Monday, 24 August 2015

Llangollen Canal

Chirk Tunnel
After finishing our walk on the Kennet and Avon Canal a few weeks ago we were really please to have another opportunity for a canal walk.  The day didn't start too promisingly though - the early part of the day was wet and miserable.  By early afternoon though the weather had relented enough for us to consider this as a definite possibility especially with light evenings helping our cause.  We took the bus from our base in Llangollen to Chirk, where we had visited the day before.  The bus journey was pretty short and dropped us off at Chirk station before it would wend its way up the Ceiriog Valley where we had walked the day before.

Purple Loosestrife
We crossed the railway line and headed down into the dark tree lined cutting of the canal just north of Chirk Tunnel.  This tunnel of more than 450 yards was luckily not on our route for otherwise we would have had to either pick our way through holding the handrail or bring a torch.  The tunnel appears to be something of a bottleneck on the canal for there were a large number of boats waiting to enter.  I'm not sure what the protocol is for entering the tunnel but a number of boats were waiting to pass through.  I suspect that this is a popular mooring spot for the town of Chirk also.

Chirk Marina
The cutting was rather damp from the earlier rainfall and we had to pick our way past some of the muddier spots as we headed along the first section of canal.  It was difficult to get a feel for the outside world along this stretch as the cutting is surprisingly deep.  When we couldn't hear the chatter of the crews on the boats though we were aware of the hum of factories that are just outside the woods on our right hand side.  One of them is a chocolate factory although sadly there was no giveaway smell to confirm that.
Whitehouse Tunnel

Eventually we left the cutting and the trees on either side of the canal relented a bit.  The view each side was still rather obscured though from tall flowering plants this time.  Rosebay and Greater Willowherbs dominated but Purple Loosestrife also got involved too.  This made for very pleasant walking and for a time at least the number of boats passing calmed down giving us some peace and quiet.  This is apparently the most popular section of canal in the whole of the country and I guess with aqueducts, great views and no locks between here and Whitchurch (a popular point for starting cruises) it was easy to understand why.

Dee Viaduct
Soon we came upon Chirk Marina.  I am guessing from the number of boats moored here that this is an extremely popular place to stop along the way.  Getting in and out of the narrow entrance did not seem to be that easy for some of the crews though - we saw at least two craft really struggling to negotiate the entrance.  A little further past and around the next corner was another tunnel - the rather shorter Whitehouse Tunnel.  This was dead straight and so we were able to negotiate without too much of a problem.  It added a bit of spice for the girls, who loved the adventure of passing through the darkness hanging onto the handrail as we did so.  That was the little bit of security we all wanted for the tunnel itself is unlit.

First Glimpse of Pontcysyllte
Once through the tunnel the canal opened out quite a bit and was easily wide enough for two boats to pass each other easily although strangely we saw most boats heading southwards and almost none heading in our direction.  I twigged that it was a Wednesday and for most boaters on a week's cruise they would be heading back to Whitchurch today to ensure they got back in time.  Some of the boaters abilities seemed a bit varied; some still hadn't got the hang of steering straight.  Perhaps it was good that they didn't need to negotiate flights of locks as well!
Crossing the Aqueduct
At Irish Bridge there was a sharp turn to the left as we reached the Dee Valley.  Here, the railway line that we had been following since Chirk headed off across the valley on a large and impressive looking viaduct as it headed north towards Chester and Wrexham.  For us though the canal took a course on a shelf high on the valley side to the village of Froncysyllte.  Although our side of the valley was very rural (perhaps because it is in shade a lot of the time) the other side was pretty built up.  The trees flanking the side of the canal largely blocked our views across the Dee Valley however, with only glimpses to be had from time to time.  It was just after we had turned to head westwards briefly that we got the first glimpse of one of the reasons for taking this walk - the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Trevor Basin
In Froncysyllte we passed a couple of tea houses that we perhaps should have made use of.  In our excitement to get across the upcoming aqueduct we by-passed them in favour of a refreshment stop the other side.  If you decide to take this walk I would suggest you don't wait - what is available here looks far more promising than what we found on the other side.  I cannot say that the walk to the aqueduct was particularly enjoyable either as we had to put up with a couple of young girls talking inanely on the phone as they wandered along the towpath.  It rather spoiled the ambience!

