Hilaire Belloc's Shipley

A walk around the village of a writer with a love for the Sussex countryside.




7 miles (11.3kms)

98ft (30m)

About the walk

It has been said that Hilaire Belloc is to Sussex what Wordsworth is to the Lake District. He was certainly passionate about the county, and this delightful walk suggests more than a hint of the great man’s spirit. Belloc was a poet, writer, historian and politician – and exploring the picturesque countryside surrounding his Shipley home, savouring the beauty of the landscape, you really feel that you are following in his illustrious footsteps.

He was born in France in 1870, to an English mother and a French father. After spending much of his childhood at Slindon near Arundel, Belloc served in the French artillery. He then attended Oxford University, where he was an outstanding Union debater, much interested in history, politics and journalism. He forged friendships with some of the leading figures of the day, but also made enemies, including Herbert Asquith, Lloyd George and H G Wells.

Belloc is best remembered as a writer of more than a hundred works. Many were inspired by his extensive travels, with some of them describing extraordinary feats of endurance. He crossed the United States of America on foot to propose to a Californian girl he had fallen in love with when he was 19 years old. In later life he walked through France, over the Alps and down to Rome in an effort to meet the Pope. He failed due to an administrative mix-up, but recorded the journey in a book, The Path to Rome. In 1902 he made another marathon journey (albeit short by his standards) walking from Robertsbridge in the east of Sussex to Harting in the west – a distance of some 90 miles (145.8km), and wrote The Four Men – a reference to himself and three fictional characters who accompany him. It is written with the passion of a man who fears that what he most loves in the world is endangered.

Belloc bought King’s Land in Shipley in 1906 and remained there until his death in 1953. The house was a shop when he bought it for the princely sum of £900. The walk crosses peaceful parkland to reach the village of West Grinstead (not to be confused with the much larger East Grinstead) and then crosses the River Adur to Dial Post. From here it’s a pleasant country walk back to Shipley, passing Belloc’s charming old windmill.

Walk directions

From the car park turn right and follow the road, Red Lane, round the left bend. After 100yds (91m) bear right through a defunct kissing gate and follow the right-hand boundary of the field. Look for a gate into Church Wood. Follow the path through the trees, ignoring the permissive footpath turns. Go through a gate and continue along the edge of the field to the road.

Cross over and follow a path through trees to a gate and enter parkland. Walk ahead across a field to reach a footpath fingerpost. Bear right and follow the drive towards Knepp Castle. On reaching a left turning, swing right and head across the pasture. On reaching a drive, turn right and pass New Lodge. Follow the drive as it runs alongside Knepp Millpond. The remains of the original Knepp Castle, designed by John Nash in 1809, can be seen across the fields.

Cross the A24 with extreme caution and locate a stile and gate just to the right of the bus stop. Walk ahead to a footbridge in the top right-hand corner of the field. The woodland path bears right and soon left by a stile and continues along the right-hand side of the field. At a hedge corner, with the roof of a house up ahead, go forward for about 75yds (68m) to a footpath sign and bear right. Follow the hedge to a gate leading into the churchyard, pass the church door and turn right at the footpath sign.

Make for a kissing gate situated in the corner of the churchyard and follow the paved path south. Cross the River Adur, bearing left to a gate and a concrete track which becomes a tarmac drive as it passes through the hamlet of Butcher’s Row. Follow it in a southwesterly direction, keeping right when you reach a junction with two tracks and a footpath. Bear left at the next junction and follow Rookcross Lane. Pass Rookcross Farm on your right, go through a gate and keep to the metalled drive for 0.5 miles (800m), passing Jasmine Cottage, before veering right at a private drive sign to Hobshorts.

Enter the next field and turn right, keeping to the field-edge. Keep to the boundary, pass some oak trees, cross a makeshift stile, and drop down beside woodland to cross a plank bridge. Keep to the left boundary of the next field to a ruined stile in the corner and recross the busy A24. Cross a stile and an electrified fence and follow the footpath over pasture to a junction. Turn left, passing through the electrified fence and a gate into a field. Pass a bungalow and turn right to cross a rickety stile. The path leads to the Crown Inn garden and car park.

Turn right on leaving the pub, walk through Dial Post and veer left into Swallows Lane. Once clear of the village, branch off to the left and follow the straight farm road to New Barn Farm, where the track kinks left and right. Ignore a footpath turn to the left, and another further on, and continue along the track to the road.

Turn left into Countryman’s Lane and pass a footpath that leads to the church. Continue to the next right-hand bridleway. Follow the path over two footbridges to Shipley Windmill, then continue to the main road and turn right for the car park.

Additional information

Field and woodland paths, country roads, several stiles

Undulating farmland and parkland

Off lead on drives and farm tracks; under control through Knepp Estate Deer Park and near A24

OS Explorer OL34 Crawley & Horsham

Small free car park at Shipley

None on route

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About the area

Discover West Sussex

Divided from East Sussex back in 1888, West Sussex is so typically English that to walk through its landscape will feel like a walk through the whole country. Within its boundaries lies a wide variety of landscape and coastal scenery, but it is the spacious and open South Downs with which the county is most closely associated.

In terms of walking, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Studying the map reveals a multitude of routes – many of them to be found within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park – and an assortment of scenic long-distance trails leading towards distant horizons; all of them offer a perfect way to get to the heart of ‘Sussex by the sea,’ as it has long been known. If you enjoy cycling with the salty tang of the sea for company, try the ride between Chichester and West Wittering. You can vary the return journey by taking the Itchenor ferry to Bosham. 

West Sussex is renowned for its many pretty towns, of course. Notably, there is Arundel, littered with period buildings and dominated by the castle, the family home of the Duke of Norfolk, that dates back nearly 1,000 years.

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