Roman Walls, Cricket and a Poem – Three for One in Chichester

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Chichester: Roman Walls, Cricket’s Babe Ruth and Philip Larkin

I normally shy away from dishing out general travel advice, but here is one: rather than picking your destinations according to fashion and the dictates of the travel press, base your choice on expedience and opportunity.

If someone, for example, invites you for a job interview in a town or an area where you have never been, not only accept but also read about the place to find some other place near-by that looks promising and well-worth a visit.

In other words: never miss an opportunity of visiting a place that you would otherwise – without that opportunity – not have thought of going to. This is the best way to assemble an interesting portfolio of destinations which is truly your own rather than ticking off a mere assortment of “must sees” that have been pushed hard by the travel industry.

And this is also the way we discovered Chichester.

"the cathedral - one of the Three for One in Chichester"

Chichester is an English Cathedral city, in many ways not so different from all the other Cathedral Cities such as Canterbury or York – featuring narrow lanes, quaint little “shoppes” …

"representation of a cathedral - one of the Three for One in Chichester

… Tudor buildings (of both the real and the “mock” varieties), Gothic-inspired monuments …

"Gothic inspired monument - one of the Three for One in Chichester"

… and, of course, a large Cathedral in the centre of town.

"statue in front of cathedral - one of the Three for One in Chichester"

I am sure many people travel to Chichester on weekends from near-by Portsmouth and Southampton, but for us, it is a little out of the way (read: too far from London), and if our son had not been sent there for a training assignment, we would probably never have seen it.

Which would have been a pity, because Chichester also has something that other, similar towns do not have: the Wall Walk, a fascinating trail through the outskirts of town where the nearly-rural meets the not-yet-altogether-urban.

"part of Roman walls - one of the Three for One in Chichester"

The oldest parts of Chichester’s walls are almost 2000 years old: built by the Romans, they were mainly intended to protect their newly built commercial and administrative centre on England’s south coast from unfriendly tribes in the area, but also to impress these barbarians mightily by giving them a taste of what Roman engineering could achieve.

"roman fortifications - one of the Three for One in Chichester"

This military purpose somehow set the tone for the town’s later history. Chichester always thrived in “hard times”, as a fortress against potential invaders and some “enemies within”: the Vikings, the French, Cromwell’s New Model Army (in the English Civil War, Chichester supported the king).

You can get a good idea of the city’s chequered past by following the old wall, much of which has been very well preserved …

"part of the roman walls - one of the Three for One in Chichester"

… and by reading some of the information panels which tell you more about it.

The most interesting section of the walk is the semi-circle around Priory Park, where you can get a sweeping three-in-one view of the town’s medieval history …

"a view of the Three for One in Chichester"

… with the Norman mound on the right hand side (a wooden watchtower stood on this hill from the 11th century onwards), the 13th century guildhall in the centre and the high medieval Cathedral in the background. (Priory Park itself used to be a 1st class cricket ground until 1950. A visiting Australian side played here in the 19th century, and so did the legendary W.G. Grace.)

It’s probably best to walk around the Wall Trail first, getting a good visual impression of the Old Town inside the ancient fortifications (just walk from the train station in the direction of the town centre and then follow the signs: you can’t miss it), before setting out to explore the town and the Cathedral itself. That’s what we did, anyway – eventually coming across what was, for me at least, the highlight of our trip.

statues that inspired Philip Larkin's poem - one of the Three for One in Chichester"

I had no idea that the Arundel Tomb stands in Chichester Cathedral – or that Philip Larkin, whose eponymous poem it inspired, had ever visited the place. Coming across the tomb, suddenly in one of the side chapels of the Cathedral, was a strange experience: like travelling to the far end of the world only to run into an old friend or an old flame. (I had not read the poem for quite some time – it is displayed near the tomb itself –and had forgotten how good it actually is.)

Meetings with the unexpected: that’s another thing that visits to unfamiliar and not widely known destinations are good for. And aren’t they always the stuff that the best travel memories are made of?

For these three for one in Chichester – totally worth a day visit!

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2 comments to Roman Walls, Cricket and a Poem – Three for One in Chichester

  • The town is a bit sleepy but certainly charming. You’d enjoy the wall walk, Marcia.

  • Chichester was on my list (my sister said I’d like it) but I ran out of time. I was really looking forward to the Wall Walk and the cathedral – I wish I’d made the time. Anyway, Michael, after reading this, I’ll add it to my new list for my next visit.

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