Area 7, ‘The Village’, is at the heart of the patch. Sharing hard borders with the High Street to the east and Deer Park to the north, the area also extends westwards towards West End and southwards beyond Nep Town, leading us through the softer suburban fringes and into the countryside beyond. It’s a wonderfully-accessible area to observe and monitor how some species are managing to live alongside us in our urban and semi-rural environments and to re-fuel with a coffee and cake en route!
Starting at Batt’s Pond, the route crosses Lower Station Road and follows the footpath immediately opposite which leads down towards the base of Sandy Lane and open countryside. The large gardens and mature trees that back onto the open countryside here can attract some unusual garden visitors. The walk continues through Henfield’s largest area of woodland in Windmill Lane where it’s not unusual to hear Tawny Owls, then drops down to the beautiful stream by Dunstalls. The footpath alongside the stream heading east can be a little muddy in the winter months, to say the least, but there are several tracks back up the slope towards the village which give a choice of escape routes if needed. This can be a great place to observe some of our summer migrant visitors and every year I keep my fingers crossed that a nightingale will return.
Up the incline by Springhills and back in the village itself, the walk continues by weaving northwards through the streets and twittens, past Henfield’s open green spaces (notably the Tanyard Pond and Field, St Peter’s Church, Henfield Cemetery and Kings Field) and private gardens. It’s fascinating to watch the interaction of birds and humans and to appreciate the efforts we make in our own gardens to feed the birds and plant in a wildlife-friendly way, although it’s not always appropriate to stand and stare.
There’s nothing quite like standing and staring at the swifts ‘screaming’ their way up and down the HighStreet during the summer months, however! Debbie Colgate, our local ‘swift champion’ started running the The Henfield Swift Project in 2017 and you can keep up to date with how these amazing summer visitors are doing by following the project’s development on this website.
The walk finishes its circuit after briefly joining the Downslink near the Guide Hut, traversing the new Bishop Park development and wiggling along the lanes of the West End – Stonepit Lane, West End Lane, Lawyers Lane and finally, Hollands Lane. A final ‘gem of an area’ can be found at the start of the track down to Rye Farm. Over-wintering chiffchaffs and grey wagtails appear to enjoy feeding around the clear waters of the small pools just to the left of the track.
The total walk length is around 10km and can take between 4 and 5 hours if you keep stopping, which is always the temptation!