|Early Morning Light|
After another lengthy absence I am keen to resume my journey along the Sussex Border Path, especially as underfoot conditions have dried out and I have moved past that difficult section through Gatwick. I had a window of opportunity to do just that over Easter and so after a hiatus of six months I found myself back in the village of Copthorne to resume where I had left off back in July last year.
I didn’t find the village too easy to park in surprisingly but eventually found a spot just off the path. It was a warm spring day but with many clouds in the sky that would affect the mood of the weather on a constant basis depending on whether the sun was in or out. When the sun was in the chill of the air was still very apparent while it was rather too warm when the sun was out. I was thankful that the first part of my walk was in the shade of the trees that dominated the patch of countryside between Crawley and East Grinstead.
After crossing the gruesomely busy A264 I soon left the roar of the traffic behind and walked down a fairly substantial track through the woods. Birdsong dominated the air now although every so often it was drowned out by the roar of another jet landing at nearby Gatwick Airport. Eventually the track ran out as it reached its destination of a little hideaway in the woods. My path continued onwards past a large farm complete with some very attractive looking houses as part of the estate. I imagine that prices are tempered slightly by the sound of jets passing overhead on a regular basis. I wonder if you ever get used to that sound?
After passing some more open countryside I soon plunged back into woodlands that seemed to be quite popular with runners. I on the other hand was more concerned with the profusion of wild flowers that carpeted the woodland floor. I had arrived at that happy time when bluebells and wood anemones were both out in full flush. Clearly we have had a much warmer time of it this year compared to last as it was May before we saw any proper bluebells back then.
I soon came to the rear of Rowfant House, a place that was once important enough to have its own railway station although the line is now long since defunct (see my entry on the Worth Way from a few years ago). The house itself is now a very well appointed country house hotel. As I wandered through the grounds the staff were gearing up for what looked like it would be a very busy Easter weekend and beer festival. Sadly it was all a bit early for me on this breakfast time walk on Good Friday!
|Worth Way Primroses|
At Wallage Lane I then faced a short unpleasant stretch of road walking. Thankfully due to the early start there was little traffic but nonetheless I was very pleased to escape back into the countryside and within a few yards of the main road I found myself on the Worth Way and a stretch of the old railway that the Sussex Border Path shares. Last time I came along here it was a summer evening and I was on my bike. This time I have to say that my experience was rather nicer than then as the trees were just budding and the banks were festooned with primroses, greater stitchwort, bluebells and campion, all contributing to a colourful scene. There did seem to be large numbers of great tits, blackbirds, chaffinches and robins along here too – must be a good habitat for small birds.
|Crawley Down Bridge|
Along the course of the old railway line the walking was easy going and I covered the next mile or so very quickly until the railway track gave way to the slab of suburbia plonked in the middle of the countryside called Crawley Down. When the railway ran this way there was a small station here called Grange Road but that disappeared under the housing estate now known as Old Station Close. It seems ironic that the existence of this place could have saved the railway if it had been built a few years previously. With some of the railway land used to build it though any chance of the line being reopened has surely been lost forever.
|Crawley Down Cherry|
The path left the railway line here and continued out of the village along a leafy residential lane that eventually gave way to a track. I passed by a very strange looking yard that was all shut up but where there was a fleet of derelict looking trucks behind a very large fence. If the owner had gone bankrupt it seemed amazing that the vehicles were just left behind to rot. The track continued past a number of houses set in large gardens before finally heading out into open fields. For the next couple of miles the walk was through open ground that wasn’t terribly exciting but was most pleasant, with views across to the High Weald to the south.
|High Weald Views|
Eventually the track doubled back to the Worth Way, where it would continue into East Grinstead. For me though I had reached the end of my stint on the official path today and continued straight on for my route back to Copthorne. After a couple of miles of not seeing anyone it appeared that I re-entered dog walking country for the next stretch to the edge of Felbridge seemed to be really well walked by those with canine friends. I passed by the historic house of Gullege and the adjacent farm before wandering along the most delightful tree lined track that I took to be the original entrance drive.
At the end of the track I turned left and had another lengthy stretch of road walking, which was fairly unpleasant as there was no pavement for much of its length. The road was mostly residential although a huge building site was starting to develop on my left as the once extensive Felbridge nursery had succumbed to progress and was now being developed as a housing estate. A look at Google Street View on my return home showed me that it hadn’t been that long since the whole site was covered with greenhouses.
At the sharp corner of the road I was pleased to see that my path continued straight on and across a field. As I crossed the stile I got a strong whiff of garlic and realised that I had trodden on a Ramsons flower, sometimes known as wild garlic. If anything it reminded me how long it had been since I had had breakfast!
Once across the field I entered the slightly strange world of Furnace Wood. This was a large private estate with sounds of lawnmowers filling the air as gardeners took advantage of the Good Friday warmth and mowed their extensive lawns. I wandered through the estate feeling slightly out of place and was pleased when the path dropped down away from the estate and past the quite large Furnace Pond, undoubtedly another example of a hammer pond from when this area was alive with an iron ore industry some 200+ years ago. The pond itself was well protected from interlopers as it now belongs to a private fishing club that obviously are keen to protect their estate.
My path then continued through a number of fragments of woodland, all carpeted with the lilac blue colour of bluebells before eventually reaching the A264 once again. A short section of road walking again followed before I was able to complete the last leg of my journey back to the car along Green Lane.
|Effingham Park Chapel|
As walks go this was far more rural than the map suggested and although extremely pleasant on account of all the woodland flowers, it will not live particularly long in the memory. I think there are better sections ahead of me and certainly behind me on this walk.