Tuesday, 25 October 2011

South West Coast Path Section 52 The Isle of Portland



View From The Start

After the hors d’ouevre of the Rodwell Trail I was quite excited about the main course of the day, which was to circumnavigate the mysterious Isle of Portland. An earlier trip to the Isle of Portland some years ago did not leave an especially good impression and I was rather keen to exorcise that memory by exploring the coast, which from a distance looked far more promising than the interior.
Verne Fort

The Isle of Portland is not a true island at all these days, being connected to the mainland by Chesil Beach and the A354, which is the only road on and off the island. Officially the South West Coast Path crosses over to the island along this causeway too, but I could see no merit in subjecting myself to this rather boring couple of miles of walking alongside the road.
Railway Incline

Instead I parked at the top of the hill above the town of Fortuneswell and devised a route that would allow me to circumnavigate the island using the official route. It was pleasing to see that this car park was free and with plenty of room on this by now superb day. In fact I had to pinch myself to remind me that it was now October, so warm and benign were the conditions. Sadly the air wasn’t quite as clear as I would have hoped, and long distance views were impossible. A pity, for I imagined I would be able to see Devon and the Isle of Wight from up here.

Verne Fort Entrance

I walked first along the crest of Verne Hill where I could gaze across the fabulous view of Chesil Beach and Weymouth. This stupendous view is surely one of the finest in all of England and I was surprised that the car park wasn’t more full. As I left the car park behind, I crossed what appeared to be a railway bridge. The railway below was no ordinary trackbed though as it sloped steeply away from my position. I remembered that Julia Bradbury had explored some industrial railways on the island as part of her ‘Railway Walks’ series a couple of years ago and immediately recognised this to be one of those.The trucks would have been pulled up and down these incline railways using ropes and pulleys.They must have been quite the sight when in operation!

Verne Fort Detail

At the end of the road I took a path that wound its way around the perimeter wall of what is now a prison, although most of the buildings are hidden behind a huge perimeter wall hinting that the building once had military significance. The walls were covered in cotoneaster, an invasive plant that seems to be thriving here on Portland. From one Victorian engineering structure to a very different one as I got myself on to a different part of the former railway that had the inclines admired earlier. This made for nice easy going, even when faced with the steep incline down into Castletown on the banks of Portland Harbour.

Railway Incline Into Portland Harbour


As I descended down the incline much of the investment associated with bringing the London 2012 sailing events came into sight. Some very large apartments had been built on the site of some of the naval buildings, although interestingly one of the blocks appeared to have been abandoned part way through construction.Any trace of the freight yard that would once have existed at the bottom of the incline has long since been obliterated by history and the expansion in the Royal Navy yards that occupied this part of Portland Harbour during theCold War. Now the Royal Navy has moved out and commercial buildings are filling the void.

Portland Castle

Before moving on I took a look at Portland Castle, almost hidden in the trees off the road. A quiet spot now, but its presence reminds us of the strategic need for this kind of defence in years gone by. A group of giggly girls had got together for what looked like the last hurrah of summer. Despite the unseasonably warm weather Istill thought they were very brave in considering swimming in the harbour waters.

Fortuneswell Beach


I pushed on along the harbour road to where the A354 finally enters the island at the northern end of Fortuneswell. From here I started the walk down the western side of the island, heading up on to the top of Chesil Beach for its last half mile or so before it runs into the cliffs of Portland.This was the first time I had been on to the top of the beach since its embryonic beginnings at the western end, two walking days further back along the coast.As I looked along the line of shingle I thanked my lucky stars that the coast path doesn’t even attempt to use this as its route. To do so would be mind-numbingly boring and extraordinarily hard work. I sense that only the fool hardy or masochistic would attempt such a route, while everyone else would do the sensible thing and boycott it entirely.

