Thursday, 2 January 2014

A Tale of Two Rings

Setting Off From Findon
Our last walking trip of the autumn season was necessarily a local affair due to the lack of time we had at our disposal.  We only had a short afternoon in which to complete our walk, so I thought that we ought to explore the two Iron Age Hill Forts close to our house and then return back to the house.  My original intention was to get the bus from where we live up to Washington village so that we could walk up and over Chanctonbury Ring first and then Cissbury Ring.  Unfortunately I misjudged my bus timings and discovered that the bus would only take us as far as Findon village, some two miles short of our intended destination.

Chanctonbury View South
Once off the bus but before we got going we had a sandwich in the play area and the girls had a little swing.  Our immediate problem was that we only had about three hours of daylight available and it was imperative therefore that I got the girls going as quickly as I could so that we could complete the 5 miles or so before it got dark.
Brooding Sky

Our first task was locating the right path up to Chanctonbury Ring and this necessitated a walk alongside the A24, which was fairly unpleasant.  The only saving grace was that we had plenty of distance between us and the cars, courtesy of the wide verge.  It was a relief though when we turned right after quarter of a mile or so and headed up the hill.  Not far along the way and we encountered a rather dishevelled looking hiker who looked very confused.  He asked us whether we could help him with his directions as he was lost and I could immediately see why.  His only navigational aid was a battered old newspaper clipping of a walk at least six miles away at the nearest point.  I did my best with directions but since he disappeared so quickly I have no idea whether he found his way to where he needed to go or not.  Hopefully he isn’t still wandering about on the South Downs!

Chanctonbury View North
The climb up to Chanctonbury was long and slow going. Although the girls are getting used to distance we haven’t put too many hills in the walks we have done so far and so getting them to the top of the hill proved to be a bit of a struggle.  However, our efforts were rewarded when the rather overcast conditions we had experienced thus far turned into glorious sunshine as we reached the trees that mark Chanctonbury Ring.  These were planted by Charles Goring in the 1700s, some say to ensure that the 5th Century BC Iron Age Hill Fort was not excavated.  Even now there is a lot of folklore about the place, including one tale that suggests that circling the trees anti-clockwise 7 (some say 13) times would summon the Devil.
Chanctonbury Ring

The Ring itself is now starting to recover after the trees were almost completely decimated by the Hurricane of 1987 and is almost back to what it was back then.  We enjoyed the view from the top especially as the light was so good.  To the north of us there were lots of threatening looking clouds although the odd gap was penetrated by the sun shining a spotlight on small areas of the Wealden countryside.  The view is surely one of the finest in Sussex and certainly somewhere worth lingering.  Sadly for us there wasn’t really enough time to linger as we had the small matter of heading on  down the gradual and lengthy slope to Cissbury.

Distant Chanctonbury
Cissbury Ring is a much grander affair than Chanctonbury.  It is the second largest hill fort in England and covers an area of 60 acres.  Walking the ramparts is one of our favourite evening walks and during the summer the turf is a profusion of flowers and attending butterflies.  

Approaching Cissbury
As we got closer and closer to Cissbury we became acutely aware that the sun was sinking fast and we enjoyed the most glorious sunset from the top of the hill.  The Isle of Wight formed the backdrop to the orange sky and a ship marked the horizon, making for a fantastic scene.

Cissbury Sunset
However much we enjoyed the sunset the main problem was that we still had a fair bit of a walk down into Worthing in the gathering gloom.  This provoked a good deal of imagination and stories from the children that weren’t altogether helpful, but they did complete the route without too many complaints. Any thoughts that I had walked them too far were dispelled by the fact that they still didn’t sleep that night!  This was a very good route for them – lots of great views, plenty of interesting things to look at and the sunset topped it all!


  1. Hi Paul

    I find it quite amusing that most people don't realise the great walking on their own doorstep, your's looks excellent. I often met folk, especially when walking in the Lake District, who had no navigational aids and would ask for the right directions.

    Your girls are going to grow up with a great appreciation of nature and the countryside and that's a tribute to you.


  2. Thanks Bill,
    It's good to hear from you. Now my girls are getting bigger and starting to like walking more, I think these kinds of walk will become a more regular feature of my blog. I have something rather unusual in mind for this next year too.

    Kind regards