Three Parishes Trail
Two long walks through Shermanbury, Henfield and Woodmancote parishes, covering varied riverland, woods and countryside to the north of Henfield. The area once bordering the Weald forest is full of history and wildlife. The routes can be combined into one very long walk.
1. Henfield Museum
- Acting as a trove of local historic objects and hub for the long history of the village and its people, the origins of Henfield Museum lie in the 1930s with the collection of Lucie Bishop and her Aunt Alice Standen, Henfield's first female parish counsellor. Display cases and paintings were first shown in the old Assembly Rooms on the High Street, moving into the new village hall in 1974.
Walk up either the High Street or quieter Furner's Mead, recrossing the end of Furner's Lane, up Benson Road and continuing past new development to the Wantley Hill Estate, where you join the footpath across the fields and stream to Point 2. [1 mile].
- Woolfly Manor is recorded from the 11th century and likely refers to the wolves which still roamed the Wealden forest around the clearing at the time. In 1086 Domesday recorded of 'ovelei', held by Ralph de Buci, that 'there is nothing there but 10 acres of meadow'. Robert de Woluelie held it by 1296 and by the 1350s the manor farm had 120 acres of pasture. Woolfly Mead was a common meadow, likely home to lumbering oxen as well as lesser beasts. Enclosures chipped at the common from the 18th century and by 1845, it had been fully enclosed.
Follow the footpath and lane north to join the B2116 - Wheatsheaf Road. Turn left, follow the main road for 200 yards and then turn off right into the lane leading to Shiprods. Half a mile up the lane, go through a gate and across a field to join the public footpath. Turn right and join the Purple Route at Point 3. [1.5 miles]
- With fine Horsham slab roofs on house and barn, and a Queen Anne frontage, the oldest portion of the current Shiprods dates to at least the Tudor era. It was the centre of the foremost estate in the north of the parish. Note also the 18th century granary. The name may refer to a 'sheep clearing'. Names from early periods survive - Walter de la Seperode (1296), Matilda atte Shiprode (1378), and 'Sheep Rods' from the 1897 OS map.
The next section of the walk is on a footpath which runs alongside the south bank of the Adur on the Purple Route - past the river crossing at Point 18 - and rejoins the Red Route at Abbeylands Farm. [1.2 miles]. From Abbeylands, continue south on the right fork of the path, cross a stream and join another footpath to the south of Roma Farm. [600 yards]. Turn right and, after 350 yards, cross over the water to a footpath which runs south for 600 yards to join the B2116 Wheatsheaf Road. To reach Point 4, which is just off the marked route, turn right on the main road and continue for 250 yards.
4. Sussex Prairie Garden (just off the marked route)
- Sussex Prairie Garden has been drawing in garden enthusiasts nationally for over a decade. An RHS Partner Garden, it offers a verdant trip into the world of grasses and perennials on its 8 acre site, together with a teashop and nursery. Nearby Blacklands Copse, now hosting a campsite, is home to various ancient trees, with cuckoos sometimes visiting Blacklands Common.
Leave the Prairie Garden by the main gate and turn right to return to the Red Route, where a lane leads south behind the Garden outbuildings down to Morley Farm. Follow the path to the right of the farm and west until you reach Point 5. [0.9 miles].
5. Park Farm & WW2 Landing Strip
- Park Farm itself dates to around the late 17th century. Nearby during WW2, an emergency pre-D Day landing strip was constructed in May 1944. A simple affair with a level field, windsock and a little ground preparation of concrete or landing mesh where necessary, patrolling it was a primary task of the Home Guard. Strips of concrete from the time can still be seen when walking the lane today.
Skirt round to the right of the farmhouse to a point where the lane turns left and south. Continue to the left down the lane - look out for traffic - where, just prior to Point 6, you pass 17th century Little Bylsborough on the left, and medieval Bylsborough on the right - once home to Janet Aitken Kidd, Bright Young Thing and the daughter of newspaperman Lord Beaverbrook. The path joins Furners Lane at Point 6. [0.8 miles].
6. Furners Lane - ancient trade route
- You are crossing the ancient route of Furners Lane. Until early last century, it was open to carts through to Wineham and was recorded in 1469 as going to Hurstpierpoint via Blackstone. It may have originally connected, via Church Street, to West End Lane and a crossing over the river Adur. 'Furner' meant 'baker', from the Latin furnus, for oven or bakehouse.
