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Sussex Day 2009: Part 9 – Hurstpierpoint Cemetery to Wolstonbury Hill

25 Jun

When I left Hurstpierpoint Cemetery I didn’t really where I was heading. I knew that I was ultimately going to end up at Hassocks railway station, so I could get home, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get there.

The shortest and quickest route would have been to head east out of Hurstpierpoint on the main road, but I wanted to be out in the countryside, so I decided to follow a path just north of the cemetery. Besides it was still early afternoon, far too early to be heading home!

When the path got clear of the houses to the south the views opened up to the South Downs and there looming up in front of me was Wolstonbury Hill, just begging to be climbed.

The walk so far had been pretty flat, Hurstpierpoint Cemetery was really the last genealogical connection, so now it was time to put the family history to one side and to personally challenge myself with a climb up the hill.

It was a nice gentle route to the foot of the Downs, past the magnificent Danny House (currently a retirement home). All the time Wolstonbury Hill getting closer and seeming more and more unclimbable. I reached New Way Lane and approached the foot of the hill, there was no turning back now.

No turning back maybe, but no way forward either! The footpath was blocked, closed to allow repair work, for six months, how could the West Sussex County Council do this to me? Here I was ready to ascend Wolstonbury Hill and they had closed the path!

Of course there was more than one route up to the top, only the northern and western sides were closed, I continued east along the lane and found another path heading south, before long it started to climb and I knew I was on the right path. The path was well shaded, but not particularly smooth, not far up the hill I came to a junction of paths and I wasn’t entirely sure where I was, eastward seemed to take me out into the open and back downhill again, that was no good, so after consulting the map I pressed on south again up further.

A short distance further I came to a gateway that opened out onto the side of the hill, and I could see the path leading right to the top. This was it, after another application of suncream (and a mouthful of drink) I headed out into the blazing sun and launched myself up the hill.

That last section was one of the most exhilarating climbs of my life, the sun was hot, there was little breeze, my leg muscles were complaining, but I was all alone, not another soul in sight, enjoying the beautiful Sussex landscape that emerged once I had cleared the trees.

It felt fantastic to be pushing myself to climb this hill, I had never witnessed the views from the top before, but I am sure many of my ancestors had before me. It had been a struggle but the reward was well worth it. It was a clear day, a little bit hazy in the distance but that didn’t matter, and I could see for miles in all directions. I wandered around the earthworks at the top of the hill, visited the trig point and just savoured the moment. There was a slight breeze here, but little shelter apart from a few gorse bushes. I found some shade and sat down, quenching my thirst with more drink and applying more suncream.

I sat and admired the view, it was breathtaking. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what half of the places were, what mattered was that it was Sussex, my Sussex, my ancestors Sussex. I could think of no better place to be on Sussex Day. The sense of achievement was tremendous, I felt physically and emotionally that I was on top of the world.

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