Walk the canal.
Until I visited, I wasn't even aware there was a canal in Chichester, but there is, albeit now disused. Built in the 19th century to allow boats of up to 100 tons to pass from Chichester harbour , it now makes for a very pleasant walk of about four miles.
The first two miles have been restored by a local canal preservation society whose ultimate aim is to make the whole canal navigable again.
If you want to walk, you could do the first two miles to Hunston and get a bus back. If you decide to do the whole lot (not too difficult), any bus passing along the road outside the marina will take you back to Chichester.
The whole route is totally accessible and would be suitable for pushchairs or bicycles.
There is abundant wildlife to be seen and it is a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
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Visit the Cathedral
Dominating the skyline of chichester is the cathedral, a very fine building . Construction was begun in 1076 and it was eventually consecrated in 1108. Two seperate fires in the 12th century required restoration work to the building.
Perhaps the most famous "resident" of the cathedral was Saint Richard, a former bishop, canonized in 1262.
the Reformation and, later, the Civil War, both took their toll on the building, which became somewhat run down. Restoration began again in the early 19th century, and continues to this day. Unfortunately, when I visited a large part of the building was surrounded by scaffolding.
In July every year, there are a series of concerts (sacred and secular) in the Cathedral.
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A Nice Old English Town
By train about 1hr 40 min from London Victoria. Any time of the year visit the Cathedral next to the Market Cross. Then go into the Cathedral Gardens and walk along the old Roman walls which still circle about half of the city. Flint gathered from the South Downs which surround the town is very obvious in many of the old buildings in the town centre. There is a very good professional theatre with two venues, see www.cft.org.uk In June there is an excellent cultural festival in the town known as Chichester Festivities.
In the immediate vicinity visit Fishbourne Roman Palace which has beautiful original Roman mosaics. Kingley Vale national nature reserve is the largest yew tree forest in northern Europe, some trees are thousands of years old. Goodwood race course has regular horse racing during the year and in June the Festival of Speed and in the autumn the Revival Meeting. A must for garden lovers is West Dean Gardens and Aboretum. Weald and Down Museum of old English houses in right next door. Bosham village with its beautiful church and harbour side is well worth a half day visit.
Further afield Arundel and Portsmouth Dockyard are an easy drive or both on the railway line.
Chichester has been an important Christian centre since the 7th century when St Wilfrid first brought the doctrine to Sussex and Selsey.
With the Norman policy of centring cathedrals to towns with large populations, the Roman town benefitted, with the building of the cathedral starting in 1076. It was completed by 1108 but much of it was destroyed by fire in 1187. It was hastily rebuilt - the new cathedral being consecrated in 1199.
It's not the largest of cathedrals by any means and the interior is beautiful but quite plain. Unusual for cathedrals, the bell tower (or campanile, completed in 1402) is separate from the main building - believed to be due to subsidence and the threat to the cathedral itself.
The composer Gustav Holst is buried here, but one of the cathedral's claims to fame is its contemporary art - a window by Chagall, a painting by British artist Graham Sutherland and tapestries by John Piper. Liberal thinking has seen the cathedral host a concert by Pink Floyd as well as Bob Geldof, Rolf Harris and The Hollies.
Entry is free and opening hours are from 7.15am to 7pm (summer months) or 6pm in the winter.
- Historical Travel
The 15th century Chichester Cross is found at the intersection of the four main streets - North, South, East and West Streets - in the centre of the city, minutes from the grounds of the cathedral.
An inscription suggests it was built by Edward Story, the bishop of Christchurch from 1477 to 1503, but there are question marks over this and it may be half a century older due to its style.
It was built as a market place and was thus used until the 19th century - the idea for the local poor to have a place to sell their goods. But by the beginning of the 1800s, it was deemed too small for the purpose and a new market was built. Originally, the Cross was to be demolished but was saved.
It's the only other significant historical site in the city and easily found.
It's a somewhat genteel, understated place. The cathedral is the main attraction, many people using Chichester as a base to explore the area.
