Chiltington Lane
East Chiltington - PORTRAIT OF A PARISH

What do you like in this landscape?

What makes you happy being here?

Do you recognise the dogs?
landscape survey form page 1 - East Chiltington 2016

the landscape assessment walks in East Chiltington

heading off towards Novingon Lanewas it really that long ago?

Zsolt Kerekes - editor - May 20, 2021

This is a long overdue write up of an event which took place nearly 5 years ago. It's mostly pictures - so you can skip the words if you like - although there is some meaning in them too. If you click on the little icons they'll give you a high resolution picture to show what the scenary looked like on that day back in September 2016.

19.41, Friday, September 9th, 2016 - and the email circulating from Steve Toomey this evening is reminding us all about the walk tomorrow.

Steve says - "Hi everyone, Weather forecast for tomorrow is not looking good, however please assume the LLCA walk is going ahead as planned and arrive about 9:50 for a 10am start. If however rain is persistent then the walk probably won't go ahead, but let's hope it won't!"

Back to the present (in 2021). Whatever was that term "LLCA" short for?

To be honest - even though I can vividly remember key events leading up to this walk and many of the details while I'm writing this nearly 5 years later I can't for the life of me remember what it stood for. Something to do with landscape. That's why we have web search. And hey presto! - LLCA = local landscape character assessment.

This instance of the walk - on the following day - was slated to be the first of many similar such walks to rope in residents and get them to write down their thoughts about what each bit of the landscape meant to them - for the benefits of future posterity.

I remember saying at the time - even if no one reads any of it in our lifetimes - some future readers might get something from it. Such things do happen. I have often enjoyed discovering in a book written hundreds of years ago what someone thought back then about a bit of landscape which is familiar today.

Cobbetts Rural Rides East Chiltington Walks articleOne such lesson for for me was - Cobbett's Rural Rides (published 1830) which confirmed that an area of footpaths in Hampshire where I used to live (Baughurst) was just as full of prickly gorse in the early 1800s as it was in my walks in the early 1990s. Further afield the Journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804 to 1806 to map the newly purchased Louisiana territory describes bends in rivers which later became the sites of internationally known cities and musicals - like Chicago. (See First Across the Continent by Noah Brooks for an annotated guide to the expedition diaries as written from the perspective of a mere century later.)

Returning to here and now in East Chiltington - which is not a city or even a town yet and which from a population point of view is barely a village - you can read the officially stated purposes of the LLCA walks as they captured in an official bunch of web pages which appeared on the parish web site here in 2017 - 4 months after the walks had already taken place.

We didn't need those web pages to get involved. We were meeting up and discussing the landscape issues and various planning threats to our locality nearly every day in real life. And invitations to the walks were probably flagged up in the local parish magazine too. (Although I can't find an archived digital copy today to confirm this one way or the other.)

8.30, Saturday, September 10th 2016 - My wife and I are in our house in Chiltington Lane rechecking the forecast. Looking out the windows.

Looks very iffy. Skies are darkening.

Do we? Don't we go on this walk? - we discuss it among ourselves.

It'll only take us a few minutes to get to the assembly point.

There's been a lot of preparation leading up to it.

Doesn't look like great weather.

I've invited my niece Laura to join us as she likes walking here. Right now she's in Brighton.

We call her. Warn her - sorry - it looks like it's off. You can come over for an ordinary walk another time.

There are some drops of rain. Not much at this stage. But it's cold.

We're exchanging texts etc and seeing what Steve's plans are. He's been organising this for ages.

Will we? Won't we?

9.30 - Steve confirms we're doing it. Just go for it. This is more than just a walk with some neighbours.

Have we got the stuff that we're taking? Pieces of paper will be exchanged. Everyone in our lane (Chiltington Lane) knows about a plan we're aiming to oppose - and we're hoping to get some support from people we meet at the assembly point - which is at Hollycroft, Chapel Lane. That's a couple of miles away - and the East Chiltington residents at Hollycroft have already been fighting their own long running battle to protect the fields where the walk will start from. (Plot spoiler - both groups won those campaigns - but none of those victories looked at all certain at the time because the planning department was on the developer side of both plans right from the outset.)

