Tag Archives: south downs way

Wandering: South Downs Way – Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Exton

27 Aug

My wife and I were out and about again today, walking another section of the South Downs Way. The weather was reasonably good, slightly cooler than previous walks and mostly dry. The photo below shows the first climb of the day, as you can see there was lots of broken cloud, but around midday the cloud became thicker eventually leading to some light rain and ultimately one heavy, but very brief shower.

There had obviously been some very heavy rain recently because there were some very large (almost unpassable) puddles and many patches of mud, which made some of the paths a little awkward.

Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Hampshire

I like this particular section, partly because of the almost continuous views of the village of East Meon and that it finished in Exton, both of which have family connections, partly because there are some superb views to the south to Southampton and the Isle of Wight and partly because it is a section I am not that familiar with (unlike some of the Sussex sections).

The biggest surprise of the day was the state of HMS Mercury, last year when I walked this section the site contained many derlict buildings that made up this naval establishment. Today although the security fences were still there but the buildings had gone, or rather they had been reduced to big piles of ground-up rubble. I don’t think there was anything architecturally outstanding about the buildings but it was still sad to see them gone.

HMS Mercury (23 June 2010)

HMS Mercury (27 August 2011)

As with previous walks here are some facts and figures for today’s walk:

Starting point: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean, Hampshire
Finishing point: Exton, Hampshire
Distance walked: 10.1 miles
Highest point: Butser Hill (889 ft) [said to be the highest point on the South Downs]
Places of note: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Butser Hill, HMS Mercury, Wether Down, Coombe Cross, Meon Springs, Old Winchester Hill
Number of trig points spotted: Two – Wether Down (although we didn’t get up close) and Old Winchester Hill
Number of sandwiches eaten: Two halves (egg mayonnaise and cheese ploughmans)
Number of taxi journeys taken: One (from Petersfield to QECP) [quicker than waiting for the bus, meant we could start walking sooner]
Number of bus journeys taken: Four
Number of train journeys taken: Three
Number of ice creams eaten: Three! (a bumper section of the SDW for ice creams)
Shorts or long trousers: Long trousers (a few warmer spells but not warm enough for shorts)

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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Wandering: South Downs Way – Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park

7 Aug

My wife and I completed another section of the South Downs Way on Saturday, after a few weeks break we finally made it back down to Cocking, near Midhurst in West Sussex to carry on heading west towards Winchester. The weather wasn’t particularly brilliant, for about the middle third of the walk we were accompanied by light rain, not enough to make us wish we had waterproofs, but just enough to be annoying.

The temperature was still pretty warm even though we only saw the sun for a couple of brief moments, there was a slight breeze, but not enough to make it cold. We should have had some spectacular views to the south across to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, but the conditions meant that although you could see some vague outlines it was far from clear.

Looking east from Pen Hill nr South Harting, West Sussex

The second half of this walk was one of my least favourite parts last time, not particularly difficult just uninspiring. The only real notable feature of this section was the crossing of the border from West Sussex into Hampshire, but even this is easily missed because it is not marked in any way except on the map.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park at the end of the walk was a welcome sight bring with it toilets, refreshments and most importantly a bus stop from which we could start our journey home (the sound of the traffic racing past on the busy main road wasn’t quite so welcome).

Like the last time I wrote about our walk along the South Downs Way I am going to give you some facts and figures for Saturday’s walk:

Starting point: Cocking Hill Car Park, Cocking, West Sussex
Finishing point: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean, Hampshire
Distance walked: 11.1 miles
Highest point: Linch Ball (813 ft)
Places of note: Cocking Down, Linch Ball, Didling Hill, Monkton Wood, Treyford Hill, Pen Hill, Beacon Hill, Harting Downs, Queen Elizabeth Forest
Number of trig points spotted: One – Linch Ball (although we didn’t get up close)
Number of sandwiches eaten: Two halves (egg and rocket, cheese and cucumber )
Number of unusual place names: Two (Mount Sinai and Milky Way)
Number of bus journeys taken: Four
Number of train journeys taken: Two
Number of ice creams eaten: One
Shorts or long trousers: Shorts (still warm despite the lack of sunshine)

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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Still loving the South Downs

16 Jul

Whether it is walking them, reading about them or just looking at them, I am still in love with the South Downs.

