A year ago, shortly before we moved south into West Sussex we spotted an image in The Times newspaper of an old Roman Road at Halnaker near Chichester in its Autumn colours. The image was dramatic and exciting. I cut out the image and filed it away as a place to visit next Autumn (now the current one). The newspaper image is shown below.
Yesterday, the weather was perfect and we drove down to Chichester and located the start of this walk, just north of Halnaker on the A285, at the entrance to Warehead Farm. A short walk of less than a quarter of a mile leads into an ancient Hollow Way roofed over by trees – physically a tunnel. Initially the tunnel did not seem to live up to the expectations provided not only by the newspaper image but by others I had seen on the internet. Undeterred, I was frequently stopping to capture images. And then one of those bizarre serendipitous moments happened that are so unexpected.
My wife had walked on while I was repeatedly stopping, and had met three photographers at a gate about two-thirds of the way up the Hollow Way, all with high-end SLR cameras with long lenses set up on tripods waiting, aimed down the way for ‘the shot’. My wife had already engaged one of the photographers with the opening gambit: ‘you’re not the photographer whose image was published in The Times a year ago, are you?’ The astonishing reply was: ‘Yes, I am!’
What were the chances of that happening? His name is Mark Andreas Jones (see by-line at top right of the newspaper image). He’s a professional photographer from Hampshire with an impressive website with a link to a gallery of superb landscape images on 500px. Click here to visit Mark’s website. We chatted to Mark who told us that the colours were not as good as the previous year (so I wasn’t imagining it). His image had been taken using a long lens to create compression. I had brought a modest 16-85mm zoom (equiv to 24-127mm full frame) and my wide-angle lens. Not the best gear for the occasion.
We walked on up to the top of the hill to see Halnaker Windmill sadly without its sails (or sweeps) removed for repairs, from which there were panoramic views to the north, and to the south to a huge stretch of coastline.
Walking back down, Mark was still where we left him, still patiently waiting for potential images and we carried on down the Hollow Way. Meanwhile I had switched to my wide-angle lens sensing that a wider view of immediate surroundings might be the way to capture something worth while – so far I had nothing that satisfied me. I let my wife walk ahead following her closely, the sun being almost straight ahead.
There were occasional patches where light was filtering through, highlighting my wife’s hair, and the pictures started to come, close to the point where the tunnel ended on our way back out.
My two images are at the top of this post and below.
Some of you may be wondering what a Hollow Way is and how they were formed. We have been familiar with Hollow Ways in and around our old village in Northants which was once on the edge of a major forest centuries ago.
Searching for an authoritative description of hollow ways this morning I came across this quote from Robert MacFarlane who is a celebrated writer about the history of the English landscape and who has recently produced a collaborative book with a very small print run called Holloway. I quote: ‘[Hollow Ways] are paths that, over centuries of use, have sunk down into the landscape through which they run, worn into the earth by footfall, wheel-roll and rain-rush. Some of them are twenty feet deep and steep-sided: more ravine than road. Many have been overgrown by the trees that border them, so that they’ve become green-roofed tunnels.’
The logging out of wood from medieval forests with cart horses is one of the primary ways in which these ways were gouged out. I found that quote included in an article on a website named ‘Caught by the River’. click here to go to the full illustrated article.
Yesterday will linger in my memory for a long time, with particular thanks to my wife for her inquisitive thinking. And there will be return visits to this spot. It is well worth a visit on a fine day.