List of walks in section order, with links
Date Walk Distance
29 May 2010 Billingshurst to Horsham 25.2 km (15.8 miles)
22 May 2010 Houghton Bridge (Amberley Station) to Billingshurst 23.7 km (14.8 miles)
15 May 2010 Cocking Hill to Houghton Bridge (Amberley Station) 24.5 km (15.3 miles)
17 April 2010 Chichester - Charlton Forest - Cocking 22.2 km (13.9 miles)

I've now completed the West Sussex Literary Trail, spread over 4 days of walking. The official route length is 55 miles. The distances in the table above add up to 59.8 miles, as I've included the connecting walks need to reach railway stations and bus stops from the beginning and end of each day's walk.

The West Sussex Literary Trail's literary connections are rather tenuous, but it is a very fine walk, with a route that covers both downland and weald. There are good pubs along the way for a lunchtime or end-of-walk pint, wide views, a few interesting buildings and a variety of different plant habitats. Strongly recommended.

West Sussex Literary Trail waymark

17 April 2010: Chichester - Charlton Forest - Cocking

22.2 km (13.9 miles)

Saint Richard
Saint Richard, Chichester Cathedral

Although I've a fair number of unfinished projects on the go, I wanted to get going on another long distance path. I'm running out of choices, so I settled on the West Sussex Literary Trail. The literary connections are tenuous, but it looks like a nice walk. The guidebook (published by Per-Rambulations) describes the origins of the walk in the 2001 South East of England Walking Festival, based in Horsham and Chichester.

St Roche's Hill
View of St Roche's Hill from Lavant Valley, near East Lavant

The guidebook describes the walk from Horsham to Chichester. However, I thought it more sensible to walk in the opposite direction, heading north-east to keep weather and sun at my back. This lead to the occasional uncertainty as to direction (particularly where the waymarking has gone missing), but no real great difficulty.

East Lavant
Church, East Lavant

When I set off the day was rather misty and chilly, so I took a fleece - a mistake as it proved, as the day turned out to be a beautiful hot cloudless spring day (cloudless and free of vapour trails, all planes being grounded by the dust from the Icelandic volcano).

I took the train to Chichester station, and then walked to formal start of the walk (or rather, the official end of the walk) at the statue of Saint Richard in the cathedral precincts.

River Lavant
Weed in River Lavant, at East Lavant

When I walked the New Lipchis Way (26 September 2009) I thought section approaching Chichester along the Centurion Way was a bit tedious, and I noted in my log that I was hoping that West Sussex Literary Trail would offer a better approach to Chichester from St Roche's Hill. As it happens, I'm walking in the opposite direction, but I can say the route of West Sussex Literary Trail is far pleasanter.

Lavant Valley
Looking back over Lavant Valley, from ridge leading to St Roche's Hill

The Trail leaves Chichester by going through the Bishop's Gardens, then following the north wall of the city. From there the Trail heads for the Chichester Festival Theatre, then continues north through a park (with rugby pitches) and along suburban streets to reach the Lavant Valley. The Trail takes the bridleway up the valley before striking uphill to St Roche's Hill. On the way it passes through East Lavant, and, as it was getting hot, I diverted into the village to find the pub for a shandy. The pub is the Royal Oak, very much a gastro-pub, but very pleasant and very friendly. I was tempted to stop for lunch, but it was too early. The River Lavant was beautifully clear through the village, with a healthy growth of weed.

Trig point
Trig point on St Roche's Hill, Goodwood race course behind

The view from St Roche's Hill is one of the best from the Downs. 206 m high, and an uninterrupted 360 degree view over the coastal plain, Goodwood race course, the villages of Singleton and Charlton and the Downs beyond.

View north from St Roche's Hill, towards Singleton

From St Roche's Hill the Trail heads north to Singleton and then east to Charlton. At Charlton I was tempted to look for the pub, but decided to press on. From Charlton the Trail follows a track due north, then turns east over North Down. This had been newly ploughed, but fortunately the ground had dried out, and I could cross without getting muddy. The Trail then enters Charlton Forest and soon turns north. The County Council had been doing good work in renewing the way posts in the forest (important, given the number of crossing forest roads), but unfortunately it had neglected to replace the West Sussex Literary Trail waymarks.