Continue across Furners Lane past 'Holders' (named after the family who lived there in the 1800s) and follow the old hollow way down to Point 7. In winter and spring, the footpath on the adjacent field can be taken if the track is too muddy. [600 yards].
7. Bluebell woods (April)
- This old woodland was once used for harvesting oak timbers, seen in the roofs of places such as Westminster Hall and St. Alban's Abbey. The impressive heights on each side give some idea of the past use of this now quiet route. In its earliest days this track would have led directly towards the untamed Anderida forest to the north - 'thick and inaccessible' – in the words of Bede, who estimated it at 120 miles east to west and eighty to ninety north to south. Stop by the stream in woodland, listen to the sounds of nature playing out around you, and enjoy the mass of bluebells in April.
Coming out of the woods on a right-hand path, cross the field and join the footpath which runs north past Swain's Farm. A small deviation to the left leads down to the Henfield's historic cricket ground, but to continue on the route, turn right and follow the footpath round to the left and west. The path runs along the north side of the woodland and passes Point 8 in the woods. [0.7 miles]
8. Ruined Artist's Studio (Dogham Place)
- This small cottage was originally known as Dogham Place, and in the 19th century was actually divided into two dwellings which faced the then open common. It's final use was as a studio for husband and wife artists Malcolm Midwood Milne and Hilda Milne, who came to the village in 1926. Now long out of use, it provides a picturesque point of interest.
Continue along the footpath to where it joins Henfield Common North, with views of the open common.
9. Henfield Common
- The shared Common has been a constant in Henfield for all its recorded history, providing in earlier times a source of peat and until last century, grazing land open to local property holders. A list still exists detailing the exact activities Commoners could use the Common for. In more recent times it has offered a handy retreat to nature with remaining open land and 20th century woodland offering a varied ecosystem, seconds from the High Street. The Common is the source of Henfield's crest featuring golden orioles - in the late 19th century, William Borrer (the younger) reported seeing 14 of the rare birds 'sunning themselves on an old thorn-bush'. What kind of wildlife can you see today?
Continue along Henfield Common North, past Tudor cottages, for 170 yards, then turn right at No. 1 The Common on to a path leading to the Daisycroft. Turn left and follow Furners Mead round and north to the Henfield Museum and car park.
The Purple Route can start from two points. The shortest starting point is from a lay-bye just south of the Bull public house, or in the Bull car park if you intend to patronise the pub. Otherwise, you can start from the Henfield Hall/Museum car park - Point 1 - and walk the Red Route to where it joins the Purple Route at Point 3.
10. The Bull PH & WW2 gun emplacement
- The Bull public house, first recorded in 1771, probably originates with a family, rather than the animal. The current building dates from 1893 - the triangle of grass outside marked by a plaque is common land. Beside the car park, to the north, is a rediscovered gun emplacement, one of a pair built in WW2 to cover the then open view to Mockbridge. Both were designed to host a field gun or howitzer, although luckily never saw action. The other, still overgrown, lies diagonally across the river.
From the Bull, cross the main road and walk left to Point 11. [150 yards].
- Mock, possibly 'moke' - donkey - Bridge, probably succeeding a ford, was first recorded in 1296. The medieval bridge was destroyed by Parliamentarians in the Civil War, and a stone bridge to replace it was built by the local turnpike trust in 1794. This in turn was demolished and replaced by today's 1930s structure. A stone from the 1794 bridge is set into the wall midspan, with the tablet stone for the current one on the east side, visible from the river bank.
Return past the Bull - still on the east side of the road - for 200 yards, then turn off on to a footpath which runs north across the fields. Take the left-hand path to cross the river at Point 12. [0.5 miles].
12. River Adur & floodplain
- A sluice crosses the tidal River Adur. Its lush natural floodplain is a defining feature of the area - the level sometimes rising over Mockbridge. The name 'Adur' was coined by Tudor antiquary William Camden, who mistakenly associated the Roman fort of Portus Adurni with the river previously known by names such as the Bramber River or 'Weald-ditch'. Formerly navigable to Henfield with barges bringing coal up from Shoreham, the odd kayaker, occasional inquisitive seal or river bird can be spotted today downstream.