9.50 - There are already lots of people there. We know some of them. Steve is handing out his survey forms.

Can we make a short speech about our campaign just before the walk starts?

Yes OK.

So we do and we hand out some sheets of pare with our campaign blurb. And we get to meet - for the first time in real life - people who we've only met on email - some of who have already put up placards outside their houses.

Steve explains there are 2 routes today. One up to Hurst Barn - the other veering right half way up Chiltington Lane.

So we split into 2 groups.

Today we join the group which is walking the Chiltington Lane route - because although that's where we live - we walked to Hurst Barn just a couple of days ago.
10.09 - Group photo photo at Hollycroft Field before splitting up to follow 2 different routes. ..... Group Photo click to enlarge
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10.25 - Setting off (North East a bit) towards Novington Lane. heading off towards Novingon Lane
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10.33 - Having turned left at Novington Lane (that's away from the Downs) and then (100 yards or so later) up Pinchers Hill - we turn right to the footpath which runs alongside the railway embankment. turning right from Novington Lane up to  the railway
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10.35 - Looking backwards from the direction in which we're walking at the the top of the slope we just clambered up. The railway line is to our right. The Downs (not visible at this camera angle) are on the left. The power lines you can see are running alongside Novington Lane. looking back atf Novington Lane
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10.35 - Someone's dog has waited for me while I take these photos. It seems to be saying - this is the way we're supposed to be going. Hurry up and let's rejoin the others. On the immediate left is the railway line. That's the wire fence. Over the other side of the railway line (but with fields in between) is Highbridge Lane. along the railway track between Novington Lane and Chiltington Lane
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10.40 - View of the Downs through a field of wild flowers as seen from alongside the railway footpath about 7 minutes slow walking distance from Novington Lane while heading in the direction towards Cooksbridge and Lewes. (But we haven't reached Chiltington Lane yet.) wild flowers in field adjacent to the railway line near Highbridge Lane
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10.44 - look at the sky - that's what the forecasters were warning about. darkening clouds gather
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10.45 - you can see the railway tracks alongside the footpath more clearly now. some views of the railway
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10.54 - a change of scene. The boardwalk is a rough bridge over a ditch.

Some way ahead I think we're approaching the bridleway which links Wootton Farm to Bowling Green
approaching the track which joins Wootton Farm to Bowling Green
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11.10 - This is the strange artefact I've been wondering about since I spotted its glinting from afar. It grabbed my attention. (Apologies to landscape survey purists.) I'm wondering... is it a solar panel which powers some network rail data logger? Certainly not the trains! Or - and this is an intriguing possibility - is it transmitting an update on the train status to ET? - The next train connecting Lewes to Alpha Centauri has been delayed by 5 minutes. the shiny panel next to the tracks
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11.11 - We're now ready to cross the tracks. In those days there were 3 or 4 places where walkers could cross the tracks (at their own risk) along the mile of the railway running south of Highbridge Lane upto about half way along Chiltington Lane at which point there is a safer way to go - above the railway using bridge KJE1 669.

One of those level crossings (adjacent to Kemps House) is reserved for the use of Network Rail. The other foot crossings were free for all. At the time of writing this - however - 2 of those other crossings are closed. One for repair of the broken wooden steps leading down to the crossing, and the other was permanently closed a few years ago for safety reasons.
cross at your own risk
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11.35 - We're now standing in the most built up section of Chiltington Lane - which comprises a cluster of 3 houses:- Kemps House, Burrells and Upper Burrells.

The view shown in the bullet on the right here is from the lane looking along the side of Kemps House at the South Downs. That's where Network Rail have their own reserved access so they can get railway stuff from a highway to the other side of the tracks.
the Downs seen from standing in Chiltington Lane by Kemps House
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Here's another angle of Kemps House.

Reminder - you can see better quality versions of any of these pictures and more text by clicking on any of them. Or maybe you're getting too many words already...
Kemps House - parallel to the lane
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And here's the other side of the lane.

