Walk 26: Halnaker to Chichester

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.              From Four Quartets by T. S. Elliot  I was a little apprehensive starting off today as the forecast said it was going to be very hot – it was 26 degrees at 9.00am – and my guide notes ranked this eleven mile section as “challenging terrain”.  So I slapped on the factor 30, had plenty of water in my backpack and wore my hospice trail cap (sponsored by Local Fuels).  It was another wonderful morning – totally clear blue sky – not even a jet stream to be seen.  The walk took me out of Halnaker alongside a long flintstone boundary wall of the Goodwood Estate Home Farm.  The wall is said to have been built by French prisoners in the early 1800s. I dawdled a bit, searching the wall for fossils – a bit like beachcombing – very addictive.  Not far from here is the village of Boxgrove which has played host to two memorable FSH events; our very first West Sussex event H&H4H – Hats and Handbags for Hospices – which took place in the village hall in 2014 and a magical performance of A Spanish Nativity by Stile Antico in the magnificent Priory Church of St Mary & St Blaise in 2018. At the end of the flint stone wall I continued through a meadow and into the shade of some pretty woodland – it was so peaceful.  I walked on past a field of cattle where the mothers of some very cute calves eyed me suspiciously.  There were fantastic views from here looking north east across the valley.  A little further on, through another copse, I found myself in the middle of another meadow with the most stunning view to the south which took in Chichester and the sea beyond.  The sky above was a deep deep blue which grew paler as it neared the heat haze on the horizon ……… absolute beauty and perfection…….. heady stuff. I was soon walking along a road with the grandstand of Goodwood Racecourse ahead.  There would normally have been queues of traffic lining up to enter the car parks today – Glorious Goodwood is one of the highlights of the British flat horse racing calendar – but alas due to Covid-19 it would be a closed meeting today.  I chatted to one of the gate marshals who told me that Sunday’s meeting was going to be open to 5,000 members as part of a government pilot.  By lunch time that plan had been quashed due to ‘spikes’ in the pandemic.  There was nonetheless an air of excitement as TV vans were setting up, helicopters were ferrying jockeys and trainers to the course and people in high viz vests busied themselves at the gates. Goodwood House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond and Gordon, was the venue for a fabulous musical evening in 2016 when Andrew Bernardi and his Bernardi Music Group performed Goodwood Variations in its spectacular ballroom.   Another climb took me up to St Roche’s Hill the summit of which sits at 206 metres and was once home to an Iron Age Hill fort called The Trundle.  Today it is the site of two large radio masts.  If I was astounded by the earlier view, I was completely bowled over by the panoramic vista from here.  I could see for miles along the coast to the east, Chichester Harbour and the Isle of Wight due south and the Spinnaker Tower and Portsmouth to the west.  I chatted with a family who were picnicking here and we marvelled at the spectacular view.  It was incredibly hot and exposed on the hill, so I ‘trundled’ off down a long stone track towards the distant spire of Chichester Cathedral.  Halfway along this path I sat in the shade of a bush and did a live radio interview on my phone with Tony Williams at Uckfield FM. The path took me to the picturesque village of East Lavant with its flint walls and thatched cottages and then along to where I joined the Centurion Way which was once the Chichester to Midhurst Railway line.  I followed this trail for two and a half miles and met The Chichester Road Gang on the way – an army of spade-wielding Roman workers made out of scrap metal – the creation of David Kemp.  These wonderfully quirky sculptures mark the spot where the Roman road from Silchester to Chichester crosses the Centurion Way.  I was relieved that  this walk afforded a good balance of open spaces and shade which was important on a hot day such as this. On reaching Chichester I passed The Crate & Apple pub in Westgate where a young couple were celebrating their very recent nuptials – they looked so happy and posed for me.  Within minutes I was in a very quiet West Street with the ornate Market Cross ahead. According to the inscription on it, the octangular cross was built by Edward Story, Bishop of Chichester from 1477-1503 so that the poor people should have somewhere to sell their wares, and as a meeting point. I turned and said hello to St Richard, Philip Jackson’s imposing, larger than life-size sculpture of the saint, as I headed for the cool asylum of the cathedral.  Inside I chatted with some of the guides who were helping visitors negotiate the social distancing/sanitising routine and sought out Howard Waddell, the Head Verger, who has remained a friend of FSH since the Hymnathon we held at the cathedral in 2013.  I finished this amazing journey at St Wilfrid’s Hospice, now in its beautiful new building at Bosham where I was greeted by Soline Jerram, Chairman, Alex Burch, Community Fundraising Manager, and several of their colleagues.  They presented me with a bottle of bubbly which I saved for later that evening and we sat and talked over a refreshing cup of tea.   St Wilfrid’s Hospice has been supporting people in its community living with terminal illness, for over 30 years.  Its catchment area runs between Emsworth to the west, Arundel to the east and south of the downs to the coast – a community of over 80,000 households.  The new hospice building opened in July last year.  The intention was to utilise 14 of its 18 beds initially, however the additional four beds have been used throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and are being supported by NHS funding. The majority of St Wilfrid’s care takes place in people’s homes. Running costs are just over £8 million, of which approximately 15% is received from the NHS. On the long stretches of my walk I was able to reflect on today’s words in my book of Buddhist offerings which read: “The art of happiness begins with developing an understanding of what are the truest sources of happiness, and setting our priorities in life based on the cultivation of those sources.”   I believe this journey has helped me to go deep within and discern the things that bring me true happiness as well as the things that don’t.  I think I know the sources I have to cultivate and those things which I need to let go of. The words from T S Elliott’s Four Quartets, quoted at the top of today’s diary resonate with me because throughout this circular perambulation of the Sussex Hospices Trail, exploration was what I was doing, not only of this beautiful county of Sussex but a deeper exploration within. [This section of the trail was sponsored by Michael and Maureen Chowen, stalwart supporters of FSH.  They have generously supported numerous FSH events and made possible successful collaboration initiatives.   Michael is a Patron of FSH and Chestnut Tree House and Maureen is a Trustee of St Barnabas and Chestnut Tree House.]