Friday, 9 December 2011

Sussex Border Path Section 9 Temple of the Winds and Shillinglee

Spooky Black Down
I set out from home today on a bright sunny autumn morning on the south coast to head inland to the car park at Black Down, where I had ended my walk last time. As it was such a convenient car park it seemed a good idea to use it again. As I headed north of the Downs, my view of the world changed as I hit a fog bank almost immediately. The fog got worse as I headed northwards and I wondered about calling the day’s walking off altogether. However, the weather forecast had suggested that there would be sunshine later so I persevered on the basis that I might get lucky.
Looking Out Over Mist
As I climbed up Black Down the clouds drifted away towards the top and I was met with brilliant sunshine at the car park itself. Of course far below was a blanket of white – always a slightly odd feeling, makes me think I am standing on an island in the sky! To the north of Black Down the blue sky and sunshine persisted although I could see that the cloud was starting to close in from the south, making for a short lived scene. I decided that I would head down towards the Temple of the Winds, at the southern end of the Black Down plateau. On the way the cloud started to drift in and the sunshine got more and more obscured as I headed south.
Brief Sunshine
The atmosphere on top of Black Down was magical on this early morning and I was surprised by the number of people out early on this Sunday morning enjoying it. I met more than a dozen people heading down to the Temple of the Winds, unusual for a Sunday morning. The mist lingered around the tall Scots Pine trees and there were water droplets formed on just about everything from leaves to spiders webs.
Deep Reflections
It all made for a spooky kind of introduction to my day’s walking. At Temple of the Winds the view across the Weald that I should have had was completely obscured by white cloud and although I lingered for a few minutes to see if it might clear, it soon became obvious that it wouldn’t and so I headed down the southern slope of the hill. The Temple of the Winds sadly does not have anything left, other than a recently added stone seat at the point that Alfred Lord Tennyson used to admire the view.
Temple of the Winds
Back in 1967 this tranquil place was the scene of an air crash when an Iberian Airways jet came down and killed all of those on board. There are few clues of the disaster now, but apparently at the time a large number of trees were taken out and there were localised fires across a wide area. Getting help up here at night-time when it happened must have been a nightmare, as there aren’t many ways to access this area other than on foot.
Sulphur Tuft
As I headed down the slope I admired the large crop of fungi that was devouring all the dead wood in the area. From the bracken covered slopes I then entered a dark tunnel like world as I descended through the yew tree belt. Eventually as I got to the bottom I passed by a large and rather idyllic looking house. My path continued around the garden before eventually coming upon a road.
Spooky House
As I descended the fog got thicker until I could see no more than about 50 metres ahead of me. This is not the type of weather conditions I am used to and although the effect of these conditions on the countryside was interesting, I nonetheless wanted to see some views and hoped that it would soon clear!
Spindly Giants
At Upper Diddlesford Farm I came across another of those huge collections of scrap farm vehicles that have become such a common feature of this walk. Unlike others I have come across this one looked as though some of the old machines were actually being stripped for parts as they were in various states of completeness. It made for a fascinating sight, especially in the gloom of the fog.
Upper Diddlesford Farm
I made my way across fields to Northchapel, a village that I had passed through on my journey up here. There was no let up in the conditions and if anything the fog closed in even more. I had a little look at the Half Moon pub, a welcoming looking place that would surely have been a better place to spend the day than out in the fog! I took the opportunity to take a look at the interesting looking church of St Michael the Archangel at the heart of the village.Memories of the recent Remembrance Day service were obviously still fresh in the mind judging by the poppy memorial wreaths still looking in great condition on the war memorial outside the church. The churchyard looked quite spooky with a hint of sun trying to break its way through the cloud.
Half Moon Pub
I headed north out of the village and soon came across a group of ramblers ahead of me. There is nothing I hate more than groups of ramblers when I’m out. Their incessant chatter and complete oblivion to their surroundings annoys me and as I passed them I put on a bit of speed to get some distance between them and me. This took some time, and somehow the still conditions seemed to ensure that their voices carried a long way. Eventually I did lose them though as they took a different turn at Frith Hill. My relief was palpable! It also gave me the opportunity to have a peer at the marvellous house at Frith Hill and the topiary chickens that had been clipped (at least I think that is what they were!).
Northchapel Graves
I headed down towards what looked to be a fairly large body of water called The Lake. However, when I got there my view of the water was rather more distant than I imagined. Judging by the heavily engineered bridges, I guessed that this was at one time a landscaped park although what was left could only be described as faded beauty.As I peered through the fog to see if I could see anything of the lake I got the surprise of my life as this small azure and shimmery blue bird passed underneath the bridge at breakneck speed. I could only assume that it was a kingfisher even though I didn’t get a very close look. Its fabulous colour stuck out on such a gloomy day.
A little further on and my eyes were drawn to a shaggy ink cap fungus growing under the bushes. Its distinctive shape and textures were fascinating, although taking a picture of it proved very tricky due to its position & I cursed the fact that I hadn’t brought my little tripod. By now it was clear that the fog wasn’t going to lift and I took the decision to cut short my day’s walking. I passed by the rather murky looking Deer Tower, a folly-like residence that looked rather deserted and onwards to Shillinglee Park. Many of the original buildings here had been turned into residences for the well-heeled, completely altering the character of what must once have been a country estate.
Deer Tower
In order to reduce the amount of road walking I needed to do, I took a big loop around Walk Copse and the North Ponds, crossing the road that passed between the upper and lower pond. I suspect that these were once hammer ponds for the iron industry that operated in this area 250 years ago. Now the only activity that exists is fishing for the local angling society. There were actually quite a few about that day – possibly fog suits them?
North Ponds
I eventually made it to the Sussex Border Path at last when I reached White’s Hill. By now the fog was so thick that I could barely see a thing. The entire walk back along the official route was almost completely lost on me as I focused my attention on ensuring that I had my navigation right. From what I could see of the early part of the walk I wan’t sure I was missing a great deal as the path wandered along the side of bare looking fields.
Bleak Fishing
I passed through a couple of sections of damp woodland, where I did come upon a large fairy ring of fungi, which was quite impressive. Eventually though I came to the A283 at the summit of the fabulously named Cripplecrutch Hill. Crossing the road was no easy matter though. Not only was it really busy but I couldn’t see very far in front of me so it was a bit frightening. Eventually after a few minutes a welcome lull came and I crossed safely and disappeared into the gloomy woodlands opposite. Here I followed a lane that had the distinct look of a road that didn’t quite make it. Even the map suggested that might be the case.
Shaggy Ink Caps
I came out at Gospel Green, where I had to take Jay’s Lane. This final section seemed interminable. I think the walking through muddy fields had taken its toll and I was glad that I had kept the walk fairly short today. The trudge along the lane was quite tough as it regained the altitude that I had lost coming down off Black Down earlier in the day. It was a slow and steady climb – the worst sort at the end of a day’s walking!
Gospel Green
I can’t say that I would enjoy walking in conditions like these very often for I got really frustrated at not being able to see anything. However, some of the landscapes had extra interest because of the cloud, especially the trees on Black Down, which had a really ghostly feel. The churchyard at Northchapel was also very atmospheric. It was an experience that I enjoyed to a point, but not one I would like on a regular basis. Irritatingly when I got back to Worthing it was bright sunshine and had been all day!


  1. Your Churchyard photo is full of atmosphere.....I really like that image....


  2. Thanks very much for your kind comment Trevor!