Completing the Crossing
When we got to the aqueduct we paused and let them continue on their way while we inspected the way forward.  This aqueduct took 10 years to build and was essentially a white elephant straight away for the canal stops on the other side of the valley.  By the time the aqueduct was completed the costs for continuing the canal to Chester had spiralled and it was no longer considered to be cost-effective to continue.  Yet, Thomas Telford and William Jessop constructed the tallest and longest aqueduct in Britain and did such a brilliant job that the structure is still almost exactly as it was back in those days.  Apart from routine maintenance no major reconstruction has been needed in the intervening time.  It is an awe-inspiring sight even in the 21st Century - goodness only knows what the Georgian public made of it.  Back then railways were unheard of and roads were very rudimentary.
Heading Along Llangollen Branch

Crossing the aqueduct was rather scarier than I imagined.  None of my girls are particularly good with heights but I don't normally struggle.  Yet the narrowness of the path and the fact that there was just a thin metal railing between us and oblivion was definitely something more than my comfort zone.  I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to take a boat across for on the non-towpath side of the canal there isn't even so much as a fence but a sheer drop!  Definitely not for the faint-hearted and yet there was something very exhilarating about the whole experience!  My girls were on for an ice-cream on the other side so for them it was just about reaching the destination - I'm not even sure they looked at the view!

Dee Valley
It was quite a relief to reach the Trevor side of the aqueduct and the boatyard there is a good place for boats to moor and there are enough facilities to keep most boat owners happy.  There is a public loo, a pub and a little shop.  Sadly for us no tea room - the little shop sells machine made hot drinks only which was a disappointment.  Luckily there was enough sun around to make an ice cream a good alternative.  We sat looking at the strip of water that seemingly flies through the air as we ate our ice-creams.  Just our luck that a flurry of boats went through where none had done during our crossing.

Behind us the boatyard seemed a bit incongruous.  This was what should have been the main line of the canal to Chester but was abandoned shortly after the completion of the aqueduct.  Where there should have been a water source near Wrexham the canal builders had a slightly interesting problem.  They needed a new water source and so a decision was taken to drive a branch line of the canal through to Llangollen and slightly beyond to reach the River Dee.  Considering that we had just crossed the Dee 126 feet above it seemed almost impossible that in a few short miles the canal and river would meet a confluence at level.  The branch line is of course now the main line and it seem especially ironic that the whole canal is named after this five mile afterthought. 

Former Railway Bridge
It certainly isn't easy for boats to deal with the immediate right hand turn after the aqueduct - many struggled as we watched, having to do 3, 4 and even 5 point turns to get around.  We eventually decided to follow one as we finished our ice-creams.  It soon became clear that we could walk faster than most of the narrow boats.  What was particularly striking about this section of canal was how narrow it was - it was certainly not a stretch of water for those not all that good at steering!  As we went along the first part of the towpath we passed by a panic stricken dog owner who seemed to have lost one of his dogs.  This caused some alarm with my girls but they were happy once again when they saw dog and owner reunited in field nearby.  The dog had obviously got lost after chasing something he shouldn't.  Still a scolding from the owner probably made both feel better.

Dinas Bran Castle
The onward walk was a lot less busy - there were fewer boats now and walkers seemed to be fewer on the ground too.  The character of the canal rather changed too as we headed along teh Dee Valley.  Every now and again we had wonderful views open up of the valley but there were also more intimate sections too as the surrounding woodland would occasionally wrap us up in its green lushness.  We started to open out into a procession rather than walking as a group.  Walking along a canal allows this as there are no problems with getting lost along the way. 

Soon we came upon the railway bridge across the canal.  Sadly this section of railway between Ruabon and Llangollen is no more - it closed with the Beeching cuts.  I suspect it will never reopen either since the trackbed in Llangollen itself has sadly been built over.  This stretch has really returned to nature - the trackbed is seriously overgrown and would take an awful lot to clear.  The track follows the canal for some distance but not that you would know it unless you looked really carefully!

