Horsham to Warninglid
The High Weald Landscape Trail (HWLT) winds its way from Horsham to Rye. If you study it on a map, it really does represent a winding road, meandering north and south as a distraction to its main destination because it’s designed to pass through the main landscape types of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
For our purposes, I’ve broken it down into do-able chunks with the first section from Depot Road in Horsham to Warninglid which is about 11 /12 km. This section could best be described as undulating, with an elevation gain of 254 m and a few chunky climbs. You’ll need Ordnance Survey Explorer 34 and this section is not well marked. Therefore if you’re running and not taking a map, the Ordnance Survey App is helpful if not ideal and you’ll need accurate natural instincts.
Horsham to the Grouse Road
You follow Depot Road (which starts just behind the train station) all the way to Hampers Lane and on up. Just as Hampers Lane bears hard left towards St Leonard’s Park, you encounter your first issue with the signage. I knew the potential to get lost in St Leonard’s Forest was quite high but I didn’t expect to get waylaid so early. The HWLT signs were clearly pointing the wrong way and you want to go straight on (not left, right, or back the back you’ve come). You follow the path past the motocross site and straight across to the main long drag in the forest. It’s a long steady climb but the mud wasn’t too bad and there were no people.
Once at the long straight path, you head south and from this point on, I didn’t see another HWLT sign until the Grouse Road. I knew I had to turn left at the bottom of the main path, but with a choice of three left turns and no one about, I took the wrong one. Fortunately, the App navigated me back to the right point eventually along a very pretty trail. When you’re off the main track in the forest, it is a delight and you could be in a remote corner of anywhere. With the long climb up to the Grouse Road, I wondered if I’d ever see humanity again.
The Grouse Road to Handcross
Despite lots of cars being parked at my point of crossing the road, there was still no one about on the trail, and this next section provides you with a series of magnificent views. You drop down through an open field to the little valley near Tattleton’s Farm and then you climb again to magnificent views both before and behind before dropping down again to Hyde Gill. Then you climb again up Cartersledge Lane until you come to the Handcross Road. If the first section was about being lost in woodland, this section is much more about wide-open spaces and views.
Handcross Road to Slaugham
There is a section of road work here. You turn left as you emerge from Cartersledge Lane, and although the verge is quite wide, it’s not very pleasant and you’ll be pleased to turn off. The next section feels more tamed than the last but again, there are large open fields and a big climb up to Coos Lane. Eventually, you wind your way around a narrow path and come into Park Road to the north of Slaugham. It’s a very pretty village and has been home to some superb eating experiences over the years. For me, Slaugham is the place of my earliest memory (falling over in Park Road), and Christmas Day services in the church.
Home straight to Warninglid
The HWLT takes you behind the church and through the graveyard and on down to Mill Pond. This was another of many points where some decent signage would have been handy. I know this part of the world, so I hedged my bets and curved right around the pond going through some old abandoned farm buildings near Old Park House. That was a mistake and I should have gone straight on to come out on Cuckfield Lane near Colwood. As it happens, mistakes are often a good thing, and my route took me right to the heart of the village of Warninglid and right to the doorstep of the Half Moon Pub.
For the end of March and after a winter of rain and lots of lockdown walkers, the going was good, with hardly any mud. In terms of highlights and history, this section of the trail doesn’t hold much. Instead, it’s much more a reminder that when we rush from small town to small town along well-travelled roads, we forget that just a little off the beaten track, there remains a wealth of quiet Sussex countryside, that is less travelled and good for the soul.