes was outside and was the first we had seen for a while that did not have a crowd with it.  We grabbed a piccie and headed inside to find Newshound.  This one was plastered with some of the more comedy headlines that have been featured in local newspaper The Argus over the past few years.  We amused ourselves for a few minutes reading them before moving on.

We headed next down to The Level to see Gizmo (number 41).  This was quite lonely in the middle of the park and we had all the time in the world to spend with him.  What struck me about The Level though is how much more of an attraction it now is.  A café and play area have been installed in recent years and the whole place was alive with visitors.  The last time I came to this part of Brighton I remember it being quite drab and a bit unloved.
Brighton Pavilion
St Peter's Church was next and Dudley (no.40) outside.  This unfortunate dog was the first to hit the headlines when it was graffitied within days of its installation.  It had been repaired when we visited but the underlying damage could still be seen.  The offender was named and shamed in the Argus and he claimed that he thought that he was contributing to the artwork.  Honestly!

Horatio - The Bathing Beauty

We wound our way back through the vibrant North Laines area.  This was always my favourite part of the city in which to shop as it has all manner of eclectic shops selling stuff you wouldn't find anywhere else.  If anything these shops have become ever more cosmopolitan although sadly I note that the prices have skyrocketed too.  We were on a mission this time though - no time for browsing inside or even window shopping.  We found Frank (no.32) and had to wait our turn once again before pushing on to Snowman's Nightmare (21) at the other end of the shopping area.

Pier Clock
A cluster of Snowdogs were to be found around the Dome and the Royal Pavilion and these were hunted down next.  I love the Pavilion - it is perhaps the most preposterous building in the UK and was built as a royal palace for George IV when he was Prince Regent.  He loved Brighton and made this his home during his short reign in the 1820s.  The Pavilion is styled as an Indian Palace and looks rather ridiculous even by today's standards, let alone what it must have looked like when first built.  Its life as a royal palace didn't last too long - Queen Victoria couldn't wait to get rid of it and the building is now owned by the city council.

Next stop was the Lanes.  This famous part of Brighton boasts extremely narrow streets and some high end shops.  We checked off the dogs that we lurking in the Lanes although this took quite a long time as again we dealt with a plethora of young children draping themselves all over the bases longing for their pictures to be taken.  I cannot really think of another trail that has captured the imagination of so many people.  My daughter and I had already concluded though that we preferred the zebras from a few weeks earlier.

Pier View

We worked our way back to the seafront and from here it was to be a straight run to Brighton Marina.  What we hadn't bargained for was a huge motorcycle rally and the road along the seafront was absolutely chock-a-block with gleaming machines, mostly very expensive looking.  There were lots of hairy looking men and women in tight leather gear admiring each other's machines and generally having a great time.  I'm not overly keen on motorbikes but even I could see the allure of these machines.


We popped along the pier for some respite from motorbikes and found Grrrace and Palace Pup (28 and 29).  The latter wasn't so easy to find and we ended up going all the way to the end of the pier before discovering her about a third of the way back.  She was rather ignored by other visitors; perhaps they all thought that she was part of the furniture?  Under the Sea (number 30) was getting a lot more attention but then it was stationed at the entrance to the Sea Life Centre and was therefore seen by every visiting child who went in.

Bike Rally

For the remaining part of our walk we passed more than a mile of motorbikes lined up.  I have never in my life seen so many lined up in one spot.  They weren't just English either - there were plenty from continental Europe and especially the Netherlands.  The rally was starting to wrap up though - some people were already roaring away and the din was unimaginable.  We were pleased for a short detour into St George's Church in Kemp Town, where we escaped for a few minutes to check out Smiley (no.34).  From here it was on to Brighton Marina to pick up the remaining cluster.

Brighton Marina

Brighton Marina was constructed when I was a boy.  It is quite an astonishing piece of engineering and one that I am not sure would be built today.  It is one of the largest man-made marinas in Europe and rather brutally occupies a space at the bottom of the cliffs at Black Rock.  As a marina I am not sure it was overly successful since much of the harbour space has been filled in and is occupied by shops and restaurants.  There were three Snowdogs among the shops and a unique one to finish off with; one made out of sand by the artist 'Anonymous'.  It was very sensibly fenced off so that it couldn't be ruined by vandals.  This marked the end of our walking tour seeing the Snowdogs.  It was a pretty comprehensive look around the city and we got to see most of the main sights.  We also saw 35 of the 44 dogs on foot with the remaining ones in a car tour the following week.  Sad to say that one was missing (Sparky no.42) and one was in London at Victoria station (45 Brighton Belle).  On the whole a satisfying walk and I have no doubt that the success of the initiative will bring a different trail in a couple of years time.
Sand Dog