Cliff Section
Soon the view ahead of us opened up again and we could see Dinas Bran Castle high up on its lofty perch above Lllangollen.  It looks such a mysterious place - we had already planned another walk that would explore it on another occasion.  The view from the canal just served to whet our appetites.

Castle House
As we got close into Llangollen the canal seemed to get ever narrower and the engineers had clearly had a bit of a task as the opposite bank to us was just a sheer cliff!  I suspect this was engineered rather than a natural feature though to be fair it was quite difficult to tell.  Navigating a boat through here must be tricky though - it was barely wide enough for a standard canal boat and if you met someone coming in the other direction that would be a nightmare for there were no passing places.

Tea Room
We soon came into the town of Llangollen high above the main part of the town centre.  The canal takes a route that is almost surreptitious in its arrival.  Yet in a way it is all the better for doing so for we could get a decent view over the town centre.  Just before leaving the canal for good we went by a rather curious castle shaped house - for my money it was probably the best one in the entire town and certainly had the best garden.  Just beyond here was a delightful looking tea shop.  By now it was early evening and not only did we have no appetite for tea but the place was shut for the day anyway.  Now in town we wandered back to our holiday cottage - the whole walk had taken about an hour less than expected and was a delight pretty much the whole way.  The canal itself continues onward to its water source at the Horseshoe Falls about two miles away.  More about that on the next walk though! 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Chirk and the River Ceiriog

