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Espying Chichester's Spire

A fascinating walk combining the ancient treasures of a cathedral city with the delights of the adjacent countryside.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Urban walkways, tow path and field paths, 4 stiles

Landscape Mixture of city streets and open countryside

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 120 Chichester, South Harting & Selsey

Start/finish SZ 857044

Dog friendliness On lead in Chichester and farmland. Off lead by canal

Parking Fee-paying car park in Avenue de Chartres

Public toilets At car park and elsewhere in Chichester

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1 On leaving the car park, cross the footbridge over the Avenue de Chartres and head towards the city centre. Turn right at the city map and then left into South Street. Bear left into Canon Lane, just beyond the tourist information centre. Turn right into St Richard's Walk and approach the elegant Chichester Cathedral.

2 Swing left at the cloisters, then left again to keep the stone wall on your left. Make for the West Door and pass the Bell Tower to reach West Street. Bear right here. Across the road is a converted church, now a pub. The north face of Chichester Cathedral is clearly seen as you head along West Street. On reaching the Market Cross, turn left into North Street and bear right immediately beyond the historic Council House into Lion Street.

3 Walk along to St Martin's Square and opposite you at this point is St Mary's Hospital. Turn right and pass the Hole in the Wall pub to reach East Street. Glance to the left and you can pick out the Corn Exchange. Go straight over into North Pallant and walk along to Pallant House. Head straight on into South Pallant and follow the road round to the right, passing Christ Church on the left. Turn left at the next junction, make for the traffic lights and continue south into Southgate.

4 Cross the railway at Chichester station and then swing left to reach the canal basin. Follow the tow path to Poyntz Bridge, dated 1820, and continue to the next bridge which carries the A27 Chichester bypass. Keep going as far as the next footbridge and follow the path to the road. Confusingly this bridge is labelled Poyntz Bridge on OS maps.

5 Bear left for a few steps to a stile by the entrance to a car park. Cross into the field and Chichester's splendid cathedral spire can be seen soaring above the city. Keep the field boundary on your immediate right and make for a footbridge and stile. Continue ahead, with lines of trees and bushes on your left. Make for a stile in the field corner and cross the next field, maintaining the same direction. Aim for a stile in the wooded corner and a few steps beyond it you reach the busy A27.

6 Cross over with extreme care to join a footpath opposite. Turn right at the junction and follow the tarmac path to the recreation ground. Cross to the far side of the green, keeping the Cathedral spire more or less straight ahead. Look for Cherry Orchard Road, with a post box and a telephone box on the corner.

7 Bear left at the crossroads into Kingsham Avenue and follow it into Kingsham Road. Turn right at the T-junction, pass the bus station and, on reaching the one-way system, cross over at the lights. Bear right into Southgate, then left into Avenue de Chartres. The car park is on the left.

A stroll through the quaint streets of Chichester is the only way to appreciate all that this small but beautiful cathedral city has to offer - and it certainly has an abundance of riches. Chichester's origins date back as far as the late Iron Age, and it was settled by the Romans in about ad 200. They built the walls and laid out the city plan, which can still be clearly identified. During the Middle Ages the city witnessed the building of the great cathedral and its precincts. Later, in the boom years of the 18th century, Chichester really came into its own when wealthy merchants, engaged in the shipping industry and the corn trade, began to build many of the fine houses and civic buildings you see today.

From the car park it is only a matter of minutes before you find yourself right at the heart of Chichester. Make the cathedral your first port of call. This is the focal point of the city, the Mother Church of the Diocese of Chichester. The spire, a notable local landmark, collapsed in 1861 and was rebuilt under the supervision of Sir George Gilbert Scott who was also responsible for St Pancras station and the Albert Memorial in London. Ranging from Norman to Perpendicular in style, this magnificent building includes the site of a shrine to St Richard, Bishop of Chichester in the 13th century, tapestries by John Piper and Romanesque stone carvings. Another memorable feature is Graham Sutherland's painting, which depicts Christ appearing to St Mary Magdalen on the first Easter morning.

From the cathedral the walk heads down West Street to the intricately decorated Market Cross, built at the beginning of the 16th century and considered to be one of the finest of its kind in the country. It was Bishop Story who made a gift of the cross to the city. He also endowed the Prebendal School in West Street. Situated at the hub of the Roman street plan and distinguished by its flying buttresses, the cross was built to provide shelter for traders who came to Chichester to sell their wares. Make your way up North Street to the Council House, built in 1731 and famous for its huge stone lion and Roman stone. The Latin inscription records the dedication of a Roman temple to Neptune and Minerva. From here it's an easy stroll south to the Pallants, a compact network of narrow streets and elegant houses. Leave the city now, by following the Chichester section of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal out into the countryside and south to the village of Hunston. The return leg is across pleasant farmland, with the glorious South Downs nudging into view in the distance. Buildings change and cities continue to evolve, but Chichester's most famous landmark, the elegant spire of its cathedral, remains constant throughout this walk.

While you're there

Enjoy a trip on the tree-lined Chichester Canal. It's part of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, built to link with other rivers and navigations to form an inland waterway between London and Portsmouth. Designed by John Rennie and opened in 1822, the canal acted as a through route until 1855 and the Chichester stretch was built to take ships.

What to look for

In addition to the remains of the Roman city walls, there is St Mary's Hospital of the Blessed Virgin Mary in St Martin's Square, founded between 1158 and 1170. Originally a hospital it later became almshouses and is one of Chichester's most historic buildings. Visitors are welcome and can make an appointment with the guide. In the nearby Pallants is Pallant House, built by Henry Peckham, a Chichester wine merchant, in 1712. The house is Queen Anne style and each room reflects a particular period of its history.

Where to eat and drink

As well as inns and hotels, of which there are many in Chichester, there is Clinchs Salad House near the Avenue de Chartres car park and Bishop Bell Rooms, close to the cathedral. The Spotted Cow at Hunston includes a good snack menu as well as more substantial dishes.

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