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Sussex walk around Chanctonbury Ring

PUBLISHED: 16:43 12 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:43 12 January 2016

The mysterious circle of beech trees that form Chanctonbury Ring sit upon an ancient hill fort

The mysterious circle of beech trees that form Chanctonbury Ring sit upon an ancient hill fort

Archant

This downland and woodland walk has wonderful views from the ancient hill fort of Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring

Situated 242 metres – 794 feet – above sea level and topped with a ring of beech trees, Chanctonbury Hill is an iconic Sussex landmark. Once the site of a small Bronze Age hill fort, it has incredible views north over the Weald and south to the coast. It was the site of a Roman temple and a Romano-Celtic temple, both of which were used as religious sanctuaries. Then in 1760, its earth banks were planted with a circle of beech trees and the site became known as Chanctonbury Ring. Because Pagans have long held ceremonies here, the site has been unfairly branded as evil. Local legend says that if you walk around the ring anti-clockwise seven times, the Devil will appear and offer you a bowl of soup in exchange for your soul. In fact, modern-day Pagans, known as Wiccans, eschew black magic and say that sacred rings – whether formed of stones or trees – are used symbolically in rituals; for instance, the ring would be circled anti-clockwise amid a banishing ritual, such as quitting smoking, and clockwise during an invoking ritual, such as attracting romance. Many of the old Chanctonbury beech trees were knocked down in the Great Storm of 1987, but they have been replanted, so in years to come the landmark will look majestic once again.


Where to refuel

• Wiston Granary - Close to the car park (at the junction, drive straight over the main road and it’s on your right along Water Lane), serving breakfasts, light lunches and afternoon tea - BN44 3DW; 01903 892330; wistongranary.co.uk

• The Moon - In Storrington, a 10-minute drive away, offering traditional pub food, as well as sandwiches and pizzas - RH20 4DR ; 01903 744773; themoonpub.co.uk

Compass points

• Washington, near Storrington

• 5.5m (8.8k) – 2-2½ hours to walk

• Grass, chalk and stony tracks; a few hills

• In the car park on Chanctonbury Ring Road, which is 1½ miles east of Washington on the A283. There is also a car park south of Washington, the path from which joins the walk at stage six. 


Route

1 Head left out of the car park and walk along the lane. Ignore tracks leading to the right and left; maintain direction straight on, eventually going through the gap alongside a gate and into woodland.

2 Follow the path, which curves right and eventually curves left, taking you uphill through the woods.

3 The path brings you out into the open at a crossways – head right here, walking along a wide track with woodland on your right.

4 Go through the gate alongside the cattle grid. The path divides, take the right hand option, heading towards the clump of trees known as Chanctonbury Ring.

5 The path leads across the south side of Chanctonbury Ring and then heads west, eventually taking you through a gate alongside a cattle grid. Ignore the way right unless you want to nip up to the dewpond to take a look and follow the wide stony path, which curves southwest.

6 Ignore the way right at the signpost and maintain direction on this downhill path, which leads between fields, for another mile.

7 At the crossways, head left. Follow the lane, which takes you down a hill, up a slope and down another slope.

8 Ignore the path that heads right and continue along the lane, passing a house and barn on your left, and then farm buildings on your right. Ignore the path left (opposite the farm buildings) and carry on the same lane, which now curves left and runs alongside another lane. Soon these lanes part – stay on the same left-hand lane and then, after a few metres, take the path that heads left just past the metal gate.

9 Follow the wide farm track, alongside grapevines on your left and woodland on your right. Eventually the path leads into a field. Walk along the edge of the field, with woodland on your right. Follow the field as it curves left.

10 Go through the gate, into woodland. The path meanders through woods and eventually leads uphill and into open downland. A wide grassy path then runs between fencing.

11 On meeting the wide stony path, head left. You will immediately come to the signpost at the top of Chalkpit Wood. Head straight on, retracing your steps downhill, back to the car.

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