The footpath joins the bridleway which runs past Shermanbury Place and Shermanbury Church. Here, you can make a brief detour to Ewhurst Manor Gatehouse by crossing over the bridleway and following a narrow, winding path. [300 yards].
13. Ewhurst Manor gatehouse (off the marked route)
- Ewhurst is first recorded in 1073, and Roman coins were also found here. In the medieval era, the moated manor was home to the powerful Peverel family. Of the medieval house itself, only the solid chimney stack remains, but the monumental gatehouse with lodges, which bridges the moat, is a superb Grade I listed survivor from the 1300s.
Return to the main Shermanbury bridleway and turn left to Point 14. [250 yards].
14. St. Giles Church, Shermanbury & Shermanbury Place
- Grade II listed St. Giles has an idiosyncratic style and fine internal preservation. With a Saxon foundation and recorded in Domesday,the font dates from the 13th century. There are 18th century box pews bearing the names of local families. Although Domesday records a lost village (possibly related earthworks remain just to the north east of the lane), the church later stood inisolation for centuries until the lane was built from the Shermanbury road in the 19th century. Note the ancient oak adjacent to the church; many fine old trees can be seen from the bridleway.
- Shermanbury Place, remains of WW2 swimming pool & watermill site For centuries a water mill - recorded in Domesday - for milling grain stood here; a local mill was recorded until the 1880s. It became a sawmill before WW1 and then a store. The 1816 mill building was demolished in 1949. There are the remains of a concrete swimming pool constructed by Canadian soldiers during WW2. The manor of Shermanbury Place was noted in Domesday in 1086 and bordered the vast Anderida ('Andredweald') Forest north of Henfield. A large, Tudor, timber framed house, occupied by the prominent Comber family, was torn down and replaced by a smaller neoclassical structure, expanded in the early 19th century into the existing Grade II listed house and coachhouse on the other side of St. Giles church.
Continue along the Shermanbury bridleway, which joins up with Fryland Lane near Waterperry House. Turn right into Fryland Lane and continue to Point 15. [1 mile].
15. Shermanbury cemetery
- The parish cemetery, can be seen at right. Along with the non-conformist mortuary chapel, it was consecrated in 1888 and extended in 1919. In the spring, it is atmospherically carpeted with primroses. The pink painted old vicarage can be seen across the field, left.
Continue past the cemetery for 400 yards and then turn off to a footpath on the left by a house called Springlands Gate. The footpath winds past Springlands House and through fields until it joins the main Wineham Road. Turn left for Point 16. [1 mile].
16. Royal Oak PH
- Along Fryland Lane, turn left to the 17th century, Grade II listed Springlands Farm. A walk through the Wineham countryside takes you to the Royal Oak, one of many pubs named after Charles II's Civil War escapade up a tree. A Grade II listed building from the 17th or early 18th century, it was built on 'roadside waste', a map of 1787 showing it within the road boundaries. The traditional interior is full of character.
Leave the pub and turn right down the main Wineham Road to the junction with Fryland Lane. [0.5 miles].
- Wineham, known as Wyndham until the 1900s, is a scattered settlement with many historic farmsteads and houses. Note the timber framed house with the letter box in the wall – this was the former post office. Wineham was prominent in the medieval era, with the 13th century Hospital of SS. Edmund and Mary, founded by St. Richard of Chichester for sick and infirm clergy. Sites near or on Fryland (Friarsland) Farm or at the 'Hospital Field' behind the Royal Oak are possible locations.
From the Fryland Lane junction follow Wineham Lane south for 580 yards, past Wyndham Farm to Roma Farm. Turn right on to a footpath and continue for 0.6 miles, past Abbeylands to the river crossing at Point 18.
18. River Adur weir and crossing
- This weir with high and low flows, was designed to control the stream and maintain a higher water level on the upstream side. Up stream, the Adur was previously known as Wyndham Brook.
Continue along the footpath, following the river, to the junction with the Red Route at Point 3. [1 mile].
From here, continue along the Purple Route to Mockbridge and the Bull [0.6 miles], or take the left-hand path to return to the B2116 Wheatsheaf Road and the remainder of the Red Route to the Henfield Hall car park [2.5 miles].