South Downs Way: Amberley to Cocking

17 Jun

South Downs Way sign

Yesterday saw another early start, not only I am starting to get further away from home, but also I wanted some time at the ancestral villages of Singleton and West Dean once I had reached the other end of the days walk. This is the last section of the walk that is wholly in the county of West Sussex, next time I will be crossing the border into Hampshire.

I had walked the first few miles of the route before, but that must have been 15 to 20 years ago and the only thing I remember is the first hill, Bury Hill (pictured below), which rises up from the River Arun at Amberley, West Sussex.

Bury Hill, Amberley, West Sussex

I remember vividly how last time the climb nearly killed me, but all this walking I have been doing must be paying off because it was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined it would be, and now I look at the photo it doesn’t look that daunting at all.

On the whole this section of the South Downs Way wasn’t quite as flat as some of the previous sections, and several times the path dropped down into a valley before climbing back up onto the hills on the opposite side. It is quite re-assuring to be able to look across the valley and see the path continuing onwards, such as the photo below which shows Bignor Hill as seen from Westburton Hill.

Bignor Hill from Westburton Hill

I have frequently seen or heard that the South Downs Ways follows ancient pathways, and just past Bignor Hill there is an excellent example of this, where part of South Downs Way passes along Stane Street, the Roman road running from Chichester to London. This is commemorated by the fingerpost (shown below) pointing the way to Noviomagus (Chichester) and Londinium (London), although I think the other small sign should have said "NO CHARIOTS" rather than "NO CARS".

Bignor fingerpost

Nearby Stane Street is Glatting Beacon (pictured below), which dominates the sky line with it’s two radio masts bristling with aerials and dishes. Also amongst the trees is a trig point, but I deliberately skipped this one (and an earlier one on Bury Hill) to save time. The views southwards from just below Glatting Beacon are quite fantastic, down to the City of Chichester and the coast, as usual the view was a bit hazy.

Glatting Beacon and sheep

As I walked further west the hills started to become more wooded, although there were still gaps where some spectacular views opened up, mostly to the north, such as in the photo below from the fingerpost near Crown Tegleaze.

View from Tegleaze Post

Further west still, on Graffham Down, the nature of the path changes completely as it enters into a woodland corridor, completely blocking the views to the north and south for about a mile and a half, and providing some welcome shade from the midday sun.

Soon though the shade vanished and I was out on Heyshott Down, and on the look out for the trig point (pictured below). I had thought it would be nice to stop and sit by the trig point and have my lunch, as it was almost guaranteed to have some fine views. Unfortunately the field was occupied by cattle, and I didn’t fancy sharing my lunch with them. A footpath leads across the field, straight past the trig point, so I went and got some photos, whilst watching where I was treading!

Trig point and cattle

From Heyshott Down the path descended for the final time that day to Hillbarn Farm and the nearby car park on the main road. As seems to be the norm I ended the walk next to a busy road, and as is my usual luck I was about a minute from the bus stop when I saw the bus rush past the end of the farm track.

At least it gave me time to find a shady spot in the car park and sit down and eat my lunch and take the weight off my feet. The buses here, just south of the village of Cocking, are pretty frequent (every half hour) and fortunately the route back to Chichester (and the train home), would take me through Singleton and West Dean, where I could do some ancestral wandering.

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