RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Steep Down to Lancing Hill

THE downs to the east are almost treeless and give a greater sense of freedom under the open skies. I enjoyed a walk of five miles (8kms) last week between Lancing and Sompting, having heard on the grapevine that 30 corn buntings had been recorded singing recently around Steep Down.

I found a car park at TQ162080, along the minor road between Sompting Abbots and Steyning. I set off east along the track on blue arrow with Steep Down to the right. There are plenty of wild flowers along all the tracks on this walk such as hardhead, cranesbill, bird’sfoot trefoil, agrimony, greater knapweed.

The long grass, mainly false oat but later on, wood tor, supported butterflies such as ringlet, large skipper, small skipper, meadow brown, marbled white and gatekeeper.

Wayfaring bushes were showing both red and black berry clusters. I kept straight ahead on blue arrows with overhead power cables to the left.

The vast sheep down of Winding Bottom to left gave a sense of a landscape a century and more past. I crossed two cattle grids before the track turned south-east past Coombehead wood.

The view to left was far into the distance, and to right, down to the sea beyond Lancing College. It was here that my uncle, Tom Hibbert, was at school with Evelyn Waugh.

I am sure that neither had anything to say to one another, being of utterly different temperaments and interests. Lancing College today looks like an angry old eagle in a zoo perched above the jungle of the 21st. century below. I turned sharp right on yellow arrow at Coombes Copse into the fields of lucerne and fat hen, crossed a small stile on the post of which a buzzard often perches, judging by its visiting cards. I passed a pollard willow, came to a large kissing gate, and kept straight ahead into a tight-squeeze rue.

Black horehound grows along the margins. I counted 11 species of shrubs, showing the hedgerow to be a millennium old at least. I crossed a concrete track and so down to Cow Bottom with its flint and mortar hovel. The rough path then climbs past Lancing Hill, with a lovely wide chalk grassland valley to the right. Over a stile, into a barley field which will be stubble by the time you read this, I had a view of Shoreham Airport and the white cliffs eastward. Staying on a south-west course I crossed some rough old meadows with horses and Jacob’s sheep and turned right up the lane passing Lancing Ring nature reserve. This gave me a northwest passage right over Steep Down where one or two of the corn buntings showed themselves.

This is one of those ancestral homes of the nether folk, our ancestors of 10,000 years ago. I turned left back to my good old Alvis, having had a super day of it as I hope you will.