Approaching Singleton

The Trail climbs through the forest (mainly beech here) to meet the South Downs Way. The Trail then turns east to follow the South Downs Way for a time. However, I turned west to follow the South Downs Way to Hill Barn, just before it crosses the A 286. I then took the byway north, to drop down to Cocking to catch the No 60 bus back to Chichester. I noted the Blue Bell pub (which had been closed) is now the Bluebell - a gastro-pub I think, but it wasn't yet open.

The No 60 is a half-hourly service on Saturdays (hourly on Sunday), which makes it an excellent walker's bus for accessing this bit of the Downs. In Chichester I stopped for a coffee (I've yet to find a tolerable pub near the station, though they must exist), and then got the train home.

Charlton Forest
Beeches, Charlton Forest

Dog's Mercury Primrose Blackthorn Water Crowfoot


15 May 2010: Cocking Hill to Houghton Bridge (Amberley Station)

24.5 km (15.3 miles)

South Downs Way
South Downs Way, looking west from above Cocking

I've been away on holiday, so today was the first opportunity for a longish walk for a couple of weeks. I therefore took the train to Chichester and ten the No 60 bus to the top of Cocking Hill. The driver let me off 20p of the fare as I didn't have more change, saying it was his good deed for the day.

Sheep, approaching Graffham Down

The bus stops right on the route of the South Downs Way where it crosses the A 286 above the village of Cocking. From the bus stop I followed the South Downs Way the 3.5 km to where I'd left the West Sussex Literary Trail on 17 April 2010, above Charlton Forest. I made slow progress, stopping frequently to take pictures of the spring flowers. From this point the West Sussex Literary Trail continues to follow the South Downs Way eastwards for a further 3.5 km before turning north above East Lavington.

Charity walkers
Charity walkers, Woolavington Down

Along this section of the South Downs Way I passed some very odd looking sheep with small black, brown and white striped heads and big woolly bodies. I'd guess they were there for conservation grazing. A little further on the Way passes through an area managed by the Graffham Down Trust. I diverted to walk through Long Meadow, as it was spotted with dark purple-pink orchids, probably Early Purple Orchids.

View north from Woolavington Down

Beyond Graffham Down I started to meet very large numbers of walkers for charity ('chalkers', by analogy with chuggers), wearing tee-shirts for a wide variety of causes. It was an event called Just Walk 2010, organised by a company called Across the Divide, offering 10km, 20km, 40km or 60km routes. 'Across the Divide is an event management company providing unique personal and group experiences' - or so says its website.

Chalk pit
Chalk pit managed by Duncton Minerals

I was happy to leave the chalkers and take the bridleway down to the A 285, passing an active chalk pit managed by Duncton Minerals, offering 'Garden lime, rockery / walling flints and decorative stone'. Over the A 285 the Trail crosses the flank of Duncton Down. This was a vivid yellow sea of oilseed rape, now at the peak of flowering, with a strong sweet scent. Crossing the field left my trousers covered in bright yellow pollen.

Duncton Down
Oilseed rape, Duncton Down

Leaving the rape field, the trail goes into a wood above Duncton Hanger to reach a five way crossing of bridleways. The council have installed a new finger post, but have omitted to replace the West Sussex Literary Trail waymark. However, I picked the right path, which leads down to the A 285 again, with a fine set of hairpin bends to get down the steep slope. The Trail then takes a lane eastwards before following a private road through Duncton Mill (now a trout farm) to reach the village of Duncton. Here I stopped at the Cricketers, a free house. I'd only intended to have a pint (Horsham Bitter), but I couldn't resist trying the char grilled asparagus with poached egg - excellent.

