We’ve had Sam’s parents staying with us for a couple of days en route to their home in Spain, so we thought we’d combine their company with our ‘special weekend’ for March. It’s always nice for us to have people to stay, especially when they’re not familiar with the area and we can enjoy sharing some of our favourite places.
Just like us, Roger and Lis are keen walkers so there was no question of what we’d be doing with them – it was just a case of which walk to pick!
As it was our special weekend we also wanted to incorporate an interesting stop into our walk, and decided to continue our Roman theme from February with a visit to Bignor Roman Villa.
Although I really enjoyed visiting Fishbourne, for me Bignor is the firm favourite, partly due to the setting (this is most definitely not in the middle of a housing estate!).The Villa is smaller than Fishbourne, and I suppose it could be argued that none of the mosaics are quite as impressive as ‘Cupid on a Dolphin’, but the whole set-up feels far more informal and friendly which suits us perfectly. The Villa has remained in the same family since its discovery in 1811, and they’ve managed to avoid any kind of corporate feel which sometimes detracts from historic monuments. I’ve found that a lot of local people haven’t really heard of it, unlike Fishbourne which I’d say is recognised by nearly everybody as one of the leading sites of Roman remains in Britain.
The mosaics themselves are stunning. The craftsmanship is so impressive; it’s hard to believe that the Villa disappeared from all knowledge and was hidden for hundreds of years.Bignor also provides several picnic benches in the grounds, so we made the most of the sunshine and ate outside (this was the first walk I’ve done this year without a hat and scarf, and I had to carry my coat most of the way – I think it must finally be spring!). I’d packed some curried sweet potato and pea pasties, made using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s wonderful rough puff pastry recipe, as well as whinberry muffins and some more home-grown Spanish kiwis. Mmm.The walk itself was lovely; we parked at the top of the hill which made quite a change, and walked down into Bignor before climbing back up and following the ridge until we arrived back at the car park. I’ve been rambling on about hints of spring in my last couple of posts, but this weekend really felt like spring was out in full force. The fields were full of lambs; daffodils and primroses were brightening up the hedgerows; and we even saw a herd of wild deer happily grazing in the middle of a field (unfortunately, the only angle I could get included a telegraph wire, but I took the picture anyway).Walking on the Downs on days like this makes it easy to understand why the Romans settled here. The land is green and fertile, with the gentle hills providing protection from any wind and rain blowing in from the coast. The Villa in its heyday would have been spectacular, and I’m so thankful that enough of it has been preserved to allow us to admire it today. There is so much history packed into the landscape here and I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of finding out about how people from across the ages have left their mark on the land.