Castle Gates
Not too far from where we were staying in Wales was the magnificent Chirk Castle, unusual in that it is still lived in and has been since Mediaeval Times.  We had spent the earlier part of the day touring the castle but since we had plenty of time remaining in the day we were eager to see more of the surrounding countryside and so picked out walk number 12 from Pathfinder Guide Volume 32 North Wales, Snowdon and Offas Dyke to do after our visit.
Chirk Park
We re-parked our car down by Chirk station so that we did not get trapped in the National Trust car park after closing time.  That was also nearer to the official start of the walk in the centre of Chirk.  The railway station is a bit tucked out the way on the very edge of the village and down a ramp in a cutting so as to be almost unnoticed.  Yet, the railway provides a very useful link between here and Shrewsbury, Birmingham and Chester.  It runs alongside the Llangollen Canal here and in thick woods below us we could see the canal emerge from a lengthy tunnel through which it also manages to switch sides with the railway.
Chirk Castle
Our route today though would head up the hill away from the canal and railway after a brief section through woodland.  We would initially cross a field and then a road before entering the castle estate.  It was quite a blustery sort of day with thick cloud billowing all around us.  Despite the slightly autumnal conditions though there seemed little threat of rain, which was good news.  The parkland was a proper deer park environment with oak trees dotted across a largely grassed area.  It looked like in some cases the oaks trees had acted as lightning conductors for many of the trees were in a bit of a state.
Chirk Castle
Eventually as the ground flattened out at the top of the park the castle came into sight.  Not a particularly tall building by castle standards it is still easy to see why it was built in the position it was.  Certainly our view earlier from the towers was incredible and the defenders of the castle would have been able to see any approaching army from a good few miles away.  Unusually the castle wasn’t destroyed following the Civil War, a fate that befell a good number of other castles.  I imagine in this case it was because the owner of the castle at the time was rather more friendly towards Parliamentarian forces…
Striding Into The Distance
Surprisingly, given that it was getting on for late afternoon now people were still heading into the estate.  I suppose most of them are National Trust members otherwise what is the point of going for such a short time?  We decided to by-pass the cafĂ© on the basis that we would have had to go into the ticketed area of the castle once again.  There is a hatch at the side though for any walkers that are passing – I’m not sure whether they would welcome non-members without them paying a fee but the castle and grounds are certainly worth a look and the price of the entrance fee.
Chirk Park
Our route took us up the side of the car park and further up the hill to a couple of cottages on the corner of a road.  Unbeknownst to us we had crossed Offa’s Dyke earlier and although marked on the map crossing the field we passed through it was nigh on impossible to see it.  Of course the fact that I didn’t really know what I was looking for didn’t help!  Offa’s Dyke was built as an earthwork defence by King Offa, the ruler of Mercia in the late 8th Century.  The Dyke is a scheduled ancient monument and is followed by a long distance footpath for its entire length of nearly 180 miles along the Welsh Border.
View Across Chirk Castle
As we reached the road we immediately turned left and continued climbing through sheep fields to reach the summit just before some woodland.  As we climbed we got some fantastic views of Chirk Castle and the Vale of Cheshire beyond.  The clouds were showing some signs of clearing too which was good news especially as opening up the views were concerned.  Once we reached the trees the views in the direction of the castle were no longer but as we started dropping down into the valley below new views along the valley opened up.  
Ceiriog Valley
We were now following the Offa’s Dyke Path and it dropped down steeply into the valley below where we were largely going to follow the River Ceiriog back to Chirk.  Unfortunately for us though the path cannot follow exactly especially for the first part of the walk and we had to drop down along a lane to begin with keeping an eye out for cars all the way.  Luckily none came but there are a fair few houses here, most with splendid looking gardens and fantastic views.  I think any of them would suit me very well!
Ceiriog Valley
At the bottom of the hill we crossed a main road and walked up through the hamlet of Bronygarth and across Crogen Bridge.  Apparently a major battle took place here between Henry II and Owain Gwynedd, which resulted in a Welsh victory despite being outnumbered.  The significance of the defeat was such that Henry, having been lucky to get out alive, gave up on his idea of conquering Wales.  
Welcome to Shropshire
There is no path along the river here and so we had to walk up the other side along a road which thankfully was quiet although we did have to dodge a few cars.  We were surprised though to cross into England along this stretch of road.  A Sign proudly welcomed us to Shropshire so cue amusement from the children who wanted to have pictures of themselves with a foot in each country.
Bronygarth House
Eventually we found the junction of the onward path and dropped down through trees to reach the river once more.  The path looked like it had fallen away due to erosion at one point and so we were diverted onto another alternative much further up the slope.  Looking at the terrain I guess that this is quite a regular occurrence.  Soon we were out in a large field with unfettered river access which prompted the girls into taking their shoes and socks off and going for a paddle.  Most of the clouds had rolled away now and this meant that it had got quite hot.
The walk along the valley floor was most enjoyable as we flitted between fields alongside the river.  We had imperceptibly crossed back into Wales too as we crossed over the river.  Just after crossing the river via a beautiful old masonry bridge we had the most beautiful sight of Telford’s Chirk Aqueduct and the later railway viaduct just in front.  Interestingly as we were to discover the two transport links swap sides a little to the north of here as the canal enters a lengthy tunnel and the railway makes progress through a cutting.  The height difference between the two allowed them to cross over each other.  Must be a bit confusing for the unsuspecting canal cruiser!
Chirk Viaduct/ Aqueduct
We walked past the two bridges and crossed the main road adjacent to Chirk Bridge just beyond.  This was a little scary but we did manage it eventually after a procession of cars went by.  On the other side was an old mill.  The path by-passed it and the old place was clearly not in use as a mill any more but some of the engineering features including the earthworks for the mill race were still very much in evidence.  Our route took us briefly along the 'towpath' of the mill race before climbing up into Chirk itself.  The small town of Chirk looks like a most agreeable place with several shops and places to eat & drink.  Unlike other villages it has managed to retain a certain charm without becoming twee.  With a railway station nearby and a lack of obvious tourism I imagine that it would make a really nice place to live.  
From the centre of town it was a short walk back along the road towards the railway station.  The road was a good advert for the place being populated by some very nice looking houses that are obviously well cared for judging by the beautifully kept gardens.  This was a hugely enjoyable walk with plenty of history and great scenery along the way.  Having increased the mileage from the previous walk the children did not seem to notice and in fact were already talking about a longer walk next time!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Denbigh and the Ystrad Valley

Denbigh Castle
Family holidays were upon us once more and this year we were all keen to do quite a lot of walking while we were away.  Our chosen destination for our summer week away was North East Wales, an area we have driven through a number of times but never explored.  We had plans for a number of walks but thought we would start relatively easily with a short 5 mile stroll around Denbigh Castle.  By keeping the walk length short we also had plenty of time to look around the Castle, which is where we started.  This walk is number 5 in Pathfinder Guide Volume 32 North Wales, Snowdon and Offa’s Dyke.

