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I was saddened to read in this morning’s West Sussex County Times (19/04/2012) that the recent campaign to re-open the Old Coach Road at the end of Denne Road, Horsham, has failed.

I wrote a bit about this in an earlier article. It is a piece of road which I’ve used all my life and which has been used by the people of Horsham for centuries. From now on, alas, we are barred. And I’m very sad about it.

But I suppose there are two sides to every coin. The Denne Park property owners insist that the purpose of the gates is to deter teenagers with stolen trolleys full of alcohol from throwing drunken parties and dangerous barbecues in the area. Well, I walk around Denne Hill frequently and I hardly ever see anyone. But that’s not to say that such a problem doesn’t exist. When I was young, teenagers from around the ages of 16 to 18 were widely tolerated in pubs, provided that they behaved themselves. And in my day most people of that age were working full time. If they work like adults why shouldn’t they play like adults?

Nowadays things are different. If 16 – 17 year olds want to socialize over a drink they have to resort to the park, or Denne Hill. That raises problems of litter, fire safety and danger to livestock. Also in the property owners’ favour is the fact that the Old Coach Road has never been officially marked as a footpath – probably because no one ever saw the need.

I would further acknowledge that some effort has been made to make the bottom of Denne Road as attractive as possible. Presumably this was done as the expense of the landowners rather than the Council – I certainly hope so! It is also fair to point out that there is plenty of alternative access to Denne Hill – there are two official footpaths in the immediate vicinity of Denne Park Lodge.

And yet, when all’s said and done, a feeling of sadness remains. The contested gates will hardly be effective in deterring determined teenage drinkers precisely because there is so much alternative access. The only way to keep them out altogether would completely to ring-fence the area, and that would place the landlords on some very thin ice from a legal point of view. The landowners have gained their petty little victory and the real losers are those of us who used to walk along the route for pleasure.

Norman Raby was absolutely right to attempt to regain public access to the Old Coach Road, which residents of Horsham had always enjoyed. I supported his campaign. The failure of the campaign is bad news. The good news is that there are still so many footpaths around Horsham, Crawley and the rest of West Sussex which walkers can use in safety and without fear of harassment.

But these footpaths need to be used. As I wend my weekend way through the network of footpaths through West Sussex I may occasionally see the odd dog walker or cyclist. Apart from that, I have these wonderful routes all to myself. But I wish more people would use them, not only because I want to share the pleasure but also because the more they are used the more established they become. And the harder it then becomes for landowners to claim them as their own.

West Sussex footpaths are routes into some of the most beautiful parts of the entire planet! Use them. Enjoy!

Horsham Hypnotherapy: serving clients from Horsham, Crawley, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Guildford, Redhill and all parts of West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey. Contact us today.

2 Responses to “Save Our West Sussex Footpaths – Update.”

  1. Terry Brown Says:

    Well I’m sad the Battle to gain entry to Denne Hill by the road that has a gate across and signs to deter the public, I used the road all through my youth to access our play ground Denne Hill, all the children played up on the hill, we stayed all day long it was heaven to us children, we visited the Canadian soldiers whe were camped up there prior to Leaving for I believe Dieppe,,very brave soldiers, nothing has changed there.
    How can handicapped people in their mobility units gain access, how can people with other physical problems ever see the hills we played, walked, enjoyed as we used to be entitled to back in our youth, we must not be deterred by one defeat, I have admiration for the folk who tried to get access by this route for te rest of Horsham and other visitors, I sometimes take walk along the barbwired footpaths and dread to think about of I slipped and fell on the wire, the Hill, beloved as a sledge run way back is now a very sad looking slope, unkempt, very scarred, unatractive from years of neglect, really and truly we from way back did have the good old days, our memories of the glory of Denne Hill will fade with us and then the Horsham of now will be accepted as it is now, shame on you Horsham Council, for painting over our past with your lack of foresight.Terry.

  2. Neil Hall Says:

    Terry – many thanks for taking the trouble to comment on my article. As a born-and-bred Horsham man I’m very disappointed in the decision. And I had overlooked the fact that this will now make life very difficult for disabled people to gain access to Denne Hill.

    Yes – sometimes people abuse public places. Denne Hill is no exception. But I often walk over that area. I hardly see anyone – the odd dog walker or jogger perhaps, but hardly throngs of people. What we have here is an instance of people coming into this area and trampling upon the access rights of people like you and me who have lived here for years and whose families have been here for generations. This is a mean-spirited victory for Greed over Decency and Common Sense. Such, alas, is the way of the world today!

    Take care, and best wishes.

    Neil

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