The four main streets run in a cross formation. As one would expect, they contain all the outlets one would expect from a town of its size. It retains the medieval footprint but much of the original is long gone. Not a place of great character but pleasant enough.
If you have walked all the way from Chichester along the canal to the harbour (see seperate tip), you will undoubtedly be in need of a little something reviving.
Fortunately, there is a pleasant little bar in the Marina (open to all) which fits the bill.
The tables outside afford a lovely view over the Marina, and there are assorted wildfowl, obviously quite tame, wandering about.
The food looked expensive for what was essentially "pub grub".
- Beer Tasting
The RSPB's Pulborough Brooks Reserve
If you're a member of the RSPB you can gain free access to this reserve otherwise non members are expected to pay £3.50 for adult entry, £2.50 concessionary and £1 for children.
You can visit at least four bird hides which overlook open grassland and watery scrapes to attract a wide variety of wildfowl, waders and lowland species. I enjoyed my trip there though I have to say that I didn't see any particularly unusual birds which is often the way in August. The reserves tend to get more interesting during the migration periods of spring and autumn.
If you like to do your birdwatching on a full stomach there is a full café at the centre which serves excellent tea and bread pudding amongst other things. You can work your way through this whilst sitting quietly watching the birds visiting the seed feeders. There's so much activity going on there you may not want to wander any further and you will not need your binoculars!
There are full details about the reserve from the website listed below.
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Evensong at the Cathedral
On Sunday afternoons at 3.30pm there is an Evensong service. Visiting tourists to the Cathedral are asked to wait or return until the service is finished but if you want to take part in the service visitors are made welcome. The service lasts about an hour. Most visitors staying for Evensong will sit in the Nave but it is possible to sit amongst the choir if you are committed to taking a full and active part in the service - note: there is no communion but you will be expected to follow the order of service closely.
The choir, a touring group, sang beautifully; a balanced mix of about 30 adult male and female voices. I understand usually the Cathedral's own choir would sing but as it was the holiday season they had invited the touring group to take part.
If you enjoy religious music this must surely be a lovely way to spend a spiritual, uplifting hour in a wonderful, historic setting.
- Religious Travel
Small minded, arrogant, stuffy and bigoted
My advice to anyone considering visiting this place is to stay away. It is terrifyingly overpriced, a rip off, and its population are snooty, arrogant, stuffy, small minded and bigoted. If you don't like being treated like something they just trod in, or being ripped off, spend your money somewhere else. Don't go there and expect to make friends either... it's an incredibly cliquey little place, where you are only welcome if you've got a few thousand acres and a few million quid. All in all, not outstanding either architecturally or in terms of its scenery; there are any number of nicer places in the UK than Chichester in these respects, but it is outstanding for the dreadful behaviour and appalling attitude displayed by its inhabitants.
The key point of interest for lovers of history and architecture when visiting Chichester will always be Chichester Cathedral (also known as the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity). The cathedral is also one of only two medieval English cathedrals which can be seen from the sea (the other being nearby Portsmouth). The soaring spire and green copper roof of Chichester Cathedral can be seen for miles around in the flat West Sussex meadows and is a welcome sight on your way to the town.
The current cathedral was founded in 1075 when the seat of the diocese was moved from nearby Selsey (closer to the coast) to Chichester as part of the Norman policy of having cathedrals close to major centres of population. The former seat, Selsey Abbey, is now sadly lost to us forever but the Norman conceived cathedral is here in all it's glory.
Like most cathedrals, the building was a protracted process often hit by disaster and fires and collapsing towers have all played their part. In fact the problem of subsidence which has often affected the towers of the cathedral over the centuries is probably the reason that Chichester Cathedral has a feature unique amongst English medieval cathedrals, a separate bell tower (or campanile).
Richard de la Wyche was bishop here from 1245 to 1253, and he later became St Richard of Chichester and patron saint of Sussex. His shrine here made the cathedral a place of pilgrimage before it was destroyed during the first stages of the English reformation in 1538.
The cathedral is built in a mixture of Norman and Gothic styles. it is also possible to distinguish between the 12th and 15th century gothic parts of the cathedral if you pay close attention.
