The Trundle – A View from Saint Roche’s Hill near Chichester

A Little Trundle History

About three miles north of Chichester, overlooking the southern coastal plain of West Sussex, and within spitting distance of  Goodwood Racecourse, is Saint Roche’s Hill.  It has been known as ‘Rooks Hill’ for many years and more recently it is known locally as The Trundle.  The very top  of the hill is a circular embankment, the remains of an Iron Age hill fort. The word ‘trundle’ comes from  an old English word for circle.




 

Trundle - the pathway to the top
The pathway to the top

The Trundle is one of my favourite places to go to think and sometimes just to stare into the distance; the horizon is about 30 miles away. The view to the south is stunning. You can see the silvery ribbon of Chichester Harbour, the Spinaker Tower of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton to the south-east.

trundle-isle of wight
The Isle of Wight can be clearly seen from the Trundle
Trundle - view south
View south-west from the car park

The Trundle is easy to spot from Chichester, being the highest place nearby, being about 675 feet about sea level. Also, you can’t miss the two, rather ugly transmitters perched near the top.

Shape of the valley
The slope to the south goes down Chalk Pit Lane
Chichester Harbour
The view of Chichester Harbour

Being one of the local high places around, the Trundle has a notable historical past. The hill’s name comes from the association with the tiny chapel that once stood on the site, built in the late 14th century and dedicated to Saint Roche, a plague survivor. People would travel there to pray to Saint Roche for healing. There are also records saying that Saint Roche could control the weather! The chapel was made a ruin during the Reformation.

The name of the hill has changed in historical documents over the years: Saint Rokeshill (1579), Saint Rookeshill (1610), Rowkeshill (1650), Saint Rocks Hill (1675), Rook’s Hill (1725).

Ariel view
Aerial view of the Trundle from the English Heritage images archive.

The Trundle is surrounded by a deep, grassy trench that would have once made an excellent defence. It is believed that the fort would have been very impressive and would have encircled and protected a small but important community.

Trig point
My daughter in 2010, standing at the trig point on the top, 675 feet. You can see Goodwood Racecourse to the left.

In later times a warning beacon was placed on the hill to warn of a Napoleonic invasion  and, about three hundred years ago, there once stood a windmill. It is also said that the Duke of Richmond set up a Masonic Lodge (about 1730) on the hill.

During the Second World War, the Trundle was an important site for radio communications during the Battle of Britain and for an early warning defence system.

For more history regarding Chichester, visit my friend Tim’s website for Local Histories.

A Good Place for Perspective

The Trundle is about 15 minutes drive from my home. I go there to think, to pray and to give thought to universal problems like: why is the sea salty? why do my clients want to talk to me a minute before I am due to leave work?

High places have been known to be called Thin Places. This not a place to go to for a healthier body image, but thin describes the separation between this world and the heavenly realm, or the unseen realm. Some of these ideas come from Celtic traditions, but there is also instinctive notion inbuilt in all of us to go to the High Places for perspective, for safety, to touch the hand of God. Moses met God on Sinai, Jesus was transfigured on Mount Hermon. Other cultures have their special mountains and high places too: Mount Olympus, New Zealand has Taranaki, Japan has Mount Koya-San. Whether you believe it or not, there is definitely a whole spectrum of cultures and faiths where high places have a significant importance.

I often go to the Trundle as a place of an inspirational meeting. I hope God would meet with me, give me an idea, a word of comfort or direction. I remember once, going through a very difficult time where I was once breaking free of a destructive relationship and I had pressure on me from all sides to keep trying to repairing the relationship. On a windy day, I stood on the footpath that runs along the edge of the Trundle, facing south. I had the clear and breath-taking impression of acceptance and permission to follow the path I thought was the wisest and kindest to all. It was an amazing experience that is very hard to describe to others.

Not a Great Place for a Whistle

As a whistle player, there is often this romantic idea of sitting on a hill playing a deep and meaningful air, playing the flight of an eagle soaring into the heavens. The truth however is that it is really hard to play a whistle on a hill where there is even the slightest breeze blowing – it stops the whistle dead. Uilleann pipes would be better placed in my opinion.

Bronze horse head
In June 2010, a 30ft tall bronze sculpture called ‘Artemis’, a horse’s head, was placed on top of the Trundle. Designed by sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green. Here I am with my daughter posing beneath it! It later moved to Australia.



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