After the success of our family expedition a couple of weeks ago the weather was nice enough for us to have another go & so we had to find another route that was of similar length that had enough interesting things to see on the way that the girls would enjoy the experience. Not really an official walk, but one which I had fancied for some time was to walk across Arundel Park and the Arun Valley between Amberley and Arundel, in a sense continuing the exploration of the countryside that would have been followed by canal craft using the ‘Lost Route to London’ followed in part by the Wey-South Path that I completed in 2009. However, in view of the windy weather, the small children we had with us and having the sun at our backs we followed the route northwards from Arundel.
|Arundel High Street|
The journey on the train from Amberley is an hourly frequency and takes only five minutes, but left the wallet a bit light, being a very steep £7.40 for the four of us! Arundel station isn’t the most convenient, dumping passengers on the busy A27 about half a mile to the south east of the town and leaving a rather unpleasant walk for would be visitors to the town. Luckily, when we reached the bridge over the River Arun things improved immeasurably. The bridge was the first opportunity for a sit down and the surroundings were pleasant enough for the girls to want their picnic already. This worked out nicely as it meant that we had less to carry for the rest of the trip!
|Arundel Post Office|
Looking at the size of the River Arun, it is hard to believe that this was once a thriving port. The odd pleasure boat comes through here now, but the former wharves have long since been replaced by housing. Littlehampton took over port duties from Arundel some miles further downstream, but even that has long since ceased to be a port in the meaningful sense.
|Castle South gate|
Arundel is probably one of the most picturesque towns in all of
Further along the road and we passed by Arundel Cathedral, another gothic creation that vies with the castle for prominence on the Arundel skyline. It probably succeeds from the western side since the Castle occupies the eastern slopes of the town. The Cathedral wasn’t dedicated as such until 1965, as the main Catholic Church of the newly formed diocese of Arundel and
We crossed the road and headed up past the cricket ground. This is one of the most picturesque grounds in all of
The onward path wasn’t quite so easy to spot as we headed down into
|Arundel Park View|
For us though the high level walking was very short lived as our path headed down the other (steeper) side of the hill. The wildflowers that had been lost through the sheep fields that we had travelled through now returned in profusion, mostly a palette of purples and yellows, with the odd common spotted orchid thrown in. It was quite a steep track though and we had to keep our wits about us so as not to slip over. At the bottom where we entered some woodland the path was especially slick after all the rain we had had.
|Common Spotted Orchid|
We passed through the large flint wall that surrounds
|Shadow Over the Barley|
Eventually we picked our way through the woods and came out into a section alongside some large barley fields. The combination of sun breaking through the clouds, picking out certain parts of the fields and the wind waving the feathery crops around was quite a mesmerising spectacle that we all enjoyed. Eventually we reached the small village of South Stoke, where we stopped in the churchyard for a bit of a breather and an afternoon snack to help small people’s energy levels. Fortunately St Leonard's Church was open and so we took the opportunity to look inside. It was a very peaceful church, not very large but well kept and with a modest stained glass window at one end. The church itself was built of knapped flint, like most proper downland churches, but also had an unusually thin tower. In the churchyard was a small flock of sheep being used to try and tackle some of the grass that had grown up around the graves.
After some refreshment and a few minutes to rest we pushed on, heading around the perimeter of the church and making our way down to the River Arun. We crossed via the substantial bridge that looked as if it were provided for a possible road route that never quite happened. A look at the map will show that the roads stop no more than about half a mile apart on either side of the river. I guess having a through route would encourage far too much traffic, so perhaps it is a godsend that it doesn’t exist, for the tranquillity of the valley.
|St Leonard's Church|
We turned immediately left and followed the riverbank for a short distance before heading through another stretch of woodland that appeared to follow a former meander loop. Again the mud through here was fearsome in places and we had to lift the children over the worst of it. Yet, the flowers through here were doing really well, with guelder rose, elderberries, cow parsley and briar roses all doing really well and adding a lot of colour to the woods. The second bridge of our walk was a distinctive little suspension bridge, which seemed to take us across the bog that had now formed from the old meander loop.
The field the other side was full of bullocks – almost all of them stopped what they were doing as we headed through and stared at us. It made us all feel rather self conscious! We headed quickly but steadily across the field, breathing something of a sigh of relief the other side (although we weren’t seriously in any danger). At the far end of the field we entered the village of North Stoke, a place that seemed to be stuck in a time warp, well out of range of normal passing traffic or visitors, stuck down here at the end of a lengthy cul-de-sac road. I guess this would be an ideal place to live for lovers of peace and quiet!
|North Stoke Suspension Bridge|
We headed along the road initially for the last leg of the journey, but soon opted to take a slightly longer route along a footpath heading back to the river after we had some uncomfortable encounters with cars. The footpath turned out to be little better as we had to use various pieces of wood to try and help us cross the path-wide puddles that had formed. By the time we had reached the riverbank once again we had stretched every leg muscle possible trying to avoid the worst of the mud, getting stung or prickled! At the riverbank we found another obstacle in the shape of another herd of bullocks completely blocking the path the other side of our stile. They formed quite a formidable barrier to our onward progress but luckily a few handclaps soon moved them on and they didn’t cause any bother. The rest of the walk along the riverbank to
We did face one last unpleasant stretch though across