Around 200 ramblers were treated to glorious sunshine as they celebrated the completion of the first phase of work to Horsham’s Riverside Walk at the weekend.
Led by trained volunteer leaders and following newly installed directional signs participants set off on the tour of the 13-mile circular route around the town from Horsham Rugby Club early on Saturday morning.
The route follows several watercourses, including the River Arun, around the town, and Horsham Town Community Partnership (HTCP) has worked hard over the last few years on the major improvement project.
The Riverside Walk Enhancement Project is aiming to improve the paths, and provide better signage, information, and benches.
The first phase of improvements were delivered with the help of Horsham District Council and thanks to a grant by Biffa.
Jane Apostolou, chair of the HTCP, praised individuals and organisations who contributed to the success of the celebratory event.
She said: “Our helpers are too numerous to name here but I must mention Jill Shuker, Mike Powell, and David Searle who worked many hours towards this day.
“We are all happy that the Celebration Walk has been a success and I want to give a big thank you to everyone who took part to make it such an excellent event helping to publicise the improved facility of Horsham Riverside Walk which is there for everyone to enjoy.”
The first stop was Chesworth Farm, with walkers then following the River Arun to Hills Farm Lane.
Walking along the course of Boldings Brook, Warnham Nature Reserve was reached and more refreshments enjoyed at the Harvest Mouse café, before walking close to Chennells Brook and stopping for lunch at The Holbrook Club.
It was very warm at this stage in the afternoon and after carefully crossing the busy A264 dual-carriageway, drinks were welcome at Newhouse Farm café before starting the final push. This mostly followed the Horn Brook, through the cool woods leading back to the Rugby Club car park.
Three people in wheelchairs were welcomed on the walk and two of them, in all-terrain models, covered a slightly amended route and reported that they had enjoyed their day out with no major problems.
David Moore, of Friends of Chesworth Farm, added: “The first pit stop on the Celebration Riverside Walk was at Chesworth Farm. It was rather like the start of a Grand Prix event. Who would get into the lead in the early stages to snaffle a welcome drink and who would grab pole position in the queue for the toilets?
“Ready in the pit lane were around a dozen volunteer Friends of Chesworth Farm, ready to supply hot and cold drinks to the walkers in under half an hour.
“They were Veronica & Jim Ashworth, Philip Ayerst, Jenny Cain, Loes Coen, Pat Dancy, Kathy Gray, Gordon Holmes, Erik Shopland, Joyce Sloan, Stella Schofield, Laura Thomas and David Tombling.
“It was also nice that Evan Giles, parks services manager at HDC, was there to welcome the walkers and then give them a rousing send-off as they embarked on the next stage of the walk.
“We mustn’t forget Steve, the HDC park ranger, who made sure that the toilets in the Parks’ depot were available for the walkers to use. Life would have been very difficult without this extra facility.
“It’s so good that we have Chesworth Farm available as a wonderful public green space, which people can use at any time. It’s also fantastic when volunteers are prepared to commit their time in order to ensure that it plays a welcome part in events of this nature.”
Meanwhile Horsham District Council has started a project to create a new wetland habitat at Chesworth Farm, supported by the Friends of Chesworth Farm and guided by Sussex Wildlife Trust.
The work is being funded by developer contributions and the grant aid from the Arun and Rother Connections Project (ARC).
Information has been on display at the Farm for several weeks explaining how the Riverside Fields will be transformed in order to attract a wider range of species, many of which have been declining in numbers both locally and nationally.
For more information visit www.friendsofchesworthfarm.com
See pages 24&42.