The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Upwaltham is set back from the road, well away from practically all other buildings in a fabulously remote looking location. Unfortunately the A285 Chichester to Petworth road races through the valley below, so any pretence of peace and quiet is soon shattered - otherwise this would be one of the loveliest spots in the whole of West Sussex.
It's still pretty good though.
The church used to be even harder to notice from the road, but the terrible storm of October 1987 ripped out nearly all the mature trees surrounding the churchyard as the winds whistled along the exposed smooth surface of the valley behind Upwaltham Hill.
The whole of the Upwaltham valley hints at simpler times, before the South Downs became dotted with dormitory villages full of rich folk.
There are some spectacular pieces of hillside here, from the steep climb up the South Downs Way to the top of Littleton Down, the scraped dome of Barlavington Down further up the valley and the heady heights of Crown Tegleaze at the very top of this part of the South Downs. At over 250 metres, the hills above Upwaltham are the highest in the western Sussex Downs (although not as high as Blackdown Hill near Fernhurst, which rises another 30 metres or so).
Upwaltham is one of those strange places in the Downs where the valley in which it lies appears not to drain directly into a river. Water rolling off the steep hillsides just sinks into the chalk aquifer, to be soaked up by the porous sponge of the South Downs. Some of it springs to the surface on its way to East Dean and the River Lavant. The rest just rolls its way towards the sea underground.
UPWALTHAM VILLAGE INFORMATION
- Bognor Regis
- Burgess Hill
- East Grinstead
- Haywards Heath