Walk 22: Horsham-Billingshurst

Gosh, it was good to get my little blue GPS dot back! Lisette Petrie, who has completed the whole Trail, sent me some notes and suggestions about this walk so I used these as my guide today – as well as that wonderful blue dot! Even so, I got in a bit of a muddle at the beginning but didn’t go far awry.  Lisette’s directions took me through the market square and along the prettiest street in Horsham  which is crammed with beautiful ‘chocolate box’ houses, some dating back more than 600 years.  This street, Causeway, led me to the oldest existing building in Horsham, St Mary’s Church. Originally a Norman church stood here and remains of this church are still in evidence.  I didn’t go in but walked around its flagstone path to continue my walk.  Some of the flagstones were engraved with quotations from the bible – one read: “Where Your Treasure Is, There Your Heart Will Be Also” – Matthew 6:21.  This resonated with me.  I felt it was asking “what really matters to me?”.  This question is integral to the philosophy of hospice care which asks “what matters to you?” rather than “what is the matter with you?”.  Excellent meditation fodder…… From the rear of the church I crossed the River Arun by a footbridge, walked a short distance through a residential area and crossed the railway line to find myself on a footpath with views of open countryside.  It was grey and drizzly and I stopped in a corn field and studied a raindrop on a corn leaf, waiting to see if I could capture it as it fell….. I failed….. I photographed some pretty thistles…….. little  wonder my data usage is so high!  Pretty soon I passed under the A24 and was at Christ’s Hospital, one of the oldest boarding schools in England originally opened, as primarily a charitable institution, in London in 1552 with King Edward VI as its patron and founder. Its pupils are easily recognisable by their Tudor-style uniform – long dark blue belted coat with knee breeches, yellow socks and white neck bands – which has remained virtually unchanged for over 460 years. I was last here for one of Andrew Bernardi’s Shipley Arts Festival recitals in the Chapel.  Andrew, who lives in nearby Shipley, has been a great supporter of FSH, playing at many of our events on his priceless Stradivarius and auctioning private performances to raise funds for us.  His Bernardi Music Group performed a magnificent concert at Goodwood House in 2016 which raised £24,000 for FSH. As I walked along the school’s perimeter road I realised that I was crossing the driveway leading to the house of my friends Louise and Roy – so I called in for a pit stop.  It was so lovely to see them and catch up over a cup of coffee. Louise and I have run and walked many miles together on the South Downs over the years.  Via  another of Lisette’s brilliant deviations, Louise accompanied me as far as Itchingfield Church and I continued alone in the direction of Barnes Green which I know well  from its Half Marathon which I ran in several years ago.It has a figure-of-eight-course which goes through the grounds of Christ’s Hospital. At this point I figured that somewhere to the north of me was Warnham Park, a 215 acre deer park owned by Jonathan and Caroline Lucas.  Jonathan and Caroline have been very generous supporters of FSH, accommodating meetings and hosting a splendid reception for us in their lovely home. A short distance beyond Barnes Green I walked past The Queens Head pub and through Sumners Ponds Fishery and Campsite.  The campsite was quite busy – it brought to mind happy memories of childhood camping holidays – usually at Clacton in Essex. I can’t recall there being any grey drizzly days like this…….. maybe I erased those.    I continued through a lovely wood, past a field of alpacas and through a very equestrian zone – lots of stables and riders of all ages out and about.  On leaving this estate I crossed a stile next to an old fashioned, bright red post box.  A little further along I walked directly underneath an electricity pylon and took a dizzy-making photo gazing up through its centre. On crossing the A272 I came upon a life size wood carving of Florence Nightingale with her lamp, a shrine of thanks to the NHS and key workers.  Under a canopy nearby, its sculptor, chainsaw carver, Gil Parham, was busy working on a beautiful sea horse. I chatted with Gil and helper Richard Hobbs, a local woodsman and coppice worker. Whilst talking with them my eye caught sight of a Gruffalo – a beautifully carved one – and Gil told me that she carved giant size figures of all of the characters for one of the very early Gruffalo Trail parks.From here it was a short distance to the end of my walk at Billingshurst. This section of the trail was sponsored in 2016 by Mecmesin Ltd, a Sussex-based manufacturer of testing equipment, thanks to a generous donation by Carolyn Oakley.