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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.
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Postcard Album: The River at Houghton

20 Oct

This delightful postcard found its way into my collection because it is such a lovely view. It is an area that I have walked in the past (up the river from Arundel) and it is within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park and at one time was on the route of the South Downs Way, but that was moved a bit further north away from the busy road.

As the caption says, this it “THE RIVER AT HOUGHTON”, the river itself is the River Arun in West Sussex and we are looking roughly south-west down river as it snakes its way towards Arundel and eventually to Littlehampton (about ten miles away) where it meets the sea.

Houghton is a small hamlet which is just up the little road on the right of the picture. I believe the photograph was actually taken near Houghton Bridge and more specifically from the tip of the little island on which the middle of the bridge rests.

The photographer responsible was Frederick Douglas Miller of Haywards Heath, whose name is embossed in the bottom right-hand corner, who produced some of the most outstanding picture postcards of Sussex.

This postcard was posted from Arundel on the 7th June 1920 (at least I think it is 1920). It was sent to a Miss Acford in London and has the rather puzzling message: Thanks very much for “Punch” and information. I am hoping there will be a little change left out of it when we come home. We are having lovely weather – cold winds night and morning but gloriously hot and sunny all day – hope it will last. Yrs A.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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