Try Again

I briefly walked along the promenade looking for a refreshment stop and was pleased to see that there was a café at the far end. I was less pleased by the cost of the cold can that I purchased and even less pleased by the fact that they appeared to have no water available to buy. They were missing a serious trick here in my opinion, especially as the beach below was filling up with scuba divers and their associated companions. Although the café looked the part, I wasn’t sure whether they had mentally already wound down for the winter…

Dive Team

Anyhow, feeling somewhat refreshed I plodded my way back up the steep hill that I had only recently descended on the other side of the island. I took it slow and steady to enable me to enjoy the changing view as I climbed. At the top I paused for a minute to enjoy this view for the last time before my perspective was to change. At the topof the hill I met with what was once the narrow road that accessed the hinterland of the island.It has now been widened and moved away from the cliff edge slightly, enabling some public art depicting various reminders of the quarry industry to be installed. Portland Stone has been prized for many years and was used in the construction of St Paul’s Cathedral, the UN building and the Cenotaph among many other prestigious buildings. Reminders of the quarrying are ever present throughout the island and the next couple of miles in particular provide a good study of the impact made by quarrying on the landscape.

Quarryman

The path continued along the top of the enormous cliffs for the next mile or so, with breathtaking views across Chesil Beach and the azure sea below. I was astonished at the colour of the sea, which wasn’t too dissimilar with the parts of the Mediterranean I have seen. On the shore side of the path were lots of quarrying reminders, with half cut blocks discarded and various engineering features still in place to help get the stones out. It made for a fascinating section of walk, and for me probably the best section of the entire day.

Cotoneaster Cliffs

At Blacknor the path just about manages to skirt around the side of a military installation and the views across Chesil are suddenly replaced with views down towards Portland Bill and its lighthouses, the southern tip of the island. The scenery changed somewhat too, with the cliffs getting less dramatic all the way as I headed south. The walk became more open too with less quarrying activity. The interior of the island cannot be called picturesque, for most of the visible buildings are rather ugly looking ex military and local authority housing. Although a gloriously sunny day, I could imagine how depressing these places must be on those gloomy cold and grey winter days – grim!

Path Framing

Still, progress was very quick along this section of coast, partly because I was heading slightly downhill the whole time. The path was undoubtedly popular, although some of the walkers were less than considerate towards their fellow users. One family in particular were paying no attention to their dog, who was yapping at all who passed and then decided it would terrorise a group of horse riders for daring to amble slowly past. The reaction from the owner/ keeper? Nothing at all…

North Portland Cliffs

As I approached the very ugly looking business park at the edge of Eastnor my way was blocked by an animal of a very different nature – one of the largest caterpillars I had ever seen! This big hairy beast was shuffling across the path in front of me. Sadly I didn’t know what kind it was, although I suspect it was a tiger moth of some sort given its resemblance to those I have seen in books. Portland has a few species that do not appear anywhere else due to the geographical nature of its location. I did think I might have struck gold and found a rare species, but I couldn’t be sure…

West Coast

A little further on and I passed the first of three lighthouses that occupy Portland Bill. This first one is now converted to a very desirable looking house and is neighboured with a National Coastwatch Foundation lookout tower. I should imagine this is one of the better gigs for a Coastwatch Volunteer as the view must be stupendous on a good day. Ahead of my the present lighthouse was obviously the honeypot that most visitors had headed for today. The car park was stuffed and all around the ‘Bill’ were hundreds of people milling about enjoying the day.

Huge Caterpillar

After looking around the outside the lighthouse (which was now closed for winter!), I popped into the café to stock up on drink. The place was absolutely heaving, with dozens of plates of fish and chips being dished up to what must have been an unusually busy October Sunday. I trust the owners had stocked up ahead of time, for there didn’t seem to be any shortage of food.