Burton church
Interior of Burton church

From Duncton the Trail goes through Burton Park to join the Serpent Trail for a short way. There is no village as such at Burton, just the house and a church. Pevsner describes the house, built in 1831 by Henry Bassett, as '... very much a clever young man's building ... determinedly Grecian, with all kinds of ornamental tricks'. The church though is a gem - 'a loveable, unrestored building, one of the mellowest in Sussex ... Delightfully crowded interior, looking like a Welsh border church before the restorers got there'. It's tiny, one of the smallest churches in Sussex.

Yeomans House
Yeomans House, Bignor

From Burton Park the Trail works its way to the village of Sutton, passing Chingford Pond, Crouch Farm (with a very odd formal fountain stranded in a pony paddock, not working) and Sutton End. Between Sutton End and Sutton the Trail passes through a number of beautiful fields of unimproved grassland, grazed by sheep with very young lambs, giving a peculiar sense of remoteness.

View westwards, between Bignor and West Burton

From Sutton the Trail goes through Bignor, passing the very picturesque Yeomans House (called the Old Shop by Pevsner, who describes it as 'Deservedly famous C15 cottage, illustrated time and again') and then West Burton to reach Bury.

Between Bignor and West Burton the right of way crosses a field diagonally, but this was impassable, planted with cereal now over a foot high. Everyone diverts around the sides of the field, but it would be useful to do this officially.

Bury church
Church, Bury

Beyond West Burton, the Trail goes through a mildly confusing set of small fields, made more difficult by fences and tapes further dividing them up for horses. In Bury, the Trail takes a road though the village helpfully signed for the 'Church and River Ferry Closed'. There was a foot ferry here, across the River Arun, until 1955. On reaching the river, the Trail follows the embankment to the new footbridge crossing for the South Downs Way. It then crosses the river and follows the east embankment to Houghton Bridge and Amberley Station. As usual, I stopped off at the Bridge for a pint of Harveys before getting the train Home.

A very fine walk - well recommended. The weather started clear and sunny, and then clouded over, occasionally threatening rain but staying dry.

View across River Arun towards Amberley

Early purple orchid Bluebell Marsh Marigold Woodruff


22 May 2010: Houghton Bridge (Amberley Station) to Billingshurst

23.7 km (14.8 miles)

Amberley Castle
View over Amberley Castle

I had some difficulty in deciding where to end today's walk. I needed somewhere about halfway between Amberley and Horsham. Public transport on the route of West Sussex Literary Trail itself is a bit thin (a few infrequent buses), so I decided there was nothing for it but to finish at the Blue Idol (a Quaker meeting house, not a pub) and then walk a further 3.6 km north-west to get a train at Billingshurst.

Amberley Wild Brooks
View over Amberley Wild Brooks

I took the train to Amberley Station, and set off on the familiar route to pick up the South Downs Way above Amberley Chalk Pits Museum (officially, and dully, the ‘Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre‘). The Trail then drops down into Amberley village itself. The day was the first real hot summer's day of the year, smelling of warm tar and lethargy, so I stopped at the village shop to buy additional water.

Rackham Mill
Rackham Mill

From Amberley the trail follows the lane to Rackham - a slightly dreary bit of ribbon development, but with intermittent views south to the downs and north over Amberley Wild Brooks, a wonderful area of low-lying grassland subject to frequent flooding.

The Trail leaves the lane before reaching Rackham and turns north for a short while. It passes Rackham Mill, a small watermill driven by an overshot water wheel. The mill appears to be nearly complete, externally at least, and unrestored. As I was leaving the mill, two cuckoos flew overhead, presumably a male and female. During the day I was to hear cuckoos on four separate occasions.

Mating carp
Mating carp, lake in Parham Park

Beyond Rackham the Trail turns eastwards through Parham deer park. This was for me the best section of the walk. The park is not conventionally beautiful. Pevsner describes it as a ‘chase’ of big trees and bracken which was accentuated instead of being smoothed down by the C18 landscaping.

Parham Park
Parham Park, with dovecote and house behind

The edge of the lake was constantly disturbed and at first I couldn’t see the cause, but then I saw pairs of largish carp splashing around in the shallow water, often breaking the surface. I guessed they were mating rather than feeding.

