District’s ‘little oasis in the middle of all the madness’

JPCT 160413 S13160541x Roger and Ann Walter, Mannings Heath, local store -photo  by Steve Cobb
JPCT 160413 S13160541x Roger and Ann Walter, Mannings Heath, local store -photo by Steve Cobb

Village profile on Mannings Heath and Nuthurst whose residents have held a close community spirit throughout the years.

It’s nestled just a few miles south-east from Horsham on the A281 in the civil parish of Nuthurst and boasts a village hall, an Anglican church dedicated to The Good Shepherd, The Dun Horse Inn, a hotel, cricket club and golf club.

JPCT 160413 S13160575x  Mannings Heath, cricket hut -photo  by Steve Cobb

JPCT 160413 S13160575x Mannings Heath, cricket hut -photo by Steve Cobb

But The Village Store, located in Pound Lane, appears to remain at the heart of the community and is an important outlet for local produce after being re-invented as a farm shop and delicatessen.

“I often joke that Mannings Heath is a little oasis in the middle of all the madness out there,” explained Ann Walter who has owned the shop with husband Richard for 15 years.

“It’s also like a cross between The Vicar of Dibley and Midsomer Murders.

“You have your committees, a vicar with a lovely sense of humour keeping the community together and a whole host of events throughout the year.”

JPCT 180213 Mannings Heath. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 180213 Mannings Heath. Photo by Derek Martin

Although the village underwent a period of expansion after 1945, development has been sympathetic to its original character with many 17th and 18th century buildings remaining.

Secretary of the Nuthurst Local History Society Tony Turner told of the village’s modest past.

He described Mannings Heath as a small village where the main occupation was working in the forest which supported the iron industry.

“A lot of the land here was of poor quality and heath land and there were six main landowners right through to the 1800s,” he continued.

“They were in control of most of the property and had the big estates and farms.

“The village also had its own school opposite the green, but was closed down after the war and children were relocated to Nuthurst.”

Superb Sussex countryside surrounds the area making it a perfect location for a cricket club and Mannings Heath Golf Club which alone relishes 500 acres of picturesque greenery.

“The village has been very slowly developed over the years , but the big issue now is the application to build 65 new houses in a quiet area off of Winterpit Lane opposite the stables,” continued historian Tony.

“It’s a bone of contention and being looked at with a lot of foreboding so no doubt will be a scene of protest once it kicks off.”

Another issue facing locals is the hope of raising £60,000 for the Mannings Heath Cricket Pavilion which has been centre stage on the village green since the mid 1960s after serving its duties as a Taylor’s Hut during the Second World War.

But by being a small village, residents benefit from having a close community and come together for events such as this.

Ali Harmer is the village’s Community Responder after moving to the area 10 years ago. She said: “I pretty much know everyone in the village by face and it’s a lovely place to live.

“The Horsham Rotary Club meet here and raised £1000 in a quiz and another local group HART (Henfield Area Response Team) raised money to have a defibrillator on the side of the church.

“And that’s just what the community here is like- they all jump in and support you.”

Mannings Heath also homes a few famous faces in including television and film actor Peter Vaughan with his actress wife Lilias Walker.

Allen Flint, born in 1911, lived in the village his whole life and wrote his memoirs ‘A Country Village and its People’ about the parish over his 95 years of life.

Inhabitants are also treated to the spectacular sight of a string of race horses that ride through the village.

The village shop owner Ann continued: “Mannings Heath is very dynamic and as a village store we have to keep changing with it and moving on with ideas.

“What’s nice about it here is people are there for you but they’re not in your pocket if you don’t want them to be.”

Horsham Community First Reponders are looking for responders in Mannings Heath. Visit www.horshamresponders.org for more.