Feb 2020 – Peasmarsh, nr. Guildford, to Shoreham-by-Sea (Surrey/West Sussex)

Further to our report in December, West Sussex County Council is now well into its programme of improving the Downs Link long distance trail, which re-uses the former railway lines from Guildford to Christ’s Hospital, and from Christ’s Hospital to Shoreham. At the date of our correspondent’s visit, not everything was open officially, but the ‘Link’ (at least in places) has not looked so good for years, if ever. However, elsewhere, our correspondent described the trail as a ‘swamp’, and, north of the county boundary at Baynards, it was awful: here, the old railway was so wet right through to Cranleigh that he ‘gave up trying to dodge the water and ploughed straight through’. If local authorities want trails like this to justify their existence, they need to be easily useable, pleasant experiences with an all-weather surface. Clearly, West Sussex is doing something constructive south of Baynards, but Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council need chasing to ‘raise their game’ at the north end of the route. (Tim Grose)

Two scenes from the Downs Link, formerly the cross-country line from Guildford to Shoreham-by-Sea via Christ’s Hospital.
Left: The new surface which West Sussex County Council has been installing on its section of the trail, which extends from Shoreham to Baynards, on the boundary with Surrey. The prospect seen here, from Baystone Bridge (near Christ’s Hospital) towards Guildford, has probably not been so clear since the rails were lifted in 1965. Note the surface water in the middle distance, which reflects the sodden autumn and winter of 2019-20. February 2020. (Tim Grose)
Right: Apart from the new surface – a vast improvement on what went before – the other significant feature in this photograph is the pair of metal bridge parapets. These stand atop no ordinary railway bridge, but a girder bridge mounted on top of an arched brick bridge. This unusual arrangement, which carried the line over the River Arun, came about because the 19th century Railway Inspector found the gradient in Rudgwick station too steep, and ordered the railway company to reduce it. The only way to do that was to work backwards and raise up the approach embankment, which (unfortunately for the railway’s costs) included the then too low original brick-built river bridge. February 2020. (Tim Grose)