The two biggest enemies for December walking are the shortage of daylight hours and the sea of mud that normally comes with every path! It pays not to be too ambitious for what can be achieved on these short days and I was quite pleased that I could cut my cloth according to the amount of time I had! I changed my plans somewhat as I had a later than normal start to my walk and I was keen to revisit the area around The Lake that I had only managed to see during my rather fog-bound walk last time out.
I parked at the pocket car park at the Woodland Trust site at Durfold Wood. Luckily I was one of only two cars there, as there are only about half a dozen spaces at most. From the car park I took the track leading into the wood so that I could meet up with the Sussex Border Path at the south end. Although marked on the map as an unofficial track, the quality of it seemed pretty good until I got into the wood proper. The quality deteriorated until eventually I wasn’t sure there was a track at all!I think the people from the Ordnance Survey were being a bit ambitious showing it on the map. After fighting my way through bushes I eventually emerged on to the right path.Despite all the discomfort of not having a proper path to follow it was lovely wandering through the woodland on such a lovely sunny day, as the few remaining leaves on the trees reflected the light so well.
At the far end of the ‘path’ was a large clearing created by forestry activity. Clear cutting of this nature is quite unusual in Sussex and so it was quite a stark sight. However, at the edge of the clearing was a very healthy looking holly bush taking full advantage of the new found light it had gained after the loss of its neighbours. Luckily it was well away from any roads as it would surely have been plundered for its bright red berries. I followed the SBP for only a short distance before heading down towards Winkins Woods Farm. By now the heavy soil underfoot had caused me some discomfort and so I proceeded rather more slowly as I continued towards the Lake.
When I got to the twin farms of Haymans and Little Haymans, I was rather curious to see that there was plenty of building work going on. I also had to keep my wits about me as the builders had rigged up a number of level lines with string and pegs, creating quite a tripping hazard. I managed to negotiate my way through the mud and building work to head out across a number of fields before finally getting to The Lake.Last time out I had only the briefest glimpse of this body of water, but now approaching from this side I was amazed to see how big this body of water actually was. I am guessing that it once fed a water mill, as there were some mill-like building below what looked like a dam at the end I had approached.I took the opportunity to linger and have my lunch here – it was a most agreeable place to stop.
The official path continued onwards towards Frith Lodge. However, I wanted to see a bit more of the Lake and so I rather naughtily continued along the side of the field so I could get a longer view. I took care not to trespass on to the section that was controlled by the local angling society – they were quite keen to keep out walkers! Presumably they disturb the anglers’ peace and quiet! I’m not sure I was trespassing by following the field edge, but as it was a weekday and I was by myself I didn’t think anyone would mind too much, especially as there seemed to be a path of sorts. I did feel relieved when I reached the path I had last walked down three weeks earlier though.
The mood of this part of the lake was rather different to the other week when the fog had descended and I was surrounded by gloominess. Now everything had a fresh feel in the crisp winter air and I could actually see the view as I wandered up past the Deer Tower & I was really pleased that I had chosen to head back this way rather than take the route recommended by the guide book. The Deer Tower still looked deserted, which was a pity. I could live in a place with such character! Maybe it is a holiday house?
I pushed on past Shillinglee Park and took a look at the North Ponds, which had been almost invisible last time out. Today they positively glowed! I retraced my steps and headed along the road rather than taking the path that I had last time out. This saved me a bit of time and I had already concluded that I wouldn’t see anything that I hadn’t last time out. As it happens I got a new view of the rather impressive looking Shillinglee House, which I had completely missed last time. In the field next to me was a rather surprising looking addition to the field of sheep – an ostrich strutting around! It looked like it had some serious attitude so I didn’t get too close!
At White’s Hill, I finally caught up with the SBP. When I looked at my watch I was rather surprised to see that I had already used half my time getting to this point so I knew I would have to put my skates on a bit to catch up some time! Luckily now I was on the official path, the going was rather easier and I didn’t have to constantly map read in order to navigate myself. The path followed a ridge of sorts between fields and woods mostly, although there was a brief interlude when I crossed an all-weather horse racing training gallops.I also met a man heading in the same direction as me with a very large dog that was straining at the leash.He looked rather annoyed to see me as I think we wanted to let the dog go running across the fields. Both he and I were relieved when we went our separate ways.
The next couple of miles were a very pleasant ramble along field edges and through pieces of woodland. The fungi, which had been such a feature of my autumn season of walks this year were starting to die off. Some of the trees still had leaves on, but mostly they were now bare as winter started to take hold. Eventually I reached the end of Durfold Wood again and passed a house where the dogs let loose in the grounds of an adjacent large house were barking their brains out at me. It was rather an irritating encounter especially as the dogs were very persistent and the grounds were quite large. Still, I guess the owners are unlikely to have any problem with burglars!
I skirted the rather odd little settlement at Shortlands Copse; a group of houses arranged like a mini housing estate that was strange in as much as it wasn’t connected to any other village. I did spot a small bungalow on the edge of the settlement that would be desirable for a single person to live in (as long as you got on with your neighbours that is!).
I crossed the main road ahead by a very attractive looking lodge house and headed out over the fields. This onward section of walk skipped between Sussex and Surrey, which meant that the signage wasn’t always terribly reliable. In fact when I got into the woods further ahead I had my worst navigational nightmare for some time, when I followed the signage and found myself walking along a path that I wasn’t convinced was what it purported to be. Very overgrown in places, it was not a pleasant experience. Added to that and the sunny weather that I had enjoyed thus far was now being replaced by some very overcast conditions and the day definitely began to lose its shine somewhat.
Eventually when I had managed to find my way once again I ended up walking along a well maintained track through the woods, which was rather more pleasurable. As I walked along I noticed a very low flying helicopter passing overhead. I didn’t take too much notice of it at the time, but a little further ahead when I came to the end of Hog Copse I passed a very large Dallas type ranch-house with the helicopter parked on the front lawn! Further down the garden I was also rather perturbed by a couple of cows that looked a bit unnatural, when I realised that they were in fact made of plastic. Maybe they were made by the same company that supplied Milton Keynes?
A bit further on and I reached Burberry Bridge. For me this signalled the end of the official part of my walk today. I would be heading back via the towpath of the Wey and Arun Canal, a walk I had previously taken in August 2009. Wandering along the towpath today was rather a different proposition from back then, with a chill wind in my face now that the sun had disappeared. The towpath was very muddy in places too, which wasn’t very pleasant walking. I did make some quick time though as the towpath is nice and flat and there was no problem with navigation.I wandered along for about two miles and thought at one stage that I might get a bit more sunshine as the clouds broke. However, what I did get as I wandered back through the woods to the car park was a dose of rain and it got very dark as I returned. I was extremely relieved to get back to the car after trudging through some very uninspiring woodland for the last couple of miles back.
This section of the Sussex Border Path was very pleasant but there were some navigational problems along the route. There was a lot of woodland walking, which although very pleasant, didn’t afford a great many views. It may have been better to tackle this section during the autumn or spring months when the woodland was at its best. Even the canal towpath section of the return route was a bit drab, although that was probably due in the main to the overcast weather that I had by now encountered.
|The Old Canal|