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Horsham Riverside Walk

Published on 4th July 2016

What is the Riverside Walk? 

The Riverside Walk is a 13-mile walk that forms a circle around Horsham town. As the name suggests, the route meanders alongside part the River Arun, and tributaries Boldings Brook and Chennells Brook.

By some good fortune, the walk takes in many of Horsham’s most historic landmarks and beautiful locations, including Leechpool Woods, the site of an old Motte and Bailey near Chennells Brook, St Mary’s Church, and the wildflower meadows of Chesworth Farm.

With so much going for it, you’d be forgiven for asking why more people don’t use it on a regular basis.

The simple answer is that it’s only in recent years that attentive efforts have been made to bring all parts of the route together, and to make more challenging parts of the walkway more accessible to everyone.

Many years ago, The Horsham Society erected signs for the route, but without the funding that the project needed, it was difficult to create a full trail. More often than not, those that attempted the 13-mile route were frustrated in their efforts.

People would go through Owlbeech or Leechpool woods, then come to a road, and have no idea where to go next.

Horsham Town Community Partnership (HTCP) has taken the next step, improving paths, adding signage and providing information on heritage.The Partnership has also broken the route down into six sections, providing drop off and pick up point suggestions for those looking for a shorter distance.

Jane Apostolou, of the Horsham Town Community Partnership, said: “Our aim is to keep the trail rural, and for the paths that don’t get muddy in the winter, we have mostly left alone. In those areas which do get boggy or flooded, we have laid down a limestone chipping surface or in some cases - particularly woodland sections - created a board-walk.” 

What will I see on the Walk?

The easiest way is to look at the map online, but here’s a brief description. Beginning at a logical spot where you can park a car, Warnham Nature Reserve, follow the route east (clockwise) along Warnham and Pondtail Road.

At the moment this isn’t a particularly scenic section, but it soon picks up Chennells Brook. After taking in another residential area, the path heads out into open fields, north of the A264 Crawley Rd. Many walkers enjoy a stop at New House Farm tea rooms, before heading in a southerly direction through a scenic route of woodland paths through Owlbeech and Leechpool and to Doomsday Bridge, via Ben’s Acre. 

The next section takes in the beautiful Chesworth Farm area, then picks up the river near St Mary’s at the bottom of The Causeway. From Tan Bridge, the trail continues west, following the river as it meanders around Hills Farm and heads north to Farthings Bridge, and finally back to Warnham.

Maggie Weir-Wilson of the Partnership said: “The oldest part of the trail is probably the Motte and Bailey, although there is not a great deal to see there. The walk does highlight the history of Horsham though, as it takes in the old Tanning and iron industry sites, and St Mary’s Church too.

“It’s a great way of seeing places that are relevant to the history of Horsham, as well as linking the green spaces such as Chesworth Farm and the woodlands, which is increasingly important.”

Can I take a shorter walk?

The Riverside Walk is -  slowly but surely - becoming more popular. Warnham Nature Reserve has reported seeing people parking up and heading off to join up with the walk, rather than the reserve!

There’s a Facebook page which is helping to attract new people and a website too, with a downloadable map and historical information, is coming soon. 

So where’s a good place to visit for a short walk?

David Jessop said: “If you’re with a family, perhaps visit the section taking in Leechpool and Owlbeech Woods, and head north. After coming out of the woods and crossing Forest Road, you reach some higher ground and on a nice day it offers lovely views across the fields.

“Then you can head down to New House Farm for a break.The section around Chesworth Farm is lovely too. We’ve consulted with the Friend’s of Chesworth throughout, as it’s an important part of the Riverside Walk, and they too are keen to promote the area for all the Community to enjoy.”

Who Created the Riverside Walk?

The project has been carried out by Horsham Town Community Partnership (HTCP) which since 2010 has worked in partnership with Horsham District Council.

It was created as some of the main market towns in the district – Steyning, Billingshurst, Pulborough etc – had community partnerships to work on local projects, but Horsham Town did not. 

