Welcome to our October newsletter in which we draw attention to the extent of the proposed diversion at the southern end of Centurion Way. There are also highlights from our bat walk in August and the production of our first Podcast in September.
The Diversion Threatening Centurion Way
Have you been along the southern end of Centurion Way recently? Taking the path north from the footbridge, and turning into the first fields on the left, you can see the black perimeter fencing that has been put up in the field opposite Bishop Luffa. This has been in place for a few months now and is designed to catch reptiles, slow worms (a protected species) and other wildlife safely, so that they can be relocated elsewhere. Whilst we don’t know enough about this process or what stops the wildlife coming back, what is interesting to FOCW supporters is how the black plastic perimeter helpfully marks out the possible diversion of Centurion Way – that is clearly outlined in a suggested rough drawing that the Whitehouse Farm development kindly shared with FoCW earlier this year.
There has been no consultation on the diversion and no detailed formal plans have yet been submitted to CDC. The proposed diversion would reroute the southern part of the path to the west, taking it along the drainage ditch/ chalk stream and then east again to join the proposed Southern Access road. 750m! The black plastic fence helps highlight the extent of that diversion as illustrated in the photo. Take a look for your self!
Apart from the unnecessary loss of the wide path along the railway line, framed as it is today by hedgerows and providing an important wildlife corridor, our community is worried that downgrading the path in this way will simply mean that people won’t use it anymore. The opportunity for creating an enhanced link between WHF and the city centre, shops and the other walking/cycle routes out of Chichester will be lost as well as the beautiful heritage route that is much used and enjoyed by our community today.
Bats along Centurion Way
On a clear night in August, 17 of us gained our first insight into bat hunting thanks to Peter Etheridge, our local “bat expert” and Ann Stewart with her super duper Bat Detector (recording the species found and their individual GPS location). Our youngest bat enthusiast, Francesca, quickly mastered the bat detector, kindly loaned to her by Peter.
As soon as we walked from Bishop Luffa Close onto Centurion Way, a pair of bats put on an aerial display for us. The Friends of Centurion Way include many bat lovers, recognising their importance as a key indicator of the well-being of our environment. Our walk confirmed 4 species of bats, but we know (from Surveys carried out as part of the Whitehouse Farm Planning Application Procedure) that at least 11 species are confirmed living on or very close to the southern end of Centurion Way. Indeed, at nearby Binsted Woods (very close “as the bat flies”) there are 14 species confirmed – some of which are incredibly rare.
All bat species have strong Legal Protection and must not be interfered with! Given the internationally recognised (SAR designation) assigned to bats further north along the route of the old Chichester to Midhurst Railway, it would be ironic if the vital linear bat corridor provided by Centurion Way were to be severed.
Mayor’s Cycle Ride
Our Chichester Mayor Cllr Martyn Bell chose Centurion Way for the final Gala Cycle Ride into Chichester on 31st August when Justin Bulpett and Malcolm Meady
were welcomed for the final leg of their 740 mile journey from John O’Groats to Chichester. Martyn Bell had provided support throughout their journey and they raised over £7,000 for the Mayor’s Charities, Stonepillow and the Oxmarket Gallery.
Centurion Way supporters were a little disappointed when the planned final Ride In was shortened from starting at West Dean to Newlands Lane old Railway Bridge. None-the-less, it was an amazing Ride In, down Centurion Way and along Westgate and West St, to be greeted by The City Bailiff (Cllr Jane Kilby) and Town Crier (Cllr Richard Plowman) in Robes with Cane & Bell, and an Escort on to the City Council House where the Mayor was waiting. Shoppers all turned their heads at the sounds of the Town Crier and sight of so many red robes! Quite an event!
Walking Centurion Way with Richard Vobes aka The Bald Explorer
When Richard Vobes was first contacted, he replied that our Campaign had “piqued his interest”. Richard lives locally in Worthing but travels the country exploring British history, nature and landscape. He works with Julia Hartley-Neal almost every day of the week – for free – relying upon donations to fund their work.
Richard requires good weather for his 10-minute videos and, on 19th September, the day booked, it rained. However, Richard and Julia went ahead and made a Podcast – available via YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKvoo_KZduA
As they walked up from Westgate, Richard talked with Sarah Sharp ….. well, please listen! Richard and Julia are brilliant at putting people at their ease and we are looking forward to them returning shortly to make a series of Exploring videos right along Centurion Way.
Chichester Children on the Edge Team Relay Half Marathon, 7th Oct
As an example of how important Centurion Way is for the community, runners used all 6 miles of the path, from West Dean to the city centre as the final leg of the 13 mile route.
Counting Centurion Way Users
To understand the importance of Centurion Way for walking and cycling we need to know numbers. We have carried out manual counts of passers-by, which were significant, but inevitably these have only covered a few hours on certain days of the week. Investigation into the cost of installing radio beam trackers to give 24/7 coverage of the path suggests the cost of installing 2 such counters would be about £5,000. That is our next challenge.
Contacting Friends of Centurion Way
To keep you up to date with what’s happening concerning Centurion Way our web site www.centurionway.org.uk is updated regularly. We’re on Facebook and you can E-mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.