The Radical Ramblers, a long-standing group of left-wing walkers led by Alan (Lord) Haworth, visited Black Down common in West Sussex on 17 June. I have often joined them in Scotland, on the annual walk to celebrate the life and achievements of our much-loved leader, the late John Smith, so it was a change to be in lowland England.
Actually, it wasn’t really lowland: our aim was to find the trig point on top of Black Down, which is a Marilyn, (a mountain or hill of any height with a drop of 150 metres or 492 feet on all sides). The trig point on Black Down is 280 metres. Surprisingly, it is the highest point in the South Downs National Park.
We started at Haslemere station and approached the down along the sunken Tennyson’s Lane, following the Serpent Trail. After we had walked some way across the heathland, Alan began looking for the trig point and Radical Ramblers dispersed in all directions, as is their wont. It was a bit like the hunt for the woozle.
At last Alan found the trig, among trees. If we had stayed on the track we would have come to it more easily.
There must once have been a view from here, but it is now surrounded by trees.
We stopped here for lunch and then went on to the Temple of the Winds. This is on the prow of the hill with a magnificent view south to the chalk downs of Ditchling Beacon and Chanctonbury Ring. The view was, apparently, much enjoyed by Tennyson who lied at Aldworth House on the east side of the down.
There is a semi-circular stone bench which is dedicated to Mable, the wife of Edward Hunter, who bought the land and gave it to the National Trust in 1944.
Edward was no relation of Robert Hunter, solicitor to the Open Spaces Society who later founded the National Trust and lived for 30 years in Haslemere. Edward was a printing magnate from Frensham; he was appalled by proposals to construct a road across the Black Down ridge to a café at the end of the promontory, causing him to buy 500 acres in 1942. (Thanks to the Black Down and Hindhead supporters of the National Trust for this information.)
We went back by a different route, largely following the Sussex Border Path. We crossed a meadow south of Valewood Farm House. This is National Trust land with public access beyond the rights of way.
It had a fine collection of heath spotted orchids.
As we came back through Haslemere we paused to watch a cricket match. The ball came whizzing over the boundary, and after some searching we found it stuck in a tree next to the footpath. Walkers have their advantages.