Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Cissbury Ring From Findon

Setting Off

Sometimes I am in the mood for a walk that is purely all about the views and doesn’t necessarily provide lots of historical or natural interest.  The Downs to the north of Worthing are definitely a case in point.  Largely devoid of trees or landmarks there is nevertheless an overwhelming feeling of space and freedom and this latest walk was definitely out to capture as much of that mood as possible.  This is walk 4 from the Pathfinder Guide volume 52 ‘More Sussex Walks’, rather misleadingly called ‘Cissbury Ring From Findon’.  I say misleadingly because the walk actually starts from the car park at the top near to Cissbury Ring and more than a mile from Findon.

My girls joined me on this walk as they were anxious for some fresh air too after a week of being cooped up indoors courtesy of the wet weather.  Today was a different prospect – big skies with puffy white clouds billowing across the landscape and lighting which showed off the South Downs at their very best.  From the car park we headed due east, not a direction we normally go from here.  The chalky path was surprisingly tricky underfoot due to the rather jagged looking flints that poked up to provide some rather nasty tripping hazards for anyone not paying attention.
Hawthorn Berries

Along the path was a very wintry looking landscape becoming rather devoid of colour as the lushness of the vegetation has diminished considerably.  A few of the hawthorn bushes were manfully hanging on to their red berries but the early lustre of shiny autumn fruit had been replaced by matt versions…  The girls wandered along behind me chattering to themselves leaving me to admire the landscape and the magnificent clouds.
Magnificent Clouds

At Stump Bottom we paused briefly to take a look at a rather interesting looking dewpond.  I have never really understood why they are called dewponds, for they cannot be fed by dew.  What is indisputable though is that they are vital on the dry landscape of the South Downs.  Water cannot normally collect on the Downs as the underlying chalk is so permeable.  The days of the dewponds wholly servicing the refreshment needs of livestock are gone though and many, including this one, have become mini-ecosystems in an otherwise alien environment.

Lychpole Farm
We pushed on to the crest of the hill and then took a turn down to the right into a valley now occupied by Lychpole Farm.  This rather well appointed farm is tucked down into one of the dry valleys of the Downs and judging by the size of the farmhouse I would suspect that the original farmer did quite well for himself.  As we headed down into the farm we passed the only person that we met along the whole route before the end at Cissbury Ring.  Given that this was a Saturday afternoon with pleasant weather it was perhaps surprising that there were not more people about.

Farm Equipment
Once through the farm we wandered along a tarmac road through to Beggar’s Bush admiring the array of farm machinery that was in evidence as we did so.  Before reaching the main road we headed off on a track that took us to the foot of Lychpole Hill.  This is where the mud started in earnest!  For the next mile or so it was a struggle as we picked our way through the brown stuff in what is clearly a bit of a frost hollow.  There was no sign of the sun as we wandered along in the shadow of the hill.  It was also evident how tight the loop of walking is as Lychpole Farm almost looked within touching distance.
Into the Trees

After walking across a field that seemed to go on forever the path then passed into the woodland alongside Tenants Hill.  The underfoot conditions didn’t really get any better as we passed through the largely damp woods.  The trees had largely lost their leaves now and much of the understorey within the woods was dominated by old man’s beard and various other dead looking weedy plants.  Sadly there were no fungi even though we looked hard to find some.

Looking Back to Lychpole Farm
The path eventually came out at the ramparts of Cissbury Ring, our local beauty spot and much loved place to walk.  The official route would have had us walk to the centre of the old fort and then down to the car park from the trig point.  For us though we could not go to Cissbury Ring without walking the ramparts – that is the best part about visiting!  Whenever we come we always muse about what life must have been like for the hardy souls that lived up here in 300BC.  On a cold day like this it must have been very quiet with most of the inhabitants hunkering down in their huts with a big fire going.  I suspect though that the location would have been surrounded by trees so perhaps it wasn’t quite so windswept back in those days?

Cissbury Sunset
One of the main reasons for wanting to walk around the ramparts is that by now the sun was setting and I am of the firm belief that this is perhaps the best place in all of Worthing to see a sunset.  The orange disc cast wonderful light across the West Sussex coast and picked out the outline of the Isle of Wight in the distance.  It was quite a treat and a fitting finale to our short walk in our back yard.

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