Tag Archives: pyecombe

Wandering: Pyecombe to Patcham

7 Jan

I decided to take advantage of the dry, bright and unseasonably warm weather and get out for a walk. I have already said that I want to keep my walks more local and more convenient this year, and today’s walk was an excellent example of this because it was essentially a walk from one bus stop to the next.

It would have taken less than ten minutes on the bus, but because of the rather circuitous route I took it was more like four hours, partly because of the frequent stops I made to take photos and the necessity of having to carefully pick my way along some rather muddy paths.

The route was from Pyecombe in West Sussex to Patcham in East Sussex (actually on the outskirts of the City of Brighton and Hove), by way of Wolstonbury Hill, Clayton, the Clayton Windmills (Jack and Jill), a short section of the South Downs Way, part of the Sussex Border Path and the Chattri Indian War Memorial.

Looking south-west from Wolstonbury Hill

This was only the second time that I have been up Wolstonbury Hill, but like so many of the hills along the South Downs it has held my attention since the first time, and I have been meaning to pay it a visit ever since. Last time I was there it was a hot June day, and whilst today was not exactly cold, visiting on a winter’s day certainly shows the hill in a different light, quite literally.

From Wolstonbury Hill dropped down to the village of Clayton, famous for its railway tunnel on the main London to Brighton railway. There are not a lot of buildings in Clayton, but there is a delightful little church, sitting at the foot of the hill.

Clayton Church from the south

My next destination was the top of the hill, home to the two Clayton Windmills Jack and Jill.  Jack was looking very much worse for wear, it is in private hands and currently up for sale if you fancy living in a historic windmill. Jill is in safer hands and was looking absolutely stunning in the bright sunshine.

Jill windmill, Clayton

From the windmills I headed south by way of the South Downs Way, then skirting round Pyecombe Golf Course before joining the Sussex Border Path which leads on to Patcham past the Chattri Indian War Memorial. This was the main reason for my walk today, it has been on my list of places to visit for years, but I never quite got around to visiting.

Chattri Indian War Memorial, Patcham

The history of the Chattri is well documented and it is a truly fitting memorial in a superb setting and it good to see it is well looked after and it actually looks like it is quite a popular destination for visitors judging by the number of people I passed on the way. There is an element of pilgrimage involved in visiting as there is no vehicle access to the memorial and the nearest car park is about a mile and a quarter away.

So that lead me down to the village of Patcham, a place I have passed through many times on the bus into Brighton, but never stopped to explore. I didn’t really do much exploring this time, but there were some quite nice cottages and a few shops. The approach to Patcham was not particularly nice having left the tranquility of the Downs one has to cross over the busy A27 Brighton-by-pass (fortunately there is a footbridge) and pass behind the back gardens of several houses, with their accompanying overspill of garden and household waste.

Overall though this was a great start to 2012, a nice gentle walk over the Downs (about seven and a half miles), lots of interest along the way, and only a couple of paths were the mud was a problem, which considering it is early January was quite fortunate.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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South Downs Way: Pyecombe to Washington

2 Jun

South Downs Way sign

I was up early today and on the bus at 7:30am heading for Pyecombe, East Sussex and the start of the next section of the South Downs Way. After quick stop at the service station to pick up some drinks, I was striding up the side of West Hill.

From West Hill the South Downs Way leads down to Saddlescombe, which is a small hamlet, more like a large farm, owned by the National Trust. There is a tea-shop which is unfortunately closed on a Wednesday. There is also another unusual feature, a donkey wheel (shown below), which is a treadmill that was used to draw water up from a well.

Saddlescombe Donkey Wheel

It didn’t really explore the farm, I wasn’t sure if it was really open or not, but I wanted to press on. From Saddlescombe the path leads up Summer Down along the southern side of Devil’s Dyke. Devil’s Dyke is a well known beauty spot, with a fascinating history, which has been attracting sightseers for years, mainly due to it’s proximity to nearby Brighton.

Devil's Dyke

Devil’s Dyke is a large dry valley (shown above), but the whole area has really adopted the name, as has the pub at the top of the northern side of the valley. A branch of the railway from Brighton used to bring visitors up the hill, where they could enjoy a variety of amusements, such as a cable car across the valley and a funicular railway that ran down the north slope of the hill.

From Devil’s Dyke the South Downs Way runs west across the top of a succession of hills, Fulking Hill, Perching Hill, Edburton Hill and finally to Truleigh Hill. Truleigh Hill has also had an interesting history, from World War Two Radar Station to Cold War Bunker. Today it is best known as home to four radio masts (shown below) which serve as a landmark for miles around, especially at night when the warning lights at the top of the masts are visible.

Truleigh Hill radio masts

From Truleigh Hill the path descends (mainly gently) down to the River Adur valley, near Upper Beeding. Across the other side of the river is the lovely little Saxon church at Botolphs (shown below), but I didn’t have time to visit the church (and I have visited it in the past).