View of Clwydian Range
The walled town of Denbigh is mediaeval and the county town of the Denbighshire.  It is dominated by the ruined castle that sits atop the highest point in the town.  This was one of the border castles built following the invasion and suppression of the Welsh by Edward I.  Most of the castle has been destroyed, inevitably as a result of the Civil War when it was partially demolished to ensure it could no longer be used.  We spent about 45 minutes wandering around the ruins and reading the panels that told us about the history of the place.  It was easy to see why this was picked as the site for the castle for the view all around was wide ranging and extensive.  It wasn’t quite possible to see the sea but it couldn’t have been much beyond the horizon.  To the east was the Clwydian Range and to the east were the foothills to Snowdonia.  Big puffy clouds and blue skies complemented the scene perfectly.
Small Tortoiseshell
Once we had explored the castle we headed on our way turning left sharply down the hill and briefly along a rather scary road with no pavement.  We were thankful to turn left again to take a path almost underneath the castle.  This path was almost along a shelf that allowed for great views south east along the Clwydian Mountains.  They looked very appealing – maybe another walk along here might be in order one day?  There are two in the same volume of the Pathfinder Guides.
Former North Wales Hospital
As the path descended steeply through woods we emerged out into a field and went down the hill in a different direction.  At the bottom of the field we changed direction and crossed a number of fields before reaching a stile in the far corner.  The walk alongside the field was delightful and I saw a number of small tortoiseshell butterflies, the biggest concentration I have seen in a very long time.  It was good to see healthy numbers when elsewhere there are reports of these attractive butterflies struggling.

Woodland House
At the stile the character of the walk changed considerably.  We were now on a very narrow path bounded by trees clinging to the side of the Afon Ystrad, a small but scenic river that flows into the River Clwyd.  We passed a dog walker along here and it was rather tricky to pass on such a cramped space.  Luckily the path didn’t last long and we emerged onto a road.  We climbed briefly along the road and then turned left along a track.  It wasn’t altogether obvious that this was our onward path as the fingerpost was completely obscured by a for sale board.  Whoever gets to buy this property will be getting a most attractive proposition that is for sure – the countryside here is splendid.

Owl Carving
To the north of the track is a very large building according to the map.  It is mostly out of sight as the path passes below it and through some trees.  It is unusual to see such a large building with no name marked on the map, but I have since discovered that it was once a mental asylum and no longer in use.  I suspect that is the reason why it is not named on the map as it has been out of use for some considerable time and attention does not want to be drawn to it.

Pig Family
The path now took up a position alongside the river and provided a couple of miles of delightful walking.  The river bubbled away below us and the air was full of buzzing insects all making the most of this beautiful summer’s day.  We soon passed by a distinct mound – a burial mound maybe?  Just past there was a delightful house; home to a very lucky person indeed.  Just past there we reached another road and dog-legged along here briefly to reach the onward path.  This path was largely enclosed by trees and just above the river.  We soon came across some more people, this time some locals leading their horses along the path to be stabled for the night.  The girls made their acquaintances with the ponies and then were directed to another small enclsure further along the path where some pigs and piglets were being kept.  We had to climb a small ladder in order to be able to see them, which somehow added to the excitement!
Pooh Sticks

After meeting the pigs we came across a footbridge across the Ystrad, which the children were eager to cross but disappointed when they discovered that it wasn't on the route.  Never mind - they still took the opportunity to play Pooh Sticks and this was pretty successful courtesy of the fast flowing water.  Further on the path opened out into a field and allegedly there are the remains of Dr Johnson's cottage in the woods here (he of first dictionary fame).  Despite looking for it keenly I didn't see it and presumably it is covered by a lot of foliage.  He apparently stayed here for a while at the height of his fame.

