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Further Afield For A Day Out In Chichester

Published on: 12 Jan, 2016
Updated on: 12 Jan, 2016

The Guildford Dragon NEWS is reviving our occasional column Further Afield where we take a look at places to visit that are within about an hour’s drive from Guildford. In this first feature writer JILL BENSON takes a trip to the cathedral city of Chichester in West Sussex.

Even on a rainy day a classy place like Chichester has something for everyone.

Chichester Cathedral. Picture: Chichester Tourist Information Centre.

Chichester Cathedral. Picture: Chichester District Council.

Georgian buildings line the streets, and the sort of chintzy tearooms that restaurant critic, AA Gill loves to hate. (I’ve just returned from Stow-on-the Wold, where he is ‘remembered’.)

We popped into Black’s the outdoors shop and bought walking poles in the sale from a charming, knowledgeable woman. Memorably, she offered to ‘service’ my old, cheap – and pretty useless – pole there and then. Always a delight to be served by someone who understands (and likes) customers. As with several young people we met, she had studied at the university, fallen in love with the city, and never left.

Chichester has a great range of shops – chains, and quality independents – and has a quiet, picturesque centre, which makes it a delight to shop there.

Gardens in Chichester. Picture: Chichester Tourist Information Centre.

Gardens in Chichester. Picture: Chichester District Council.

Following a road, brimming with ancient, ecclesiastical buildings, we stumbled across the delightful Bishop’s Gardens. These are quite easy to miss, and provide a wonderful place to recharge your batteries behind the splendid, crumbling, red-brick walls. Even better – there was hardly anybody there.

The flower beds are planted with bold, bright colours, complimented by large areas of lawn, exotic trees and a very modern fountain. This so-called ‘secret garden’ is set against the magnificent backdrop of the flint and brick Bishop’s Palace and a view of the cathedral.

Discovering such secluded places, so close to modernity, yet centuries away, have the delicious frisson of an unexpected, and unusual, gift.

Much of old Chichester has been saved, and the newer buildings have not been allowed to undermine the older ones.

The weather cheered up a bit, so we decided to venture into the small, but perfectly formed, Priory Park, home to the ancient Guildhall. From here you can get up on to the city walls, where there are fascinating glimpses into other people’s back gardens. We particularly like the crocodile on the roof of the shed, which we note has moved recently!

Staute of St Richard. Picture by Jill Benson.

Staute of St Richard. Picture by Jill Benson.

‘Walking the walls’ also affords regular views of the stunning cathedral from all sorts of unexpected angles. Whenever we visit the town my BF always insists we ‘call on’ St Richard, whose enormous, bronze statue graces the front of the cathedral. We try to guess who, or what, he is pointing at!

The Market Cross. Picture by Jill Benson.

The Market Cross. Picture by Jill Benson.

Ancient towns often have a market – or butter – cross in the centre, and Chichester boasts a fine example, with a carving of Charles I on one side. But, curiously, he has a black face. Does anybody know why?

Chichester is also home to the finest modern art gallery in the South East outside London. The Pallant is well worth a visit and, even if you’re not a fan of modern art, I can guarantee you will find something of interest there, either in the current exhibition or the permanent collections.

Part of the gallery is housed in a fine Queen Anne townhouse, which adds to the charm, wit and originality of the work presented. A few months ago, in this same building, we came across a giant golden chalice, full of red liquid,  placed beneath a beautiful, carved staircase. We discovered it was real gold and full of red wine…. Slightly mad, quite attractive, and why not?!

This clock is a reinder of the firm Shippams that was once in the centre of Chichester. Picture: Chichester Tourist Information Centre.

This clock is a reinder of the firm Shippams that was once in the centre of Chichester. Picture: Chichester District Council.

Chichester Theatre is well known for the quality of its productions, and the mosaics at nearby Fishbourne Palace are also worth a visit. The Crown and Anchor pub, at nearby Dell Quay, serves excellent fish, and has a stunning view over the harbour. There are some good restaurants in town, from Raymond Blanc to the smaller, quirkier ones.

Chichester is not far from Guildford by car, or train, and has a huge, reasonably-priced, central car park.

Get your skates on, and have a great day out! We did.

Click here for website of Chichester Tourist Information.

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Responses to Further Afield For A Day Out In Chichester

  1. Laurie Heizler Reply

    March 11, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Lovely article! Chichester is a wonderful city. This article really highlights its delights!

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