Monarch’s Way ride – Friday update from Mr Roche to the school

Thanks for your email and we are glad that you have enjoyed these updates to our and King Charles’ stories. By the time you read this we hope to have visited you all at school today and talked to you about our adventures. This message is just to continue telling our story from yesterday.
On Wednesday night we stayed in a village called Rowlands Castle, but on his last night in Hampshire King Charles II stayed near Hambledon – where you may remember we discovered that the game of English cricket was established almost exactly 100 years after Charles had been there.
Charles was desperate to get to France to escape capture, imprisonment or worse at the hands of his enemy Oliver Cromwell. Charles and his party, in heavy disguise, proceeded through Rowlands Castle and crossed the border into our own county of West Sussex. They continued on horseback passing many fine houses of the ‘local landed gentry’ going on to Goodwood and then Bignor Hill.
You might know this hill or perhaps the nearby village of Bignor where there is still a Roman Villa. We learned on Tuesday that the Romans built a network of roads; the remains of many of these can still be seen and used today. The Roman road from London to Chichester, known as Stane Street, runs past the villa, up the hill and on to Chichester. It would have been possible for Charles to take this path if he thought that he had the chance of getting a ship from near there as Chichester was also a port. He did not do this, presumably because his pursuers, the Parliamentarian army, would have strongholds there.
As at Winchester Old Hill there is also a hill fort at Bignor which can be seen from our own hill fort of Cissbuty Ring. If you visit Cissbury at any time be sure to look west where you will see in the distance two distinct masts that are used for radio communication and for mobile phones; this is Bignor Hill with which communication has been possible for hundreds of years, long before mobile phones existed.
We said yesterday that “travel breeds adventure”. Whilst Charles crossed the ancient Stane Street path and carried on past Bignor Hill we could not bring ourselves to do so just yet. When we got there we found a stray lamb had escaped from an adjoining field and was in distress because it could not get back to its mother. There followed a comic scene where a number of brightly coloured cyclists could be seen herding this lost sheep back into its home field.
This duly done we headed on to the next adventure. Now the really great thing about Bignor Hill is that it is very high, which means that once up there you can whizz downhill for miles on a bike – really great fun. Eventually Whiteways lodge is reached and from there Charles (and we too) descended into a village called Houghton. You might know this place too if you have ever been to the nearby Amberley Chalk Pits Museum.
Charles was now so desperate for time that whilst he took refreshments at the pub in Houghton his party did not even get off of their horses! The pub is called The George and Dragon and to this day a sign over the door confirms the royal presence in 1651, please see the picture below.
Charles then took a path along the River Arun to Arundel but Cromwell’s soldiers were still in hot pursuit. Wandering around Arundel Charles almost bumped into the Governor of Arundel castle and later nearly passed Parliamentarian agents in the main street. Luckily Charles spotted the danger in good time and quickly scurried away down a side street. Next time you visit Arundel think about Charles and imagine the anxiety he must have felt walking about amongst Cromwell’s followers.
Arundel used to be a sea port too but there was no chance of a boat here either! The party left Arundel continuing through Angmering Park Woods to reach Findon, passing what is today called Tolmare Farm. He rode around Church Hill, past the church that you all visit from time to time and down into Findon. He travelled up Steep Lane and across Nepcote Green. The next time you visit Nepcote Green do look for the tiny Monarch’s Way emblems on the signposts.  And the next time that we all go up to church let’s imagine Charles taking a little shelter there – and maybe sipping a glass of the communion wine ?
Yesterday our own party left Arundel too as we had faithfully followed Charles’ route so far. Not all of our party made it home from there: as Mr. Mead pedaled hard to get away there was a bang from the bottom gears on his bike as the mechanism shattered spectacularly. He came home by car thanks to a kind Mrs. Mead, but he will continue onwards today with a new bike.
Charles passed quite quickly through Findon. His party would ride 40 miles on horseback that day – an incredible journey given that it has taken us twice that time on fast bikes. Charles was still not sure where he would find his ship and continued as far as what is now called Brighton. Here he was again disappointed to not secure a passage to France. However, his luck was about to change. Word reached the party that a ship,  manned by loyal supporters of the King, would sail from nearby Shoreham very soon. So Charles had to race back to Shoreham harbour ……  would he make it in time?
Today our ride starts from outside Findon church and when we leave school we will follow exactly Charles’ route from Findon to Shoreham, so that means cycling to Brighton and then back to Shoreham harbour. Will we make it in time? Well who knows, but rather than make you wait the whole week to hear what happened to Charles we will tell you now: he did indeed make it in time, he escaped successfully to France where he lived for a number of years. But he had previously been deposed from his old job as King of England and that seemed unfair. Oliver Cromwell was ruling in his place but after a few years he too was deposed. The people decided that they wanted Charles back as King and so he was invited to return from his exile and take the crown, which he duly did in a move which is called the “restoration of the monarchy”.
The rest is history and we still have a monarch today. For now our monarch is Queen Elizabeth; when she finishes being queen she will be replaced by her son who is also called Charles, so he will be King Charles III. What will happen to him? As Mr. Mead told you before we set out on this adventure things didn’t end well for Charles the first and as we have seen here that the life of Charles II was in danger for quite a long time!
You might have to wait until after half-term to find out how we got on. So far we have suffered one tyre puncture, one nearly exploding tyre, two broken chains and poor Mr. Mead’s shattered gears. A few of us have fallen off our bikes a few times – only to lay down covered with mud – but so far no injuries. We’ll send Mr. Cumming a picture of what happens today so maybe you’ll hear later.
Thanks again to you all for showing such a kind interest in our adventures and those of the Monarch  Charles II. We wish you all an enjoyable half-term holiday.