On Sunday (23rd October) local residents’ group ‘Arundel SCATE’ (South Coast Alliance for Transport and Environment) organized a walk through Arundel Parish along as much of the proposed bypass pink-blue route as public access would allow. The route however did allow those taking part to view, from public rights of way, the large part of the parish, mainly in Tortington, which would be severed by any road which might be built. It also enabled walkers to get a clearer idea of just how much diverse and species-rich marshland, farmland and woodland would be destroyed by the bypass on this route.
Proceeding south along the riverbank, poles with flags gave some indication of the 30 metre wide dual carriageway and its possible height above the surrounding valley – the carriageway we are told would have to cross the Arun Valley and a stretch of the countryside beyond on stilts. At this point it became evident that not only was this a large turnout of some 70 people, mainly Arundel and Tortington residents but some from as far away as Worthing, but that it was not confined to those who supported less damaging road improvements in the Arun Valley but some who were very much in favour of the pink-blue route at any cost, whether to the environment or the exchequer. This was a most welcome mixture of opinion and perspective.
The Chief Executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust, Tony Whitbread, then gave the assembled walkers the first of three short but informative talks about the habitats and wildlife species which would be further endangered and in some cases totally wiped out in the Arun Valley by a new road. Onward to Priory Lane and around the former 12th century Tortington Priory before cutting across to Tortington Lane where Tony Whitbread gave a short talk on ancient woodland and the importance of various tree species – I’m told not one tree was hugged though I’m sure many were tempted! It was at this point that we crossed into Tortington Common – a large area of woodland actually and not very ‘common’ at all!
The woodland edge here also marks the boundary of the South Downs National Park and once into Tortington woods we had an easy walk on the recently re-surfaced path until a scheduled deviation off the public path brought us all a very pleasant surprise. We were taken into Noor Wood, 4.5 acres of woodland owned by Julie and Tony Upson who provided walkers with tea, biscuits and ‘comfort’ facilities. Julie told us about the work they were doing managing this woodland and restoring, amongst other native species, the elusive Hazel dormouse, now a European protected species. There are 55 nesting boxes in the woods and they are monitored monthly with the results being reported to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and to MAVES (see below). Julie and Tony are also currently working with a number of charities, including MIND, to establish the wood as a site for the promotion of health & wellbeing.
The talk here in Noor Wood was given by Julia Plumstead, Chair of MAVES (Mid-Arun Valley Environment Survey) and local naturalist Ian Powell who told us of the important work MAVES was doing monitoring populations of rare bats, dormice, owls and butterflies, including one of only 7 colonies of a rare bat species in the UK.
Suitably refreshed we bade farewell to Julie and Tony and after another pleasant woodland walk made our way out of the woods and eventually emerged near the top of Torton Hill – can Arundel really have this rural idyll on its doorstep someone asked! ‘Tortington actually’, I heard someone else reply.
Now it was quite literally all downhill and back to our starting point in Arundel. A good walk through what everyone agreed was beautiful countryside – yes everyone! – very informative and for some, a first venture into the rural bit of Arundel!