Sunday, 15 January 2017

Three Commons Walk

Iping Common
I have decided that INSET days are lucky as we seem to get very good weather and opportunities for walks that don't seem to exist at far too short weekends.  Autumn had sadly rather passed us by so it was a stroke of luck that we had a beautiful frosty day on our spare day.  With daylight hours short and a daughter that was a bit more reluctant to go far in the cold weather I chose for us walk number 3 in Pathfinder Guide number 52 More Sussex Walks.  This was one that we had last done when she was small enough to go in the backpack more than 10 years ago!  At 4 miles it is a pretty easy stroll but crucially it also misses the worst muddy conditions as the sandstone heaths over which most of the path passes is thankfully dry in the winter.
Flowering Gorse

We parked in the small car park on Iping Common.  We were by no means the only people there - the car park was unusually full for a weekday and we were soon greeted by the first of many dog walkers as we left the car.  Iping Common is a delight.  Open and airy and studded with mostly the odd birch tree and even small clumps in some places.  Few places look their best in the winter but I'll wager that Iping Common is one of them.  The low golden sunlight picks out the silvery bark of the birch trees and the dead grass very well giving the whole location a warmness that is missing from so many landscapes at this time of year.

Frosty Detail
Inevitably the gorse was already out in flower.  No matter how early I think it comes out into flower it always confounds me by being even earlier.  The only thing I can say with confidence is that it doesn't flower during June.  I think I have seen flowers on a gorse bush pretty much every other month of the year!  The odd splash of yellow did enhance the landscape even more.  As for other life - mostly this was in the form of small birds.  We managed to see a few of them, including chaffinches, sparrows and great tits.  I think this is supposed to be a good place to see more unusual species but sadly we didn't see any.

Vintage MG
Unlike my last visit here on the Serpent Trail this time I managed not to take a wrong turn and we headed across the Common pausing to take a look back when we got to the far end.  Over the brow of the small hill the path took a route down the shady side of a small wood and the frost had not even started to melt here.  That left some wonderful frosty shapes on the leaf litter and the grass - these are such a joy!

Eventually we found our way down to the lane where I seemed to walk forever on the Serpent Trail.  Happily we took a right rather than a left and headed away from the lane almost immediately.  It didn't go down too well with my daughter though as we had to climb a small hill.  So small in fact as to be inconsequential!  This passed by the back of the pub where we had lunch one summer day back in 2005 when we last passed by.  Sadly the pub is gone now and serves only as a private residence.

Approaching Stedham
We crossed the main road and walked down a tree lined lane for a short distance.  As we reached a small row of houses we turned right again (eventually when we found the sign) and headed along some field edges and screening woodland.  This was a most attractive section of the walk with some fine views northwards across the Weald towards the Greensand ridge a few miles away.

Daughter Racing Ahead
Below us the River Rother followed us in parallel and we were soon heading down towards its level.  The river was clearly a bit warmer than the surrounding air as it was generating a small amount of localised mist.  At the bottom of the valley we came upon the small village of Iping.  This is a very agreeable little place centred mostly around a mill on the River Rother it seemed.  Our acquaintance with the village didn't last long.  Once across the road we climbed up above the River once again and it was gone almost in the blink of an eye.  The river meandered away from us for a bit and we continued through another frosty hollow of trees until it came back to meet us about half a mile further on.

Former Pub, Stedham Village
At the next road we came upon the village of Stedham and this one was marked by an arched bridge across the river of some antiquity.  Alas our oath didn't take us that way but into the village itself.  With daughter I don't expect to have any nosy deviations from the walking route for fear of getting a moody backlash :)  Stedham is impossibly pretty and even daughter was smitten with the place as we wandered through.  Our eyes were particularly drawn to a phone box that has been converted by the locals as an information kiosk.

Information Kiosk
Just before leaving the village we hooked a right turn and walked down towards the pub on the edge of the village.  We had thought about using this as a lunch stop but were glad we hadn't banked on it as was shut this Monday lunchtime.  Luckily daughter had a change of heart earlier in the day and we had some lunch procured from a Worthing bakery waiting for us in the car when we got back.  By now daughter was looking forward to this and she was most surprised when we crossed the main road and walked across a short stretch of heathland to find the car once again.  I think the length of the walk rather surprised her - it was rather shorter than she thought it would be!

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