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Chanctonbury Ring Field Trip - The Ramble round the Ring

Our annual three day pilgrimage to an area of Britain which contained some mysterious, spiritual, or paranormal sites took place between 9-11 June 2007. As per normal we pre planned a few sites to visit during our stay. In order of original planning these, and the reasons for visiting are below -

1/ Clapham Woods, Clapham, W Sussex. - reports of hauntings, UFO's and occult activity
2/ Chanctonbury Ring, Washington, W Sussex – reports of hauntings, UFO's and occult activity
3/ Arundel Castle, Arundel, W Sussex – 'wow factor'

NB links for 1 and 2 are penned by Charles Walker and our reason for going.

Others would be added during the three days but essentially this was the plan. Oh and socialising with the addition of alcohol of course. Here's what occurred -

On the first day we left Kent (after collecting everyone and cramming our kit in Kim's car) in the most miserable and depressive weather. As we crossed border control into Sussex we thought we were white water rafting as opposed to driving on the A26 and were really looking forward to putting the tent up. Not! As we got closer to our destination of a camp site at Washington in the shadow of Chanctonbury we could not see the hill fort for the low lying cloud. Breakfast was on the agenda and a visit to Little Chef at Rustington was in order. Suitably refreshed or is that bloated, and having our tour shirts noticed and business card left with the staff (there's nothing like being quizzed over a fry-up!) we move on.

 

 

Arriving in Arundel having caught the inspiring view of the castle from the east we made this for our first stop. Golden nuggets fed into the pay and display we made our way across to the castle as it opened. Yes it was still only just 10am ish. Now, the castle costs £12 to get in. Have you got up off the floor? Ok we move on. As you leave the gate house you find yourself confronted with a fairy tale edifice of enormous proportions.

Now you may be able to spot the Norman window second from the right ground floor. Outwardly this is the only part of the 12th Century castle left in the main residential part. There is more inside but it has been incorporated into the Victorian sterility that pervades inside. Magnificent though it is somehow you never feel at home here. Other parts of the castle are original, mind you, including the shell keep overlooking both baileys. Yes it has two following the lines of Windsor.

Anyhow the various bits open a different times so first stop was the Fitzalan Chapel. The first Earls of Norfolk were Fitzalans and rebuilt the parish church and made the east end their own chapel. It is still catholic and believed to be the only case of its kind in England. It is only accessible from the castle grounds and this has got to be seen to be believed. A mediaeval masterpiece in sculpture containing the owners and their wives in magnificent tombs. That of the 5th Earl and his wife (the daughter of the king of Portugal) caught our eye. He died of dysentery at the siege of Harfleur in 1415 fighting alongside Henry V. Like many old tombs through the ages they suffered from a bit of vandalism and graffiti. Would a national hero desecrate a tomb 4 years before his own glorious death? See the picture below and make you own mind up as we await a response from the castle on the legitimacy of Horatio's spot of criminal damage!

 

 

Also buried here is John the 7th Earl who continued the fight in the Hundred Years War and was known as 'The English Achilles'. Over 6 feet tall he was an imposing figure and an excellent soldier until he required an amputation of his leg at Beauvais in 1435. The amputation killed him and he lies, minus his leg, under an elaborate tomb. His armoured effigy lying above an image of his own corpse.

 

   
 

 

A side chapel was added by the ever resourceful Victorians to house the memorials of the 13th Duke and his wife. Somewhere and somehow the title changed from Earl to Duke. We are currently awaiting a reply from the castle on our second question. We found that the wood paneling around the 13th Dukes chapel contained pentagrams, an ancient symbol of protection and pagan beliefs. However when inverted this has a whole new meaning. There is a pentagram on every other panel and on one of these it is inverted.

 

 

 

 

From the chapel we made our way, stealth like, to the main castle buildings. Instantly you are aware of how clinical it all is compared to weather beaten castles of some vintage. Did they all look this pristine in their heyday we wonder? Moving through the Victorian reconstruction we find ourselves sneaking past a 17th Century Lepidopterist on our way to the ancient keep where we managed by cunning and guile to defeat the yellow spotted small people.