My neighbours might well say at this stage - how is it possible to take such unflattering pictures of this pretty spot? Where are the flowers? Other readers might ask - what are those signs?
Burrells and Upper Burrels
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12.08 - Since the last photo - we've barely walked 100 yards up the slope from Kemps House before turning right at Southover Cottage (much photographed already on these pages so need to snap again on this walk) and then we've gone over the railway bridge (669 remember?) heading towards Spooner's Farm. This view (on the right) is from just the other side of the railway looking in the direction of Novington Lane and Plumpton. looking westwards over a field of Spooners Farm
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12.16 - Looking back at the way we've come. The house in the distance on the left is Kemps House. looking back at Kemps House from the track along Spooners Farm
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12.16 - We've reached a sign of things to come. fern covered sign at Spooners Farm
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12.16 - Which confirms - if there was any doubt among our group of well mapped Chiltington footpath veterans - that this is indeed where we turn right and clamber up the slope.

BTW - I always admire the ferns around here. That's why I took 2 pictures of almost exactly the same spot.
up the ferny slope
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12.31 - Here are 4 views from the top of that small fern lined slope.

The 1st is looking South Eastwards towards Newhaven.
looking South East  towards Newhaven
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The 2nd looks Northwards back towards the railway line and Chiltington Lane. Northwards  back towards  the railway line and Chiltington Lane
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The 3rd is looking South Westward along the edge of Warningore Wood. looking South Westward along  the edge of
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The 4th is looking Westwards towards Wootton Farm. The dogs have been rushing ahead us walkers at this stage and are now veering back. Does anyone recognise their own dogs in these photos? Whether I was trailing at the rear or rushing ahead to take photos of landscape without too many people obscuring it - the dogs made sure no one got left behind.  looking  Westwards towards Wootton

We spent spent over 20 minutes in this small area. And in case you've been looking at the times shown above and our slow rate of progress this is by way of an explanation.

The purpose of this walk and the others in this series was to make a written record at various locations of what we could see and how we felt about it which would be fed into a future landscape assessment report.

Whenever we reached one of the predesignated survey spots - Steve Toomey stopped the walk and handed out a fresh set of his survey forms on which we would tick boxes to show what we could see and also answer open ended questions such as these.

21 - Having assessed the landscape visually, can you experience the landscape through other senses? What smells, sounds and colours are around you? Try closing your eyes to concentrate your thoughts.

22 - What do you like in this landscape? What makes you happy being here?

I can't remember what I wrote but I do remember commenting that someone was going to have an awfully difficult job deciphering the scribbles.

As we had been talking with each other along the way it was interesting for me to hear how vividly other people were able to describe what they could see (in comparison to my bland comments about seeing trees and grass).

Another thing I remember us talking about was what we didn't see.We didn't see many buildings or signs of roads. This lack of urbanisation - given our location - 15 minutes drive from Brighton, 8 minutes from Lewes and 14 minutes from Hassocks - was a remarkable thing in itself.
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12.41 - This is what we could see when we reached that tree whose canopy you can see in the top right hand corner of the previous picture. looking North West from the shapely tree  LLCA walk
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12.42 - One last look back (Eastward). In the distance you can see Spooner's Farm. landscape walk looking back again
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12.51 - Curving left (Southwards).

Field of corn on the left.
field of corn on the left
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13.07 - We've skirted past the Southern edge of Wootton Farm and we're heading along the track to Novington Lane. track from Wootton Farm to Novington Lane
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13.09 - We've crossed Novington Lane where it meets the Roman Road and clambered over the stile. As we approach the first big tree in the field - this is the view on the left (Southwards). We're heading down a well worn path down towards the Jolly Sportsman (and Hollycroft) which will complete the walk loop nearly finished the walk
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13.09 - This is another view from the same tree. In case you were wondering - did I somehow manage to lose the group which had set off from Hollycroft? Maybe that story about taking pictures - looking forwards from the front or looking backwards from the rear - to grab the scenary instead of the group of us - was just a way of disguising that I'd got completely lost and had been walking somewhere else entirely (maybe in Wales) and on my own? Well here we are. And - as the forecast had warned us - it did rain. But we finished our walk before the heavens opened. heading home after the survey walk
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the end... nearly

Were you on those walks? Do you recognise the dogs? They were great companions on this walk and it makes me smile seeing them in these pictures. If you can tell me their names I will update the phot captions to give them the star credit they deserve.

