Tag Archives: amberley

Wandering: Amberley to Arundel (Part Two)

3 Apr

After visiting North Stoke Church we walked back up the road and continued on the footpath south to rejoin the River Arun at South Stoke. The reason for leaving the river bank in the first place was so that I could cross the Gurka Suspension Bridge (as it is named on the OS map) between North and South Stoke.

The name suspension bridge conjures up images of mightly road or railway bridges, but this is a smaller version, crossing a tributry of the river, which after the recent dry weather didn’t really warrant such an elaborate bridge, but I am sure in wetter years it is essential.

Gurkha Bridge

The bridge was constructed in 2009 by The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers (which explains how it got its name) to replace the previous structure which had been damaged by a falling tree. It’s not really the sort of thing you would expect to come across during a walk in the Sussex countryside, but it is a wonderful piece of engineering nevertheless.

I was particularly pleased to cross it because it was the absence of a bridge here a few years ago that forced me to take a diversion which seemingly added a couple of miles to my walk, although in truth it probably wasn’t that much further.

South Stoke Bridge

After crossing the bridge the footpath lead us back to the river bank near South Stoke and another reasonably new bridge, and much more functional than the Gurkha bridge, as witnessed by the herd of cattle that were driven over it shortly after we had crossed it.

South Stoke Church

We were now of the western side of the river and had a pretty much clear run to the town of Arundel now. We didn’t stop at South Stoke Church, it is a lovely church, with a fantastic steeple, but one that I visited last time I was walking here.

River and Railway

It was now just a case of following the river as it flowed towards Arundel, the railway line was also following the river and our walk was often interrupted by passing trains. As a lover of trains (both old and new) this wasn’t a problem for me, but some may not be so keen on these intruders disturbing the tranquil natural landscape.

Arundel Castle

Eventually the bulky outline of Arundel Castle appeared on the skyline, rising above the surrounding countryside and the town itself which was still mostly hidden behind trees. We were still some way off the town, with still a couple of miles to go along the river (although probably nearer a mile if we had taken the road directly into town).

When we arrived in the town it was lunchtime and despite the fact that we had only been walking for a couple of hours it seemed a long time since breakfast and we were only too pleased to find a pub and take the weight off our feet and relax over lunch.

Arundel is a great town for antique shops (and a rather good bookshop) and in general has a diverse selection of shops, although due to the presence of the castle it is probably more geared towards the tourist these days.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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Wandering: Amberley to Arundel (Part One)

2 Apr

The route from Amberley, West Sussex to Arundel, West Sussex is not a particularly challenging route, it is only about five or six miles and is largely flat following the meandering course of the River Arun.

In contrast to the preceding week the weather on Saturday was quite gloomy. The weather forecast had warned that the warm and sunny weather wouldn’t last until Saturday, and it was right. We saw the sun on a couple of occasions, but most of the time we were blanketed in cloud. If the sun had been shining we would have been pleased with the gentle breeze, but as it was it did nothing to help the situation.

Houghton Bridge

We (my wife and I) began at Amberley railway station, alighting with several other walkers, but whilst they were probably off to join the South Downs Way we followed the road along to Houghton Bridge and headed roughly south along the eastern bank of the river.

It was good to leave the road behind and head into the countryside, we couldn’t leave the railway behind however as the line also follows the river south. Before long we left the river bank and followed a narrow twisting path enclosed on both sides by hedges. Eventually this emerged onto a road, a narrow country road that lead us into North Stoke.

I had never been to the village of North Stoke before, although from the map I knew that it was not really a village, but more a small collection of farmhouses. What I hadn’t realised from the map (I am terrible at noticing the contour lines) was that it was perched on a hill, not that great a hill but enough to raise it above the river’s flood plain.

North Stoke Church

The only public building in the village appeared to be the church. I was glad we decided to make a slight detour down the road to visit the church. It is a real gem, surrounded by a small churchyard and dwarfed by a large yew tree. The church is no longer used as a place of worship and is cared for by The Churches Conservation Trust.

Stepping inside the church for the first time was truly like stepping back in time, so many of the churches I have visited have been “restored” modernised, with the trappings of modern-day worship such as under-floor heating and modern seating, but this was just a plain and simple unadulterated church.

Inside the Church

To my knowledge I have no family connections with North Stoke, but I really felt that this was the closest I have ever come to seeing where and how my ancestors worshipped. This probably over simplifies things, because my ancestry spans four hundred years of evolving religious worship, and ranged from large London churches to small rural churches like this.

North Stoke Font

The first thing that greets you as enter through the south door is the wonderful font. It is a superb example and is perfectly at home in this church. It is so simple in its bulbous shape, with no frills or elaborate carving or decoration, just plain and simple stone. It has obviously seen better days and has been patched up many times, but has no doubt served the purpose for which it was designed with the minimum of fuss.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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Unplugged: South Downs Way – Washington to Amberley

12 Feb

At last some reasonably good weather allowed me (and my wife) to head back to the South Downs and my first proper hill walk of the year. We revisited a section of the South Downs Way that I walked last year.

The weather forecast was good (no rain, a little cloud and light winds) but it took a couple of hours for the sun to finally break through and for some of the mist to clear, although the visibility was never really that good.

We started at the village of Washington, West Sussex taking a slightly different route to the one I had taken last year (but still part of the South Downs Way), taking a bridge over the busy A24 London to Worthing road and not crossing at road level as I had done last year. The advantage of this route is that it took us past Washington Church, where my 5x great-grandparents Thomas HAYBITTLE and Mary DALE were married in 1776.

