Saturday, 28 June 2014

Washington and Sullington


This year I seem to have been doing walks little and often.  Getting out to do the big expeditions has been very difficult due to family commitments but instead I have been enjoying early morning Sunday walks a lot more locally.  In fact considering I have lived in Worthing for 14 years I am still surprised at how many local walks I haven’t done and I am very keen to redress this over the coming months.  What I am aiming for is to develop a bank of local walks that I can just do without thinking too hard about where I want to go.

Common Spotted Orchid
On this particular morning I thought it was high time that I explored a section of the Downs on the other side of the valley from Chanctonbury Ring.  Most of the time when we head up onto the Downs we focus attention on the part between Washington and Steyning and almost ignore the adjacent section along to Amberley.  Yet, in many respects this ridge of the Downs has more to commend it.

I set off from Washington village, parking by the church.  I am not sure how this small Downland village came to have the same name as the founding US President as apparently he took his name from another Washington in the north east of England.  However the village is typical of Downland villages in Sussex with predominantly flint built houses and a popular looking pub that came with the construction of the east-west and north-south turnpike roads that are now the A283 and A24 respectively.  The main roads now by-pass the village giving it a rather tranquil air slightly removed from modern life rushing by.
Dog Rose

I crossed the by-pass bridge and headed initially along the path along the foot of the Downs.  This is actually an alternative route for the South Downs Way which avoids the dangerous road crossing further south on the main route. The traffic noise soon receded as I dog legged around some of the rather well appointed looking country houses.  It would soon be clear that this would be a day for enjoying wildflowers.  Although most of the spring ones had now gone, including bluebells and wood anemones there was a lingering smell of the wild garlic from the now withered looking leaves.  Other flowers were also taking their place including bramble flowers, poppies and various types of orchid.  With the flowers were large numbers of insects and the air was alive with the buzzing of bees and flies and it truly felt that the transformation from spring to summer was well underway.
Small Tortoiseshell

Once clear of the houses I headed up a track that took me slowly up the scarp slope of the Downs.  This was not a steep climb but a slow and steady one and I took the opportunity to wander slowly so that I could take in the ever-changing view as I ascended.  The heat of the day was tempered by a lovely breeze and as I reached the top of the Downs I got the full benefit.  Alongside my path were lots of brambles and these were alive with butterflies, especially small tortoiseshells, which seem to absolutely love these extensive thickets.

Chantry Hill Poppies
At the top of the slope a large piece of stone caught my eye, principally as this is so unusual in a Downland setting (chalk doesn’t tend to last too long in the open air).  When I got up close I discovered a memorial which looked half finished.  It seemed to be fashioned into a kind of chair, but the block that had been removed from the larger piece of stone to create the ‘seat’ was left to one side.  When I looked at the date of the memorial I realised that it probably was its finished state, which struck me as even odder.
Chantry Hill Views

After pausing for a few minutes I headed on my way and soon met up with the South Downs Way.  This was initially set back from the top of the ridge so my views were southward rather than northward as I would have expected.  Below me in the far distance I could see Worthing, although it looked close enough to easily walk to.  As I headed west the view of the western end of the Sussex coast and beyond towards the Isle of Wight opened up.  I always am surprised at how green this area looks, considering that the Sussex Coast is so densely populated.

Chantry Hill Views
I followed the South Downs Way until the Chantry Post Car Park.  This rather handy place is good as a base from which to launch other walking opportunities and I have no doubt that in the months to come I shall probably try a few possibilities out.  I stood and admired the view south for a few minutes (and also the radiant poppies in the adjacent fields) before heading over the ridge on to the north side. 

Common Rock Rose
This was perhaps the most delightful part of the walk.  I had a very welcome breeze in my face and a fantastic view right out across the Weald of Sussex towards Horsham and Box Hill beyond.  The sky was full of wispy cirrus clouds and I couldn’t take my eyes off the view!  Sadly my route soon took me back down the scarp slope and to the farm at the bottom of Chantry Lane.  All the way down the grassland was full of a profusion of flowers, most notably common spotted and pyramidal orchids.  At the bottom of the hill I had to cross a field of racehorse who bowled over to me to see whether I had any titbits for them to eat.

The Chantry
I headed east along the foot of the Downs, passing a hayfield getting its early summer cut.  It seemed weird seeing this already but looking at the uncut part of the field it clearly needed it.  On the other side of my path the field of barley was looking in a complete state, albeit very green and some way from harvesting.  It waved in the wind in a rather mesmerising way, creating sweeping patterns as the stalks were caught by the breeze.
Wind Blown Crops

I soon reached Sullington Church, a rather small parish church at the foot of the Downs that appears to have lost the village it was meant to serve.  I took the opportunity to take a look inside and discovered that it was very well kept and obviously well used which was rather heartening.  The stained glass windows looked particularly good in the bright sunlight.

Sullington Church Windows
My onward route back to Washington was largely through fields of broad beans.  I wouldn’t necessarily have known that from the appearance of the plants (I am no bean expert!), but the smell was unmistakable!  Virtually all the plants were in full flower and the scent from the flowers was broad beans – I can’t believe that I have lived all these years and not previously known that! 
Sullington Church

My route back to Washington was undemanding but with the day now getting a lot hotter I was rather relieved by that.  About half a mile short of the village I found myself back on the path that I had taken my outward journey on and the traffic noise soon returned.  Despite this small annoyance though this was a delightful walk and one which I think may well become a regular for me.  The view from the top of Chantry Hill is probably the highlight but I also enjoyed the two churches of Washington and Sullington

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