Friday, 23 December 2011

Sussex Border Path Section 10 Durfold and an Old Canal

Holly Crop

The two biggest enemies for December walking are the shortage of daylight hours and the sea of mud that normally comes with every path! It pays not to be too ambitious for what can be achieved on these short days and I was quite pleased that I could cut my cloth according to the amount of time I had! I changed my plans somewhat as I had a later than normal start to my walk and I was keen to revisit the area around The Lake that I had only managed to see during my rather fog-bound walk last time out.

Durfold Wood

I parked at the pocket car park at the Woodland Trust site at Durfold Wood. Luckily I was one of only two cars there, as there are only about half a dozen spaces at most. From the car park I took the track leading into the wood so that I could meet up with the Sussex Border Path at the south end. Although marked on the map as an unofficial track, the quality of it seemed pretty good until I got into the wood proper. The quality deteriorated until eventually I wasn’t sure there was a track at all!I think the people from the Ordnance Survey were being a bit ambitious showing it on the map. After fighting my way through bushes I eventually emerged on to the right path.Despite all the discomfort of not having a proper path to follow it was lovely wandering through the woodland on such a lovely sunny day, as the few remaining leaves on the trees reflected the light so well.

Lone Trees

At the far end of the ‘path’ was a large clearing created by forestry activity. Clear cutting of this nature is quite unusual in Sussex and so it was quite a stark sight. However, at the edge of the clearing was a very healthy looking holly bush taking full advantage of the new found light it had gained after the loss of its neighbours. Luckily it was well away from any roads as it would surely have been plundered for its bright red berries. I followed the SBP for only a short distance before heading down towards Winkins Woods Farm. By now the heavy soil underfoot had caused me some discomfort and so I proceeded rather more slowly as I continued towards the Lake.
The Lake

When I got to the twin farms of Haymans and Little Haymans, I was rather curious to see that there was plenty of building work going on. I also had to keep my wits about me as the builders had rigged up a number of level lines with string and pegs, creating quite a tripping hazard. I managed to negotiate my way through the mud and building work to head out across a number of fields before finally getting to The Lake.Last time out I had only the briefest glimpse of this body of water, but now approaching from this side I was amazed to see how big this body of water actually was. I am guessing that it once fed a water mill, as there were some mill-like building below what looked like a dam at the end I had approached.I took the opportunity to linger and have my lunch here – it was a most agreeable place to stop.

Autumn Reflections

The official path continued onwards towards Frith Lodge. However, I wanted to see a bit more of the Lake and so I rather naughtily continued along the side of the field so I could get a longer view. I took care not to trespass on to the section that was controlled by the local angling society – they were quite keen to keep out walkers! Presumably they disturb the anglers’ peace and quiet! I’m not sure I was trespassing by following the field edge, but as it was a weekday and I was by myself I didn’t think anyone would mind too much, especially as there seemed to be a path of sorts. I did feel relieved when I reached the path I had last walked down three weeks earlier though.

The Lake

The mood of this part of the lake was rather different to the other week when the fog had descended and I was surrounded by gloominess. Now everything had a fresh feel in the crisp winter air and I could actually see the view as I wandered up past the Deer Tower & I was really pleased that I had chosen to head back this way rather than take the route recommended by the guide book. The Deer Tower still looked deserted, which was a pity. I could live in a place with such character! Maybe it is a holiday house?

Shillinglee Park

I pushed on past Shillinglee Park and took a look at the North Ponds, which had been almost invisible last time out. Today they positively glowed! I retraced my steps and headed along the road rather than taking the path that I had last time out. This saved me a bit of time and I had already concluded that I wouldn’t see anything that I hadn’t last time out. As it happens I got a new view of the rather impressive looking Shillinglee House, which I had completely missed last time. In the field next to me was a rather surprising looking addition to the field of sheep – an ostrich strutting around! It looked like it had some serious attitude so I didn’t get too close!

Deer Tower

At White’s Hill, I finally caught up with the SBP. When I looked at my watch I was rather surprised to see that I had already used half my time getting to this point so I knew I would have to put my skates on a bit to catch up some time! Luckily now I was on the official path, the going was rather easier and I didn’t have to constantly map read in order to navigate myself. The path followed a ridge of sorts between fields and woods mostly, although there was a brief interlude when I crossed an all-weather horse racing training gallops.I also met a man heading in the same direction as me with a very large dog that was straining at the leash.He looked rather annoyed to see me as I think we wanted to let the dog go running across the fields. Both he and I were relieved when we went our separate ways.

Shillinglee Lake

The next couple of miles were a very pleasant ramble along field edges and through pieces of woodland. The fungi, which had been such a feature of my autumn season of walks this year were starting to die off. Some of the trees still had leaves on, but mostly they were now bare as winter started to take hold. Eventually I reached the end of Durfold Wood again and passed a house where the dogs let loose in the grounds of an adjacent large house were barking their brains out at me. It was rather an irritating encounter especially as the dogs were very persistent and the grounds were quite large. Still, I guess the owners are unlikely to have any problem with burglars!