Portland Lighthouse
The onward part of coast was initially a strange mixture of tourism, industry relics from quarrying times and the odd bit of fishing. Yet the mixture of activities seemed quite natural altogether somehow. Over by the third of the lighthouses there was quite a large collection of beach huts. Most appeared to be boarded up for winter now, but there were quite a few that had been opened up again for the day. I suspect that many of the owners hadn’t dreamed of such a day when they shut up a few weeks earlier.I was interested to see that one of the huts was for sale as I passed. It had clearly seen better days (in fact I pulled down a garden shed at home that was in better shape), and yet the owners wanted £20,000 – yikes! I guess it was all about location, location, location!
Portland Bill Lighthouse
Eventually I reached the end of the tourist bit, rather more suddenly than I could have expected. The path then entered an old quarry, which was a bit of a moonscape. I am guessing that all the best quality had been removed for the next few hundred metres was a bit of a desert in terms of vegetation and ecology – even the grass was having a hard time growing! There was still a fair amount of activity going on though, with canoeists offshore exploring the coastline, a diving vessel speeding back round I assume to the beach where I had seen the rest of them before and a bunch of rock climbers practising on some of the steep cliffs.I was pleased to see so much human activity as I was slightly uncomfortable at how bleak the landscape had become, courtesy of our forefathers. It was a relief to head up out of the quarry, although having to walk along the main road for a short distance wasn’t quite what I had in mind for an escape.
Portland Bill

Fortunately the road walking wasn’t far and I was soon heading along a twisting and turning section of path down into Church Ope Cove. This fabulous little cove was not what I was expecting after traversing the quarry.It reminded me of some of the Cornwall stretches of the Coast Path, as the little cove was overlooked by the ruin of Rufus Castle, said to have been built for William II (William Rufus). Not much is left of the keep now, for much of it has fallen prey to coastal erosion.Far below the castle, the cove is flanked by lots of beach huts and although the beach is still popular it is sadly not made of sand any longer as it was another casualty of the quarrying industry, with much of the surface now covered by quarrying debris. Yet, despite that nature is taking charge again and the stones are already turning into rounded pebbles!
Framed By Huts
Having descended almost down to sea level at Church Ope Cove, I faced a rather steep climb up to the base of the castle keep. Having satisfied myself that there was little more to see of the castle up close I continued on my way, soon re-acquainting myself with the railway line that I had followed earlier today on the Rodwell Trail. A short section is available to walk on the Isle of Portland too, as it made its final journey into Easton. I was so taken with the railway line and the rock climbers practising their skills along the former cutting that I missed the fact that I was supposed to climb higher up above the trackbed! No matter, for I found a way up a little further along, although I had to do my best impression of a mountain goat in order to reunite with the official path!
East Coast
At the top of the cliff I was soon aware that I had regained the height that I had on the other side of the island for far below me was the breakwater coming into view. The path continued a course around yet another prison, this time a young offenders institute, but no less formidable looking. I guess Victorian prisoners were left in no doubt about their freedom being taken away! The land below the cliff was clearly used by the military in recent times, with a prominent rifle range in view but now rapidly becoming overgrown due to its lack of use.
Church Ope Cove
Just beyond the prison I passed what could be forgiven for being just another random old shed. This was however the engine shed for the locomotives that worked the quarries in this area. A very noticeable incline leads down towards the port and I should imagine was once a hive of industrial activity. Today the rails are gone and replaced by a road, but not too much imagination is needed to guess what it once looked like. Of course it helped that there were a few pictures showing how things used to look on the side of the old shed.
Rufus Castle
By now I was really thinking about my return to the car and rather than retrace my steps along the same road that I had taken earlier in the day, I took a path leading round yet another quarry (this one still operating!) to reunite with the incline that I had found at the outset of the walk. By now the view had changed a bit as the sun was a little higher in the sky and the shadows were much reduced. I was pleased to see that the bush at the top of the incline attracted so many butterflies, although the numerous red admirals seemed a bit shier than I was used to. I tried in vain to get some decent shots before eventually giving up. Of course the fact that I had a two hour drive home helped focus the mind a bit!
Portland Railway
All in all this was a superb walk – helped of course by the unseasonably warm and sunny weather. Despite not usually liking crowds when I am out, I did really appreciate watching what everyone else was doing. Seeing so many different activities going on put the Isle of Portland into a completely new perspective. Although the settled parts of the island don’t do its natural beauty justice, the coastline is dramatic and definitely worth a look – don’t be tempted to by-pass this section when heading east!
Portland Breakwater

