Henfield Village & Common Trail

Did you know that Henfield is a village that grew on a sandstone ridge ? Explore the ridge, the views and some stories of our historic buildings on this 60 minute trail.

Start and finish point: Coopers Way Car Park BN5 9FE

Did you know that Henfield is a village that grew on a sandstone ridge ? Explore the ridge, the views and some stories of our historic buildings on this 60 minute trail.

From the Coopers Way car park, walk through an alley called Caudle Street to the High Street and turn left to pass the George Hotel

  1. George Hotel & Greenfield House
    • The George Hotel dates from Tudor times (1530s) and was first recorded as an inn in 1729. Later it became a coaching inn on what was a main route from London to Brighton. Doors at the side of the hotel car park show the former stabling area. Turn round and note the Tudor herringbone brickwork and wobbly chimney of Greenfield House behind its Georgian façade.

Continue south down the High Street to a green wayfarer post signed "Henfield Common" and go down the alleyway to the north-west corner of the Common.

  1. Lavender, Providence & Stipenhoke cottages
    • Continue along Henfield Common North. On the left are Lavender and Providence cottages, former home and workroom of Ada Brown and Decima Allen who ran the Violet Nurseries in the early 1900s, when Henfield supplied the flower markets of London. The owners were suffragists and the violet flower was adopted as the Sufragettes' emblem. The next cottages on the left, Stipenhoke, were the workers' cottages.

Go straight on to take the longer trail (a) through the woods and around the border of the common. Otherwise, trail (b), turn right and walk across the Common causeway to the main road (A281), cross the road and walk up an unmade road to Point 7 - The Mill House.

  1. Reed Bed & woodland (a & b)
    • This is a lowland reed bed, a rare habitat, especially on common land. The margins on either side of the causeway (b) are important for flowers such as the Southern Marsh Orchid seen in June. The woodland (a) dates to the late 1800s and is notable for its oak trees.
  1. Henfield Common, Heritage Millenium Plaque (b)
    • The Common is "common land", governed by ancient law which allows commoners rights to dig peat, take turf and wood, shoot game and graze animals. A village fair has taken place here since at least 1647, and continues bi-annually. The Millenium Plaque, sitting where the causeway meets the main road, celebrates Henfield Common and Cricket Club.
  1. Henfield Cricket Club, Memorial Field & Stone (a)
    • Cricket has been played here since 1720 and Henfield Cricket Club, formed in 1771, is one of the oldest in the world. The football pitches were created by villagers draining a marshy area and were completed in September 1950 as a memorial, marked by a stone on the edge of the woods, to commemorate villagers who lost their lives in WW2.

From the Cricket Club, skirt the pitch and woodland and follow the footpath along the edge of the Common for roughly 400m and cross the main road via a gap in the grass bank to Crabtree Cottage. Take the track up the right-hand side of Crabtree to the Lydds.

  1. The Lydds & downland views (a)
    • Pass by the former school allotments, once tended by boys to produce vegetables for the school kitchens; these are the last true market gardens once common in the village. At the top of the track, turn right and enjoy the views of the South Downs from the Lydds. Here we can see, from east to west, Wolstonbury Hill, Devil's Dyke, Truleigh Hill (aerial masts) and Chanctonbury Ring. The original Anglo-Saxon village name Hamfeld means "hamlet on high open land", illustrated at this location. Continue west along this sandy ridge well drained for growing crops until you reach the back of Mill House. Note the grape vines.
  1. The Mill House (a & b)
    • A windmill was erected here in 1820, in what is now the garden of Mill House, which also housed a steam mill. The windmill was destroyed by gales and fire in the 1950s.

From the path up from the main road, turn right; from the Lydds, continue straight on. Now descend the footpath from Mill House to Barrow Hill (A2037) and the Borrer Bank.

  1. Borrer Bank, King James Lane (a & b)
    • William Borrer, a famous Victorian botanist, lived in Henfield from 1811 to 1862. He amassed a collection of over 6,000 plants and trees, and at the Borrer Bank we can see what was part of his garden. The remainder of his estate is now housing. His plants were donated to Kew Gardens on his death.

Cross the A2037 carefully here and pass through the grounds of Springhills Care Home to a large track called King James Lane, which has more views of the South Downs and catch a view of Broadmere Common. Springhills is a significant name because the soil here is clay, and when water runs down from the sandy ridge, it collects here, forming natural springs of clean water, an attraction for early settlers.

At the end of King James Lane, turn right by the corner of the white South View Terrace 19th century workers' cottages into Weavers Lane. Cross Nep Town Road and take the lane signposted Blackgate Lane. Ignore the Victorian houses on the right of the lane and continue along the footpath to the Tanyard.

