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West Sussex Literary Trail. Part 1

Horsham to Barnes Green  

 The West Sussex Literary Trail is an 87 km footpath from Horsham to Chichester that meanders its way through West Sussex countryside and villages. This first section is about 17 km and you’ll need Ordnance Survey Explorer 34. You can stop in Slinfold for refreshments on the way.

For a route that is so well marked and advertised, it’s a bit of a curiosity for anyone that wants to research it before they set off. There is a book, aptly named West Sussex Literary Trail but other than that and some general blurb online, there’s very little out there that expands on the highlights. So, I’ll do what I can with the benefit of experience.

Under starter’s orders

Warnham Deer Park, sussex

When the route opened in 2007, it started at the thoroughly controversial Shelley Fountain in the centre of Horsham (where West Street meets East Street). The fountain has since gone, and as the trail takes you out of Horsham via Horsham park there are any number of places you could choose to park.

The first part of the walk is not the nicest, as you work your way around the town down to the A24, dodging the golf balls as you cross the A24 and head into Robin Hood Lane. Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at Field Place (in between Warnham and Broadbridge Heath) hence your first literary reference of the walk. Unfortunately, although Field Place is well known and beautiful, you cannot actually see it. But you do pass through beautiful Warnham Deer Park and have a good chance of seeing a stag relatively close up.

Strood Park AKA Farlington School

farlington sussex

From there, you head cross country and emerge at the back at what is now Farlington School and was formerly Strood Park. There are two ways around the school, and the straighter route gives you some good views of the old part of the house. There may not have ever been a famous writer in residence here but Strood Park does have strong connections with Humphrey Repton (1752-1818), the celebrated landscape architect.

At Nowhurst Lane you have two options: turn left at Cooks Lane and follow the footpath down to Lyons Road from where you can cut up to the Downs Link. You’ll pass Theales which is pleasant enough and a newly designed “submerged” house just before you reach the Downs Link. For a slightly longer route (and the official WSLT way) you head down to the end of Nowhurst Lane and follow the footpath until it brings you up and then down at the back of St Peter’s church in Slinfold. There’s believed to have been a church here since 1230, although the current church building dates to 1861. There was a spire demolished in 1969, but the font is believed to be as old as the 14th century. Slinfold is pleasant enough, there’s a library in a phone box, a shop and a pub. So stock up here if you haven’t already.

The Downs Link

Itchingfield, Sussex
Itchingfield Priest House

At Slinfold you head up Hayes Lane until you reach the Downs Link which you turn left onto. Follow it for about 1 km until you meet a stile on your right opening into a large field.  If you took the shorter route, here is where the paths converge and there is often a sign here saying Beware of nesting adders. Head up the hill/field, sticking to the right, and keep going until you cross the main road. From there you go straight down a little narrow path until you zig-zag a little and arrive at Toat Hill.

It’s more or less a straight line, and a fabulous bit of the route, as you round the crest of a hill and then drop down into some woods. Having crossed a little river, you come out at Itchingfield Church. The church was originally built in the 12th century and part of this early building still survives. There’s also a small 16th century building known as the Priest House in the churchyard which was probably built to house a clerk in holy orders employed to administer services in the parish. It was used as the parish almshouse until the 19th century.

You have a choice here, head straight on across the field to Christ’s Hospital and back to Horsham, or turn right up the trail to Muntham School and Barnes Green. After a short climb, it’s a pleasant run down into the village and your finish point.

Looking back

Muntham House, Sussex
Gates to Muntham

There are parts of this route that in winter and early spring, remain super muddy. It’s also a busier section than the next bit but has some lovely stretches.

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