Days Out In South East England

Greetings. Let me introduce a few interesting places to you. If you’re taking a trip over here, I might persuade you to visit a couple of them; or maybe you’ll just find these stories interesting. This is my neck of the woods, and these are the places we go to on days out – so this thread is part tourist guide, part AMA, a bit bloggy, and who knows what else it might evolve into. If you think it’s worth reading then, please, I’ll need feedback to persuade me that I’m not just boring the crap out of people, and that it’s worth carrying on with – it’s too much work to just be shouting out into the darkness. It’ll be an occasional thing, with additions when we go somewhere interesting. And like I said, it’s partly an AMA – so feel free to ask me anything.

j

PS: if you know these places, please feel free to add information/suggestions. And if anyone else wants to post a day out, please do. I may agree with you, disagree with you, or go on a visit.

Arundel

Arriving in Arundel from the East always takes my breath away. I can’t find a photo that does it justice – this is the best I can manage.

Google Photos

We’re looking across the levels and the Arun valley to a town built on the footslopes of the South Downs, dominated by the cathedral on the left and the castle on the right. The Levels? – you ask. Yeah, that’s the term round here for the flat stuff between the hills and the sea. And boy is it flat – the Arun, which is not a big river, is tidal as far as Pulborough, which is 10 miles from the sea as the crow flies – so we’re talking low, flat country – but with surprisingly big chalk hills.

Arundel is a small town about 4 miles from the south coast and is built around the castle. There’s been a castle there for ever – well, nearly a thousand years – but the current edition is recent (restored 1787 onwards). The castle and town are integrated in odd ways. There are multiple points where you can be walking along a street and there’s a door or a gate into the castle grounds, like this.

Even stranger, if you visit St Nicholas’ Church (and you should, to admire the ancient wall paintings and muse over the plaque that lists the vicars, going back to 1324), take a look behind the altar and you’ll find… another church. There’s an iron grille and a plexiglass screen, and beyond lies the castle’s half of the building, complete with tombs of former inhabitants. (Flick through the photos on that webpage to see the screen).

(I presume you can do this trick in reverse from the castle side of the church, but the only time we’ve been in the castle, last year, there were COVID-related building closures.)

The town is pretty, and will admirably serve your need for cafés, fudge shops and antique shops. Actually, there are some useful shops as well – Pallant is a ridiculous grocery, with all manner of weird and wonderful things (“Purveyors Of Fine Foods And Wines”). Wikipedia describes the town as “much conserved”, which is about right – there are a lot of old, pretty buildings. It’s former life as a port town is remembered in a few buildings; and for me, Arundel is all about the river. Man, is it tidal – we were there for 4 hours on Saturday, and the entire time the flow of water was upstream . The land around it is pan flat and protected by levées upstream from the town centre; the tops of the levées are public footpaths. It makes for a great walk.

Lunch at the Waterside Café, virtually in the river. The sound of ducks splash-landing whilst you’re eating is rather disconcerting. We watched swans drifting upstream on the tide.

Google Photos

You can stroll along Mill Road to Swanbourne Lake and the Mill Stream. They nestle up to the chalk hills, and are fed by springs – the water is impossibly clear, the lake is a little gem and the (short) walk around it is glorious. The Mill Stream:

Google Photos

Keep going up that road, and you’ll come to The Black Rabbit, another spectacular riverside place to eat.

It’s a kinda touristy town, but I’m not really sure why. The standout attraction is probably the castle. If I had to choose a couple of words for Arundel? Pleasing and Intriguing; we’ll reserve the word Spectacular for the view on the way in.

Our total walking: 4.8 miles.

Streetviews:

The cathedral

The High Street – spot the castle

From The Black Rabbit looking back to the castle

Another church: the view from the “castle” side of St Nicholas’ church, towards the blocked off town side; plus tombs.

j

Arundel Bonus: The Wey and Arun Navigation.

Back in the day, these ideas were put together:

  1. The River Wey, a tributary of the Thames, is navigable quite a long way south
  2. The Arun is navigable quite a long way north
  3. Digging a canal from the naval city of Portsmouth to the Arun is dead easy, as it’s the levels all the way
  4. You don’t need that much canal to connect the Arun and the Wey

And so was born the Wey and Arun Navigation

In 1810, the 3rd Earl of Egremont began to promote the idea of a canal to link the Wey and Arun, the case being they were separated by 15 miles (24 km). Part of the justification for this canal through these overwhelmingly rural counties, with few of the cargoes which made canals profitable, was to provide an inland route from London to Portsmouth and the south coast of England, an important consideration as England was at war with France and thus coastal shipping at risk of attack.

As the wiki explains, enthusiasts are restoring stretches of the canal. Bless them, and I like to think that they sneer at the Johnny-Come-Latelys who restore old railways. The work is headquartered at Loxwood on the West Sussex-Surrey border, and if you visit you can go on a canal boat trip on a restored section.

j

Thank you SO much for sharing these with us. Beautiful pics and wonderful descriptions. Thanks again!

