Monday, 6 October 2014

Loxwood and the Wey South Path

Merry Hills
Back to Sussex again now after all the trips away.  For the next few weeks at least it is unlikely that I am going to be able to do any ambitious trips but we are trying to pack a number of shorter walks in to keep up our fitness and enjoy the progress of autumn.  This next walk is from the Pathfinder Guide “West Sussex and the South Downs” (volume 66) and walk number 8.  Much of the route reprises footpaths I have taken when walking the Wey South Path and the Sussex Border Path, but I was keen to see the progress of restoration work along the canal.

We saw this as possibly the last opportunity for an evening walk – by now the evenings were noticeably drawing in and soon we’ll have no evening daylight at all.  I do like the early mornings and evenings for walking – it is such a treat to have them.  The winter months do seem so very long.

Golden Fields
Because of the lateness of the day we did not chance our arm at the Onslow Arms car park as suggested in the guide book but instead parked in Loxwood village. The first part of the walk was along the intriguingly named Spy Lane (I wonder how it got that name?) until we reached a small church.  He we turned and headed into the countryside where we were greeted with a sight that we only half expecting - a healthy crop of blackberries already ripe and ready to collect.  Luckily we had brought some containers on the offchance and set about collecting as many as we could, completely filling what we had brought.  We did linger for quite a while before I became aware that the light was going to fade on us unless we continued our walk.

Common Fleabane
After crossing a couple of fields we headed northwards but only after stopping to admire the view back towards the South Downs.  In these Wealden parts of Sussex it is easy to forget how high you climb for the terrain is not as pronounced as the Downs.  Yet there are spots such as this where a view can extend for many miles.

Sir Roger Tichbourne Pub
We continued to pick as we walked alongside golden fields of wheat and barley.  They would surely be cut any day now looking at their ripeness.  All around us were the beautiful golden colours of late summer - scenes that are short lived and very special.  The hedgerows were brimming with the fruits of autumn and the last flush of summer flowers and it was hard not to be distracted especially as my family were heading off into the distance while I stopped to look!

Oakhurst Farm
Eventually we came back to the main road after passing the wonderfully named Songhurst New Farm and Merry Hills.  The path came out opposite the Sir Roger Tichbourne pub, now looking in rude health once again after several years of neglect and closure.  We had to walk a short distance along the main road, which was not pleasant before turning right and heading down another country lane devoid of traffic. 

Purple Loosestrife
At Oakhurst Farm I was curious to see progress on the large farmhouse that had largely been a building site when I passed by in January 2012.  Much progress had been made but the site was still far from finished.  I guess it will be some time before completion.  For now though it wasn’t easy to see what still needs to be done, for most of the site is now obscured from view unfortunately.

Restoration Work
We wound our way through the countryside along the Sussex Border Path before reaching the old Wey and Arun Canal.  This is a path I have walked a few times and it was very interesting to me to see how much progress had been made on restoration works since I was last here over 18 months ago.  It looks like a significant stretch will be completed in the next few months, weather willing.  Much of the walk here though is rather spoiled by the current restoration works which has turned the towpath into a mudbath and ruined by caterpillar tyre tracks in places as the heavy machinery rumbles along here to do most of the donkey work.  It is all a far cry from the days of the navvy back when the canal was first built.

Devil's Hole Lock
Since my last visit along here I was rather heartened to see a whole new section of canal had actually opened to boat traffic, with another mile surely ready anytime within the next couple of years.   It is starting to really progress.
Flight of the Heron
Along the path we also saw a few natural wonders with sightings of deer, a kingfisher and a heron all making an appearance, much to our excitement.  The sun had most disappeared by the time we got back to the car but what a beautiful evening it had been (and good pickings too!)