Chanctonbury Ring is one of the most prominent landmarks along the South Downs Way.
The ring is an Iron Age hill fort, however it is best known for the clump of beech trees which dominate the site. These trees were planted in 1760 by Charles Goring, heir to the Wiston Estate. After Goring planted the trees on the Ring, he watered them regularly, likely with the help of his staff, until their roots took hold, though the trees in the centre never grew very well and it was found that they were planted on an old Roman temple.
Goring was only 20 years old at the time he planted the trees and he lived to the ripe old age of 85 years old so was able to see some of the trees approach maturity. At the time of planting, the locals were rather upset with the venture but the trees were later seen as a thing of beauty. The ‘clump’ sustained a fair amount of weeding out in the October 1987 hurricane, however the surviving trees are mightily impressive. A replanting programme was carried out, whilst the new trees are coming along nicely the Ring won’t look quite the same for many years.
The site has a rich history before 1760. Like many of the high points near the south coast it has associations with the Armada invasion, and Roman coins and other artefacts have been found here too.
Chanctonbury Ring has been associated with mysterious forces for as long as anyone can remember. With the remains of Bronze and Iron Age forts, a Roman temple and its distinctive ring of beech trees, it is said to be the most haunted site in the South Downs.
Stories vary but walking or running seven times around the ring on a dark or moonless night (some say Midsummer Eve, others say May Day Eve, others at midnight, during the time it takes a clock to strike midnight) without stopping, the Devil will appear and offer you a bowl of milk, soup or porridge (reports vary). Some say that if you accept, he will take your soul, or grant you your dearest wish.
More recently local UFOlogists are convinced that Chanctonbury Hill is a hot spot of extra-terrestrial activity. In 1968 a group decided to watch for UFO’s one night and were rewarded with a sighting, along with waves of intense cold, a sensation of electric shock, difficulty in breathing and stomach pains.
In 1972, a man and two friends were walking within the Ring when they were startled by a noise from above which was caused by a large object brushing the treetops. The object was large and glowed a dull red. After a minute the object moved away and the witnesses saw blue lights and what looked like four windows on the top of the craft. And in 1975 a bright orange object was seen over Cissbury Ring before it headed off in the direction of Chanctonbury where it was seen by a woman walking her dog.
Whatever your inspiration to explore this part of the world – it’s the trees for me – you can get planning by looking at our walking holidays in and around this area of outstanding beauty.