Just past here are we left the valley of the Ystrad and climbed sharply up through the woods.  At the top of the steep slope we crossed into a field and could now see some lovely views out towards the Snowdonia mountains.  Our route would take us in a big loop around Gwaynynog Manor where the literary connections continued.  This manor house, largely out of sight from the path, is where Beatrix Potter worked on illustrations for her books.

Is Beatrix in?
The character of the walk changed considerably now as we were high above the enclosed valley that we had walked through on the outward route.  It was a much more light and airy walk and a stiff breeze blew the clouds along at a reasonable pace ensuring that the view always changed.  As we continued across fields the Clwydian Range came back into view and then Denbigh Castle itself which looked most impressive from this vantage point.

Denbigh Castle View
The path dropped down through fields that were obviously the home to large numbers of cattle judging by the number of cowpats around.  We passed Galch Hill, a house that was once owned by the Myddleton family before they acquired Chirk Castle, some distance to the south.  We briefly went wrong here courtesy of the number of paths that were available to us.  We sound found the right route and headed into Denbigh a couple of fields further on.  It felt very much like we entered the town via the tradesmen's entrance for we negotiated a housing estate and then some allotments before finding ourselves at the bottom of the town centre.

Denbigh Church
Denbigh is a rather agreeable looking place - clearly a place of much antiquity although I suspect not particularly on the tourist trail.  The library is quite eye-catching - I suspect this was once the Town Hall?  It certainly looks like a civic building of some antiquity.  From here we climbed up through a steep alleyway back up to the castle.  As we did so we passed a couple of ecclesiastical relics - the first was a rather curious affair as it is a cathedral that was aborted during building as the project ran out of money.  Leicester's Church as it is known now stands derelict in gardens at the foot of the castle mound.  A little further up the hill is the tower of St Hilary, a mediaeaval church for which this is the only remaining part.  This marked the end of our walk for we were now back at the start.  For such a short walk this packs a lot of interest in.  The opportunity to visit the castle should also not be missed.

Leicester's Church

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Belloc's Mill

Dial Post Cottage
A few years back the old mill at Shipley sadly closed its doors to the visiting public when the charitable trust running it were told that their lease would not be renewed.  The mill was in full working order at the time and had been made famous during the 1990s as the home of Jonathan Creek.  We had visited the mill in the last few weeks of it being open but not been near it since.  We thought that it would be good to explore the area courtesy of walk 16 in Pathfinder Guide West Sussex and the South Downs.
As I wasn’t sure whether it was still possible to park at the mill since it closed, our walk started at Dial Post.  It was a beautiful summer day, quite unlike the weather forecast which we had been promised which was dire.  Our route initially took us along a farm road west out of the village hemmed in on both sides by large hedges.  The hedgerows were full of life with plenty of wildflowers, butterflies and other buzzing insects.

Blue Skies
Eventually we came to Bentons Place Farm, a very well appointed looking place that seemed to be hosting some kind of function.  Looking at how well manicured some of the buildings were here I also imagined that some are holiday lets or weekend retreats.  Some rather well dressed looking people said hello to us as we passed.  Further along the track we missed the turning that we should have taken and ended up on the road just beyond.  When we retraced our steps it was not surprising we missed it for the turning was quite overgrown.

Vantage Point
We crossed a small stream via a ramshackle looking old footbridge and came out on to a bridle path beyond that had all the appearances of a road that had never quite managed to make it to the tarmac era.  The packed lunch that we had brought on our walk was already calling to the children at this point and so we found a suitable spot to eat it.  Fortunately it was not quite wasp and fly season and so we managed to eat without being bothered too much by flying insects.

View From Tree Platform
Feeling fortified we continued on our way along the path.  The path had wide verges suggesting that it may once have had a more important purpose.  After half a mile or so we came to a most unusual feature, when we spotted a tree platform with a set of steps up to it.  We eagerly climbed up to look at the view but to be honest it wasn’t as good as you might think as mostly all we could see were other trees!  The main purpose of the platform is for wildlife watchers but there was precious little about for us to view.  Perhaps it is a better facility when there is less foliage on the trees?