The South Downs and the Weald, looking West from Devil's Dyke

Over the past few weeks my wife and I have continued our walk along the South Downs Way, we are now about two-thirds of the way along, with only three more sections to go. We have seen the South Downs in all sorts of weather, from the stinging wind-driven rain to the baking hot sun. We have watched as entire Wealden villages have been blocked out by sheets of rain and watched fields shimmering in the heat. We have enjoyed moments of silence and solitude on the tops of hills and shared the path with groups of walkers or cyclists rushing past.

I am now finding myself straining for my fast glance of the South Downs every morning on the way work. There is a part of my journey where I can get a brief view of the Downs, despite the fact that the bus is in general heading away from them. Every morning I am looking to see what they are looking like, whether they are clearly visible or just a grey bulk on the southern skyline. Sometimes the trees and bushes seem so crisp and clear other times they are just a dark grey outline and on one morning recently it was so misty that I could barely see over the hedge let alone to the hills seven or eight miles aways.

I have also been reading about the South Downs and in particular the South Downs Way and its history. I have been looking at old guides to the route, looking at the variations in the route over the relatively short life of the path. One day I would like to write my own guide and perhaps history of the route, but that is not really a top priority for me now.

I keep looking for a personal connection through my ancestors to the South Downs, and I guess the MITCHELL family who ended up at West Dean, Sussex would probably be the best fit, but really the strongest personal connection with the South Downs come through me.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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).

Wandering into the New Year

31 Dec

This blog focuses on the two hobbies which give me great pleasure (most of the time), walking and family history. As described yesterday I had plenty of family history resolutions/goals in 2010, but I don’t think there were actually any walking resolutions.

I did end up walking the South Downs Way in 2010, which I had hoped to do for some time, but it wasn’t really a new year’s resolution. I also walked parts of the North Downs Way and the Capital Ring around London in 2010, but again I wouldn’t consider either of them to have been brought about by a new year’s resolution.

For 2011 however I have a pretty clear idea of the walking I want to do. I haven’t really considered whether it is actually going to be possible to fit it all in, and of course a lot will depend on what the weather is like.

The walks I would like to complete in 2011 can be divided into three categories:

Long Distance Walks

South Downs Way – I want to do the South Downs Way again, this time it will probably be from west to east, and all in one go. In 2010 I walked it on one or two days a week, but in 2011 I want to take a week off in the Summer and do it all in one go.

North Downs Way – In 2011 my friend Chris and I need to get the North Downs Way finished and out of the way. We have about five days worth of walking to go, but it is a bit of a headache getting out into Kent to actually do it.

High Weald Landscape Trail – This is another walk Chris and I hope to complete in 2011, and one I am really looking forward to because the first half is through true ancestral landscape with opportunities to many churches along the way.

Shorter Named Walks

There are several shorter routes dotted around the south east that I would like to walk:

Worth Way – A fairly short walk (about seven miles) along a disused railway between Three Bridges and East Grinstead (both in Sussex). It shouldn’t be particularly challenging but will serve as a nice little warm up for some of the longer/steeper walks.

Chalk Stones Trail – Another shorter walk, taking in part of the South Downs and the village of West Dean, Sussex. What is there not to like?

There are also several shorter walks in London that I wouldn’t mind doing, and I would like to revisit the site of the 2012 Olympics and see how the building works have progressed over the intervening months.

Genealogy Walks

There are lots of places that I want to visit, just to go and visit the areas where my ancestors came from and explore a few churches and cemeteries. In fact there is hardly a village in Sussex that isn’t on my list (admittedly it is as yet an unwritten list) of places to visit and photograph.

The list isn’t just limited to Sussex, there are plenty of places in Kent, Surrey, Hampshire and London that I want to visit. I definitely want to spend more time in the town of Alton and the village of Exton, both in Hampshire.

Unlike most of the other walks, these walks will be more about the destination rather than the actual walking itself. All I need to work out is how I am going to fit it all into 12 months.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 27

4 Jul

After the last few weeks I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my enthusiasm for family history, but I am pleased to say I have regained it at last. I feel like things have started moving in the right direction again.

It helped that I visited a couple of ancestral churches on my last section of the South Downs Way, but really I think it was down to forcing myself to actually sit down and do some research. I made progress on a couple of the projects that I had set myself last week, although I didn’t do any more on the Australian BATEMAN family.

Best of all I have a bundle of papers (mostly HEMSLEY marriages) that need sorting out, which should keep me busy for a couple of weeks, sorting out who is who and entering all the details into my database. I have also started a couple more projects, which was inevitable really, but I need to try not to get too bogged down, trying to juggle too many projects at the same time.

This week I am going make a start on that bundle of papers, and see where that leads me. Also I need to try and find out more about Arthur Leonard JESSOP, was there any connection with my grandfather?

