Monday, 7 July 2014

Highdown Hill, Patching and Clapham

Highdown Towers

Another sunny Sunday morning arrives and I am up bright and early ready to enjoy another walk in my local area before the weather gets too hot.  This time I thought it was high time I explored more of Highdown Hill and the two villages of Clapham and Patching to the north west of Worthing.  I am familiar of course with these places but never before have I plotted a route that takes them all in together as one walk.

Iron Age Hill Fort
Highdown Hill is a familiar haunt for us when we want to go for a short evening walk.  This small outlier of the Downs overlooks the western fringes of Worthing and on a clear day it is easy enough to see the view from Beachy Head in the east and the Isle of Wight in the west.  On this particular Sunday I managed to find a very clear view and Brighton in particular shone in the early morning sunshine from my vantage point just above the car park.
Highdown View
Highdown Hill has an interesting history and the first hint of the history is the Miller’s Tomb, which is the burial chamber of John Oliver, who was the miller in question.  John Oliver was reputed to be a notorious smuggler who used the mill to warn his gang of impending investigation by customs officers by turning the sails in a certain direction.  He built the tomb when he was 56 but lived until he was 84, dying in 1793.  Some suggest that he used the tomb to stash his contraband.  The mill has long since disappeared but the tomb remains, providing a historical curiosity to all the dog walkers and other visitors to these slopes.

Far Off Arundel Castle
 Early people settled on Highdown Hill as the remains of an Iron Age hill fort will testify.  I imagine that the hill was sufficiently strategic as a vantage point that it was never likely to be ignored for long.  The panorama from the hill is magnificent with a view of at least 50 miles of coast spread before me.  I’m not sure whether the view would have been impeded by trees back then but I suspect that the view would still have been excellent.  Even on the inland side of the hill where there are still a lot of trees I was still surprised how much I could see.  The most eye catching landmark was Arundel Castle, which I have never seen from up here before despite the number of times I have been up here.

Highdown Poppy
From the crest of the hill I headed down towards the now sail-less windmill on the western slopes. This is Highdown New Mill (or Ecclesden Mill), built in 1826 but by the end of the 19th Century it was out of use and by the 1930s it was an ivy clad ruin.  You wouldn’t guess it now as in 1970 it was renovated to become a house and looks quite smart these days, although it never recovered its sails.

Roundstone Boot Fair
As I walked down to the mill a glint of sunlight caught my eyes and as I looked down to where it came from I noticed the large array of cars all gathered for the weekly boot fair at Roundstone Farm below.  The farm is so named apparently after an incident in which a mill stone rolled down the hill following an accident.  The boot fair is an enormous undertaking and from my high vantage point I could see hundreds of people milling around the site like ants.

Highdown View West
Eventually I came  upon the Angmering by-pass, only built within the last ten years but given how it has integrated into the countryside it seems a lot older.  Luckily I didn’t have to mess with it at this stage for my path doubled back around through the estate of Ecclesden Manor, a house of Tudor origin I believe although it was hidden from sight much to my disappointment.  I did enjoy the old estate cottages on the approach road though and especially their well-tended gardens.  Soon I was out into open fields and after wandering alongside some crops I came upon a camp site that I never knew existed (remember that I am no more than five miles from home here!).  The campsite appeared to be populated by a girl’s youth group (Girl Guides maybe?) and they were all busy striking camp.  The frenzy of activity seemed strange considering the peace and quiet I had enjoyed so far.

Highdown New Mill
A little further on and I passed to the side of a farm and then headed down to the Angmering Road that I had by-passed earlier. This time I crossed and walked along it for about quarter of a mile before heading under the dual carriageway section of the A27.  On the north side I met with the old part of the A27 that I remember from my childhood when this stretch was notorious for accidents.  I passed the World’s End pub, which used to be called the Horse and Groom.  As a child I remember the A27 passing through most of these sorts of places in single carriageway, making the journey quite slow but also affording us the perfect journey in which to play pub cricket.  This game kept us amused for ages and relied on scoring runs by the number of legs in a pub’s name.  This one, the Coach and Horses and the Fox just up the road was a big score with the ‘batsman’ getting at least sixteen runs for passing.  In pub cricket if the pub had a name with no legs (eg The Crown), the batter would be out and the turn would pass to the next person.

