Monday, 10 November 2014

Wolstenbury From Hurstpierpoint

Hurstpierpoint Village Sign

One of my favourite viewpoints in all of Sussex is Wolstenbury Hill, sadly bypassed by the South Downs Way.  With a beautiful sunny day upon us I was pleased when my girls picked walk 10 out of the Pathfinder Guide Volume 52 (More Sussex Walks) as it gave us the opportunity to pop into the village of Hurstpierpoint, take in the views from Wolstenbury Hill and pass by the old Elizabethan house of Danny.
Hurstpierpoint Church

We parked in the free car park in the centre of Hurstpierpoint and wandered initially down towards the church and turned left at the roundabout down Brighton Road.  Fortunately there was a narrow pavement for the road was very busy and didn’t make for particularly pleasant walking.  Just at the end of the housing we crossed the road and headed along a narrow path at the back of some housing.  I am writing this a few weeks after we actually completed the walk and so much of the landscape I am about to describe will by now have completely changed as the season progresses.  This was late September and the air temperature at least seemed like late summer and there were still barbecues still on the go in the back gardens, while the church bells rang out for a wedding at the church.

Wolstenbury Approaching
As we walked along the hedgerows the crops had been harvested but many of the bushes themselves were still heaving with wild fruit.  Luckily we had come prepared with tubs and collected large juicy blackberries as we made our way along the track around the perimeter of Washbrooks Farm.  This farm caters for small children and we have had plenty of enjoyable visits ourselves there in the past.  We could hear the far off peals of laughter and sounds of children playing, which was rather a joy to hear.  Butterflies were still servicing many of the remaining flowers on the field edges, although by now everything definitely had a rather tired look about it as we head into autumn proper.
Beech Nuts

The loop around Washbrooks wasn’t the most inspiring start to the walk but things definitely got better as the looming presence of Wolstenbury came back into sight.  We re-cross Brighton Road and headed through the delightful (if slightly scarily named) surroundings of Bedlam Street.  Somewhere in the field beyond this point is the remains of a Roman  Villa apparently, although with no immediate access we didn’t investigate the mark on the map.  There is a Roman Road that runs across this part of Sussex roughly east to west so perhaps not a huge surprise that there is a villa here.
Wolstenbury Caterpillar

At Randolph’s Farm we were directed around the edge of the farm and then on to a very pleasant track through some woods with the hill getting ever closer.  The children were getting rather anxious about its size, especially when I told them we would have to climb to the top!  Bribery with sweets helped along this section and especially as we started to climb.

View North From Wolstenbury
Anyone who knows the South Downs will be aware that they are not the biggest of hills but the climb up the scarp slope is quite an undertaking.  We took it slowly with the girls taking a look at flowers and butterflies on the way to try and distract them from getting too puffed out.  There were also a couple of strategic moments when we had to wait for families coming down the narrow path and this helped too.  What did not help though was the fact that part way up the hill we took a wrong turn and started heading in the wrong direction – we corrected ourselves by heading across a field of rough pasture but it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience and the girls struggled a bit.

View West From Wolstenbury
Eventually we got to the top and the view was magnificent all around.  Being an outlying hill along the ridge of the Downs is definitely very helpful.  This allows for a proper 360o view and starting out from the point behind us we could see the high rise buildings of Brighton city centre.  Moving around we could see the Downs above where we had walked to the Chattri Memorial earlier in the year, the Jack and Jill Windmills and then down into the clay vale.  The line of Greensand villages stood up above the low lying countryside with the High Weald off in the far distance.  Finally off to the west the line of the Downs continued past Devil’s Dyke to Chanctonbury Ring and beyond.
View of Jack and Jill

Having caught our breath and drunk in the view we headed straight down the hill once again and back towards Hurstpierpoint.  This proved to be a steeper descent than the way up but did provide for some running entertainment for the little ones.  At the bottom of the hill we passed through a small wooded area and then along a road for a short while. 

The remaining part of the walk was across fields of rough pasture, mostly with sheep keeping down the growth although in at least two of the fields they were replaced by alpacas, still a rather incongruous sight in the British countryside to my eyes.  The main point of interest along this part of the walk though was Danny, a large mansion that has had an interesting history.  Built originally in Elizabethan times it was significantly remodelled in Queen Anne’s time.  Prime Minister Lloyd George rented the place in 1918 and the house became the unlikely setting for the drawing up of the Armistice that concluded the Great War.  The house is now divided into apartments, which seems rather dull by comparison.

The route across the remaining fields was pleasant and we had to pay attention to our navigation due to the plethora of paths.  We eventually came out into the centre of Hurstpierpoint once again and wandered back through the main street.  For a relatively small place it has some rather interesting shops although the ambience of the village centre is rather spoiled by the amount of traffic passing through.

Back to Hurstpierpoint
This is a pretty and largely untaxing short walk, with outstanding views from Wolstenbury Hill and an interesting view of Danny.  There are few problems with navigation (so long as you take the right path up the hill!) and certainly child friendly as my kids proved.  A popular choice and probably one we might try again!

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