Monday, 2 June 2014

Chanctonbury Round

At The Foot of Chanctonbury Ring

My latest Sunday morning walk was quite close to home as I had limited time available.  I think this particular one could become quite a popular route for us over the next few years as it has almost every element of the perfect outing – history, woodlands, a great view and even some sea if you crane your neck enough.  It was rather a strange mixture of very muddy in places and very dry elsewhere so my pace was rather intermittent and the whole thing took slightly longer than I had anticipated.

Abandoned Tram
I started out at the car park at the foot of the Downs at Chanctonbury Ring, which is approached via a short lane from Wiston.  I headed east through Great Barn Farm and as I did so I made sure to look out for any old farm relics as I did so.  I have found that there are some great old rusting tractors and other machinery lurking in some of these yards.  I wasn’t disappointed although I was rather unprepared for what I found – a disused tram car.  Not sure where it came from but it looked continental and is now being used to store all sorts of what I euphemistically might call memerobilia.

Morning Light
My walk along the lane was very muddy and I soon got quite practised at hopscotch around the puddles and the worst of the mud.  This looked like an old coaching road, but progress along it by horse and cart back in the day must have been very slow and uncomfortable.  The light along this section of path though more than made up for the muddy conditions.  My nose was full of scent from the wildflowers and especially the cow parsley that lined the verges all the way along. 

Wiston House
I soon came to Wiston House, a rather large manor house that is home to the Wilton Park Conference Centre, established immediately after World War II.  This is renowned as a venue for international politics and started life helping shape peacetime Europe as hosted by Winston Churchill.  The building has a long history too dating back to Tudor times and being a key building in the English Civil War.  It is now owned by the Goring family and has been for many generations back to the middle of the 18th Century.  Views from the path aren’t that great though – I guess somewhat deliberately.  No statesman is going to want to be gawped at while eating their breakfast kippers by a dishevelled and sweaty hiker…

Mouse Lane View
As I continued the path opened out somewhat and the conditions underfoot dried out.  I was now walking along Mouse Lane towards Steyning and the open aspect of the path made me realise that the air was rather murkier than I expected.  Instead of being clear there was a vague mist hanging around the countryside, possibly courtesy of the early hour. 

Glimpse Back at Wiston
Just before reaching the edge of Steyning I took a left along a narrow path and climbed steadily up the scarp slope of the Downs.  Initially the path followed the edge of a field and was lined with a profusion of wild flowers and especially pink campion, may blossom and dog roses.  As I climbed I got a brief look across towards the scarp slope of the Downs at Truleigh Hill and then back towards Wiston House before plunging into woodland for the rest of the climb.  This is clearly a popular route for mountain bikers as there was evidence of them being around all the way up the hill, but I think I had managed to get up before any of them!

Truleigh Hill View
I puffed my way to the top enjoying the coolness of the trees now they are fully clothed.  This certainly made for easier walking conditions as the day was already starting to get surprisingly hot even though it was only breakfast time.  At the top of the hill I finally ran into some cyclists and in fact I soon realised that there were plenty about – they just seemed to be restricted to the South Downs Way.  Seeing how dry it was though I can’t say that I blame them.  The views south from here were rather better than northward – maybe the sea air was fresher than that north of the Downs?

View Across to Cissbury
For me I was now walking a well worn route to Chanctonbury Ring.  This viewpoint is one of my favourites and seems to change every time I come up here.  Today though the view wasn’t that great on account of the misty conditions that I described earlier.  I couldn’t even see an inversion – just murkiness, which was rather disappointing.  The grassland surrounding the old ring though was pretty as a picture, covered mostly in buttercups and clover.  I did hang around looking for some good photo opportunities but in truth I think that I had better luck back in the autumn and winter.

Summer Meadow at Chanctonbury Ring
Just past the Ring and I headed down the steep track that leads towards the village of Washington.  I was pleased I hadn’t come up this way for it was very steep and I soon heard the puffing and blowing of a group of girls that were heading in the opposite direction.  When they approached I soon realised that they were half my age and I knew then that if they were struggling I certainly would!  They did slightly annoy me though for I had the perfect butterfly image lined up until it was disturbed by their panting…

Murky View
Ahead through the trees I could see the former windmill at Rock Common.  It looks worthy of investigation (maybe a future exploration?) and certainly an unusual home.  My view was short lived as once again I disappeared down into the woodland for the short distance back to the car park.  This was not a particularly pleasant walk though for the track was very muddy, courtesy of the shade created by the trees and the clay underfoot.  I was very relieved when I got back to the car. 

Rock Common Windmill
For a couple of hours walk this was perfect.  I may well try it again when conditions are dryer and maybe in the evening would make for a different mood?

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