The HTCP carried out research to find out what it was that local residents wanted to see done in the town, that perhaps could not be carried out by the District Council. As part of this, the Partnership held an exhibition at a vacant unit (now The Anchor Tap) in East Street to consult with people.

Having looked at all of the issues raised, the HTCP held its inaugural meeting at The Capitol, and soon had an action plan. 

Jane Apostolou said: “We “It had come to our attention that there was vaguely a riverside walk, and everyone seemed to think that it would be a good asset to the town. “The HTCP has worked on other projects, including managing the Youth Council group for Horsham District Council, and organising tours of Park House in North Street. However, we decided that The Horsham Riverside Walk would be our main project.

“Central to our original action plan was keeping green open spaces and how they can be used by the community, so we felt that this was a worthy project because it affects every part of the town and was supported by people of all ages.

“The first phase of the work was funded by a BIFFA Award of almost £40,000 and HDC provided 10% match funding. That in itself was a challenge as you have to meet a number of stipulations as to how the money is spent.” 

Can Everyone Access the Walk?

The Riverside Walk is still very much a work in progress. However, you should at least be able to follow the route, simply by following signs which look like this.

Initially, the trail was only signed posted in one direction, but now you can follow the 13-walk in both directions, by following the small but easy to spot signs.

Changes were made to the most potentially dangerous part of the walk, in North Horsham, where the trail crosses the A264. The walkway has been moved so that the crossover point is now at the level crossing on Wimlands Road. It’s a better solution, although hopefully an alternative that is safer still may be offered in the future. 

David Searle said: “As well as the signage, one of the first steps was to ensure that the footpaths were in a good condition. A few benches have been installed for people to sit and relax. Some of those are in a natural style, made of tree trunks with a flat wooden bench, to maintain a rural theme.

“We also wanted to provide pathways that could be used by everyone, and there are now large sections that are wheelchair accessible. The walk is now used by many people with disabilities, which we’re very proud of. One lady with the disabled teenage daughter, told us that she comes to Horsham for the Riverside Walk as there are so few rural walks suitable for her daughter.

“Our aim is to make more of the route wheelchair friendly, and we’d love to create a good surface between Warnham and Rookwood Golf Course, as that would mean a huge section from the reserve to Chesworth Farm would be accessible to people in wheelchairs.” 

What About North Horsham Housing?

 The next few years could bring about notable changes. It may be that part of the route along Pondtail Road is diverted, with a more scenic route behind Warnham Nature Reserve created instead. 

However, a fly in the ointment could prove to be the small matter of several new homes, a school and a business park being built over the next decade or so. Liberty Property Trust is behind plans for a major new development in North Horsham, north of the A264.

The HTCP has already met with Liberty to discuss the Riverside Walk, part of which will be affected by the new neighbourhood.

David Searle said: “Most residents in North Horsham are against the development, but we must recognise that if it is to be built, things like the Walk should be considered. To Liberty’s credit, they have grasped the concept of the Riverside Walk and seem keen to incorporate the route to enhance their development.” 

Can I take a Guided Riverside Walk?

A good chance to experience the Riverside Walk would be at the popular annual walk event on Saturday 16 July. A group heads off for a 13-mile walk from Horsham Rugby Club on Hammerpond Road, at 10am.

This annual walk is organised in association with Horsham District Council’s Guided Health Walks programme, and sponsored by the Horsham neighbourhood councils and North Horsham Parish Council.

Chatter Cheema, who heads the Health Walks, said: “We have about 60 walks every month through Health Walks, all led by trained leaders.

“The Health Walk leaders will also be involved in the annual Riverside Walk. Last year, 200 people took part and this year we are hoping for about 300. We have a minibus to can take people who don’t want to do all of the walk back to their car at the rugby club, and we will enjoy lunch in a marquee with folk music, so it’ll be a good day.”

There will be a photographic competition held, and participants are welcome to raise funds for The Alzheimer’s Society.

 To find out more, or for details about the Riverside Walk on 16 July, visit www.horshamtowncommunitypartnership.btck.co.uk