Saturday, 22 January 2011

Stage 12 - Copthorne to Charlwood (7.8 miles)

After the successful use of public transport on the last section, further research revealed I could do another modest section of the route, using a bus to complete the transfer.  So, I drove to Charlwood and caught a bus back to Copthorne.  My bus driver this time was only too pleased to have Poppy on his bus!  Poppy, however, did not reciprocate – she doesn’t seem to travel very well on the bus, the floor presumably vibrates, and whilst not exactly slippery, is not comfy carpet either.

The route from Copthorne to Charlwood

The walk started from the end of Clay Hall Lane, heading north up Copthorne Bank for about 100m past the Cherry Tree Inn before heading NW across a large grassy field.  Entry to the field was through a gate, rather than a stile, and as the waymarker was broken and virtually hidden in the hedge, it took a moment to confirm that I was entering the field at the correct place.

The Cherry Tree Inn - Copthorne

Broken waymarker indicates the route into the field
I could see there were no sheep in the field, so Poppy was allowed off lead, and she had a good run about. The path across the field was not visible on the ground, but a glance at the map showed I needed to head towards the right of the Newhouse Farm buildings, where there was a nice pond, complete with ducks.

The trackless route to Newhouse Farm

Pond and ducks at Newhouse Farm
Then it was across another large squelchy meadow to reach Antlands Lane.  Maintaining direction, I walked for about 200m up Church Road, before taking a short cut (following the SBP, of course) across a field corner to reach the village of Burstow.

The SBP cuts across the corner of this field to reach Burstow

Burstow Court
After another short section on the lane I turned left on a bridleway and passed another nice pond busy with waterfowl.  Initially the path followed a pleasant route through light woodland, but soon started to become somewhat less than scenic, reaching some ugly industrial buildings. 

Another nice duck pond - Burstow

Initially the bridleway was quite attractive
Meeting a lane I continued past a number of houses, one of which had a for sale board outside.  I’m sure it wasn’t mentioned in the estate agents particulars, but this house was under the flight path of Gatwick airport (I could hear planes taking off over my head almost constantly) and also about 100m from the M23.  To cap it all, the bungalow had a huge electricity pylon at the end of its garden.  Might take a while to sell that one, me thinks!

The bridleway becomes somewhat ugly

Crossing the M23
The route crossed the motorway to reach a junction with Peeks Brook Lane, where I turned right (north).  I followed the lane for about ½ mile.  There were buildings on the right - some residential, some industrial -and fields on the left.  There were some nice ponies in one, who came over to the fence to say hello.

Curious ponies

Flooded path
After passing under the M23/A23 slip road, I turned west on a narrow, flooded, litter strewn path, between the road and an industrial building of some kind. Things did improve after a bit, and the path, edged with trees, became quite pleasant – provided you could block out the noise of the traffic on the slip road immediately to the left.

Attractive path next to the motorway

Motorway sign
On reaching Balcombe Road, I turned right and after attempting to give some directions to a couple in a car, passed the Coppingham Arms pub, before heading west once more on a lightly wooded path. The route then crossed one open field (where I was joined by a large Great Dane from a neighbouring property) before skirting another in a path enclosed by hedges. This second field was full of horses, and something had spooked them as they were all galloping about.  I don’t know what had disturbed them – their field was very close to Gatwick airport and next to the railway line (which appeared to have almost constant train traffic), so I would have thought they would be pretty bombproof. 

Coppingham Arms, Balcombe Road
The path did briefly trespass into the horse field, and it was necessary to negotiate a very muddy bit of ground, poached by many horse hooves.  Fortunately I was able to inch round the fence line, hanging onto the wood work, to prevent myself falling in.  Poppy followed my lead and also avoided the worst of it.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

After crossing the railway on a footbridge, the route turned briefly south, and passed under the A23.  We had now reached Gatwick Airport, near the South Terminal, so the route for the next 2km or so was decidedly un-rural.  I walked through two more tunnels (one bridge carrying the terminal shuttle train tracks), then joined Perimeter Road North to reach a large roundabout by the entrance to the North Terminal. The route through the airport section was pretty well waymarked, but you needed to know roughly where you were going, so you could keep an eye out for the signs as they were not always that easy to spot.

Gatwick airport perimeter fence (looks like a prison?)

"Welcome to the North Terminal"
Once over the roundabout, the SBP joined a footpath again, although this was not entirely scenic, being muddy, and in a narrow strip of weedy woodland between the A23 and the airport. Near a large hotel we turned left on a footbridge and headed into a narrow meadow through which meandered the River Mole. At this point I was amazed to see a deer at quite close quarters (and was glad Poppy was on the lead at the time), as this strip of meadow was sandwiched between a road and the earth bank shielding the airport from view.  The deer disappeared off towards the airport – I hope it didn’t end up on the runway, although I suspect there are fences to prevent that sort of thing happening.

An unexpected view of a deer (photo very blurred)
The meadow path was very wet, and there were signs that the area had recently been flooded. I tried initially to walk a little away from the river on the edge of a bank, but my boots were rubbing my right ankle and the angle of my foot on the slope was making matters worse, so I ploughed on through the wet bit.  Poppy was not overly impressed!

Poppy watches the deer escape towards the airport

Squelchy path alongside the River Mole

We veered away from the river briefly to skirt round a couple of buildings.  Here I met a woman and her son and I exchanged a few words with the young boy who declared “cats aren’t allowed here” (there was a ‘lost cat’ notice on a post nearby, which may have been the source of this wisdom).  I checked with him that Poppy was not actually a cat, and therefore we should be OK (and he agreed), so on we went.
Brief diversion away from the river

Pops on a rotten (rather unnecessary) bridge

There was a little confusion as to the actual route here. The map shows the SBP crossing and re-crossing the river, but I don’t think this is actually the case.  I passed a River Mole information sign which described how the river was re-routed in 1999 to improve public access,  and a large bank built from the spoil to hide the airport from view - perhaps that was why the route looked different on the map. After turning away from the river for the last time and reaching the lane, I saw another path emerging from the woods to the same point, bearing a SBP sign.  Never mind, I had only been a hundred yards from the correct path.

River Mole information board

'New' River Mole - earth bank shielding the airport is clearly visible on left

After walking SE along Horley Road for about 50m, I turned west once more, and after helping Poppy over the only difficult stile of the day, reached a nice wide (and dry) enclosed track between fields, which continued for about 1km.
Heading west towards Charlwood  - Pops has caught a scent!

Grade II listed Providence Chapel - 1816

I nearly missed my left turn at a path crossroads as we had made quick progress along the track and the dry footing continued invitingly onwards.  My route was on a much muddier and potholed bridleway, where we had to slither round puddles.  Just before the path became metalled as it reached the outskirts of Charlwood, we passed an unusual wooden chapel surrounded by a small number of gravestones.  It had leant its name to the road it stood on as we followed Chapel Lane to its junction with The Street, where my car was parked outside The Rising Sun pub.
Charlwood village sign (I didn't notice I had photographed it from the back)
Well, the weather had been decidedly uninspiring, if dry.  As my guidebook had predicted, the walk wasn’t really that much better either.  However there had been one or two highlights and it was an interesting walk on the whole. My only regret is that the cloud cover was so thick and low that, despite fairly constant noise whilst approaching Gatwick from the east, I only caught a glimpse of two aeroplanes as I passed the airport – one taking off and one on the tarmac.

1 comment:

  1. Even the guidebook is disparaging about this section, but it looks like there is enough country walking to make it worthwhile, even if you didn't pick the best of conditions!