The High Weald Landscape Trail is a 90 mile route that runs from Horsham in West Sussex to Rye in East Sussex. The High Weald is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and according to the High Weald AONB website its key features are “its rolling hills, scattered farmsteads, small woodlands, irregular-shaped fields, open heaths and ancient routeways”.
The walk begins in the town of Horsham, West Sussex at the railway station in the north of the town. The first half a mile or so of the route is not very inspiring but it soon breaks free of the residential streets of Horsham and heads into woodland. Soon the tarmac gives way to dirt tracks and before long the dog walkers begin to thin out and the town becomes a distant memory.
The dominating feature of the first part of today’s walk was the woodland, ranging from the “small woodland” mentioned above, with narrow paths winding through the bluebells to a larger forest with stacks of recently felled timber alongside the wide tracks.
The dominant industry in this area was iron working, hence the need for timber and also water. There are several ponds/lakes which provided the water, the one below is Carterslodge Pond near Slaugham, West Sussex.
The route had been mainly heading in an easterly direction for about five miles, but it started heading in a more southerly direction as it emerged from the woodland and into a more open landscape and headed towards the village of Slaugham, West Sussex. I have never been to Slaugham before, expect in family history records, and this was one of the highlights of today’s walk.
Despite having several family connections in the village I didn’t really have any specific destination other than the parish church, even then it was just to have a general look around, rather than searching for any specific gravestones.
Both the church and village were beautiful in the sunshine. With the exception of the modern cars and a few other modern trappings it did look like the village could be stuck in a time warp, and I began to wonder whether I had walked onto the set of a period drama.
The route continued southwards another three or four miles through similar landscape, another lake and a few smaller patches of woodland before hitting a quiet country road between Warninglid and Bolney. Not long after a glimpse of a trig point, a separate road branches off to the east and then another footpath heading off south again winds its way onward to the village of Bolney.
The Eight Bells pub (pictured above) provided some welcome refreshment and a chance to take the weight off our feet, whilst we waited for the rather infrequent bus back to Horsham.
Just across the road was Bolney church, which looked glorious in the sunshine and to my surprise and delight it was unlocked. So for the first time I was able to set foot in the church that has been such a prominent feature in the lives of my ancestors and in my own research.
Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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