The house, Elizabethan in origin, can only be glimpsed in the distance from the Trail, though the Trail passes fairly close to a large dovecote in the park.

River Stor
Valley of the River Stor

After leaving the park, I stopped in Cootham for a pint of shandy in the Crown Inn. A tolerable if uninteresting pub, designed for the Sunday lunch market.

From Cootham the Trail turns north, skirting the landing field of Southdown Gliding Club. Gliders are towed up by small planes and then circulate up the thermals from the scarp of the downs. Several took off over my head as I walked past. The gliders are extraordinarily elegant, with long thin wings.

Rising Sun
Rising Sun, Nutbourne

The trail then crosses the rivers Stor and Chilt, tributaries of the Arun (with a golf course that could have been transported from Surrey, complete with pines, in between them) and passes over Nutbourne Common, with notices warning that there are adders about.

In Nutbourne I stopped for a pint in the Rising Sun. It has a slightly forbidding exterior, and a very plain, slightly scruffy interior, but serves good beer (Adams in my case) and has friendly staff and a lovely garden. Everything that a country pub should be.

Vineyard and old windmill, Nutbourne

The couple of kilometres beyond Nutbourne pass through a winegrowing district (still an odd notion in England), with two vineyards. This is not amateur growing, but extensive professional production, the vines carefully tended and pruned. The south facing vineyards against the backdrop of the South Downs was a rather wonderful sight.

Vineyard, Nyetimber Farm

North of Nyetimber Farm (one of the vineyards), the Trail goes in and out of patches of woodland. At one point there is a superb and unexpected view over the Weald, looking westwards. In the woods, patches of spotted orchid leaves but no flower spikes yet.

View over Weald, approaching Woodshill Copse

Beyond Willetts Farm the Trail follows what is clearly a public bridleway, but which isn’t marked as such on the OS map for some reason. It emerges on the B 2133, from where the Trail follows Oldhouse Lane, a green lane as far as Oldhouse Farm, where it becomes a surfaced driveway leading to the A 272.

The Blue Idol
The Blue Idol, Quaker meeting house

Before reaching the A 272, the Trail passes the Blue Idol, the meeting house of Thakeham Quaker Meeting (a meeting being the Quaker term for group of worshippers). The meeting house is associated with William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. The meaning of the name ‘Blue Idol’ is unknown. Pevsner notes that the meeting house is simply one wing of a half timbered cottage, the framing so regular that it is probably C17.

From the Blue Idol I walked the short way to the A 272 as a suitable place to finish, then turned back to take the footpath heading west past Coneyhurst Farm. This passes an old Quaker burying ground. I then followed a series of footpaths to Kingslea, then headed north and west to reach Lower Station Road in Billingshurst.

I only had to wait a couple of minutes for a train home. A great walk in perfect summer weather - hot with a cooling breeze. If the final section of the West Sussex Literary Trail lives up to the promise of the previous three, it will rate as one of the half-dozen best walks in the territory covered by this website.

Burying ground
Old Quaker burying ground, Coneyhurst

Red Campion Germander Speedwell Yellow Pimpernel May (Hawthorn)


29 May 2010: Billingshurst to Horsham

25.2 km (15.8 miles)

Campers in field near Hook Farm

The forecast for Saturday was not promising - cloudy, cool, with rain starting at lunchtime. I considered putting off walking to Sunday, but come the morning, I couldn't bear the idea of being inside, so I took the train to Billingshurst as planned to finish off the West Sussex Literary Trail.

Giant puffball
Giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea), Bullbrook Farm

When I got to Billingshurst there were a few spots of rain, but I decided to delay putting on the waterproofs. I retraced my steps from the previous Saturday to reach the A 272 at Coneyhurst, just north of the Blue Idol. The trail follows the A 272, which is here dead straight, for half a kilometre before turning north on a bridleway. The field to the east of the bridleway seemed to have been used as a rubble tip, and there were survey marks around, suggesting the farmer was intending to build something. However, the landscape soon improved as I went north, passing a nearly dry pond full of horsetail and then through typical low weald farmland.