  1. Potwell, the Tanyard (a & b)
    • Potwell was the site of Henfield Grammar School between c1700 and 1800, and was the birthplace of William Borrer (marked with a blue plaque). Borrer conducted a unique study of lichens which, to this day and thanks to his work, are used to measure air quality. A tanyard, turning cattle hides into leather, was situated here through Tudor times until 1844. All that remains is the field, the former drying shed and the pond which was used to soak the hides in urine and dung as part of the smelly tanning process.

From the Tanyard, take the footpath to the left of the pond up to the bottom of Church Lane.

  1. St Peters Church (a & b)
    • In 770, King Osmund of the South Saxons gave this land to the Lord of the Manor, Earl Warbald to build a church dedicated to St. Peter. A stone structure replaced the wooden church in 1250 and was enlarged in the 14th century, with an 8-bell tower added in 1450. The flint exterior was added in 1871 as part of a major renovation, with stained glass windows by Charles Kempe, a celebrated Sussex artist and friend of the vicar. The chancel contains two engraved glass windows by Sir Laurence Whistler, brother of war artist Rex.

Walk through the churchyard and down Church Terrace to where the Terrace meets Church Walk by the Cat House.

  1. The Cat House, St. Peter's Cottage and the Reeve House (a & b)
    • Built in 1550, the Cat House is one of only Grade II listed thatched cottages in the village. In the 19th century it was owned a local eccentric called Bob Ward, who decorated the house with metal cats. The legend is that these decorations were revenge for the death of his canary, killed by a pet cat belonging to Canon Nathaniel Woodard, founder of Woodard Schools. Note the birds in the cats' paws on the plaques. Ward teased the Canon by jingling bells controlled by a cord through the zulu hole as he passed on his way to church. Neighbouring St. Peter's Cottage is one of the oldest buildings in the village, dating from c1400. Turn right by the Cat House to the end of Church Walk to see the 17th century Reeve House and Jacobean brickwork. The Reeve was the bailiff of Stretham Manor, which ruled Henfield.

From the Cat House walk to Pinchnose Green, by the main road (Church Street).

  1. Pinchnose Green, Martyn Lodge (a & b)
    • Pinchnose Green, a small triangle of grass is named after the stink that came from the nearby tanneries. There was a second, smaller tannery, next to the green, tanning pigs' hides which were turned into gloves in nearby Tannery Cottage. Turn right along Church Street, noting the large white house - Martyn Lodge - with a Georgian façade, once the home of Canon Woodard (1862-1891) - marked with a blue plaque. In WW2, the Canadian Army requisitioned the house.

Continue along Church Street to the junction with the High Street (A281).

  1. St. Anthony's Cottage, White Hart, Plough
    • Across the High Street you will see the connected houses of 2 Red Barn and St. Anthony's Cottage; St. Anthony's is the right-hand house. It is one of the oldest of the 5 "hall houses" in the High Street, dating from 1390. A hall house would have had an open fire in the middle of its main hall. Note the crooked chimney, held in place by an iron bracket. This design prevented water dampening fires before modern flues were invented. Next to the cottage stands the White Hart Inn, dating from 1600. Its L-shaped car park was a sheep and cattle market until the 1920s. Turn right along the High Street; the Plough Inn is on the same side as the White Hart, and was a posting inn dating from 1636, used by Packmen, peddlers and fish sellers. Most of the shop buildings in the High Street date from between 1790 to 1840.

Turn left at Coopers Way to return to the Hall car park or end your visit in one of our pubs or coffee houses.

Facilities & Amenities:

  1. Public Toilets in High Street
  2. Tourist Information Centre in Village Care

Further resources

  1. Henfield Museum, Henfield Hall next to Coopers Way car park
  2. Henfield Library BN5 9HN

Safety Criteria: Take care crossing the A281 and A2037

Health & Safety & accessibility information:

  1. Suitable for families with good to moderate mobility, pushchairs in dry weather conditions but the surface is rough going in parts.
  2. Mobility carriage friendly in dry weather apart from climb to the Lydds.
  3. There are no stiles to climb on this route but the climb to the Lydds is quite steep.

Suitability: Suitable for families and individuals

Type of walk:

  • Short route: 40 minutes. A mixture of tarmac and crushed stone. Length 2.3km/1.5miles.
  • Long route: 60 minutes. A mixture of tarmac, crushed stone and grass. Length 3.6km/2.25 miles.

Dog friendly, but always under control and on a lead near roads.