Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Angmering Park

Road Through The Park
We have been really lucky with the weather during November especially as a number of uninspiring weather forecasts have turned out to be anything but.  One of our favourite local walks is around Angmering Park, but we mostly go only in the spring when it is bluebell season so I thought it would be good to see how it shapes up for autumn colours for a change.  We only had a short time before it would get dark so it was important for us to get a bit of a wriggle on if we were to complete in the couple of hours we had. So as not to burn the children out on ‘walks’ this one was instead billed as a nature ramble and they both ran upstairs after lunch and got themselves kitted out with notebooks and pencils so that they could record their findings!

Sign Fungi

On arrival at The Dover, the kids jumped out and set about their task very enthusiastically, recording every leaf, chestnut case and fungus they could find.  I felt like I was taking them on a scientific field trip!  It did make for very slow walking at times but in truth it was glorious in the woods and didn’t make it a trial at all.

Glimpse Out of the Trees

Our route took us from the car park at The Dover (just north of Poling village) and along one of the estate roads heading east.  It was very wet everywhere and we already had the sense that the mud would be fearsome later on so it was good initially to get some distance under our feet along a tarmac path.  At the next junction we lost the tarmac and almost instantly the going got distinctly worse.  My sharp eyed daughter did discover a rather unusual sight – a fungus that I had never seen before growing on a signboard for the Angmering Estate.  What was particularly striking about this fungus was that it had very helpfully grown in the same colour scheme adopted by the Estate, a sort of maroon colour.

Pine Avenue
The onward track rather reminded me of the sort of cart tracks that would have been used by coaches and horses hundreds of years ago.  Deeply rutted and with the ruts full of puddles it made for challenging walking and yet roads like these were the only ways people could get about in days of yore.  The woods all around us were dark and had little of the late autumn sunshine penetrating through.  I think we were all mightily relieved to get through that section and out into more open countryside.

Staghorn Fungi

At the corner of a set of paths we changed direction and headed north through open beech woodland.  This was a delightful stretch of walking – the path was drier and the sun filtered through the increasingly brown and yellow leaves.  Along our route I paused a number of times, finding different species of fungi along the way.  By now though the season for fungi was coming to an end as many of the specimens were well past their best or chewed up by slugs and other creatures.  The only ones that were looking particularly good were the curious little Stag Horn fungi that are a surprisingly colourful addition to the woodland floor at this time of year.
Reflections of Autumn

We briefly took a route along the Monarch’s Way through the woods.  This long distance footpath through England is supposed to be a close match to the route taken by the fleeing future King Charles II after he had been defeated by Cromwell’s New Model Army at Worcester in 1651.  This would be a fantastic route to do as a complete walking project but at 615 miles in length it would be a major undertaking.  It certainly demonstrates the size of the task that was necessary in getting the King to safety 350 years ago.

Old Man's Beard
At the north end of the woods we left the Monarch’s Way and headed out onto a ridge above the Downs where we got a grand view out towards Chanctonbury Ring and Amberley beyond.  We were lucky enough to spot a pair of red kites wheeling around over the Downs looking for things to eat.  These amazing birds have made something of a comeback in recent years after they were hunted to the brink of extinction in this country.

Red Kite
The section of ridge is quite short but has an amazing view, one that would be more associated with the scarp face of the Downs some 3 miles or so further north.  Across this part of the Downs are a few homes associated with AngmeringPark.  It appears to be very much horse breeding and training country for most of the buildings and fields are set up for horsey type activities.  Of course this isn’t too far from where the famous trainer Josh Gifford was once based before his recent death.

Ridge View
At the end of the ridge we turned back south to complete the last section of our loop around the park.  We wandered down a surfaced track that was quite a relief after all the mud, heading down through some farm buildings that gleamed in the golden light of the sun.  It soon became clear that these too were horse-owning people and the girls delighted in the friendly horses that came up to say hello.

Fading Light
By now the girls had lost interest in their nature note-taking and had reverted back to discussing fairies.  This seems to be their default chatter wherever we go now and keeps them occupied for hours!  My thoughts were focused on trying to get them back to the car in good time for the sun was already sinking in the sky and I was acutely aware that the car park gate shuts at dusk.  It was a bit tricky to get them moving quickly as they were so embroiled in their stories but thankfully we did get back in time.  All of us were covered in mud, but it was a glorious afternoon and we came home feeling that we had truly earned our dinner!

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