 

   

 

Having explored the older part the newer rooms were opened. Somewhat of a conundrum of old furniture in a mock setting really but very plush none the less. No photography allowed so we can't show you the fantastic chapel which really is the wow factor in the new building.

Over all verdict – we liked it but more for its historical content than what it now appears as – a disguised stately home in a beautiful setting. Yes of course its worth the money.

 

From the castle we fed the ticket machine again and ventured into old town Arundel to see what was offered in the way of touristy bits and bobs. Disappointed we quickly turned to beer as a substitute as the niknakky shops were shut. Settling on the Swan Hotel we found the ales particularly palatable in a suitable setting. From here we found the inhabitants to be a lively bunch of snappy dressers. ---->>

OK so we digress at the expense of the innocent!

 
 

 

Making our way up the High Street we ummed and aahed at the Arundel Ghost Experience at Arundel Jail. Bypassing this initially we found ourselves at top of the hill and faced with the other towering architectural wonder of this town. Arundel Cathedral. A Catholic Cathedral founded by the owners of the Castle little over 100 years ago. Inside a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture which again somehow failed to stir the imagination as much as mediaeval examples but impressive non the less.

With customary silliness taking hold, we are surprised it took this long, we left the Cathedral and were succumbed by the ghost experience. Well as paranormal investigators it would be rude not to wouldn't it? Run by a theatrical company of one this is an entertaining way to spend half hour for the sake of a reasonable cheap outlay. If you wanted to be scared out of your wits then you can be. Props are well constructed and the setting in the old Town Hall cells gives the right air to it all. Well done all concerned. We enjoyed this. They do allow investigations overnight too so business cards were exchanged and we went on our merry way.

 

From the ghost experience it was time to make to the camp site and set up accommodation. The owner of the site bears a remarkable resemblance to Lord Bath and has a similar tone in his voice! A very neat site with a lovely wood chalet type effect shower and wash block. You need a supply of 20p pieces for showers which seem to give plenty or very little time for your money dependent upon which one you are in! We did find though, being non-kiddy people, that there were far too many about and we did feel that there should have been a restriction on ball games in the field. Its difficult to avoid a cricket ball when sat facing away from the thing!

 

Having set up camp it was time to venture into the nearest conurbation for supplies. It was decided that nibbles and alcohol were on the agenda that night and duly purchased at a Tesco Express in . A visit to the chip shop dispatched Ian to purchase and after an age digging, washing, peeling and cutting said potatoes he returned with the most mediocre chips you can buy. Back to camp saw us settling in for the evening with many a tale to be told. Less said the better.

The next day dawned early after only a few hours sleep due to a party atmosphere elsewhere on the camp until well after 1am and all of us up before 7am. The day dawned bright and sunny and the Ring was beckoning us from below. First stop, though, was breakfast at the local Sainsburies. A few accidents with food and drink later and we left full up for the hike.

On the way we paused at Findon Church but its best to keep this in context until we explain the reason for our church quest with the other two of the benefice which we saw the next day. All will be revealed.

Its a 2 mile walk from a parking area by the A24 at Washington up a steep flint laden chalk path to the summit at 779ft. The views from the track are breathtaking and allegedly from the top you can see the Isle Of Wight on a clear day. It wasn't that clear and we couldn't see that far.

 
 
Having got to the top we could soak in the atmosphere. Steeped in superstition and alleged activities, Chanctonbury Ring is an Iron Age Hill Fort of modest size. Neolithic Round Barrows are present on two sides and a 1st Century Romano-British temple has been excavated in the centre. Charles Goring, who lived nearby, planted the Beech trees which now are a bit forlorn, but a fantastic landmark, around the defensive rings. Paranormal Groups have investigated the site before and have come up with various clairvoyant information. There were reports of UFO activity, fairy rings and ghosts. Ghost Connections found it very atmospheric and also photogenic. A sense of tranquility pervades the place. We liked it so much that we spent time to recover from the walk up, took some snaps, walked round it and in it and then left for the pub!

