Posted 30 July 2013 by Andrew Gardner
Another weekend, another gorgeous Sussex walk. I've raved about the South Downs plenty of times, but one route I've neglected until now is the Downs Link. This recreational track - which means it's open to walkers, horse riders and cyclists and is marked by those little diamond shapes on the Ordnance Survey map - stretches about 37 miles from the South Downs Way near Steyning into the wilds of neighbouring Surrey ("there be dragons", in ancient map parlance).
The Downs Link basically follows a couple of disused railway lines that ran between Shoreham by Sea and Christ's Hospital and then onwards to Guildford via Baynards, which makes it fairly easy walking, and has become a green corridor connecting a variety of natural habitats. Starting from the southern end it crosses the River Adur flood plain, which cuts through the South Downs in a largely arable landscape. After this the beds of hard sandstone known as Horsham Slab start to feature, before it reaches the clay of the Low Weald as it heads for the Sussex/Surrey border. What this means is that you'll see many different types of vegetation along the route which in turn provides homes for wildlife, including some quite rare species.
What took us there, though, was a friend who's a railway buff wanting to visit the restored carriage at the former West Grinstead station. The carriage is now an information centre open on Sundays and run by friendly volunteers who can help you unearth a mine of information about the area and its history, as well as ways to enjoy the Downs Link route. There are plenty of connecting paths and it's easy to find a short route for an hour or two's walking that's accessible by car or public transport. I think this is a lovely one for all the family - it's not too arduous; mostly quite easy underfoot (though I admit to finding old railway tracks a bit hard for long distances); you can make short or long walks as you wish; there are tourist attractions along the way, such as Bramber Castle and Steyning Museum; it passes within hailing distance of nice country pubs while pretty Sussex villages like Henfield offer tempting tea-stops and other shops to nose around. Whether you stop for your evening meal in one of the country pubs or pick up some delicious local produce to cook back 'home' in your Sussex holiday cottage. I think you'll have a rewarding day out.