Henfield is a unique and beautiful village steeped in history, rich in age-old architecture and blessed with glorious countryside. Keen that everybody should be given the opportunity to experience the hidden highlights of Henfield for themselves, Henfield Parish Council in conjunction with Henfield Community Partnership and Henfield Museum is launching a series of trails which guides visitors along circular routes around the Parish, taking in areas of interest as they go.
A village centre trail is already in existence and available to view on the website hiddenhenfield.co.uk . This trail, which takes approximately 15 minutes at a moderate walking speed, using your mobile phone to read the content on the website or the QR codes on the finger posts, takes in quirky facts and hidden gems while rewarding walkers with beautiful scenery and architectural treasures.
Lots of residents may not know that Henfield is mentioned in the Domesday book, that evidence of early settlements date back to the Stone Age and that today Henfield has a strong arts and culture following.
In fact, there are many things about Henfield that surprise even the longest-standing Sussex resident: it houses the oldest existing Scout Troop in the world, for one, and the first Postmaster General lived in Henfield, inventing the first ever mail postmark there.
“Despite it being on their doorstep, there are many residents who are unaware of Henfield’s long and fascinating history,” explains Malcolm Eastwood of Henfield Parish Council, “Our trails aim to change that by making the discovery of the village’s hidden gems easily accessible for all.”
Two new trails have just been launched and can be accessed using the hiddenhenfield.co.uk website and more are planned for the future. Physical leaflets for these two trails are being printed and will be available shortly. Trail direction posts will also be installed with QR codes in the next few months.
The easiest and shortest of the two new trails is a self-guided walking tour titled ‘Henfield Village & Common’. Guiding walkers on either a one-hour (2.25 miles) or 40-minute long (1.5 miles) route, it explores a number of treasures the village has to offer. These include: The George Hotel, a 16th century former coaching inn; Henfield Cricket Club, which, referenced as far back as 1719 makes it one of the oldest in the world; and Lavender Cottage, the former home of suffragists, whose business growing violets connects with the flower becoming the emblem for women’s rights.
The second and slightly more challenging trail takes visitors on a three-hour walk exploring the origins of the village through river, road and railway. Explorers can take in old trading routes, and the River Adur and its wildlife, as well as historic buildings along the way. The trail even offers a wet weather route for soggier days when parts of it may be flooded!
The ‘River History and Rise of Henfield’ trail (to give it its official title), has 13 key points including: St Peter’s Church, originally built in 770; Nep Town, where the first Henfield residents settled; and Rye Farm, which dates back to the mediaeval period.
Walkers will see Mill End (where the Old Mill is said to have blown down with a “loud crash” in 1908), pass quaint 16th century cottages and find themselves on Sandy Lane, the site of a great deal of 20th century sand mining.
The trails unveil some remarkable facts about Henfield’s past and present. The story about the cat and the canary is particularly amusing and, without giving away any spoilers, it involved two passionate pet owners and a somewhat unfortunate conflict between them. All will be revealed on the walks!
Henfield might be known for its history, but the village is certainly moving with the times; green wayfarer markers in the village centre are dotted throughout the routes to help walkers navigate their way around and, when scanned with a mobile device, reveal further details of the village’s hidden gems.
Perhaps best of all, both trails end up on the High Street, where there are plenty of cosy coffee shops, pubs and eateries for the weary explorer to rest their legs, re-energise and enjoy local treats!
“Sometimes the most fascinating places are a stone’s throw from our homes and yet we never discover them,” says Malcolm. “By launching this series of trails for people of all walking abilities, it is our hope that more people will realise the beauty, charm and history that’s just around the corner. With international travel rather problematic at the moment, people are looking more locally for things to do and interesting places to explore. Henfield, with its blend of ancient and modern, offers the perfect escape and ideal opportunity to get out and about, enjoy wildlife, step back in time and learn something new. We also hope to attract more visitors and encourage support for our local businesses.”
Visit hiddenhenfield.co.uk for details of the trails and for further information about the village, its history and what visitors can discover in Henfield.