Tag Archives: west sussex

Walk to Work Week: Horley to Gatwick Airport

17 May

The 14th to 18th May 2012 is Walk to Work Week in the UK and although I would love to walk all the way to work it would probably take me six or seven hours so that is not really practical. This evening I seized the opportunity to make the start of my journey home on foot.

It wasn’t a particularly long walk, possibly 1½ miles at a stretch, but it was different from my usual route (the one I walked on Monday) and I have to confess once I had got beyond the rows of houses it was quite pleasant.

The streets of Horley, Surrey

From Horley town centre the first three-quarters of a mile were along residential streets. Although I had studied the map previously it was an unfamiliar route and I mentally laid myself a trail of breadcrumbs so that I could retrace my steps if needed. It wasn’t particularly inspiring walking, but I have walked along worse streets.

Entrance to Riverside Garden Park

My reason for taking this route was to take a look at Riverside Garden Park. This seems to be one of the few green spaces in Horley, not particularly large, but supposedly a remnant of the old Horley Common. An interesting survivor, sandwiched between the residential streets of Horley and the sprawling Gatwick Airport.

The entrance to Riverside Garden Park is not particularly inspiring, there is a useful noticeboard with a map of the park and a little bit of history. However once over the bridge and into the park things improve dramatically. The park is also part of two longer walks, a Millennium Trail (18 miles) and the East Horley Circular Walk (5.8 miles).

Path through Riverside Garden Park

I took the path heading towards the airport, I am not sure where the other paths go (that is an exploration for another day) but it is a very pleasant walk, following the course of the Gatwick Stream, the river which gives the park its name.

Pond in Riverside Garden Park

There are some nice mature trees and a lovely pond (with geese, ducks and a heron), it seemed to be relatively free from litter but not too neatly manicured. It wasn’t quite possible to forget the presence of the airport and the busy (and elevated) main road running along the south-western edge of the park, but it wasn’t as intrusive as I had imagined it would be.

Underpass to Gatwick Airport

All too quickly I was heading down the narrow underpass (which is a little daunting because it is shared with a cycle path) leading under the A23 and into the concrete and car parks of Gatwick Airport.

In Riverside Garden Park I think I might have inadvertently stumbled on the nicest part of Horley and a much nicer alternative to my usual route between the airport and Horley town centre. It is a little longer, but if time is not an issue then it seems a much better route.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Walk to Work Week: Gatwick Airport to Horley

14 May

The 14th to 18th May 2012 is Walk to Work Week in the UK and although I would love to walk all the way to work it would probably take me six or seven hours so that is not really practical. However I did my bit this morning by getting off the train one station early and walking the last bit.

I have to admit that this a route I regularly take when the weather is good and time permits. It is not a particularly long walk (only about 1¼ miles) and not particularly exciting or picturesque, but on a bright sunny day like this morning it a great way to start the day.

To me there is something a bit strange about starting a walk in Gatwick Airport, it is a great place to start a journey, but few people will be making that journey on foot like me. Getting out of the airport building can be a bit challenging if you are not sure where you are going.

I have to admit that descending the unmarked stairs at shuttle terminal always makes me feel a little uneasy, it feels a little like I am going behind the scenes, perhaps somewhere I shouldn’t be going. As passengers wait for the shuttle above I emerge out into a world of concrete and car parks as the shuttle rumbles overhead.

Gatwick Stream

Amongst the concrete however there is one rather unexpected glimpse of nature, a stream carefully funnelled through the grounds of the airport, surprisingly clean although that may just be an indication that a large volume of water has passed through here in the last few weeks, washing any accumulation of rubbish further downstream.

To the mix of concrete and car parks you can also add chain link. For about a third of a mile the path is enclosed by two tall chain link fences. To the west the car parks, to the east the railway line. Surprisingly this path is part of the Sussex Border Path, probably its least glamorous section, but for those tracing the Sussex border relief from the concrete and chain link is not far away across the other side of the railway.

Approaching the West Sussex/Surrey border

For those with an interest in boundaries, passing under the bridge carrying the A23 over the railway line takes you from the county of West Sussex and into Surrey. Not surprisingly there are no signs marking this transition, only lines on a map, however hardly a day goes past without me noticing the crossing.

Horley and the Gatwick Express

The end of the chain link fences marks a watershed, those following the border path head east over the railway footbridge. Those like me heading for Horley turn east and then north and chain link is replaced by wooden garden fences and residential streets. In the far distance, on a clear day, one gets a glimpse of the North Downs in the gaps between the houses, but really the only interest now is the contents of people’s recycling baskets along the side of the pavement.

Above the pavements however there is something else which catches my eye, an unlikely point of interest among these residential streets. A simple but for some reason unexpectedly pleasing wooden finial upon the top of a telegraph pole. This example was not unique, I counted three today, but they must count as a rarity these days.