Did you post any of your photos of the East Chiltington landscape survey walks online? - in a way that I could link to them here from this article?

I've got more pictures too. A few weeks after this first walk in September 2016 I went on one of the other routes - up Novington Lane then across the fields to Blackcap. That was a much sunnier day - everything looks so much prettier then.

Sadly in 2021 as I write this - it seems we could realistically lose it all. And in another 5-10 years time the only part of this countryside we'll have left is memories and photos. But don't lose heart yet. That's where the Landscape Survey part of the walks comes in - because pictures and anecdotes like these provide evidence for what is under threat - when we want to recruit people to our cause to protect East Chiltington, Plumpton, St John Without and the fields we take for granted. And these digital assets can help when you come to write future planning letters to oppose destructive schemes like those reported in the Eton versus East Chiltington chronicles on wrongthingwrongplace.com

Epilogue

In the weeks, months and first couple of years after these landscape walks in 2016 it felt like the urgency to write up this walk in a blog here on ChiltingtonLane.com had faded. We had won our campaign against the caviar farm in Chiltington Lane, Hollycroft had become designated a village green...

But later - whenever I met up with Steve Toomey who had organised these walks - and feeling guilty that I hadn't even written up my little blog about it - I would ask him - Hey Steve what's happened with the survey report?

I assumed that the handwritten forms had turned out to be indecipherable or that the need to defend our landscape against harmful property speculators had gone away.

A couple of years later - Steve said that it had been decided to do a more detailed write up than just using the raw data abstracted from the survey sheets. This job had been handed to another neighbour of ours - Mary Parker. Mary - I knew - had been a strong advocate for trees and hedges and water and other ecological arguments in the caviar campaign and had written books about horse riding in the area and children's fiction and was a keen blogger on issues related to the countryside around here such as protecting the wildflower verges in the lanes being mown at the wrong time of year by Highways and a quiet lanes scheme. So I knew this would be a serious piece of work and looked forward to seeing it when it came out.

And as another year or two went by - I wondered what had happened. I hadn't seen any such doument on the East Chiltington Parish web site - although there were mentions of a landscape survey in odd pages here and there. I assumed that as things had quietened down in the planning menaces front - maybe the thing had been dropped.

In February 2021 - while we were all in UK Covid Lockdown #3 - we started hearing for the frist time alarming news about a serious intention by Eton College to build a new town on various fields around our lanes which had hitherto been regarded as do not build anything zones. I began writing about these matters in the Eton versus East Chiltington chronicles on wrongthingwrongplace.com

I felt guilty at that stage that I too had dropped the ball - and hadn't even written up my very small blog of the first landscape survey walks . But I kept getting pulled back to publishing snippets of news and blogs about the Eton New Town on my own web sites - knowing that the official resident campaign - was still putting together the name and content for its website donturbanisethedowns.com which only began showing its first clutch of substantive content in a site refresh which became visible on March 29, 2021.

In April 2021 (still in lockdown) I asked Mary Parker as she walked past my front gate what had happened to her report?

"I finshed it years ago" she said. "And gave it to Jenny on a CD. And then people said they wanted to change things or add things. I'm not sure where it is now. I see samples of what was in it on the East Chiltington web site - because you know you can recognise sentences you've written. But I didn't put my name on the original cover because I was taught that's not what you do in these kinds of documents - in the days when I used to do that kind of thing. What people want in Landscape Surveys is facts and data - not opinions."

"Do you still have a copy?" I asked.

"Yes" - said Mary. "It's on Word. It takes up lots of space. The chapters are big files with photos - so it will be a lot of emails."

"Who owns the copyright?"

"I suppose I do."

"Would you mind if I published parts or all of it on my web sites? We both know this is the kind of raw material which would be helpful in our cause to find planning and ecology arguments to protect us from these big developments."

"Absolutely. Send me your new email address."

Mary sent me the book files at the end of April. I dipped into them and it's a treasure trove recording East Chiltington. What we've got. What we'd like to protect.

I'd like to convert the whole document into a form which you can see on the web. You'll be seeing it appear in snippets and chapters starting soon. There will be links here in this blog and on the home page of Chiltington Lane.