Shillinglee House

I skirted the rather odd little settlement at Shortlands Copse; a group of houses arranged like a mini housing estate that was strange in as much as it wasn’t connected to any other village. I did spot a small bungalow on the edge of the settlement that would be desirable for a single person to live in (as long as you got on with your neighbours that is!).


I crossed the main road ahead by a very attractive looking lodge house and headed out over the fields. This onward section of walk skipped between Sussex and Surrey, which meant that the signage wasn’t always terribly reliable. In fact when I got into the woods further ahead I had my worst navigational nightmare for some time, when I followed the signage and found myself walking along a path that I wasn’t convinced was what it purported to be. Very overgrown in places, it was not a pleasant experience. Added to that and the sunny weather that I had enjoyed thus far was now being replaced by some very overcast conditions and the day definitely began to lose its shine somewhat.

Shortlands Farm

Eventually when I had managed to find my way once again I ended up walking along a well maintained track through the woods, which was rather more pleasurable. As I walked along I noticed a very low flying helicopter passing overhead. I didn’t take too much notice of it at the time, but a little further ahead when I came to the end of Hog Copse I passed a very large Dallas type ranch-house with the helicopter parked on the front lawn! Further down the garden I was also rather perturbed by a couple of cows that looked a bit unnatural, when I realised that they were in fact made of plastic. Maybe they were made by the same company that supplied Milton Keynes?

Hog Copse

A bit further on and I reached Burberry Bridge. For me this signalled the end of the official part of my walk today. I would be heading back via the towpath of the Wey and Arun Canal, a walk I had previously taken in August 2009. Wandering along the towpath today was rather a different proposition from back then, with a chill wind in my face now that the sun had disappeared. The towpath was very muddy in places too, which wasn’t very pleasant walking. I did make some quick time though as the towpath is nice and flat and there was no problem with navigation.I wandered along for about two miles and thought at one stage that I might get a bit more sunshine as the clouds broke. However, what I did get as I wandered back through the woods to the car park was a dose of rain and it got very dark as I returned. I was extremely relieved to get back to the car after trudging through some very uninspiring woodland for the last couple of miles back.

Plastic Cows

This section of the Sussex Border Path was very pleasant but there were some navigational problems along the route. There was a lot of woodland walking, which although very pleasant, didn’t afford a great many views. It may have been better to tackle this section during the autumn or spring months when the woodland was at its best. Even the canal towpath section of the return route was a bit drab, although that was probably due in the main to the overcast weather that I had by now encountered.