I have been feeling the urge to write more about Sussex, the county I call home. For example, I have seen so many things on my recent walk along the South Downs Way that are worthy of more detailed descriptions. I don’t think I am going to be able to keep it genealogy related, so this may mean starting another blog. I really want to make a decision this week.

South Downs Way: Exton to Winchester

29 Jun

South Downs Way sign

Today I completed the final section of the South Downs Way, from Exton to Winchester (both in Hampshire). It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision last night, and it meant another early start and a marathon bus journey to get home.

The weather started rather grey and overcast, with a forecast of rain, but I was still in my shorts and short-sleeve shirt (and an umbrella in my rucksack). I did wonder whether I had got it wrong, but once I started walking it became clear that although the sun was not visible it was still a going to be a warm day.

I spent a little longer than I had planned in Exton, mainly at the church (pictured below), St. Peter and St. Paul, which was open and is a delightful church. There were several baptisms, marriages and burials of my ancestors that took place at that church and it was good to see it in detail at last.

Exton Church

I hurried off from Exton, trying to make up for the time I had spent in the church, heading in a north-westerly direction up Beacon Hill. The first half a mile or so was a gentle rolling landscape and I could almost see my ancestors working on these fields 150 years ago. Then things got steep and the thoughts of my ancestors turned to thoughts of mountain goats.

Stile on a slope

The view from the top was worth the climb, even in the gloom and haze there were quite spectacular views to the south and west. Also there was a trig point there as well, which made it really worthwhile. From Beacon Hill the South Downs Way continues in the same roughly north-westerly direction, and to be honest the path became a little dull again.

The views were very limited, often blocked by hedgerows either side of the track. The only thing that kept me going was trying to catch up with and stay ahead of a couple of groups of walkers, who had also got off the bus at Exton. My dalliance at the church had allowed them to get ahead of me, but it was a great motivator to try and catch up with them.

Fingerpost on Gander Down

The path started to open up a bit more after the halfway point and also it started to rain, fortunately it was nothing more than a few spots, although the skies threatened more. Within an hour or so the clouds started to break up, there was more blue sky than cloud.

The views at Cheesefoot Head were quite spectacular, and before long the city of Winchester came into view, then promptly disappeared as I rounded the side of the hill, but at least I could now see where I was heading, albeit still more than a couple of miles away.

Chilcomb church

As I descended towards Winchester I checked my watch and decided I could fit in a visit to Chilcomb church. I couldn’t remember exactly which one it was, but one of my MITCHELL relatives was baptised here, and I felt that I ought to get a photo otherwise I would probably never get around to visiting it again. It is such a delightful little church, I was really glad I took time out to visit, there are stunning views of Winchester from the churchyard.

The final couple of miles from Chilcomb to Winchester were not particularly interesting, the entry in the city is across a footbridge over the motorway, and then about a mile along pavements into the heart of the city. The final stretch is along the side of the River Itchen, which was quite nice, but it seems all traces of the South Downs Way had disappeared from the city.

Despite my brief efforts, I couldn’t find any sign marking the end of the South Downs Way, the statue of King Alfred has apparently been adopted as the end (or start) of the route, but having walked the 12 miles from Exton (and over 100 miles from Eastbourne over the last couple of months) I had hoped to find some official indication that I had reached the end.

King Alfred at Winchester

I must confess the path did bring me into a different part of the city, one which I hadn’t seen before because it is at the opposite end of the city from the Hampshire Record Office, and it was a much nicer part of the city, and somewhere I would like to come back to and explore further.

Then came the question of getting home. There were two options, bus or train. I had been hoping I would get to Winchester in time to get the bus, because I have been wanting to get the bus home from Winchester for over six months now, so I made my way to the bus station.

The bus journey home is an epic journey, and one that cuts through my Hampshire ancestral homeland. From Winchester the bus goes to Alton (home of the WRIGHT family) and then on to Guildford, Surrey. The journey takes about an hour and forty minutes, and as well as Alton it passes through Alresford, Hampshire which is home to my MITCHELL roots.

Racing through the Hampshire countryside on the top deck of the double-decker bus was a perfect way to end the day, especially as when we neared Ropley we passed alongside the Mid Hants Railway and were treated to the sight of one of their preserved steam trains heading for Alton.

From Guildford, Surrey it was another hour by bus to Horsham, Sussex where I was finally able to get on a bus that would take me home. For some people four hours on buses would be torture, but for me it was just a perfect way to end another little adventure in my life.

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