West Sussex Literary Trail is an 87 km path from Horsham to Chichester Cathedral. This walk represents a section from it.
Barnes Green to Pulborough
Depending on where you start, this route is approximately 14 km to 16 km and for amateur trail runners, it’s a dream. It’s pretty flat most of the way, and the ground is good (even at the end of March after a long, hard winter).
What you need and facilities
This trail crosses two Ordnance Survey maps, which is a pain. It starts on Crawley and Horsham OS Explorer 34 and finishes on Arundel and Pulborough OS Explorer 10. If you’re running and don’t want to take the map, there is the Ordnance Survey app but it’s limited. I pre-loaded the route thinking it would instantly pick up the West Sussex Literary Trail (WSLT). It didn’t and so my preloaded route was not exactly the same as the one I was following. That said, it had its uses.
The WSLT is reasonably well signed, and you follow the arrows on the marker. However, in a few places where it would be really helpful, there is no marker. This is where the OS app comes in handy because you can at least double-check you’re vaguely going in the right direction. That said if you don’t have the map it does help if you have a good, natural sense of direction and reasonable navigational skills.
Once you leave Barnes Green, you don’t pass any shops, pubs, cafés or toilets, so take what you need with you.
Under starter’s orders
The best place to start is Barnes Green central or Sumners Pond. I actually started in Itchingfield because there’s a lovely run through to Barnes Green passed Muntham School. Dating back to about 1878, it’s an attractive building which was requisitioned by the military during WWII and used as the Headquarters of the Second Division Canadian Army Overseas and you can sneak a peek as you pass.
You do have to cross the railway just south of Barnes Green but it has a light system for safety. The next stretch of the trail down to the A272 is reasonably unexciting but pleasant. After a few houses, it’s open countryside all the way until you get to the road. You have to walk/run up a short section of the A272. There is a pavement but I’m not going to lie, it’s not fun.
The Blue Idol
You are rewarded for your endeavours so far with a glimpse of The Blue Idol at Coolham. The Blue Idol is a Quaker Meeting House that was originally a farmhouse dating from around 1580. It became a Meeting House in 1691 and is still used as such today. William Penn was one of those that bought The Blue Idol (it was already being used as a place of worship) and converted it into a permanent Meeting House. Unsurprisingly, William Penn (1644 – 1718) was a writer (well it is a literary trail) but he was also an early member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), founder of the American colony the Province of Pennsylvania, and perhaps one of our county’s most fascinating individuals.
Once you’ve had your fill of history and culture, the trail takes you down Oldhouse Lane, a really pretty stretch of both quiet woodland path and open country all the way to the B2133. Cross the road and primroses and daffodils line the path in late March as you potter on down until the next road which you cross again.
Vineyards and windmills
From here on the route is a little zig zaggy and you’re also on the cross over of the two maps so I was hoping the signage was good. It was, although you do have to keep your wits about you as there are a couple of sharp turns that you could miss if you’re busy soaking up the delightful woodland and not concentrating. Woods turn into fields, and then back to woods, and suddenly there’s a steep climb (the only one of the trail so far) which rewards you with fabulous views west. You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere but you round the corner and find yourself on the edge of the vineyards of the Nyetimber Estate. It’s a welcome sight with the South Downs in the distance ahead.
It’s well signed here, and you make your way around some magnificent old buildings and on to the edge of Nutbourne Vineyards where I was delighted to see what remains of the Nutbourne Windmill. I also knew I had a bottle of the Nutbourne Bacchus 2019 waiting for me in the fridge at home which created a strange feeling of synergy.
You cross over a little bridge with a small lake and an old watermill and head into Nutbourne, the epitome of quaint English villages. At that point, my phone stopped working, so without any signs or the OS app to guide me, I just headed optimistically south down the road, until I picked up the trail which took me to my rendez-vous point just south of Nutbourne Common.
A look back
On a dry and mild March day when most of us had been locked up for the best part of a year due to Covid, I expected this route to be heaving. It wasn’t and there were long stretches when I was completely alone. On the whole route, I met no more than 10 people, and the going underfoot was good all the way. I was fortunate enough to have a husband who agreed to pick me up. If you’re not that lucky, your best chance is to head into Pulborough and catch a bus, otherwise, it’s a very long walk home.
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