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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks throughout the year

Saturday 31st October 2009 - Halloween.
Bignor Hill - Eartham - Slindon - Bignor Hill
10 miles

The Met Office forecast for the day was good but our ride to Bignor Hill (SU973 128) was plagued with thick fog and drizzle. The summits of the Downs were invisible as we rode into Bignor village where the steep, off-road section up to the hill top is taken. On a trials bike this would be simple, but on a huge Harley with a pillion and luggage it's a bit of a challenge. We made it to the top unscathed though and set off on foot into the fog down the Roman road called Stane Street towards Noviomagus (Chichester). This is a truly beautiful footpath that slices through the large, broadleaf forest that is Eartham Wood. We kept trying to imagine what it would have been like here in Roman times and how much the land would have changed. Walking along a 1000 year-old road makes you think of all of the people that have used it down through the ages. The wood itself was the epitome of autumn, with vibrant colours, intense wildlife activity and the smell of decay and fermentation all about. With the final wisps of fog dissipating amongst the trees like fleeing spectres, Keats' 'Ode to Autumn' kept coming to mind. A walk like this is the perfect way to unwind from the stresses of modern living and experiencing the full force of each of the seasons gives the passage of time and the journey of our lives a true structure, a structure that is being lost nowadays, with the result that people are becoming more and more detached from reality, obsessively concerned about their own mortality and increasingly unhappy with life.

"If you look for the truth outside yourself,
It gets further and further away.
Today walking alone, I meet it everywhere I step.
It is the same as me, yet I am not it.
Only if you understand it in this way
Will you merge with the way things are."

The path through the wood also makes up part of The Monarch's Way and we were very surprised to find a party of Royalist soldiers with a field canon, drinking lemonade in a clearing. It turned out that they weren't ghosts from a bygone age on their way to take down Gordon Brown, but a re-enactment group doing a charity event for Southampton Paediatric Hospital. They were half-way on their 11 mile journey from Goodwood to Arundel and were already looking forward to a few beers at their final destination. We hope they made it safely.
With the fog cleared, the day really began to live up to the Met Office's promise. Strong sunshine shone through the remaining canopy like a Tiffany lamp, lighting up the rainbow of leaf litter and the encroaching fungi.
At the small village of Eartham the All Hallows Day theme continued as we found Dead Man's Fingers sticking out of the turf of the graveyard, but didn't come across a single living soul.
The sun set at 4:45 and the almost full moon was surrounded by a 22o halo in the clear sky. We were surrounded by Tawny Owls calling eerily and were buzzed by close-flying bats. The moon aided our navigation during the last couple of hours of walking as the twin antennae at Glatting Beacon, lit up by the moonlight, guided us back to the bike.

The start of Stane Street at Bignor Hill

Gumber Bothy - A place to stay if you are doing the Monarch's Way or the South Downs Way.

Tea and sketching in Eartham Wood

Even the sheep seemed happy today

Jelly Ear fungus

Hanaker Hill windmill

Common Puffball

The Folly at Nore Hill

Eartham church

The church roof was like a reflection of the dead Beech leaves covering the floor of the woods.

Dead Man's Fingers in the graveyard


"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. 
The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like falling leaves.

John Muir