17 miles, 2 days
Traverse the coastal path, transformed from shingle by tidal havens and wildlife-rich mudflats and punctuated by early medieval churches before arrival at the magnificent Chichester Cathedral. Some pilgrims may prefer to leave the coast at Emsworth, and take the alternative route up over the ridge at Kingley Vale for the ancient Devils Humps and veteran Yew trees.
Trains: Havant, Nutbourne, Fishbourne, and Chichester Stations Bus: No. 700 connects Havant, Nutbourne and Chichester. No. 52 and 53 connect Apuldram to Chichester. Taxi: Havant Cabs, Station Taxis (Chichester)
There are many stories to explore in Bosham, from tales of Canute and his daughter, to Harold Godwinson and the Bayeux tapestry. The church itself is astonishing and you will want time to linger here.
Chichester Cathedral also deserves plenty of time, and you may wish to take the excuse to rest an extra day. From the Bishops Palace gardens to the Arundel Tomb, ensure you allow plenty of time and perhaps stay for Evensong.
Leave Havant by heading south along the green lane toward the sea. Emerge where sky and water blend, a very swift transition from the urban to coastal habitats. Follow east with the coastal channels on your right.
Cross the field toward the spire of St Thomas à Becket Church, Warblington: a church made partly from old ship parts, accompanied by another venerable yew. The yew’s association with death continued well into the Christian era. Sprigs of yew were placed with loved ones in their graves, and sometimes the needles were heaped over the top, but whether this was to purify the spirit of the deceased, or to absorb the rankness of the corpse, is still debated today. In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the fool Feste sings of his “shroud of white, stuck all with yew” revealing its familiarity with burial. Here at Warblington, the yew has been watching over graves since the church was built, much longer than the 19th Century Grave Watcher Huts, built to shelter the night guards on grave-robber duty.
Emsworth and Chidham
Stay on the Solent Way toward Emsworth, detouring through Nore Barn Woods, a dense canopy of hawthorn and oak trees. Enter Emsworth along the Causeway. Take the footpath to the Slipper Mill Pond, and continue along the wild coast, until Chidham, where Saint Cuthman was born. He made pilgrimage with his mother in a wheelbarrow to Steyning, where he founded the Church of St Andrew. Here in Chidham, the tiny church of St Mary’s awaits, as does a lovely pub – the Old House at Home.
From Chidham, walk east toward the spire of Chichester. When you reach water, the path diverts north. You will also see Bosham’s spire over the bay. Walk towards the road, and cross it to take the quieter way, or simply walk along until the footpath takes you south toward the quieter waterside.
Along the way you’ll often find Archangel growing. This white “dead-nettle” grows on banks, hedges and waysides all along the Old Way, often tucked in among the stinging nettles. Its yellow or white hooded flowers mark it out however, clustering upright round the stem, instead of dangling like string. It’s called Archangel from associations with Archangel Michael, blossoming between his old feast day in the Spring and Michaelmas, although some will tell you it is “virtuous” because it doesn’t sting. Older traditions associate the plant with fairies, or elves, the flowers forming slippers hung up away from the dew. You can absorb its protection by carefully detaching a flower and sucking the nectar from the base.
Continue to Bosham (pronounced ‘Bozzum’) – an ancient village with a rich history, dating at least as far back as the Roman occupation of England. As a helpful port along the coast, trade, settlers and occupiers have been travelling through Bosham for many centuries. Enter the village via the coastal path if the tide is out, or follow footpath signs inland.
Bosham boasts quite an astonishing church, almost a cathedral with a 14th century crypt of sacred power. It is worth spending some time here. Bosham is also a place famed for tragedy: King Cnut’s 8-year old daughter fell into the nearby millstream and drowned in the year 1020. Within Holy Trinity Church, you will find an inscription memorialising her. Also within the church is a photograph of the section of the Bayeaux Tapestry that depicts Harold Godwinson’s visit to the church in 1064, before his ill-fated trip to Normandy.
Leave Bosham via its tidal roads, where visitors’ cars are often swept into the waters. Walk through isolated seashores of Dwarf Oak and Reed. Pause at the Fishbourne millpond to meet the swans and moorhens.
Then walk south towards Apuldram, along the Chichester Quay AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Walk north to St Peter and St Mary’s Church, Fishbourne, past the mouth of the River Lavant. Pilgrims recommend paying entry to Fishbourne Roman Palace if you have time, for the largest collection of mosaics and 2000 year old figurines used in the worship of local deities. As you leave Fishbourne, cross over the busy A259 and go through the underpass under the A27, joining West Street.
At the roundabout with the Avenue de Chartres sign (Chichester is twinned with Chartres), turn right into the avenue and look for the door in the wall which will take you into the Bishop’s Palace Gardens. If you are arriving late, please note this way may be locked. You will come out into Cannon Lane and take St Richard’s Walk up into the Cloisters.
Enter the Cathedral via the Bishop’s Palace Gardens, out into Cannon Lane and take St Richard’s Walk up into the Cloisters. Be sure to meet the famous Arundel Tomb (‘What will survive of us is love’, Philip Larkin, ‘An Arundel Tomb‘) and the Marc Chagall red window. Much of the art in Chichester Cathedral was commissioned when Walter Hussey was Dean of the Cathedral. Among his commissions are several other works of visual art including the Mary Magdalene altarpiece ‘Noli me tangere’ by Graham Sutherland, and a tapestry screen by John Piper. Much of Hussey’s collection was left to the Pallant House Gallery.
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