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Rodwell Trail

Rodwell Station
When I completed my last outing on the Dorset stretch of the South West Coast Path I walked along a short stretch of The Rodwell Trail, a fairly short but extremely well used former railway line that once connected Weymouth with the Isle of Portland. It is a railway trail made famous by Julia Bradbury in her series on Railway Walks shown on BBC TV a few years ago. Given that the next stage of the coast path around the Isle of Portland is fairly short I took the opportunity of being in the area to take a look at The Rodwell Trail at the same time.
Ferrybridge
The official trail runs from Ferrybridge to the town centre in Weymouth, following the former railway for most of its length, a remarkable achievement given that it passes through an almost entirely urban area. Further sections of the trail can be walked unofficially along the causeway that linked the Isle of Portland and a short stretch on the island itself. I restricted myself to the official route, principally because I wanted to do this trail by bike and the unofficial sections are not bike friendly.
Site of Whitehead Torpedo Factory
The railway from Weymouth to Portland (Easton) opened in 1865 after a fairly complicated and convoluted construction involving three separate companies and some significant engineering work. Its passenger services were withdrawn as early as 1952, principally because of competition with buses. Its freight purpose to carry away quarried stone gave the line a slightly longer life span but it was completely closed in 1965. The line at the northern end of the Isle of Portland was subsumed within the naval base that once existed there (and which closed in 1996) and a few of the bridges were removed, but otherwise the course of the line is remarkably intact.
Wyke Regis Halt
As it was early in the morning I managed to find myself a parking space at the southern end of the trail at Ferrybridge (I wouldn’t mind betting that I would have struggled at any time other than 8am on a Sunday morning!). From the missing bridge across The Fleet the line is surfaced with tarmac and takes a fairly steady uphill gradient. With the salty air and frequent wet weather this must have been quite a struggle for some of the trains heading into Weymouth. For me on my bike it was not too bad as the surface was nice and smooth and apart from a few dog walkers there weren’t many people about to get in the way of my progress.
Wyke Regis View
Shortly after starting I passed the former Whitehead Torpedo Factory. The last torpedoes were built here in 1966 but the factory continued to produce a variety of engineering products until its final closure in 1994. The factory buildings were demolished in 1997 to make way for the housing development that now abuts the Trail.
Continuing Uphill
Shortly after I reached the overgrown platform of Wyke Regis halt. This was the first of several halts opened in 1909 to try and increase patronage of the line. It, like all the other halts opened at the same time, was short-lived remaining open only until 1952. Yet, most of the single line platform remains in place, complete with sign advising of its existence. I think this was added as a result of a Heritage Lottery grant which enabled the trail to be put on an official footing. As I looked at the platform with its bramble bush covering I couldn’t help think how inconvenient its location was, buried at the bottom of a deep cutting away from the built up area for which the station was supposed to serve. I wonder how successful it was as a station?
Sandsfoot Castle Halt
Beyond Wyke Regis and the line emerged from the cutting to show some remarkable views across to Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth Harbour and the Purbeck Coast beyond. This reprised the section of route that I walked as part of the South West Coast Path earlier in the year, but it was interesting to see how different it all looked with foliage on all the trees and bushes. It was a very pleasant cycle ride along this section, although if I’m honest the views kept me from cycling more than a walking pace! For an October day the weather was unusually clear bright and hot – in fact it felt more like an August day.Already at this early hour I was starting to feel the heat of the day.
Rodwell Station
At Sandsfoot Castle the South West Coast Path left the trail and I continued along the section of trail that I had not previously explored. Almost immediately I came to a fragment of another former halt, which had been provided to serve the nearby castle ruin. This had an even shorter life span than Wyke Regis, lasting only from opening in 1932 for the remaining 20 years of the life of the line. All that remains is part of the old wooden platform that was provided for the expected tourist traffic, although I am guessing that this did not materialise.
