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South Downs Centre - Temporary Closure

The South Downs Centre in Midhurst is temporarily closed to visitors but our team are still on hand to answer your calls and emails.

Temporary Closure of Section of Centurion Way – Frequently Asked Questions

Temporary Closure of Section of Centurion Way – Frequently Asked Questions

Update – 29 October 2021

What’s happening on the Centurion Way?

Most of the 11km route between Chichester and West Dean will still be available for walkers and cyclists to use.

However, we’re having to temporarily close a 1.5km section of the route between Binderton Bridge and West Dean Tunnel.

This is necessary to ensure public safety from the risk of falling branches and diseased ash trees that have suffered Ash Dieback.

Public safety is our absolutely first priority and, in liaison with the West Dean Estate, we’ve had to take the difficult decision to temporary close this 1.5km section of the Centurion Way.

How long will the northern section of Centurion Way be closed?

Image showing tree works on a section of the Centurion Way
October 2021 – Heavy equipment is being used on a narrow section of the path

The temporary closure of this section is expected to last until the end of 2021.

Originally we envisaged this work to be completed by October 2021 but operations will continue into November due to the site complexity, volume of work and precise methodology adopted to minimise the disturbance to important habitats.

We understand the Centurion Way is a popular path and this temporary closure may cause some inconvenience.

We’re working hard to keep disruption to a minimum and reopen the route as soon as we can.

Are there alternative routes I can take?

Yes. Two alternative routes are available for cyclists and walkers that link Binderton Bridge with West Dean – via bridleway 455 and bridleway 457 or by using the paved shared-path along the A286.

Temporary signage and diversions are in place to help people take the alternative routes.

You can see a map of the alternative routes here.

This is the closure notice that can be found on the path.

Site contractors are being hampered and delayed on a daily basis by members of the public finding their way onto the closed path and repairing vandalised security fencing.

We urge the public to not trespass onto private land and respect the closure for their own safety and to use the alternative route as outlined above.

What work is being carried out now?

There are around 300 ash trees along this section of the Centurion Way and recent arboriculturalist surveys identified dieback advancing through large volumes of ash trees that will need to be removed.

The impact of Ash Dieback is that overhanging tree branches can become unstable, therefore presenting a potential safety risk to the public.

Why is the closure lasting longer than expected?

October 2021 – Surveys found a large number of trees posed a risk to public safety on the section

We had to take the difficult decision to temporarily close this section because of the potential safety risk of unstable tree branches.

Extensive habitat surveys have been undertaken to ensure good practice and to comply with all the necessary regulations produced by Natural England and Forestry Commission.

Initial habitat surveys identified an abundance of bat activity, suitable habitat and potential roost features which required three subsequent ‘dusk and dawn’ surveys for each group or individually specified trees over a three month period (July-September). Findings informed a working Method Statement for the felling contractors to ensure impact to important habitats for European Protected Species such as bats, dormice and badgers would be minimised.

As mentioned above, the operations will continue into November due to the site complexity, volume of work and precise methodology adopted to minimise the disturbance to important habitats.

The contractors are confined to a narrow working corridor which means that the vehicles and trailers are sometimes reversing along of the path before reaching unloading bays. This is complex and hazardous work which can only take place with the path fully closed to the public.

Site contractors are being hampered and delayed on a daily basis by members of the public finding their way onto the closed path and repairing vandalised security fencing. We urge the public to not trespass onto private land and respect the closure for their own safety.

The licensed path should be re-opened before the end of the year, if felling works continue unimpeded and to schedule.

What is Ash Dieback?

It’s a chronic fungal disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) that affects the ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior).

The fungus infects the tree, causing leaf loss and weakening the tree to the point where branches can become brittle.

Unfortunately this fatal disease is expected to kill up to 95% of the UK’s ash trees, causing a major impact on Britain’s treescape over the next two decades.

Landowners and authorities are continually assessing the impact of the disease and removing diseased ash trees where appropriate.

The National Park Authority continues to work with landowners, partner authorities and conservation organisations to manage the impact of Ash Dieback and ensure we retain a healthy treescape for future generations to enjoy.

Find out more here: www.southdowns.gov.uk/wildlife-habitats/habitats/healthy-woodlands/ash-dieback-need-know/

How can I find out when I’ll be able to use this section of the Centurion Way again?

We will update this webpage and announce on social media and in our newsletter when this section of the Centurion Way opens.

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