- Date: July 2022
- Distance: 10 miles
- Start: 10:00 Emsworth Recreation Park
- Leader: Sandy Arpino
Exploring the south-west corner of Sussex
One Saturday in early July, 15 members of Petersfield Ramblers set off from Emsworth Recreation Ground to explore the most south-westerly corner of West Sussex, walking east through the inland villages before dropping down to the coast to enjoy the sea views. A theme for the ramble was to observe the changes over the past 40 years, since one member had spent a glorious childhood in the area.
The weather was perfect for hiking – sunny but not over hot – and careful planning had ensured that the tide would be in, providing the best views across the bays.
Leaving the busy sports ground – where numerous football matches and exercise classes were underway – our group followed the road down towards Emsworth, before turning off into Brook Meadow nature reserve, a wet meadow consisting of 5 acres of grassland, surrounded by woodlands and flanked by two streams.
We then turned north, following Lumley Mill Lane for a mile into Westbourne. Initially the lane ran alongside a small, crystal-clear stream in which we were enchanted to see small fish. Equally delightful were the quaint cottages lining our route.
Further along we found the impressive white building titled Lumley Mill, a large pseudo-Gothic house built in the mill complex in the early 1800s. The original working mill was built by Lord Lumley in 1760, powered by a canal specially dug for the purpose from the river Ems (and still flowing today) and an iron overshot waterwheel. Burnt down in 1915, the foundations of the working mill could be seen just past the white house.
Further along Mill Lane it was necessary to take a wide bridleway bridge over the busy – and noisy – A27. Built in the late 1980s, this was identified as a very significant change from the days of our member’s childhood.
On reaching Westbourne we took an easterly direction through the village – picturesque with its many thatched cottages – before turning down Cemetery Lane. The extension graveyard and chapel here are distinctive for their tidiness, incorporating some splendid yew topiary.
Our route took us through sprawling Woodmancote village, across wheat fields and through woodland before requiring us to re-cross the A27 via a small bridleway bridge. We then entered Hambrook, after stopping to observe some rather derelict watercress beds.
Far more uplifting was the extensive wild flower meadow that led into a new housing estate in Nutbourne. Continuing in a southerly direction, crossing first the railway and then the A259, we finally left habitation behind. On paths lined with majestic teasel plants, we hastened down to the shore and the beckoning sea.
As always, the sea did not disappoint. With sunny blue skies and an incoming tide, the Nutbourne / Prinsted coast looked its best. In truth, with the tide out the outlook can be one of endless smelly, grey mud – but, having planned our walk using tide charts and weather forecasts, we were able to appreciate a fine seascape (give or take a line of seaweed at the water’s edge!).
In fact, the sea appeared so appealing that a handful of bathers had taken to the water.
Continuing round the sea wall, before turning inland, we passed through Thornham Marina with its assembly of white and blue yachts stretching out from floating pontoons; rigging blown onto masts providing a pleasant background tinkling.
Traversing the headland of Thorney island, we again briefly encountered the sea, looking across to Emsworth, before passing through Emsworth Yatch Harbour with its ‘houses on stilts’. Our local member could recall the transition of her childhood haunt into an embryonic marina in the mid-1960s.
After pausing to avail ourselves of the coffee, cake and facilities offered at The Deck, we retraced our steps up Lumley Mill Lane and beyond to the Recreation Ground, where morning football had been replaced by afternoon cricket.
Author and Photographer: Sandy Arpino