Tag Archives: south downs way

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.

South Downs Way: Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Exton

23 Jun

South Downs Way sign

It was another ridiculously early start today, out of the house by 6.15am to catch the first of several buses today. I had been looking forward to today’s walk, but nervous about getting home after I had finished.

As is becoming normal for these walks, it began at the side of a busy road (the A3) and almost straight away an uphill climb (Butser Hill – pictured below). For my exertion I was rewarded with some fantastic views to the south, across to the Solent and the Isle of Wight.

At the foot of Butser Hill

For the next four or five miles the path followed an arc around the village of East Meon, Hampshire (another place with ancestral connections). First it was to the west, then the north and finally to the east, but always about a mile or two away.

East Meon from Butser Hill

One of the more unusual sights was HMS Mercury, a disused Royal Navy shore establishment. The high fences topped with razor wire remain but the buildings look to have been abandoned to the elements. Some of the buildings to the south of the base form part of a sustainability centre, which includes the South Downs Natural Burial Site.

HMS Mercury

The final climb of the day was up Old Winchester Hill, a nature reserve dominated by an iron age hill fort (and home to a trig. point). It was whilst I was standing on these ancient defensive earthworks that I was treated to a display of modern defensive hardware.

A pair of jet fighters made five or six passes of the hill before heading north with a roar. I don’t know if the hills and valleys are a regular training ground, but it may explain the signs prohibiting kite and model aircraft flying.

Descending Old Winchester Hill

From Old Winchester Hill the path descends to Exton, Hampshire, the end of my day’s walk and the start of a marathon five hour bus and train journey home. The approach to Exton is along a path by the side of a dried up stream bed, which was a bit of an obstacle course. The normally wide paths of the South Downs Way were replaced with a narrow twisting path, with tree roots and overhanging branches, it certainly made an interesting change.

Exton is a lovely little village, I didn’t have much time to explore, but I got a few pictures of the church, and had a quick look around as I made my way to the bus stop. I will be back there again soon to complete the final section, then I will take the opportunity to spend a bit longer looking around.

The River Meon near Exton

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