Ecclesdon Manor Cottages
My road walking continued all the way into the village of Patching but was ok because the road was pretty quiet for its whole length.  I don’t remember exploring this village very much before but I was taken with how picturesque it was.  It was hard to believe I was so close to Worthing as it was so peaceful.  The village has a large number of thatched cottages and yet somehow it managed to stay the right side of being a bit twee.

Dog Rose at Patching
I walked up through the village to take a look at the church at the north end.  The church can be seen from quite a distance away but up close it seems to be nestled into the countryside.  I had to satisfy myself with looking from outside only as it was being readied for the morning’s church service.  I doubled back and took the road over to Clapham village just the other side of the dry valley from me.  By now the day was warming up as it was gone 9.30am.  I had the feeling that it would be quite a hot one later so I was thankful for the early start.

The World's End
Clapham village is not quite as picturesque as Patching but nonetheless there were lots of lovely houses lined up along the main street.  Both are proper Downland villages though with flint cottages largely the order of the day.  I wandered up to Clapham church, which unlike its near neighbour is almost completely hidden from view and even stands away from the village it is meant to serve.  I went up to take a look although as with Patching I had to satisfy myself with an outside look for it was a Sunday.

Patching Church
I then made the mistake of crossing the field behind the church and heading into the wood thinking that this would be my onward path.  When I realised my mistake I didn’t have the motivation to go back so luckily managed to right myself by taking a path through the woods that wasn’t marked on the map.  This was a delightful walk, for the woods were thronged with butterflies and I was pleased that I had finally left the road walking behind.
Patching Cottage

Once back on the right path I left the woods and the air was suddenly filled with a much less pleasing sound as work was going on at what I took to be a rest home for the elderly although it looked like it might have had a former use.  My path then took me across fields towards the north western edge of Worthing and as I got nearer to the A27 once again the sound of traffic disturbed the peace.  I enjoyed looking at the houses on the edge of the woodland that marks the section of Downland between Clapham and Worthing but otherwise I was now reaching a much less interesting part of the walk.  At the end of my track I headed down towards the main road and as I did so the turrets of Castle Goring could be seen above the trees.  Sadly at this time of year that is all you can see of this old building as the frontage is hidden by the trees.

Clapham Church
I crossed the A27 but not without difficulty as this is an extremely busy section.  I could hear loudspeakers on the other side of the road and it took me a while to realise that these were coming from a local Gymkhana.  The piece of countryside to the south of the A27 has a scruffy and unloved feel to it although in truth this wasn’t helped by the rather dishevelled looking rape seed crop that was awaiting harvest.  This area is also zoned for housing so at some point this last piece of major undeveloped land in the Borough will probably be built on.  So far though all such plans have come to no avail as the last set were thrown out by the planning committee.

Zoned For Housing

I wandered around the side of fields and past the large Tesco that has been built here in the last few years, probably in readiness for the new housing estate.  I skirted the existing edge of Worthing and crossed another busy road in the shape of Titnore Lane.  Now my nose was filled with the pungent smell of composting as I passed by the composting facility that occupies the small quarry on the eastern side of Highdown Hill.  The track up the side of the hill was pleasant and thankfully not too steep as by now I was ready for refreshment and an end to walking. 

The Farmhouse Durrington
This was an interesting walk and plenty of history along the way.  Sadly my enjoyment was somewhat diminished by the last couple of miles which were largely uninteresting and seemed to be unnecessary mileage.  I think if I am to repeat this walk I might need to modify the route slightly but on the whole I was satisfied with my morning’s work.


  1. Great views and photographs as usual Paul. The piece about the Miller's Tomb was interesting. I notice you mentioned the flint cottages at Patching and Clapham, sounds a lot like Norfolk!

    On a different subject, I remember reading your accounts of the South West Coast Path. Well I plan to walk it in 2016 when my walking buddy retires and will make use of your notes then. I just hope I will be capable of finishing it at 70.


    1. Thanks Bill - it's good to hear from you again! You won't be disappointed with the SWCP - it's like an epic novel that you won't want to put down. I have 200 miles left but at the rate I'm going I am not sure I will be done by 2016. It's very difficult for me to find the time for any of it now I have a growing family

  2. I love the nature you captured with that camera.