Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sussex Border Path Section 7 Linchmere and Marley Common

Milland Pond
More of the same please! After entering the pine forests of the sandstone ridge that dominates the north western part of Sussex on the last section, today was very much a continuation of the same theme. I parked today in the small car park at the top of Marley Common, south west of Haslemere. I am not sure it was the one marked on the map but it served its purpose nonetheless. As I was at the end of the section of Sussex Border Path that I wanted to do today I did the return loop first. This would largely take me along the foot of the ridge through various sections of woodland and occasionally into open fields before winding up at Milland House, where I had passed last time out. From here my route would take me back along the officialwalk from the Black Fox at the top of the ridge – a rather different world as I was to discover!
Autumn Colours
Sadly the sunshine that had accompanied me all the way up into Surrey disappeared behind some very thick cloud and I was thankful therefore that I would largely be walking in woodland to begin with, where overhead conditions didn’t affect my pictures so much. This thickly wooded fringe of Sussex earns its living as became abundantly clear quite quickly. Much of the woodland was being actively coppiced and the floor was thick with the prickly shells of sweet chestnuts. Most of those scattered around were too small to be worthwhile though.
Bodger's Quarters
The first curiosity I came across was a very secluded pond at the bottom of the ridge. Its water was a strange turquoise colour, although it was very clear and full of weed so whatever caused the colour was clearly not doing much harm? All around was silent with no birdsong and not even a ripple on the surface of the water. It was certainly a quiet place to meditate!
Fungi Crop
The onward track became a little monotonous as for the next mile or so I headed through thick woodland, broken up only by a large clear cut section that had been removed for coppicing. A small woodland workshop had turned most of the harvested wood into fence posts. I gather that the people that would once have carried out this kind of work were known as ‘bodgers’.As they only did part of the job of turning wood into finished articles, this term has been translated into common English as a job that is serviceable but only borne of necessity (not a botch – which is a total failure). A little further on was a section of woodland that I suspect was harvested last year, since it had plenty of fresh new growth.
Tangle of Roots
There were a few odd sights through the woods as the seasons are now on the turn. A few rhododendron flowers were hanging on, trying to inject a bit of colour into woodland that was starting to turn from green to brown. I found the fact that some branches on trees had leaves that were still as good as new while others had completely died and were probably only a few days away from dropping off. Most of all though it was the various types of fungi that really fascinated me. Until the last couple of years I haven’t been that interested in fungi, but various woodland walks taken recently have made me change that view.
Looking Out Over the Forest
Certainly today I would find lots of different types on my walk, from the bright red spotty fly agaric (seen in all Disney films) to the rather understated brown ones. I also kept a lookout for interesting tree roots as the path followed a sunken course through the woods. I saw at least one that looked rather like a face and I couldn’t help thinking that it was sights like this that made folk think that there were spirits in the woods.
Linchmere Marsh
Eventually I came out into open countryside briefly at Linchmere Marsh. I negotiated my way around some fine looking houses and crossed a small road before entering more woodland, this time via a rather mysterious looking drive. I wasn’t quite sure of what kind of house I would find at the far end, but was rather surprised at how little it was! It did have the most marvellous views across the surrounding woods, courtesy of a small break in the forest. The owners were floating about and I got the impression they didn’t want me to linger too long as they asked me whether I was lost in a thinly disguised but friendly manner.I did have the opportunity to admire their vintage Jaguar and tractor parked behind the house before plunging into more woodland.
Old Tractor
The next part had some particularly fine fungi specimens and some gnarled old yew trees that were resplendent with red berries. I don’t know why but my little camera really struggles with decent pictures of these – a real pity as I would like to get a decent shot one of these days. I was curious to see that many of the fungi appeared to have bite marks taken out of them. Surely they aren’t on the menu of many animals?
