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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).

South Downs Way: Washington to Amberley

8 Jun

South Downs Way sign

Today’s walk was a short section, from Washington, West Sussex to Amberley, West Sussex, according to the official guide book it was only six miles. The weather wasn’t brilliant today (at least not to start with), a complete opposite from last week, with wind, rain showers and low cloud.

They weren’t ideal conditions, but I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I was afraid of the rain, quite the opposite in fact. I had been been hoping for a chance to experience a variety of weather conditions, after all my ancestors had to put up with rain, wind and snow, so I why shouldn’t I?

Rain cloud over Sullington Hill

To be honest though, there was really only one rain shower, and it was light and passed quickly, and because of the wind it didn’t take long to dry off. The photo above shows the top of Sullington Hill and the bottom of the rain cloud. I really did have my head in the clouds today.

There wasn’t a lot to see at the start, the best views would have been to the south coast if the weather had been better. There were two trig. points along this section of the route, the one below, on Kithurst Hill, was just to the north of the path hidden from the South Downs Way and easy to miss if you are not paying attention.

Kithurst Hill trig point looking south

The low-level cloud did lift towards midday, as I was nearing the end of the walk, and it did brighten somewhat, although still plenty of cloud about until well into the afternoon. This did mean that the views did improve, especially to the north and west, north over Amberley and Pulborough Brooks beyond, and to the west along the next section of the South Downs.

Looking west to the next section

As this was only a short section, about three hours, I had plenty of time to visit Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre before I had to make my home. I have been visiting Amberley Museum on and off for many years. I think the first visit was in 1979, the year it first opened to the public. I will have to write more about Amberley Museum because it is such wonderful place.

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

Introducing the HAYBITTLE family

5 Nov

I have spent a couple of evenings this week filling in the gaps in the HAYBITTLE family. My 3x great-grandparents Jane HAYBITTLE and Henry TROWER married in Henfield, Sussex on the 3rd November 1847. Together they had thirteen children including my 2x great-grandfather Ebenezer TROWER.

Jane HAYBITTLE was from the neighbouring parish of Ashurst, Sussex and was the daughter of John and Harriet HAYBITTLE, she baptised in Ashurst on the 16th December 1827.

Jane appears to have been one of nine children, although the youngest died as an infant. John HAYBITTLE and Harriet WOOD were married on the 8th November 1823 in nearby Steyning, Sussex although both were born in Ashurst.

John appears to be the youngest child of Thomas HAYBITTLE and Mary DALE, who were married in Washington, Sussex on the 13th May 1776. It looks like they had seven children in total, the first six being baptised in Ashington, Sussex and the last one, John, was baptised in Ashurst, Sussex.

It appears that some time between 1795 and 1800 the family moved from Ashington parish to Ashurst parish, which is not a great distance, about four or five miles. As well as the children of John and Harriet being baptised in Ashurst, there are a couple of other HAYBITTLE families, Thomas and Barbara and William and Ann, who were probably also the children of Thomas and Mary HAYBITTLE.

For this work I used the following sources: Census returns on Ancestry.co.uk, Ashurst parish register transcriptions from the Parish Register Transcription Society and the Sussex Marriage Index CD from the SFHG. The parish register entries will need checking at a later date for accuracy.

I have gone back a little bit further than I needed to for my Christmas Tree Project, but I feel I have a good understanding now of where my HAYBITTLE family came from and good base from which to carry out further research at a later date.

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