Access land walk, West Sussex

trulymadlymaybe circesfeast at
Wed Oct 14 14:22:07 BST 2009

Hi folks,

Here are the details of a roam THIS Saturday, 17th, just north of Worthing, West Sussex, sorry for such late posting. This will be our last Access land/ right to roam walk of this year but next year we'll be organising more walks and figuring out ways we can influence the upcoming Access Land Review - defending those areas that are already public and arguing for more! Please contact us on the address below to go on our mailing list.

action4access at

Kim t.

Walking the woods around Clapham - Saturday October 17th

Meet 9.30am at the cafe on the south side of the Level, Brighton.

(This time, because the walk is tricky to get to by public transport, we're taking advantage of a kind offer by the Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers' Centre to use their minibus. There should be places available for everyone who wants to come, so just turn up as usual. The price will be subsidised, so very cheap).

For anyone wanting to meet us at the start of the walk, be at Clapham church car park (TQ095066 - just off Village Street, off the A280 Long Furlong Road) at 10.30am.

WALKING CONDITIONS: The walk will be circular, 6 - 7 miles long, and we aim to be finished by about 4.30pm. We will use rights of way but some parts of the walk must be accessed beyond these. Parts of some sites will be steep. Children very welcome. Sorry, but no dogs. The route is not suitable for push chairs. We'll need to cross some wire fences, and carpet squares will be provided to cover barbed wire so as both to avoid snagging ourselves and any damage to fences. Below are Dave's notes:

To the Woods, to the Woods !!

This walk will take us into the complex of woods around Clapham, west of Worthing. Clapham and Titnore Woods together constitute one of the largest remaining blocks of semi-natural woodland on the South Downs. They are largely ancient Oak-Hazel woodland and were managed for many centuries as coppice for sheep hurdles, wattle walls, tools, thatching spars, and so on.

Many of the place-names from thereabout bear testimony to that woodland continuity
such as Holt Farm, Biggen Holt, Clapham itself, Michelgrove, Lee Farm.

Since the last world war the woods have been brutally cleared and mis-managed, with proposals from the landowner for a golf course and a rubbish tip, and with the underwood stripped out so as to leave just lollipop oaks standing over pasture. Much remains, however.

The woods are grand for fungi and ancient woodland wildflowers and are still delightful, despite all that carnage. Locally there is much talk of haunting and witchcraft, centred on the mysterious disappearance of the local vicar some decades ago – whose body was found in the woods much later, poor fellow.

We will then move on to the Longfurlong sub-scarp, which is a superb, though grossly undermanaged 1.5 miles of ancient Down pasture. Most of it is not formally open to the public despite being Access Land, and local folk have trampled down the fence so as to freely walk it. On our last visit we found a large colony of the locally rare Burnet Rose gall wasp (rare because Burnet Rose is very rare on the Downs). We also found a scatter of little marble-sized pebbles, each with a belly button hole, which we late discovered are fossil sponges known as Porosphaera globularis. Nice.

The slope is very colourful in summer with Lesser Scabious, and, later, Devil's-bit.

Looking north there are superb views across the prehistoric landscape of Church, Blackpatch and Harrow Hills, which were regional centres of the Neolithic `industrial revolution', with extensive flint mining and tool trade all across southern England. Harrow Hill was later a pagan Saxon temple – hence the name - and hosts of oxen sacrifices took place there. It was, in those early Saxon times, maybe the start of a `sacred landscape' which tracked northwards across the Weald all the way to the Surrey border and was known as `Esewrithe'.

Part of this Downscape used to be owned by Worthing Council, but was quietly flogged off in the `90's, thus depriving the new National Park Authority of a critically important public holding. Worthing Council are now in the process of flogging off a lot of their remaining Downland estate around Cissbury Ring, to the east.

We will walk to Blackpatch Hill, then via Myrtle Grove, Patching (which was the centre of a very busy truffle hunting cottage industry till Victorian times) and then returning to Clapham.

walking and working for a people's countryside
Action for Access is a Brighton-based campaign group aiming to highlight access and conservation issues on our local Downs. Our main focus is on Access Land, the areas designated as `Open Country' by the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000.
We argue that these places were restricted at the time, both in number and in size, by landowners' objections and by the opaque and closed process by which Natural England chose them. In Brighton and Hove, for example, only 220 ha of land was designated Open Country, a mere 2.6% of Brighton's local authority area – and much of this was open to the public already!

What's more, many of these places remain today practically inaccessible, fenced in with barbed wire and lacking stiles or signs, leaving members of the public to think that they may not walk there. Some are little more than `islands' in the midst of swathes of private property, so that trespassing is the only way to reach them. And still others are being allowed to `scrub up', making them not only utterly impenetrable but also potentially disqualifying them as `Open Country' in the future.

In 2013 Natural England will be holding a review of Access Land on the South Downs.  There is every chance - especially if a Conservative government is in power - that many landowners will be able to successfully lobby to have their land taken back into `closed' status. Those places where we can now roam could be shut off from us, maybe for generations.

2013 may seem like a long way off, but the political wrangling will start long before then. By getting organised now we have a good chance of preserving, even enlarging, the amount of Access Land available to us all.  The decision to make the South Downs a National Park will help. So will using and walking on as much Access Land as we can - even if a few barbed wire fences do get in our way.


More information about the Diggers350 mailing list