The Queens Head
The Queens Head (Mary Tudor)

It now started to rain, a couple of hours earlier than forecast, so I put my waterproofs on. It was to be one of the wettest day’s walking I had for a long time. But the old saying ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing’ is true, and as I’ve invested in very good Gore-Tex waterproofs the rain didn’t trouble me, other than making photography difficult (as you will see from the examples posted here).

Barns Green
Rain not stopping play, Barns Green

Just before Barns Green, the Trail crosses the railway, and then passes through Slaughterford Farm, now a campsite offering fishing in specially constructed, and rather ugly, lakes. I stopped at the Barns Green village shop to buy water, rather than take the rain cover off my rucksack to get at the water I was carrying. I was also tempted by a pint in the pub, the Queens Head, but decided it was too early. The inn sign carries a portrait of Mary Tudor, which is unusual for England, given her attempts to reintroduce Catholicism. It’s based on Antonio Moro’s fine portrait in the Prado.

From Barns Green the Trail continues north to Itchingfield. I looked back to see that despite the rain, cricket was still being played on the village cricket ground.

Priest’s House
The Priest’s House, Itchingfield church

Itchingfield church looks very Victorian, being extensively modified in 1865, but is older. The tower is interesting, as it is constructed from timber. In the churchyard is the Priest’s House, described by Pevsner as a rare and loveable survival. Tiny half-timbered building tucked under a tree, looking quite unrestored and just like a toy ... The oldest part (E) is C15, the rest probably of c.1600, when it became an almshouse.

Slinfold church
Slinfold church

From Itchingfield the Trail heads west then north to join the Downs Link on an old railway formation for a short way. The Trail leaves the Downs Link at Slinfold. I stopped off in the Red Lion for a pint (Harveys) and as it was raining I decided to forego my sandwiches and have a pub lunch. This was disappointing - Cumberland sausage that wouldn’t be recognised as such in Cumberland, and a peculiar slice of cake made from potatoes and not much else, described as bubble and squeak. OK for beer, but I’d avoid the food.

River Arun
View over River Arun, north of Slinfold

Slinfold church was rebuilt in 1861, designed by Benjamin Ferrey. Pevsner calls it Proud and uncompromising, but not unsympathetic. The West Sussex Literary Trail guide book claims that the tower dates from 1970, but it is clearly of the same date as the rest of the building. A couple of ladies were in the church, doing the flowers, and when I asked about the tower, they explained it had originally had a steeple that was removed in about 1970. They were proud of a new extension that had just been built, to provide toilet facilities. It has been sympathetically designed, and the exterior could even be describes as elegant.

North of Slinfold the Trail climbs over a low hill to drop down to the valley of the River Arun, here much reduced in size, but flowing strongly. There is perhaps potential to devise an interesting Arun Valley Walk.

Bullocks, Nowhurst Farm

Crossing the Arun, the Trail heads eastwards, the countryside gradually becoming less interesting as it nears Horsham. However, south of Warnham it crosses Bailing Hill Deer Farm, requiring me to negotiate several high kissing gates, just too narrow to use comfortably with a rucksack on. The deer all watched me carefully as I crossed their fields. An old barn in the farm yard was stacked with antlers.

Warnham Deer Park
Warnham Deer Park

The Trail then enters Warnham Deer Park, with yet more deer, and grazing geese. From the Deer Park the Trail follows Robin Hood Lane (a road), crosses Rookwood Golf Course ('another leisure service from Horsham District Council') and enters the suburbs of Horsham - all very neat and tidy. In Horsham itself the Trail goes through the park and then the old town centre to end at the Shelly fountain (Shelly was born near Horsham).

The fountain (officially called 'Cosmic Cycle') must be the ugliest piece of council-sponsored art in Sussex. It comes with an inscription by the artist that is completely of a piece with the fountain. I won’t quote it.

Despite the rain, a good walk. This section lacks the highlights of the previous sections, but is still worth doing.

Cosmic Cycle
'Cosmic Cycle', Horsham

Yellow Archangel Red Clover Black Medick