Buxton Road Bridge
The climbing continued on to Buxton Road bridge, a handsome three arch bridge over the railway that appears to have lost nothing of its dignity since the closure of the railway. This marked a turning point in the character of the railway as it continued onward through a deep tree covered cutting that was nevertheless not hemmed in feeling. I am guessing that The Friends of Rodwell Trail, a group of volunteers that look after the line see to it that it does not become overgrown. At the far end of this attractive cutting was the station of Rodwell.
Rodwell Tunnel
Rodwell Station was a ‘proper’ station, having been opened with the rest of the branch in 1870. Even in closure and with most of the infrastructure long since removed it still has the feel of a more important station. For a start there are two platforms of pretty decent length and at the Weymouth end is the short (58 yard) Wyke Tunnel. The passing loop at Rodwell was added in 1909 as part of the drive to attract more passengers. The station was also bombed during the war but repaired and re-opened for its few remaining years of service.
Heading Down Into Weymouth
It was slightly disappointing to see that Wyke Road tunnel was being repaired and the passage through was via a boarded off section of path through the middle. Hopefully the work will prove to help the old structure last a bit longer. At the other side of the tunnel it was quite clear that I had now reached the highest point on the line, for the path started dropping away surprisingly steeply. This must have been quite a challenge for the small engines plying this route for most of its existence. For me it was a breeze now and the views soon opened up across to Weymouth Harbour. The Trail was now truly a green lung through the urban development that was probably built around the same time as the line judging by the appearance of the houses.
Gun Emplacement
On the side of the trail some way down the hill is another reminder that Weymouth was very much in the front line during World War II. A former gun emplacement has been restored and now acts as a viewing point across the inland part of Weymouth (ie away from the harbour). Just after this and the tarmac suddenly runs out as the former Newstead Bridge, a rather large structure that caused traffic congestion underneath it (on account of it being so narrow), has now been removed, forcing the walker/ cyclist to descend down a pretty steep path down the side of the embankment to road level. The road was not too busy of course on account of it being early Sunday morning, but it was a pain nonetheless, especially having to climb the other side, which was just as steep! Apparently, if new stories are to be believed, a new span is to be provided here so that walkers and cyclists no longer have to undertake this rather awkward manoeuvre.
Former Newstead Bridge
The remaining part of the trail was very short, with Westham halt soon creeping up on me. This small station still has a platform remaining but did not last very long as it was one of the 1909 additions. From here the line would once have crossed the busy road at what is now the end of the trail via a level crossing and then crossed Radipole Lake to reach the end of the line at Melcombe Regis. No trace of the line exists from here. Melcombe Regis station also officially succumbed to closure along with the rest of the line in 1952, although unofficially it was used as a summer relief station until 1959. All trace of the station has now vanished under the inevitable retail park and would once have been somewhere near what is now MacDonalds.
Westham Halt
I turned tail at Westham Halt to return back to Ferrybridge. As with so many of these closed lines I tried to picture in my minds eye what this one must have been like to travel on. I am guessing that if it could have clung on another 20 years or so it would have made for a spectacular preserved railway. Nonetheless it is amazing that so much of the trackbed has survived being redeveloped and as a railway trail it really has everything, possibly one of the finest I have followed even for such a short distance. It is highly recommended and although I didn’t do so this time, I could see the appeal in continuing onward to Portland. As it happens I did walk stretches of the onward trail, albeit by doing the South West Coast Path. More about that in the next report.

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.
Linchmere
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!