Following on from a thoroughly miserable New Year’s Day where we hunkered down with board games and jigsaws, yesterday dawned bright and clear. Sam had a tennis match first thing, so we weren’t able to set out for a walk until after lunch and couldn’t plan to go too far.
We decided to go to Chanctonbury Ring, one of our favourite spots. The walk itself was 7.1 miles, starting from Steyning village and climbing up to meet the South Downs Way, wandering along the top until reaching the Ring, and then descending through woodland back into the village.Steyning has a fantastic team of volunteers who are helping to conserve the downland and are busy reintroducing native species to the banks with the aim of supporting the wildlife that only exists on the chalk hills. I’ve really enjoyed watching the area develop over the past year and am looking forward to spring and summer when their new planting will really become evident.
Once at the top, the countryside is very typical of this part of the Downs, characterised by gently rolling hills and distant sea views. It’s very different to the rough, windswept hills that Sam and I have grown up with, and although it may not be as dramatic, it certainly is beautiful. One thing that I’m really learning to love about the landscape is the sheer amount of sky – as there are no large hills around, the sky just seems to go on and on. My serotonin levels are certainly very thankful!After a couple of miles, we reached Chanctonbury Ring. Originally an Iron Age hill fort, followed by Roman temples, then a ring of beech tress planted in the 18th century, the hill has been the site of human activity for thousands of years. Looking at the view, it’s not hard to see why this site was chosen; it’s a fantastic location for either defense or religious purposes.To me, there is something incredibly special about areas that have held a significance for generations of people. The world may have changed beyond almost all recognition for those ancient civilisations, but it’s not too difficult to still feel a connection to the landscape and the people who have stood here before us when at places like the Ring.As the sun started to set, the temperature dropped rapidly and we set a brisk pace back down the hill. We missed the actual sunset while we were walking through the woods, but returned to the car under a beautiful evening sky.Considering how quickly the temperature changed in the evening, it was no surprise that there was a heavy frost this morning. I grabbed the camera and headed out along the Downs Link to watch the sun rise. The fields were sparkling white and the sky was tinged with pink as I set off, followed by a stunning orange sunrise.It was so cold that that the ‘lake’ (although I think lake sounds better, I think that’s been a bit generous – it’s a large pond) had completely frozen over and showed no sign of thawing as I headed back home.Although the walk this morning was a very short 2.8 miles, I enjoyed the time spent outside and am hoping to spend more early mornings as the only person out on the path quietly notching up my miles. As Sam has kindly pointed out, I’m nearly 1% of the way towards my 1000 mile goal!