What we did find, excavated no doubt by the rabbit population, were a proliferation of oyster shells. Now unless these oysters can fly there is only one explanation left. Our ancestors this long ago ate and probably traded for oysters which were consumed there and have now been dug up by Roger and his pals.

The trees, as said, form many spectacular shapes which lend themselves to photography. A few are illustrated below.

 
     
   
 
                 
                                 
Ian and Paddy chose to explore another route down towards the village to an agreed rendezvous at the local hostelry whereas Kim and Dave took the reciprocal route back to the car to meet back at the pub. On the way down pausing to record some of the local flora native to the chalk downs.
   

 

 

 

 

A couple of beers at the Frankland Arms (the only pub in the village) was most welcome on a hot afternoon. Arundel Stronghold is recommended as the local fare. In fact it was so pleasant that we booked a table for a meal that evening.

Before returning to camp we decided to continue our church visits in search of a certain goal – again more later. This time it was Patching.

After a visit to this church we returned to camp and spruced ourselves up. We walked to the Frankland on this occasion so we could all have a drink. Well the food was mediocre, the waiters were great but boy does the manageress lack people skills! We weren't exactly made to feel welcome so its a bit of a thumbs down really.

Back to camp and general silliness (unusually) took over. A quieter night was had than the one before but then we think our silliness scared off all the children. Oh well!

Day 3 dawned bright again and this time we were off to another location (after a Little Chef brekkie) which has featured high in our list of places to see for some time, although Paddy has been before so we came equipped with our own guide. Another centre of alleged UFO activity and also ritualistic occult practices and a centre for paranormal investigations for some years, Clapham Woods has an odd air about it. It is secluded off the main road through the Findon Valley which is a scenic beauty in itself. The woods scale the southern escarpment of the hills here. Fullornly we searched the woods and found odd hides fashioned among the trees and also the remnants of solvent abuse at various key locations. The main part of the woods (even though we had no idea of its significance) held a strong energy that could be felt as we entered, although reaching one of the oldest beach trees we have seen showed that carvings of odd shapes still exist in its bark. A tree mutilated by fantasists. It made for some spectacular photographic opportunities and we were glad to have made the excursion.

 

 

 

Now to reveal the church quest as we visited our third and last just prior to Clapham Woods. Rumour has it that one of the three churches in the Findon, Patching and Clapham benefice has a carving on a door jam. This is not rare but this one is alleged to be of an alien! It is also somewhat akin to the Long Man of Wilmington, a chalk hill figure about 30 miles to the east. Findon church was locked but exhibited Victorian restorations in the visible door jams with no marks. Patching and Clapham were found to be similar so the mystery remains. All the churches have their own distinctive air and are well worth a visit but were all heavily 'restored' by the Victorians. It is not unusual to find carvings on door jams ranging from pilgrims crosses in Kent particularly and also marks left by the stone masons as a signature. Dave believes that what might be causing this mystery is one of these masons marks and an example of a simplified human figure is shown below from a Kent church to highlight the point. We also met the resident church cat at Clapham and a proud beast he is!

 

   
Patching Church
Findon Church
Clampham Church

 

 

 

 

Above - Three examples of Kent door jambs

 

From here it was back to camp to dismantle the tent and pack and have a leisurely drive back. We paused for drinks, when we eventually found a pub, at The Blacksmiths Arms at Adversane. Nice beer and lovely pub. Nice locals!

 

   
                                         
       
  And then found a stop for some food at a hostelry near a local historical fraud. The Piltdown Man. This pub does some of the best pub burgers around. Very nice food and there is an 'old sweet shoppe' in the grounds which sells all the things you remember scoffing as a child. Fantastic.
                           
       

 

2004/2007 Ghost Connections