St Botolphs Church

From near Botolphs the South Downs Way starts to head northwards, on the hills to the west of the town of Steyning, before turning westwards again heading towards the village Washington, with fantastic views across the weald to the north. Before reaching Washington the path passes Chanctonbury Ring (shown below), another famous Sussex landmark.

Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring has a long history, with traces of a Roman temple, an Iron Age hill fort and a ring of trees that were planted in 1760 by Charles Goring of nearby Wiston. I had been straining for my first sight of Chanctonbury Ring as I approached, not only because it would prove some much needed shelter for me to sit and have a break, but also because it is like an old friend to me, whether up close or for miles around.

It also helped that Chanctonbury Ring marked the final high point of the walk and from here it was literally all down hill, from the top of Chanctonbury Hill down into the valley, just south of the village of Washington and a bus home (by way of Horsham).

According to the official guide book, today’s walk was 13¾ miles, there were some quite challenging climbs in some quite hot weather (it wasn’t supposed to have been so warm), although there were a few small diversions, such as the start at Pyecombe which took the total up to nearer 15 miles.

Some of those diversions were for trig points (I couldn’t finish without a trig point), in all there were three trig points today, at Devil’s Dyke, Steyning Bowl and the one shown below on Chanctonbury Hill just west of Chanctonbury Ring.

Chanctonbury Hill trig point

South Downs Way: Falmer to Pyecombe

25 May

South Downs Way sign

Today’s walk was unforgettable, but mostly for the wrong reasons. The start from the A27 between Falmer and Lewes in East Sussex, was inauspicious after the bus driver failed to stop at the right bus stop, apparently he thought I had pressed the button by accident. Guess not many people take the bus to the South Downs Way.

Ditchling Beacon

The walk itself was very good, the hills seemed pretty gentle although one of the hills on this walk, Ditchling Beacon (seen above), is said to be the highest point in East Sussex, but it didn’t really seem like it.

The weather was pretty good too. The sun shone and there was very little cloud, but once again things were a bit hazy. There was quite a strong breeze at the start, but that seemed to disappear later in the day.

I had really been looking forward to this part of the route, I have never walked it, there was so much to see along the route (and nearby) and of course it is close to real ancestor territory (Lewes and Hurstpierpoint to mention but two).

Trig point and Mount Harry

There were three trig points either on the route or nearby, the one pictured above is on Blackcap (with Mount Harry in the background). The views from all three were good, but because of the haze they weren’t as spectacular as they could have been.

There are two hill figures on this part of the route as well. One has been lost, known as Ditchling Cross, it was originally carved into the chalk on the hill side above Plumpton. I took a detour (just north of the path) to try and find it, having found traces of it on aerial views on Google Maps and Bing Maps. It is now marked by an indent in the hill side, the upright being more visible than the cross-piece.

The other hill figure was grown on the side of the hill, rather than cut into it. In 1887 to celebrate the Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee two rows of trees were planted in the shape of a V. From the hill top there is not much to see, and I wasn’t going to go down the hill and climb back up just to get a photo. I have several postcards of it, and it can be clearly seen on Google Maps, albeit upside down.

There were many dew ponds along this section of the route. Dew ponds are a vital source of water for livestock on the Downs, and I shall probably write a fuller description in the future due to their history and importance, especially if you come from generations of agricultural labourers like I do (although I am not sure if I have any hill farmers in my family tree). For now you will just have to make do with the photo below.

Sheep drinking at dew pond

Along with trig points, dew ponds and hill figures, there were also to two windmills (Jack and Jill) on the side of the hill above Clayton, near the end of the walk. Jack is in private ownership (and in quite bad shape by the looks of it), but Jill is open to the public on Summer Sunday afternoon. Another important part of our agricultural heritage.

The walk ended at Pyecombe in West Sussex. In theory this should have been the most convenient part of the walk for me, I could catch a bus home from Pyecombe without any problem. Unfortunately it didn’t go according to plan.

I arrived at the bus stop on the A23 with five minutes to spare, but knew that the bus would almost certainly be late because of the heavy traffic coming out of Brighton. It was late, about 20 minutes late, and to my dismay the driver didn’t see me waving franticly on the roadside and drove on past.

I couldn’t stand another hour in a lay-by with nothing but a bus stop for company and the thunder of traffic passing just a few feet away. Rather than risk another bus passing me by I decided it would be better to get away from the main road and walk about a mile up a quieter road to the next bus stop, where I could guarantee I would be seen.

Keymer Post

The finger post on the left is known as Keymer Post, and it marks the boundary between the counties of East and West Sussex. North points to the village of Keymer (where my grandparents were married), south is Brighton, west is Winchester and east is Eastbourne.

So far I have completed almost 33 miles of the South Downs Way, which is about a third of the total distance, and now I am walking in West Sussex, my home county and the landscape of many of my ancestors. The idea of walking all the way across West Sussex seems almost inconceivable, but it is not much further than I have already walked. After that there is still about 30 miles of Hampshire to go before I finally reach Winchester.

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