A Route Around Cissbury Ring, Botolphs and Steep Down

One of the locations on my list of places to visit on this trip to West Sussex is Cissbury Ring.  Whilst walking the South Downs Way National Trail in September 2018 I could see the Iron Age hillfort in the distance as I walked by Chanctonbury Ring.  So today I have plotted a walk that will give me an opportunity to visit Cissbury.

My starting point is the car park in Findon Valley (GR TQ133066).  Leaving the car park I take the footpath going uphill on a track heading east.  I stay with the track ignoring paths on the right leading onto an area of access land.

At the top of the hill I reach a track and turn left to follow this besides the edge of Worthing Golf Course.  Initially the track is hedge lined but soon opens out to offer cracking views.

This path takes me to a gate leading to the National Trust land around Cissbury.

I take an anti-clockwise route around the edge of Cissbury Ring.

Then follow around the ramparts of this Iron Age Hillfort constructed around 400BC. It’s location provides extensive views and it is, therefore, not surprising that over the years it has served as a military base.  The Roman’s had an encampment here and during the Tudor period it was used as a lookout to view over seventy miles of coastline.

This Iron Age Hillfort is the second largest in England; only Maiden Castle in Dorset is bigger.  During World War II an anti-tank ditch was dug around the whole fort and it housed anti-aircraft guns.  However, its history is not all about military use.  The area around the fort was used extensively for flint mining, there are said to be over 200 shafts, some up to 39 feet deep.

Given the height of the hill, over 600 feet above sea level and the wide-ranging views it is hardly surprising that it is also the location of an Ordnance Survey trig point.  On reaching a gap in the ramparts I walk towards the summit of the hill to “bag” the trig.  This is my 173rd.

After bagging the trig I head back through the gap in the ramparts and continue my route around the fort until I reach a footpath on the north east corner of the ring, this path heads downhill parallel to a chalky track.  As I walk down I see a steady stream of walkers heading towards me on the track below.

At the foot of the hill I go through a gate to reach a junction of paths, here I continue straight on in a northerly direction, first enquiring of a marshal why so many walkers are out today.  He explains it is the Worthing High School sponsored walk to Chanctonbury Ring, a distance of 12 miles.  There are over a thousand participants and heading up the track I appear to pass the vast majority of them.  It is therefore, with some relief that I reach a junction of paths and turn right along the route of the Monarchs Way.  I have this track to myself.

I stay with the Monarch’s Way route until I reach a junction with the South Downs Way, here the two trails turn right at a flint memorial to Walter Langmead who farmed this land for many years.

The route now heads downhill to reach a minor road; the footpath follows a well-defined route along the fence line overlooking Steyning bowl.

I ignore a turning on the left, where the Monarch’s Way leaves the South Downs Way, and then take the next path on the left to follow the South Downs Way route as it heads east towards Botolphs.

When I walked the South Downs Way last September I hardly saw a soul, it was only on this section that I walked with someone.  At the time I enjoyed the company, but now realise that chatting whilst walking meant I failed to fully appreciate the views.

As I near Botolphs I follow the South Downs Way markers to reach a minor road where I turn right and wander through the village.  I keep on the road as the South Downs Way veers to the left, and soon find myself at the 11th century church of St Botolph’s.

Resuming my walk I continue along the minor road, with views across the valley to the disused Beeding Cement Works.  It is a bit of an eyesore, but is an interesting industrial archaeological site.  Cement production began on this site in 1883 and continued until 1991.  The site is now derelict, but apparently there are plans to transform it into an eco-village with 2,200 low carbon properties.

It had been my intention to take a footpath on the right at Coombes Farm, however, the lane is quiet and I fancy getting a closer view of Lancing College.  I saw it in the distance earlier as I descended around Steyning Bowl and I have driven past on numerous occasions, but never had the opportunity to get a good look at it.  So I stay on the road almost until it reaches the A27, here I turn right taking a road leading to properties and then turn right again following a footpath up the College driveway.

Lancing College is an independent boarding school established in 1848, a Gothic Chapel standing high on the hill dominates the site.  I confess to not being a fan of independent schools, I have no issue with people choosing to pay the £30k plus per year to educate their children, but I do object to the tax relief the schools receive as a charity. 

After passing houses I leave the driveway to follow a footpath on the left heading west. 

From this path I get a fine view of the Gothic Chapel.

The path becomes a track and heads to Lancing Ring Nature Reserve.  I ignore paths onto the nature reserve instead keeping on the track as it follows the eastern edge of the reserve.  As I head over the hill the wind and rain start to pick up and I can clearly see my route ahead of me.

At a junction of paths I take the clear route through the fields heading to the summit of Steep Down.  This hill is not exceptionally high, standing at 489 feet above sea level, but it is exposed and the wind has seriously picked up making it difficult to stand up when I reach the ordnance survey trig pillar.  This is the 174th I have bagged.

From the trig point I continue on the path heading north, this descends steeply to a junction of paths where I turn left and head west along the track towards a minor road.  After crossing the road I continue along the track passing through Canada Bottom.

Eventually the track brings me to the point I had been at earlier when I left the National Trust land around Cissbury Ring.  I turn left and re-enter that National Trust site, this time I follow a path leading to steps directly in front of me.  

This leads to the ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort, I turn right and follow the ramparts.

There are fine views of the South Downs to the west.

Reaching the point where I first joined the ring earlier on my walk I turn right and head down to a gate leading to the access land.  After going through the edge of an area of woodland I continue across the open access land to reach a track.  Here I turn right and head back down to the car park where I started my walk.

My wander around has covered 15 miles and has been extremely interesting.  The more I walk on the South Downs the more I appreciate the beauty of the area.  Apart from the school children on their sponsored walk I have only bumped into a handful of people all day.

You can view this 15 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here (Subscription to OS Maps Required)

To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 121 – Arundel & Pulborough

27th September 2019

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2019)

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