The climb up to the top of the hill was made slightly tricky by the muddy conditions underfoot, we have had a fair bit of rain over the last couple of days, but it was possible in most places to pick a way through the mud and puddles. Once we were at the top of the hill the going became a lot easier and a lot flatter.

As the weather conditions improved so did the views, the best views should have been to the south towards Worthing and Littlehampton on the coast but the mist pretty much put paid to that. At Chantry Post we took a detour off the South Downs Way and took a path slightly further north giving a much better view of the landscape at the foot of the hills.

The view to the north was dominated by the village of Storrington, West Sussex (pictured above) and this detour also gave me a perfect excuse to pay a visit the trig point at Kithurst Hill. The path went right past the trig point and I was unable to resist a few photos.

Slightly further along (past another trig point at Rackham Hill) we were looking down to the village of Amberley and the River Arun (pictured above). There was a lot more blue sky now, although there was still some cloud about, so the sunshine wasn’t continuous, but if it wasn’t for the slightly muddy conditions underfoot it would have been almost perfect walking conditions, not too hot and not too cold.

It was great to be back on the South Downs, looking east and west along the hills brought back many fond memories of my walking last year, it was also good to be familiar with the route now and I can’t wait to walk the entire route again later in the year (hopefully).

Something Sussex: James Bond on the South Downs (Part One)

16 Dec

Regular readers will know of my love of the South Downs, but I doubt many will be aware of the connections between the South Downs and the famous secret agent James Bond. There are at least two occasions when filming for the popular series of films took place on the South Downs. One I have known about for some time, but I only learnt about the second earlier this year.

Probably the most famous connection was the use of Amberley Museum & Heritage Centre (then called the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum) for three weeks in the summer of 1984 for filming of scenes from the film A View to a Kill starring Roger Moore as James Bond. In the film Bond with the help of May Day (Grace Jones) prevents Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) from destroying Silicon Valley.

Amberley Chalk Pits Museum provided the location for the Main Strike Mine which was going to be blown up, triggering an earthquake which was going to cause a flood or something like that, I can’t remember the exact details of villain’s evil plan. The photo below shows the entrance to the mine which still bears the sign used during the filming.

Whilst Bond and May Day were busy saving the world (or at least San Francisco), Zorin attempted to make his escape in an airship. Bond caught hold of one the mooring ropes as the airship rose skywards, leaving May Day to get blown up just outside of the entrance to the mine.

The airship with Bond dangling from the rope rose up above the chalk pit in Sussex into the skies above San Francisco, finally getting tangled up on the Golden Gate Bridge, where Zorin finally met his end.

Many of the wagons used in the filming can be found around the museum, still bearing the livery of the fictional Zorin Industries. The one below has been stored inside and is part of a small display which celebrates the museum’s role in the film.

Picture Postcard Parade: The Village Parliament

24 Sep

You get two for price of one with this blog post, two postcards with versions of the same Sussex scene. The first postcard is a printed card, showing a group of men (with a couple of children) gathered at the side of a road holding some sort of meeting.

The Village Parliament

There are no clues as to the exact location, except that it is somewhere in Sussex. There is also no indication of who the photographer or publisher was, although the bottom left of the picture does have the initials ETW. It was posted on the 21st October 1903 from Eastbourne, Sussex.

The Village Parliament

The second version of the card is a photographic version featuring the same scene, this time there is a caption just visible in the bottom right-hand corner which places the scene in Amberley, Sussex. This picture shows the tree trunk in all it’s gnarled glory, and it almost looks like the man with the stick is posed to mirror the shape of the tree.

Fortunately the photographic card also shows more of the house in the background which gives a chance of actually identifying the location. In fact it was pretty easy using Google Street View to locate the scene, as being at the eastern end of Hog Lane, Amberley, Sussex, opposite The Black Horse pub.

At first glance I thought these two postcards came from the same negative, one in portrait and one landscape orientation, but on closer inspection there are a few differences amongst the men. Most noticeable is the man sitting at the foot of the tree trunk (in the darker jacket), in the printed card he is holding a dog, but in the photographic one the dog has gone, it probably wouldn’t keep still long enough!

One Man and his Dog

One question that this image does raise is what exactly was “The Village Parliament”? So far I have been unable to find an answer online or in books, despite find several references to this image. I am not sure whether this was just made up by the postcard publisher or whether the term refers to a meeting of the Parish Council, the vestry (a church committee) or some other group.

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.

Happy Sussex Day 2010!

16 Jun

The 16th June is Sussex Day, a day to celebrate the county of Sussex, England (technically that should be East Sussex and West Sussex, but lets not argue). Like last year I decided to celebrate the day by walking around Sussex, and so I could kill two birds with one stone I decided to walk the next section of the South Downs Way (from Amberley to Cocking).

After finishing on the South Downs Way I had chance to spend a couple of hours in nearby Singleton and West Dean, both ancestral villages which I felt I really ought to get to know better. I didn’t really have long in either place, but it was a start.

Over the next couple of days I will be posting some details and some photos, from both the South Downs Way and the two villages.

Like last year the weather was absolutely beautiful, it began quite cloudy and with a strong wind, but that soon cleared and the sun did it’s best to help Sussex celebrate in style. The only slight disappointment was my pedometer deciding to pack up (battery trouble I think) so I am not sure what the total mileage was. The South Downs Way was supposed to be 12 miles and I probably added another 3 miles at Singleton and West Dean.

Now I will leave you with a photo of the trig point on Heyshott Down, with a fantastic view to the north (although a little hazy), whilst I try and work out the revised rules for the free access to findmypast.co.uk on the next England match day!

Heyshott Down trig point

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