Shipley Mill
A little further on and the path changed nature, becoming narrower and I suspect quite muddy during the winter judging by the ruts in the dry track.  As we rounded the next corner we came upon a small group of deer browsing in the hedgerow.  They didn’t stick around long when they saw us!  Down one side of the path was a very large deer fence – they are obviously not welcome in the surrounding agricultural land.

Shady Horses
At a road ahead the path dog-legged but largely kept in the same direction although it got ever narrower until we reached the smock mill at Shipley.  The mill was built in 1879 and was owned for many years by Hilaire Belloc, noted early 20th Century writer and MP.  Following his death in 1953 the mill was restored to working order in his honour after a period of dereliction.  The mill was leased to a charitable trust until 2009 and opened to the public until then, when the doors closed.  The mill is now in private ownership and off limits to any visitors.  It does look in much better shape now though than it did the last time I passed when the sails were off.  It gleamed in the sunshine and looked resplendent.

Knepp Castle
After passing the windmill we continued along the road through the village.  It is a very attractive village and has not been subjected to much in the way of new development unlike some of its neighbouring places.  The gardens were well tended and there were quite a few people around looking after them.  We passed by almost unnoticed and out into a neighbouring field where we found some friendly horses seeking some attention from the girls.  Luckily they weren’t as insistent as the one we met the other week near Warninglid!

Knepp Lodge
We passed through a small wood and crossed another road to enter the parkland of Knepp Castle.  The present day Knepp Castle is a rebuild of a castle built in 1812 but which burned down in 1904.  An earlier mediaeval castle ruin also exists at the other end of the estate but all that is left is a fragment of wall.  We did not pass that castle on this walk.  The modern day Knepp Castle is at the centre of an interesting estate for the parkland is not managed in the same way as many other country houses of this ilk.  The owners have tried to revert much of the estate back to grassland using natural methods after much of it was converted to arable farming due to World War II.  Our first impressions though were of a traditional parkland with large trees dotted across a landscape where you expect to see groups of browsing deer.
Kneppmill Pond

The path passes the castle at some distance away and out past a rather lovely looking lodge house.  We wandered down to Kneppmill Pond, a surprisingly large body of water.  Inevitably this was once a hammer pond for the Wealden Iron Age industry.  Now it is a calm oasis with plenty of wildflowers around the edge.  The water looked quite appealing with reflections of the big puffy clouds overhead.
Longhorn Cows
We turned back towards the road we had crossed earlier and passed a couple having a rather lovely looking picnic.  They were well advised to stay this end of the field for at the other end was a very large herd of cattle including a very large bull.  We gave them a wide berth, staying on the opposite side of a dry ditch in case anything untoward happened.  We needn’t have worried as they largely ignored us.  Nevertheless it was a relief when we crossed a bridge over the rather dry looking River Adur.  Only a small channel was flowing although the floodplain suggested that flooding does happen here during the winter months.
Painted Lady

On the other side of the Adur we then crossed a rather overgrown field where we finally saw a large herd of deer.  We had been expecting to see one all this time without previous success.  The group here though were quite relaxed – safety in numbers I guess?  It was out onto the road and a short stretch of road walking before the last stretch back to Dial Post.

River Adur
The last part of the walk crossed farmland and through a couple of farms.  I cannot say that the countryside was anything special although it was very pleasant walking country.  A couple of things caught my eye on the way back – a campsite populated with yurts and lots of butterflies especially small tortoiseshells.  Otherwise the heat was rather getting to us and so when we got back to Dial Post we dived into the beer garden of the Crown and had ourselves a nice long cold drink.

I have to say that much of this walk was rather ordinary but saved by the sights of Shipley Mill and Knepp Castle which are memorable sights.  Seeing the group of deer was a sight that my children very much enjoyed.  On the whole though I am not sure I would be in a great hurry to do this particular walk again.