(OS Explorer Map 134)
My visit to the exhibition at Partridge Green a few weeks back made me think how lovely it would be to explore some of the footpaths in that area, and dry weather over the Easter weekend was a perfect opportunity to do so.
We drove over to West Grinstead and parked at what used to be West Grinstead station, just off the A272. The platform and station sign are still there, the line having now become the Downs Link walking and cycle path which eventually ends at Shoreham.
We walked north on that path for a little way, before bearing off to the left through some beautiful bluebell woods en route to Newhouse Farm. From there we headed south, crossing the A272, and walking straight through Park Farm. This is now the setting for a number of exclusive-looking houses, but somewhere amongst them must be the house where my great great grandparents, Thomas and Eliza Philpott, lived. At this point I was particularly excited – Granny’s other Grandfather, Thomas Mitchell, was a woodman on the West Grinstead estate, and as we passed lots of coppiced woods I could imagine that perhaps he had once worked in those woods – they were beautiful, with bluebells, primroses and orchids.
We joined Green Lane and continued to cross West Grinstead Park. The house itself is long gone, but my ancestors would have been very familiar with the terrain. A couple of women were tending to some sheep in a pen. On enquiry I learned that they were South Downs Sheep – a most attractive breed, with their lovely, woolly round faces.
The Park Stews which we crossed presumably once supplied fish for the big house.
As we headed towards the B2135 we had a lovely view of the Steyning Road Lodges, where my Granny had lived.
Crossing the road, the path rose to a crest, from where Chanctonbury Ring was clearly visible. I had never realised that before. West Grinstead church then came in sight, and we entered the churchyard through a rear gate.
Within a few moments I was able to locate the grave of my great grandparents, William and Mary Mitchell, due to its strange shape.
The Church being open was an added bonus, (Easter flower arranging being in progress), so we took the opportunity to look inside. I had forgotten that the pews had the names of the properties on them, presumably where families paid to have that particular seat.
Crossing back over the B2135 the path then cut across the corner of West Grinstead Park, past another copse with beautiful bluebells, and came out onto Park Lane. Thomas Mitchell might have walked that path on his way to Church. The footpath the other side heading due East rose to rejoin the Downs Link path, where we turned north to arrive back at the station car park.
We had planned to have lunch at the Green Man at Jolesfield (my Granny’s father’s cousin George Mitchell had been the licensee there at one time), but despite advertising ‘bar meals’ outside, the choice of food seemed to be rather ‘gastro’ and with no staff in evidence to serve us anyway, we abandoned that idea and went down to the Partridge at Partridge Green where we enjoyed a very nice bar meal.
It was a very pleasant walk and the opportunity to walk the paths trodden by my ancestors, appreciating the landscape they knew, was very special.