Arundel looks like a place to add to my list of grand days out by train from London.

The Tea and Biscuit Club sounds like a place to meet. I love all the shop (shoppe?) names.

And High Street. In the US we have Main Street, but would not call it The Main Street. Does every town’s business district have a High Street?

My pleasure to do so. I’m posting about favorite places, so I’m pleased you like it.

As luck would have it, as you exit the station you’ll be greeted with at least part of that view across the levels. Don’t think you’ll quite see the cathedral from there, though - the screen grab I used was from a little further up the hill.

ETA - if you were wanting to eat at The Black Rabbit, you really need to book a table.

I believe it’s just a shop (rather than a tea room/cafe). But there’s no shortage of bijou meeting places. I was being a bit frivolous about the selection of shops there, but to be fair they are pretty much all family businesses - not a chain in sight, which is to be applauded. Not all towns have a High Street, but it’s a very common name.

j

There is a phone booth in your photo. Is there actually still a phone in it?

I don’t know for a fact, but almost certainly not. Some old phone boxes were ripped up and removed, but there were many protests, and so you still see them all the time. It’s nice to see. Very occasionally - maybe in a big town centre - you’ll see one with a functional phone, but generally the idea is redundant these days. Quite often you’ll find that an old village phone box is now used as an informal library/book exchange.

j

What a great idea!

Very nice pictures and links. Unlike many things, these are not just the thing you’d like if you like that sort of thing. I generally prefer my cathedrals to be as un-Gothic as possible and my riverside patios to face as small a river as possible, but those places seem appealing even though they aren’t generally the thing that I like.

Actually, looking at Wikipedia it apparently is Gothic Revival, and that makes sense because I do like Gothic Revival, it’s just that it looked much older than that due to being more traditionally Gothic than a lot of Gothic Revival. Plus, from many angles it is not symmetric, and symmetric architecture is usually boring to me.

Kingston Upon Thames, near London, there’s a public artwork that shows phone booths toppling like a row of dominoes.

I was a little misled by your title. I would put Arundel in the South. To me, SE is Canterbury, Dover, Hastings, Eastbourne etc.

There is no “South England” region, it’s SE or SW. SE goes as far as Hampshire.

I’m with Bob on this one, South East might be ‘correct’, but in my head it’s the south coast.

Another lovely day out from London, definitely South East, is Rye

Also Whitstable, for the oysters.

I live in the South West these days, and these are the places I miss and don’t get to pretty much ever any more.

The parts of SE England that most attract me are the New Forest and Oxford, although I’ve only actually been to the latter. What’s the Isle of Wight like? And Portsmouth?

The Isle of Wight is one of my Grand Days Out from London. There is a fast train that goes to Portsmouth harbour and the rail ticket includes a short ferry ride. When you land at Ryde Pierhead, there is a local train station and there waiting for you is an old London tube train to take you to one of the four other stations on the island.

The Isle of Wight is about 22 miles across and 12 miles north to south, so to get about you take the bus services, a taxi or hire a car. I lot of people get around under their your own steam, it is very popular with cyclists and motor cyclists and scooter owners. The Isle of Wight is a very popular location for festivals and rallies. It was always one of the destinations for a holidaying Londoners, including Royalty. Some of its towns have a faded seaside grandeur that has seen better days and there are many retirees.

There quite a lot to do and see,The Needles chalk cliffs are magnificent and the old wartime ruins are a museum. It is very family friendly and great for hiking along the coast. Lots of tours. It has always been a holiday place.

Since you pass through Portsmouth, it is worth visiting the naval museum. I really enjoyed looking around HMS Victory which led fleets against the rebellious Americans and Napoleons France. You also get a good idea of all the industries that went towards supporting a navy in the days when the technology was based on wood, sail and guns. Very atmospheric.

This has been busy whilst I’ve been away.

My working definition of SE England is Surrey, Hampshire, West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent - but hey, let’s be flexible.

I’m on a tight timeline today, but in passing:

I absolutely endorse this, Might get back to it later.

This is one I couldn’t have done, as I haven’t been there for ages. So: Thanks!

j

The Isle of Wight divides opinion. Popular with the yachting crowd, who keep their boats across the solent and potter over at weekends, and there’s a week long yachting festival (Cowes week). Otherwise it’s a bit like the land that time forgot - 1950s seaside resorts, slightly tired B&Bs.

Portsmouth isn’t a tourist destination - it’s a large town/small city, a working town, not terribly pretty, home to docks and a ferry terminal for France. Great naval museum though, as you would expect in the home base of the Royal Navy (you can often spot an aircraft carrier as well while you’re there).

Oops - post didn’t work. I’ll sort this later.

j