Some newer examples of religious art have also found a home here at Chichester cathedral. The most impressive, in my opinion, are the stained glass window by Marc Chagall and the tapestry at the high alter.
In 1861, the spire built in the 14th century and renovated by Christopher Wren in the 17th century collapsed (fortunately with no loss of life) and over the next five years the current spire was built (a few feet taller than the previous one) thanks to donations from people including Queen Victoria.
The cathedral is open every day and entry is free (donations welcome) but it is best to check the times of services on-line before going as you don't want to be intruding on a service as you walk around admiring the building.
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St Richard at Chichester
St Richard is the Patron saint of Sussex and was bishop of Chichester from 1245 to 1253. Born Richard of Wyche (modern day Droitwich in Worcestershire) he was an orphan child of a gentry family but the death of his parents and a medieval death duty left him and his elder brother impoverished so that Richard was put to work on a farm. Somehow Richard went from this poverty to being educated at Oxford, Bologna and Paris becoming an expert in canon law and was elected chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1235. He later became chancellor of the diocese of Canterbury and shared the ideals of the then archbishop Edmund of Abingdon who supported the rights of the Pope over the King.
After the death of the Archbishop in exile in 1240, Richard decided to become a priest and briefly was a parish priest at Charing and Deal in Kent before being reappointed to the chancellorship at Canterbury by the Archbishop Boniface of Savoy. He was then elected Bishop of Chichester in 1244 but the King (Henry III) refused to accept him and so a certain amount of posturing and threats ensued until the King relented under threat of excommunication by Pope Innocent IV.
It's hard to see quite why Richard was made a saint, in my opinion, but at least we know he was a real person and probably very devout in his beliefs. But even as a native South Saxon I can not see how he attained his current exalted position. But attain it he did and his shrine at Chichester Cathedral became a place of pilgrimage in the middle ages until it was destroyed during the English Reformation in 1538. A new shrine was established in 1930 at the cathedral and is decorated with an attractive modern tapestry.
A statue of St Richard stands outside the Cathedral.
- Historical Travel
Chichester Market Cross
The Chichester Market Cross stands at the intersection of the city centre's four principal streets (North, South, East and West Streets) and according to the inscription it was built by Bishop Edward Story of Chichester (1477 to 1503). The purpose was so that poor people would have a covered place to sell their goods in the city centre.
The cross is an octagonal building made of Caen Stone, a type of limestone from near Caen in Normandy, northern France which was a popular building material at the time. It is elaborately decorated and a beautiful centre piece to this pretty city.
It was very nearly lost in the early 19th century when a new covered market hall was built in North Street. The cross was considered a nuisance as it blocked the street and was only saved when some members of the local corporation (now council) purchased a number of houses in North Street near the cross just to demolish them and so widen the road. What a shame it would have been if this beautiful structure had been lost.
- Historical Travel
Roman City Walls Walk
Chichester, or Noviomagus Reginorum as the Romans called it, was surrounded by city walls built in the 3rd century AD. Pretty much uniquely within Britain, the Roman core of the city walls remains intact, although much of what is visible at the surface is the result of 18th and 19th century restoration work.
The walls were originally 7 metres tall and had bastions of 14 metres at 50m intervals.There were 4 gates in the walls at the North, South, East and West and these places are now marked with the "Noviomagus Reginorum" plaques set into the pavement.
Having played their part as a defence against Vikings and civil unrest the walls have now found a new role as a popular promenade and recreational facility. The walls make for a pleasant walk around the old historical heart of Chichester and there are some lovely views of the cathedral and other historic buildings from here.
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- Hiking and Walking
This attractive park in the north east corner of the old centre of Chichester (within the city walls) is home to the even more attractive Guildhall. The term "Guildhall" is actually something of a misnomer as it is actually the cancel of the old Greyfriars of Chichester (a Franciscan order) and so was a religious building rather than one connected to any trade guild.
The park is a popular place for locals and visitors alike (especially in summer) and is a pleasant place to stop off at to rest on the city walls walk.
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