The Old Canal

Friday, 9 December 2011

Sussex Border Path Section 9 Temple of the Winds and Shillinglee

Spooky Black Down
I set out from home today on a bright sunny autumn morning on the south coast to head inland to the car park at Black Down, where I had ended my walk last time. As it was such a convenient car park it seemed a good idea to use it again. As I headed north of the Downs, my view of the world changed as I hit a fog bank almost immediately. The fog got worse as I headed northwards and I wondered about calling the day’s walking off altogether. However, the weather forecast had suggested that there would be sunshine later so I persevered on the basis that I might get lucky.
Looking Out Over Mist
As I climbed up Black Down the clouds drifted away towards the top and I was met with brilliant sunshine at the car park itself. Of course far below was a blanket of white – always a slightly odd feeling, makes me think I am standing on an island in the sky! To the north of Black Down the blue sky and sunshine persisted although I could see that the cloud was starting to close in from the south, making for a short lived scene. I decided that I would head down towards the Temple of the Winds, at the southern end of the Black Down plateau. On the way the cloud started to drift in and the sunshine got more and more obscured as I headed south.
Brief Sunshine
The atmosphere on top of Black Down was magical on this early morning and I was surprised by the number of people out early on this Sunday morning enjoying it. I met more than a dozen people heading down to the Temple of the Winds, unusual for a Sunday morning. The mist lingered around the tall Scots Pine trees and there were water droplets formed on just about everything from leaves to spiders webs.
Deep Reflections
It all made for a spooky kind of introduction to my day’s walking. At Temple of the Winds the view across the Weald that I should have had was completely obscured by white cloud and although I lingered for a few minutes to see if it might clear, it soon became obvious that it wouldn’t and so I headed down the southern slope of the hill. The Temple of the Winds sadly does not have anything left, other than a recently added stone seat at the point that Alfred Lord Tennyson used to admire the view.
Temple of the Winds
Back in 1967 this tranquil place was the scene of an air crash when an Iberian Airways jet came down and killed all of those on board. There are few clues of the disaster now, but apparently at the time a large number of trees were taken out and there were localised fires across a wide area. Getting help up here at night-time when it happened must have been a nightmare, as there aren’t many ways to access this area other than on foot.
Sulphur Tuft
As I headed down the slope I admired the large crop of fungi that was devouring all the dead wood in the area. From the bracken covered slopes I then entered a dark tunnel like world as I descended through the yew tree belt. Eventually as I got to the bottom I passed by a large and rather idyllic looking house. My path continued around the garden before eventually coming upon a road.
Spooky House
As I descended the fog got thicker until I could see no more than about 50 metres ahead of me. This is not the type of weather conditions I am used to and although the effect of these conditions on the countryside was interesting, I nonetheless wanted to see some views and hoped that it would soon clear!
Spindly Giants
At Upper Diddlesford Farm I came across another of those huge collections of scrap farm vehicles that have become such a common feature of this walk. Unlike others I have come across this one looked as though some of the old machines were actually being stripped for parts as they were in various states of completeness. It made for a fascinating sight, especially in the gloom of the fog.
Upper Diddlesford Farm
I made my way across fields to Northchapel, a village that I had passed through on my journey up here. There was no let up in the conditions and if anything the fog closed in even more. I had a little look at the Half Moon pub, a welcoming looking place that would surely have been a better place to spend the day than out in the fog! I took the opportunity to take a look at the interesting looking church of St Michael the Archangel at the heart of the village.Memories of the recent Remembrance Day service were obviously still fresh in the mind judging by the poppy memorial wreaths still looking in great condition on the war memorial outside the church. The churchyard looked quite spooky with a hint of sun trying to break its way through the cloud.
Half Moon Pub
I headed north out of the village and soon came across a group of ramblers ahead of me. There is nothing I hate more than groups of ramblers when I’m out. Their incessant chatter and complete oblivion to their surroundings annoys me and as I passed them I put on a bit of speed to get some distance between them and me. This took some time, and somehow the still conditions seemed to ensure that their voices carried a long way. Eventually I did lose them though as they took a different turn at Frith Hill. My relief was palpable! It also gave me the opportunity to have a peer at the marvellous house at Frith Hill and the topiary chickens that had been clipped (at least I think that is what they were!).
Northchapel Graves
I headed down towards what looked to be a fairly large body of water called The Lake. However, when I got there my view of the water was rather more distant than I imagined. Judging by the heavily engineered bridges, I guessed that this was at one time a landscaped park although what was left could only be described as faded beauty.As I peered through the fog to see if I could see anything of the lake I got the surprise of my life as this small azure and shimmery blue bird passed underneath the bridge at breakneck speed. I could only assume that it was a kingfisher even though I didn’t get a very close look. Its fabulous colour stuck out on such a gloomy day.
A little further on and my eyes were drawn to a shaggy ink cap fungus growing under the bushes. Its distinctive shape and textures were fascinating, although taking a picture of it proved very tricky due to its position & I cursed the fact that I hadn’t brought my little tripod. By now it was clear that the fog wasn’t going to lift and I took the decision to cut short my day’s walking. I passed by the rather murky looking Deer Tower, a folly-like residence that looked rather deserted and onwards to Shillinglee Park. Many of the original buildings here had been turned into residences for the well-heeled, completely altering the character of what must once have been a country estate.
Deer Tower
In order to reduce the amount of road walking I needed to do, I took a big loop around Walk Copse and the North Ponds, crossing the road that passed between the upper and lower pond. I suspect that these were once hammer ponds for the iron industry that operated in this area 250 years ago. Now the only activity that exists is fishing for the local angling society. There were actually quite a few about that day – possibly fog suits them?
North Ponds
I eventually made it to the Sussex Border Path at last when I reached White’s Hill. By now the fog was so thick that I could barely see a thing. The entire walk back along the official route was almost completely lost on me as I focused my attention on ensuring that I had my navigation right. From what I could see of the early part of the walk I wan’t sure I was missing a great deal as the path wandered along the side of bare looking fields.
Bleak Fishing
I passed through a couple of sections of damp woodland, where I did come upon a large fairy ring of fungi, which was quite impressive. Eventually though I came to the A283 at the summit of the fabulously named Cripplecrutch Hill. Crossing the road was no easy matter though. Not only was it really busy but I couldn’t see very far in front of me so it was a bit frightening. Eventually after a few minutes a welcome lull came and I crossed safely and disappeared into the gloomy woodlands opposite. Here I followed a lane that had the distinct look of a road that didn’t quite make it. Even the map suggested that might be the case.
Shaggy Ink Caps
I came out at Gospel Green, where I had to take Jay’s Lane. This final section seemed interminable. I think the walking through muddy fields had taken its toll and I was glad that I had kept the walk fairly short today. The trudge along the lane was quite tough as it regained the altitude that I had lost coming down off Black Down earlier in the day. It was a slow and steady climb – the worst sort at the end of a day’s walking!
Gospel Green
I can’t say that I would enjoy walking in conditions like these very often for I got really frustrated at not being able to see anything. However, some of the landscapes had extra interest because of the cloud, especially the trees on Black Down, which had a really ghostly feel. The churchyard at Northchapel was also very atmospheric. It was an experience that I enjoyed to a point, but not one I would like on a regular basis. Irritatingly when I got back to Worthing it was bright sunshine and had been all day!