A Kentish view of Chichester

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Adam Colton offers a light-hearted “Kentish view” of the Chichester area in a new humorous paperback depicting ten cycling and wild-camping expeditions around southern England.

He includes several visits to Chichester and surroundings to explore the South Downs Way and other routes, one of which saw his bike stolen along Centurion Way, he laments.

“Seven years of adventures, wild-camping and cycling around many of southern England’s most famous trails, have reached their fruition in Stair-Rods and Stars (Movement Publishing: ISBN-10: 1513605259; ISBN-13: 978-1513605258, £6.95 via Amazon), a humorous paperback travel narrative, written in reverse chronology, giving the feel of a gradually-unfolding adventure.”

Adam, who visited every mainland lighthouse in England and Wales with his father for his 2003 book England and Wales in a Flash, began the jaunts with the aim of filling in the gaps between the coasts he’d previously visited. He discovered a network of canals, disused railway lines and ancient trails from The Ridgeway to the Shaftesbury Drovers Path while ticking off his list of must-see features, from Glastonbury Tor to Cheddar Gorge to Avebury Henge.

“The book pieces together snippets of historical knowledge with the kind of musings that can be conjured up while sleeping in hedges, heartily eulogising the therapeutic qualities of getting back to nature in a way that may just prompt the reader to do something equally wacky.”

Adam added: “I was surprised to learn that Chichester is England’s fifth smallest city (after Wells, Ely, Ripon and Truro) as I found it to be a place that punches well above its weight.

“My home town of Ashford in Kent has almost three times the population, yet has flung its market, entertainment complex and businesses to the outer edges of the town like some disgraced schoolboy while the boarded-up shops encroach on the town centre. Chichester, however, has that feeling of bustle that you tend to get in cathedral cities, particularly those with centres of education like Chichester College. In fact, it was just the kind of place I look for for an evening meal on my cycling trips such as those depicted in my book – a hearty meal washed down with real ale, before venturing out to search for woodlands in which to surreptitiously camp.

“Most striking to me was that the centre of Chichester forms a very prominent cross shape which seems fitting in a place where the cathedral dominates the skyline uncontested.

“Whilst my book is a predominantly-rural perambulation, Chichester became a kind of base (in the way that Bath and Winchester had done), for I ended two trips and commenced another from the city. It is after all a place where the wilds of the South Downs meet civilisation. As with the South Downs Way, I encountered both ups and downs in the area, involuntarily gatecrashing a wedding party in Duncton!”

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