|We probably picked the wrong day to visit here as it was damned cold and quite overcast but the thought of possibly finding a cemetery of up to twenty barrows tucked away in the wilderness of mid-Sussex proved too much of a temptation. Parking is relatively easy as there's a conveniently placed carpark just off the A272 between Midhurst and Petersfield and was very popular with the local dogowners the day we were there, just a shame they couldn't be bothered to pick up after them. I always tend to think of Sussex as being quite highly populated, and I guess the bit I live in on the coast is, but inland you'll find large tracts of land with barely any sign of habitation much like this. Here there seem to be endless glorious vistas of open heather with the occasional birch tree, small patches of conifer and the blue-hued hills of the South Downs on the distant horizon. It's probably looked like this for centuries, possibly millennia. The first barrows you come to after leaving the carpark are a very small pair, possibly conjoined and only just discernible as they're covered in heather, so it's almost impossible to gauge just how big they are, or were. Travelling further South you come around a small pond and follow a track to a linear arrangement of five larger barrows which are part of Fitzhall Heath. The tallest of these is about 30-40 feet across and around 10 feet high, again heather covered and at some time in the past severely mauled, and from here you can see two other large barrows, one of which has been cleared of heather. On top of this we found the tattered remains of a sign politely asking the public to refrain from walking on the barrows and to use the cleared pathways around them. Whoops, sorry. Passing through the middle of all this apparently is a Roman road as well, though I couldn't really work out where it was supposed to be, only surmising that it started in Chichester to the South. We only managed to seek out seven barrows on this visit, but given the size of the common it would take a good day to tramp around the whole area where I know there are at least another eight marked on the OS map. We'll return when it's warmed up a tad.
Posted by A R Cane
20th February 2012ce