In deepest Sussex

I used to think it wasn’t worth going ‘on holiday’ for three or four days but our recent foray into Sussex proved otherwise. My Alastair Sawday choice of bed and breakfast suited us very well and the location near Midhurst was perfect for exploring. As we drove into the town centre we espied on our left the Cowdray ruins, reached by walking along a broad, raised sandy path with water meadows on either side and cows grazing by a deep pool in the river at the far end.

Cows at Cowdray

Cows at Cowdray

River at Cowdray in colours of Monet

River at Cowdray in colours of Monet

Even in ruins, this former Elizabethan mansion impresses. It belonged to the Viscounts Montague and was a place of great national importance for many years. Both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I stayed here. Capability Brown was in charge of the landscaping. The Dissolution of the Monasteries brought wealth to the Montagues but also a curse. One of the disenfranchised monks prophesied that ‘By fire and water thy line shall come to an end, and it shall perish out of the land’. The 8th Viscount drowned in the Rhine and the carelessness of workmen led to a great fire in 1793, when many treasures were destroyed, including paintings by van Dyke, Rubens and Holbein. I got a lump in my throat and had quite an ‘Ozymandias’ moment when I read this. I then took some photos – there seemed to be a ghostly figure looking through the empty ruined windows. John pointed out that it was the top of a chimney! See for yourself! He may be right… but those Viscounts lived in troubled times…..

Cowdray's ghostly Viscount?

Cowdray’s ghostly Viscount?

Now desperately in need of a cup of tea, we investigated the outbuildings. Not only was tea and a freshly baked slice of Victoria sponge waiting for us in a delightfully flower filled dining room but there was also a hidden garden, full of lavender and marigolds and buzzing with many contented bees.

Lavender and marigolds

Lavender and marigolds

Contented bees

Contented bees

The first evening we were recommended to try The Hollist Arms, a cosy watering hole in the village of Lodsworth – the sort of place you could arrive on your own and be chatting within five minutes. We sat outside and had battered fish, chips and peas, with a half of draught cider. Very unlike me – but a delicious treat! We were served by a young man with an extraordinary hairstyle, bleached so that it stood up in an enormous quiff, like the bow wave of a ship. I saw him a day or two later in Midhurst with a pretty girl. He was unmissable.

There are lots of expensive cars zooming around the narrow country lanes in Sussex. Our car was rather outshone by a beautiful, bottle green MG roadster with yellow trim and open roof, cuddling up to it in the carpark. Ah well, back to our comfortable resting place deep in the woods. No bears to be seen. I say this because a Canadian friend of ours is hiking the Bruce Trail on his own at this very moment. It is well known for bears and rattlesnakes. We have seen a badger, a fox and two rabbits – sadly, all roadkill.

Next day, we planned to find the field where John’s father’s plane nosedived after he had bailed out over the sea at West Wittering during the war. We drive to Chidham and then start walking along the pretty coastal path.

Coastal path, Chidham

Coastal path, Chidham

Teazels mark the spot

Teazels mark the spot

Hurricane hunt - Cobnor Point

Hurricane hunt – Cobnor Point

We ended up doing a two hour circular walk along the coast and pinpointed the field where the plane met its end. We were alone for almost all the way except for a myriad of butterflies, bees and wild flowers, which reminded me very much of childhood seaside holidays. But we didn’t have a picnic basket. Instead, we drove to Bosham and had lunch in a small pub on the shoreline. The tide was out but you have to keep an eye on it if you park down by the sea as the shore road gets flooded as the tide comes in. Everything operates at a much slower pace here and the day seems to be as stretchable as elastic.

Bosham has a beautifully spacious, cool and picturesque church. And the sea air is very invigorating.

Lichen = unpolluted - at Bosham

Lichen = unpolluted – at Bosham

Outside the church, Bosham

Outside the church, Bosham

Inside Bosham church - West Sussex

Inside Bosham church – West Sussex

Next stop, West Wittering. A blue flag beach at the entrance to Chichester harbour. This is a very special place. Don’t be put off by the enormous car park. If you like being close with other people, the beach is a minute’s walk, with an edging of pretty coloured wooden beach huts. If you want to walk and enjoy the sand, sea and dunes in comparative peace and solitude, make for East Head. A haven for birds, with a few boats and sand dunes. My favourite moment was taking off my socks and shoes and running along the sand before paddling in the sea. The salty water worked miracles on my feet. I can’t remember when I was last at the seaside but it was too long ago.

West Wittering - East Head

West Wittering – East Head



Sand dunes - West Wittering

Sand dunes – West Wittering

Boats - West Wittering

Boats – West Wittering

Red sails - Itchenor

Red sails – Itchenor

Retracing our steps

Retracing our steps

Remains of the day

Remains of the day

Big sky - West Wittering

Big sky – West Wittering

We loved West Wittering so much that we went back twice. Inbetween we went to the Sculpture Park at Goodwood, which is difficult to find but worth the grumpy car conversations about women having no sense of direction. We also fitted in a visit to the remains of the Roman Villa at Fishbourne and the other smaller one at Bignor. Housing now covers some of the Fishbourne site, so I imagine lots of enthusiasts are digging away in their gardens with something other than horticultural joys in mind.

Stoical in adversity?

Stoical in adversity?  (taken at Goodwood Sculpture Park)

Peaceful in solitude...

Peaceful in solitude… (taken at Goodwood Sculpture Park)

Cloning au naturel...

Cloning au naturel… (taken at Goodwodd Sculpture Park)

How did I do that?!

How did I do that?! (taken at Goodwood Sculpture Park)


Oops!   (taken at Goodwood Sculpture Park)

We step into an open book...

We step into an open book…  (taken at Goodwood Sculpture Park)

Moving at the speed of light - Goodwood

Moving at the speed of light – Goodwood Sculpture Park

Help!  Set in aspic...

Help! Set in aspic… (taken at Goodwood Sculpture Park)

The diplomat.  Now you see him...

The diplomat. Now you see him…  (taken at Goodwood Sculpture Park)

Now you don't...

Now you don’t…  (taken at Goodwood Sculpture Park)

Feathered couple- Goodwood

Feathered couple- Goodwood Sculpture Park

Farewell, guardians of Goodwood

Farewell, guardians of Goodwood …   (Goodwood Sculpture  Park)

All I could think of now was dinner. Our kind host, who had been off for the day in his boat, had suggested ‘The Halfway Bridge’, not far from Lodsworth. This is a comfortable, cosy inn where you can also stay the night. The food was excellent and feeling happily replete after a perfect day, we stopped off at the Cowdray ruins for a walk at sunset.

Sunset at Cowdray

Sunset at Cowdray

We enjoyed chatting with our hosts over breakfast. At one point we realised we had lived within a stone’s throw of one another in London, some forty years ago. I am sure there are many more coincidences that one is never even aware of. Sitting in a crowded carriage on the underground I often think that somebody will know someone I know. Not that I want to pursue this!

Next day we were back in Barnes in under two hours, driving via the pretty village of Lurgashall and on to Haslemere. Astonishing to be so near the sea and the centre of London at the same time. We’d done a lot of walking and my feet felt somewhat like this.

Footloose and fancy free?

Footloose and fancy free?  (Goodwood)

Maybe just a teeny weeny bit exhausted! But my head was still in the clouds, lying in the sand dunes and staring up at the sky at West Wittering.

Head in the clouds...

Head in the clouds…


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