Plump Bounty
Eventually I reached the edge of Hollycombe Mueseum. This is an open air steam museum not just dedicated to trains, but all things steam, even fairground rides! I’ve not visited, but one day I must. Seeing some signals set to clear in the distance was the only clue that I was in fact passing this place, although I am sure on operating days it is possible to see the steam engines in action. A couple of old National Carrier lorry trailers parked up weren’t the best advert from this corner of the museum though.
Little Nibble
I dropped down through a sunken lane and eventually came upon a road where I turned right. What followed was a rather unpleasant mile-long walk along the surprisingly busy country road. As I passed by Hollycombe Hanger I came upon a rather odd well looking structure. There was some water in the depths of the blackness but guarding the entrance was a very large spider that had used it as a convenient place for its web. I didn’t look further as I didn’t want to disturb the poor chap.
Hollycombe Signals
I was relieved to turn off the main road and on to a much quieter country lane. The hedgerow alongside me was full of bees turning their attentions to the bounty of fruit on offer rather than the flowers from earlier in the summer. Fruits were aplenty too, from the usual blackberries to the colourful honeysuckle berries, rosehips and hawthorn berries. I even saw a speckled wood butterfly but it wasn’t keen to play ball with me, fluttering off extremely quickly but hanging around as if to tease me!
Home Farm View
I passed through the large and extensive Home Farm and saw some of the few people I encountered all day in the shape of a building crew working on one of the buildings. Shortly after and it was back into the woods. I must admit that I was now becoming a little bit disorientated. Maybe I should have taken advantage of a pair of glasses that I found hanging over an adjacent stretch of fencing?
Lone Tree
Eventually I emerged from the woods by Milland Place, a rather gloomy looking house that looked rather deserted. The house has been covered in pebble dashing, which seemed rather out of place for a building of that size and style. A pair of very large iron gates deterred anyone from even thinking that a closer look would be possible! The estate was rather cut off from the outside world by a very high wall that surrounded it, and at the end of the perimeter track that I followed were a couple of enormous gateposts that announced its entrance.
Traffic Light Berries
By now the sunshine that had graced the day had disappeared once again and all around were grey clouds. It was a shame that I couldn’t have had just a little more sunshine, for I had now reunited with the Sussex Border Path and had a return trip to the car along the official route. I passed initially through Liphook Golf Course, which for a non golfer like me looks like a very pleasant place to spend the day in among its heathland setting.The path through the golf course and onward is along what looks like a former road that somehow didn’t quite make it into the modern age. A proto-A3 maybe? It passed through an estate of gated properties and houses with huge entrance gates and big fences. It wasn’t exciting but did enable me to make some quick progress.
Eventually I reached a road junction, where I got a reminder of how close to the Sussex Border the path actually gets. Almost within touching distance was a sign proclaiming a welcome to Hampshire. I kept straight on, following a route also shared by the Lipchis and Serpent Trails, surely future walking expeditions? I splite from those routes fairly quickly as I headed on a northerly course while they headed south. For me the route continued across Stanley Common, a beautiful heather clad piece of heathland marked with the odd stretch of pine forest. As with a lot of sections of today’s route, the woods provided a navigational challenge although to be fair I was conscious of keeping my wits about me and so didn’t go wrong.
Milland House
I reached another road that led to the small village of Linchmere. Rather than continue on the route I dived into the centre of the village to take a look at the church. It was rather different than I imagined, with a small spire and distinctive clock. I was given rather a dirty look by a woman busying herself with bedecking the nave with flowers. I took the hint and continued on my way.
Linchmere Church
In truth the last couple of miles of today’s walk were rather uninspiring. I was rather glad that I had taken the outward route that I had today, for it was rather more interesting than this stretch of the Border Path. I’m not sure if that had to do with the weather, which by now was rather overcast and dull. It may also have had to do with the fact that I was anxious to finish the day. Anyhow I got back to the car on Marley Common about half an hour after visiting the church feeling quite satisfied with my day’s work. The next section takes me to the highest point in Sussex, a milestone in itself!

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