Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Amberley and Parham House

The Sportsman
I have to admit this walk is a favourite of mine having done it many times.  It was pleasing therefore to find it as one of the walks featured in volume 66 of the Pathfinder Guides West Sussex and the South Downs.  On a bright clear Sunday morning I was anxious to get up and out early for the first time during the summer season.  What I was not prepared for though was the freshness of the morning - it was seriously cold when I went out at 8am!

Amberley Village
Instead of parking at the top of Kithurst Hill as suggested I actually parked in Amberley village.  This gave me the advantage of getting the steep climb of Amberley Mount out of the way at the start of the walk rather than at the end.  Amberley had not yet properly woken up when I arrived and so my walk down through the village was pretty quiet.  That also meant that I was at liberty to admire many of the beautiful houses in the village without appearing to be too nosy!

The Black Horse
It was sad to see that the Black Horse still hasn't managed to attract a buyer or tenant as although it has managed to stave off redevelopment the position it finds itself in surely cannot continue forever.  I cannot fathom why it hasn't been taken on for it is right in the heart of the village and ought to be the centre of the community.  The Sportsman pub further along the road is faring much better - still open and apparently doing a reasonable trade despite being in a much less convenient location.

Turret House
Once through the village I began the climb up on to the Downs.  This was along the road at first and meant that I probably ascended half of the hill without even realising that I had climbed.  All along the side of the road the hawthorn blossom was bursting forth as we made the transition between the early spring flowers and those that come along later.

Framed Calf
Soon I passed the big red house at the top of the land above Amberley Museum and this was where I would leave the road behind me and take to the chalky track that heads up to the crest of the Downland ridge.  This is a house that I have admired for a long time - it looks very well appointed and must have the most magnificent view across the Arun Valley to Bignor Hill beyond.  I would soon have the very same view but would have to go a little higher up the slope in order to do so.  I passed a field of very hungry looking cows all chowing down on the feed that they had been left.  With many calves in evidence I suspect that these cattle needed more calories than most.  It was hard also not to think 'awww' when looking at the littlest calves - some could have been no more than a few days old.  I wasn't the only admirers - a small group of women runners stopped for their 'awww' moment too :)

Amberley Castle
They had run down the steepest part of the slope without stumbling or falling - quite a feat.  I looked forward to the next keep fit fanatic doing even better when I saw him come over the crest of the hill on his mountain bike.  Sadly he never gave me the pleasure of seeing what he could do as he was off and walking as soon as he saw the gradient!  To be fair I think he had the right idea - I'm not sure I would have tried it either.

Amberley Mount View
Eventually I puffed my way to the top of the hill and was glad that I had warmed up considerably from my climb for the breeze on the ridge was pretty stiff.  It was pretty difficult to hold the camera still for any kind of photography so thank goodness for plenty of fence posts along the way.  When I thought I had got to the top of the hill I discovered that the climbing continued for some time afterwards.  Luckily I was mostly distracted by the fantastic views to the left and right of me.  I was soon joined by a farmer who drove across the field to my left to tend to his sheep.  Looking at the field they were in you could be forgiven for thinking they had had a pillow emptied out all over it for the grass was covered in what looked like little balls of cotton wool.

Arundel Castle
Eventually I got to Kithurst Hill car park.  By now Sunday felt like it was truly waking up for there were horse riders, cyclists and dog walkers all along the South Downs Way.  I was rather glad I had done this section early for it was relatively quiet and I think I missed most of the crowds.  I had seen a group of ramblers ahead at one point but luckily they must have gone another way for I soon lost sight of them.  Regular readers of this blog will know that large groups of ramblers in the countryside are one of my pet hates!

Best View in the World
At Kithurst Hill car park I headed down the steep slope to the foot of the Downs once more.  Initially I passed through a beautiful meadow of flowers before finding a sunken lane that took me to the foot of the slope.  When I left the woods behind me the fields were full of rape seed and the field edges full of apple blossom from the fringing trees.  The heady aromas of both rather jarred though - they did not really complement each other.  

Parham House From the Downs
I soon reached the main road that heads from Storrington to Amberley.  Judging by the toll house I passed I am guessing this was once a turnpike road - now it is of only secondary importance but I did get lucky in crossing straight away for it can get very busy especially on a Sunday.  On the opposite side of the road I follow a quiet lane down towards Storrington airfield.  All along the road I admired the trees now coming out into their summer clothing - I particularly like the fresh greens that first emerge in the spring.  Some of the trees alongside the lane are also enormous specimens - I bet they have seen a few changes to the landscape over the years...

Ridge Walk
Eventually after passing a succession of enormous houses I came to the main road that skirts the airfield in Storrington.  There was an awful lot of activity going on unsurprisingly.  This airfield is primarily used by a local gliding club and every few minutes gliders were being launched into the air being towed along by small and rather angry sounding little planes.  I imagine once up in the sky it must be lovely to watch the world below you very peacefully - for me I had to make do with the fascination of watch it all unfold.
Kithurst Hill

I turned sharp left and headed along the estate road to Parham House.  Sadly for me when I approached the lodge house I found the ramblers that I had lost earlier.  I had to wait for them to move on before I could get a decent shot of the old lodge.  This took longer than expected for they used the opportunity to wait for all the stragglers - bloomin' typical!  Eventually they moved on and I got my picture and headed in the opposite direction. 

Magnificent Tree
I walked the length of the estate road right to the front of Parham House.  Strictly speaking this isn't on the route but I wanted to get a couple of pictures of the house close up as it is such a wonderful looking building.  The old house is open to the public but surprisingly wasn't open yet on that particular Sunday, despite the fact that it was by now late morning.  The house itself is ostensibly Elizabethan and is still in private hands, something of a rarity for a house of this ilk.  It does make a great place to visit but be aware that it only opens in the afternoons!

Glider Plane
The walk across the estate is one of my favourite walks in all of Sussex and we quite often come up here for a bit of a stroll, especially in the autumn when the kids like looking out for deer and conkers.  We usually start at the western end of the estate as it is rather easier to park there.  In fact if I had been smart I would have parked there again for this would now be the end of my walk :)
Parham House

Once through the estate I joined the section of path I had walked on one of the Arun Valley walks that I blogged a couple of years back.  I headed off the sandy ridge that Parham is built on and across the gault clay to the south.  Catch this on the wrong day and you could be squelching past Rackham watermill and across the fields - not pleasant walking then.  Today though was a delight for the dry conditions meant that the last mile was a lot easier than most times I have been this way.

Rackham Mill
This is a delightful walk showcasing some of the best Downland scenery that Sussex has to offer with magnificent views across to Arundel, Bognor and the Isle of Wight to the south and as far away as Black Down and the North Downs to the north.  Once off the ridge the section through Parham is surely one of the best landscapes parks in the south of England?  I picked a perfect day for it too :)

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