Telegraph pole

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Wordless Wednesday: St. Mary’s Church, Horsham, West Sussex

9 May

St. Mary’s Church, Horsham, West Sussex (9th May 2012)

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Wordless Wednesday: All Saints’ Church, Brook Street, West Sussex

2 May

Tin tabernacle, Brook Street, West Sussex (28th April 2012)

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Wandering: High Weald Landscape Trail – Cuckfield to Haywards Heath

1 May

Conditions were less than favourable when my friend Chris and I decided to walk the next section of the High Weald Landscape Trail. Our previous walk many months ago had left us in Cuckfield, West Sussex and despite the promise of more rain, on top of a week of heavy rain, we hoped that we could make it from Cuckfield to Ardingly.

Our delay in continuing this walk was in part due to the complexities of getting back to Cuckfield by bus. That all changed in mid-April when Metrobus changed the times of their bus from Horsham to Haywards Heath, meaning I was able to jump from my bus at the wonderfully named Pronger’s Corner and onto the Haywards Heath bus, without having to wait a couple of hours.

It was fairly obvious from the outset that we were in for a wet walk. The walk north from Cuckfield was nice enough and would have provided some wonderful views had they not been obscured by misty rain. The conditions underfoot were also less than ideal.

I was surprised how undulating the ground was, hills and valleys were the order of the day, we didn’t rise to any great heights but enough for there to be some potentially decent views across the Weald. Some of the slopes, however gentle, were made a little tricky due to the wet conditions and in a couple of places the paths were almost impassable due to the expanse of mud and water.

Heading north from Cuckfield we clipped the edge of Whiteman’s Green before turning east, passing through Brook Street and continuing on to Borde Hill just north of Haywards Heath. We had half hoped that we would be able to catch a bus into Haywards Heath from Borde Hill, however there was no sign of a bus stop so we had to make our way on foot following the road south into town.

Without really thinking about it we had decided to call it a day, the light rain and squelching conditions underfoot taking its toll on us. It was such a disappointment, I sense that in better conditions it would have been one of the best sections of the whole trail. I may have to return again in the summer when the sun is shining.

Looking west from Borde Hill, West Sussex (28th April 2012)

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Wandering: Haywards Heath Recreation Ground

19 Apr

A recreation ground may seem like an unusual choice for a place for me to go walking, but I had been looking for something to do on Saturday morning before the start of the SFHG Annual Conference and had come across a mention of the recreation ground and decided it might be interesting to take a closer look.

Black’s Guide to Sussex for 1898 gives the recreation ground a brief mention:

The building of many scattered villas and bits of streets has much cut up the heath, part of which will be found, to the east of the station, laid out as a pleasure-ground with paths and seats.

The idea that the recreation ground was the last trace of the heath from which the town got its name was what attracted me to it. I knew from the Ordnance Survey map that there wasn’t much left of it, but it would still be interesting to have a look around.

The recreation ground is divided into two parts, the northern part largely consists of a well maintained cricket pitch and the southern part is a wild area of woodland, divided in two by the cricket pavilion and a children’s playground.

Looking south across the cricket pitch

To be honest there wasn’t really much walking to be done, I could probably have walked around the perimeter of the recreation ground in fifteen minutes if I had really wanted to, but I had time to kill so I took my time, wandering at random around the paths.

The cricket pitch is quite interesting in that it looks like the ground has hollowed out, leaving a flat cricket pitch and an embankment on the eastern side, with a couple of paths running across the embankment which are dotted with benches. It is this cricket pitch which I had seen many times from within Clair Hall, but had never stepped outside to take a closer look.

The southern part was really what I was here for though. Given that it is surrounded by buildings on three sides (and a cricket pitch on the other) it is surprising rural in appearance. You are never far from a tarmac path but it didn’t seem to be overly managed, there are a few patches of daffodils and bluebells but it is mainly just scrubby ground with a mixture of trees.

Amongst the trees at Haywards Heath Recreation Ground

I was really surprised to very little sign of human activity, I had expected to find more litter, but perhaps it has not really been the weather for sitting in the woods and leaving your rubbish behind, perhaps that is more of a summer activity.

It is hard to say whether this patch of woodland is typical of the landscape of the original heath, it wasn’t really what I imagine heathland to be like and I suspect it owes more to the victorian pleasure ground than the earlier heath.

It is however an interesting reminder of an earlier time, before the railways and enclosure caused the heath to be torn up. I feel sure that someone must have studied the history of the heath in detail before but my limited research so far has failed to turn up much information.

I really must make an effort to take a stroll around the recreation ground again in the summer when there are more leaves on the trees and the surrounding buildings will be less visible.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Wordless Wednesday: Cattle drinking at the River Arun

11 Apr

Cattle drinking at the River Arun, near Arundel, West Sussex

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