Monday, 3 January 2011

Stage 11 - East Grinstead to Copthorne (7.4 miles)

I will be walking the western section of the SBP alone (in human terms), and have vowed to finish it this year.  As Anne & I had walked both the eastern and Mid Sussex Link sections from East Grinstead, I decided it made sense to start the western section from there too. The only problem with this is that my guide book (and the online guide) describes the route from west to east.  Still, the SBP is quite well waymarked (in places) and shown on OS mapping, so hopefully I won’t have too many problems.

The route
A promising sky as I leave home at 8.15am

A little research showed that I could quite easily complete a moderate 7 ½ mile section to Copthorne by using the 291 bus to get to East Grinstead for the start of the walk, so after driving to Copthorne on this very chilly morning I did just that.  The bus driver was obviously not a dog lover and looked Poppy up and down before deciding (reluctantly) that I could take her on his bus “as long as we sat as far to the back as possible!”  Twenty minutes later we disembarked at East Grinstead railway station and began our westward journey.
Arriving at East Grinstead by bus

Worth Way information board

After crossing a bridge over the railway, I walked through the station car park to reach the start of the Worth Way, a joint permissive path on the site of an old railway line.  It stretches for 7 miles from East Grinstead to Three Bridges, near Crawley, and I would follow it for a total of about 2.5 miles (in 2 sections) on today’s walk.
It is also National Cycle Route number 21

The old railway track

Old railways make for easy, if rather uninspiring, walking and I made fairly fast progress along the first mile or so.  I met several walkers (with and without dogs), a number of cyclists, and even two horses – the Worth Way was certainly living up to its classification as a multiuser path.  The route passed under two high bridges, the second was arched and quite attractive.  Poppy found an old football near the first bridge – her favourite toy – and she had a quick play with it before leaving it for a later passing dog to find.
Poppy finds a football

Arched bridge carrying Imberhorne Lane

The views from the track were severely limited, although I did pass a pond near Imberhorne Farm.  Shortly after this there were some steps up the northern bank to a seat, from which there were some views north towards Felbridge, but on this murky, dull day, there was not much to see.
Coppice work was in progress along the path edges

Private pond near Imberhorne Farm

About 1.3 miles from East Grinstead, the SBP parted company (for now) with the Worth Way, and headed south across three fields, passing a small pond (partly frozen) in the second one. Just before Tilkhurst Farm, the path turned sharp right to head west once more across arable fields with a small amount of winter wheat growth. When leaving home, the sky had looked quite promising with the cloud quite broken.  Now, the only blue to be seen was a tiny glimpse to the north.  It was turning out to be another very gloomy day.
Tilkhurst Farm

Path junction - heading west across arable fields

I descended gently to cross a stream via a footbridge, then climbed through fields again to reach a lane at Burleigh House Farm.  I stopped here for a quick cup of coffee and snack before continuing down the lane to Crawley Down.  I told Poppy that I was bringing her back to her roots – I had purchased her from a farm a mile or so from here.
Crossing the footbridge

Crawley Down

Reaching the village hub, I turned left just before the Royal Oak pub to join the Worth Way again and I was able to pick up the pace once more.  The views were lost again though, of course.  After ¾ miles the track dipped down to cross the access road to Rowfant Business Centre, and here I said goodbye for the final time to the cycle track and turned right up the drive to reach Wallage Lane where the route turned left.
3.75 miles completed

Leaving the Worth Way near Rowfant

After about 300m I turned right up the drive to Rowfant House as the map seemed to indicate this (although there were no footpath markers).  Actually, I should have continued along the road another 50m or so to pick up the path, but the routes converged on the access drive anyway.  The attractive building is a 16th century, Grade II* listed manor house, and is now used as a venue for weddings and conferences. There is also a residential care home in the grounds.
Rowfant House

The route passed to the right of the main building and under a stone arch.  I turned left as indicated by a clear waymarker and followed a narrow path behind the buildings and turned right over a metal footbridge (as there was nowhere else to go).  However, the waymarking had now vanished, and my GPS and map were indicating that I had gone off route.  I continued across an open area of grass near some houses, in the direction I believed I should be going and was relieved to come across the SBP again in some woods.  I didn’t go back to check the original waymarker that had sent me astray, but I’m sure I was not mistaken (in fact, if you zoom into the photo of the arch, you can SEE the arrow pointing to the left – perhaps someone had swivelled the whole thing round 90 degrees ‘for a laugh’!)
Stone arch leading to misleading waymarker

The path climbed gently NE through light woodland, then swung north, to reach a farm access lane at Hill House.  The lane continued past several properties, including Home Farm, which, although deserted today, was the home of Sussex Polo.
Hill House

When the main track swung right, I maintained direction onto a (sometimes muddy), woodland footpath.  Poppy got a bit left behind trying to inch her way round the wettest bits!  I continued for about 1km, past the gateway to Oakley’s Fishery to reach a T-junction of paths at Copthorne Common.
The ponds were out of sight among the trees

I had a feeling that the route might be a bit iffy here, as the map showed a number of footpaths, and indeed it was so.  However, with my GPS (and the traffic noise) to guide me, I found my way to the road crossing.  My goodness, the A264 was busy!  I had to wait for several minutes before even the slightest break in the traffic allowed me to run across.
Squirrel spotting

I had now reached the outskirts of Copthorne, and the track skirted a residential area before heading off into woods for a final time.  After passing the quirkily named Roundabouts Farm, the SBP turned left at a T-junction to follow Clay Hall Lane the last ½ mile back to my waiting car.
Roundabouts Farm

The last 1/2 mile along Clay Hall Lane
The early promise of a bit of blue sky had been unfulfilled, and it had been a cold, dull day.  There were not many extensive views today either, but all in all it was a good walk for a dreary January day – at least the sections on the Worth Way guaranteed mud free boots!

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