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Hilaire Belloc's Shipley

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

Distance 7 miles (11.3km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field and woodland paths, country roads, 9 stiles

Landscape Undulating farmland and parkland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorers 121 Arundel & Pulborough, 134 Crawley & Horsham

Start/finish TQ 144218 (on Explorer 134)

Dog friendliness Off lead on drives and farm tracks. Under control near A24

Parking Small free car park at Shipley

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the car park turn right and follow the road round the left bend. After 100yds (91m) bear right through a kissing gate and follow the right-hand boundary of the field. Look for a gate into Church Wood. Follow the path through the trees to a stile and continue ahead, skirting the field. Exit to the road.

2 Cross over and follow a woodland path to a field. Walk ahead to reach a footpath finger post. Bear right and follow the drive towards Knepp Castle. On reaching a left turning, swing right and head across the pasture. Make for a white gate, turn right and pass New Lodge. Follow the drive as it runs alongside Kneppmill Pond. The remains of the original Knepp Castle can be seen across the fields.

3 Cross the A24 and look for a footpath sign and gate. Walk ahead to a stile in the right corner of the field. Join a woodland path and bear sharp right at the waymark. Make for a stile at the corner of the wood and skirt the field by keeping to its right edge. On reaching the hedge corner, go straight across the field 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.

4 Make for a kissing gate in the corner of the churchyard and follow the paved path south. Cross the River Adur, bend left to a concrete track and continue in a southerly direction. The track becomes a tarmac drive as it passes through the hamlet of Butcher's Row. Follow it south west, 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 before veering right at a private drive sign.

5 Follow the left edge of the field to a stile in the first corner. Cross it and turn right, keeping to the field edge. Keep to the boundary until you reach a stile by some oak trees. Cross it and keep to the left boundary of the next field. Make for the stile in the corner and recross the busy A24. Head for a stile and footpath sign and cross the pasture to a gateway in its left corner. Pass into the adjacent field to a bungalow and then bear immediately right. Cross over two stiles to reach the Crown car park.

6 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. Beyond the outbuildings, continue to the road.

7 Turn left into Countryman's Lane and pass a footpath to the church. Continue to the next right-hand bridleway. Follow the sheltered path to the windmill, continue to the road and turn right for the car park.

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 distinguished man of letters - a poet, writer, historian and politician in his time - 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 and made, too, some notable enemies including Herbert Asquith, Lloyd George and HG Wells.

Belloc is best remembered as a writer of more than 100 works. Many were inspired by his extensive travels - some of them describing extraordinary feats of endurance. He crossed the United States of America on foot to propose to a Californian girl that 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 walking from Robertsbridge in the east of Sussex to Harting in the west - a distance of some 90 miles (145.8km), and wrote the classic tale, The Four Men - a reference to himself and three fictional characters who accompany him on the journey. It is written with the passion of a man who fears that what he most loves in the world may soon fade and die.

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 and he paid for it 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 reach another settlement, Dial Post. From here it's a pleasant country walk back to Shipley, passing Belloc's charming old windmill, which he purchased in 1906, along the way.

Where to eat and drink

The Crown at Dial Post offers traditional pub grub, including a range of sandwiches and jacket potatoes. When Shipley Windmill is open, Shipley village hall serves afternoon tea and cakes.

What to look for

The walk passes close to Knepp Castle, a castellated sham. Designed by John Nash in 1809, it was was rebuilt after a fire at the beginning of the 20th century. Look to your right as you approach the A24 and you can just see the remains of the original castle. This was founded by William de Braose after the Norman Conquest and later enlarged.

While you're there

Visit Shipley Windmill, the largest in Sussex, built in 1879 and acquired by Hilaire Belloc in 1906. He called the mill 'Mrs Shipley' and used to raise his hat to it. Following Belloc's death, an appeal was launched to restore it and, since 1991, it has been in full working order.

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