Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land (in Shipley, Sussex), 5 acres and a working windmill for £1000 in 1907 and it was his home for the rest of his life. Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her: he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her. "He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreath Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains."

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Friday 31 May 2013

The Walk as it happened...

Are we lost in this vast expanse?
Those of us who participated in the Belloc walk in, and around, Gumber Corner earlier in the month had a wonderful time. We met at The George Inn in Eartham and proceeded to Slindon where Belloc was born. Slindon House was, at one stage, owned by a recusant Catholic Family (the Kempes who later married into the Radcliffe Family - the Earls of Newburgh) and Mass was celebrated here from the 13th Century through to early 20th. It stands in an extensive park. There was a house of the Archbishops of Canterbury here in the 13th Century. It was an occasional residence of Stephen Langton, who died here in 1228, and Archbishop John Pecham spent much time here as well (holding ordinations in the chapel in 1288 and 1291). Archbishop Chicheley confirmed the election of Thomas Ludlowe as Abbot of Battle in 1421 in the chapel. In 1539 Cranmer exchanged it with Henry VIII for another property and from 1555 to 1597 it was held by Anthony Kempe (the house being rebuilt either by him or his son Sir Garret Kempe).

Slindon House
One of the Earl's left a bequest for the construction of a Catholic church in the village. The bequest was implemented by the Leslie Family who inherited the estate. Belloc's mother is buried in the churchyard. Although, regrettably, we couldn't locate the grave. 

Slindon Catholic church dedicated to Saint Richard of Chichester
As we meandered through the village we popped into the formerly Catholic parish church which contains quite an interesting wooden effigy. The precocious young Belloc wrote a poem about it at the tender age of nine: 'The Nameless Knight'.

The 'Nameless Knight' who has a name: Anthony St. Leger
On the way out of the village we will pass Courthill Farm where Belloc briefly lived. At Gumber Farm we had our picnic. There is a blue plaque, commemorating Belloc, at the Farm (it was erected by West Sussex Council on the 50th anniversary of his death).Gumber was Belloc's favourite place to walk and he mentions it in Sonnets and Verse (1923):

Lift up your hearts in Gumber, laugh the Weald
And you most ancient Valley of Arun sing.
Here am I homeward from my wandering,
Here am I homeward and my heart is healed.
If I was thirsty, I have heard a spring.
If I was dusty, I have found a field.

The art of posing is still alive and well!
After the Gumber picnic the walk  resumed down the old Roman Road of Stane Street. In the evening,we sang some folk music in The George (a splendid establishment which has only ever served British beer!).

If you would like to attend future events could you please email me at:

The next event will be at Belloc's old parish church in West Grinstead (20th of July). This will be a High Mass, for the repose of his soul, followed by an absolution at the grave and French military trumpet piece (to commemorate his time in the French Army). Then we will picnic, listen to a small talk and some poetry. In the evening there will be folk music at a local pub. All in all, it will be a great day out.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

The Walk - this Saturday: 'Lift up your hearts in Gumber...'

The much anticipated Belloc Walk will be commencing this coming Saturday at 11.00 AM. We will be meeting at the George Inn, in Eartham (there will be a brief tour of the village). From there we will be walking to Gumber Corner via Slindon. If we have time we will pop into the parish church, in Slindon, to view the wooden effigy Belloc wrote a poem about when he was a little nipper: 'The Nameless Knight' (in fact it does have a name!).We may also visit his mother's grave as she is buried in the Catholic churchyard. Slindon has an interesting recusant Catholic history: Mass was celebrated at Slindon House (now a private college) for centuries. On the way out of the village we will pass Courthill Farm where Belloc briefly lived. At Gumber Farm we will picnic. There is a blue plaque, commemorating Belloc, at the Farm (it was erected by West Sussex Council on the 50th anniversary of his death).Gumber was Belloc's favourite place to walk and he mentions it in Sonnets and Verse (1923):

Lift up your hearts in Gumber, laugh the Weald
And you most ancient Valley of Arun sing.
Here am I homeward from my wandering,
Here am I homeward and my heart is healed.
If I was thirsty, I have heard a spring.
If I was dusty, I have found a field.

After the Gumber picnic the walk will resume down the old Roman Road of Stane Street. In the evening, from about 8, there may be (no promises!) a folk music session in The George (which is a splendid establishment serving splendid beer).

For those of you who would like to attend, and will be travelling down from London, the mini-bus we were going to use is currently out of action. Therefore I would recommend catching the 09.02 from Victoria to Arundel which arrives at 10.29. It would be possible to pick some people up from the station (space permitting). If you would like a lift, from the station, then please e- mail me in advance. I will only be picking up those of you who have made a prior arrangement with me.


We would also request that people e-mail us, if you intend to participate, so that we can make you aware of any last minute alterations. Please do, also, advise if you intend to eat at the pub later. If you are dining, please feel free to bring an instrument and, or, a voice for the folk session. 

For those of you who would prefer to travel by public transport, all of the way, the nearest station is Chichester where you could get the number 99 from Chichester Cathedral (15 minutes). Failing that, you could catch a taxi from Chichester, or Arundel, to Eartham (5 miles).

Join the walk on Facebook:


Thursday 9 May 2013

“The only man I regularly read”...

Belloc, Chesterton and unknown man - 1932

I LIKE to read myself to sleep in Bed,
A thing that every honest man has done
At one time or another, it is said,
But not as something in the usual run;
Now I from ten years old to forty one
Have never missed a night: and what I need
To buck me up is Gilbert Chesterton,
(The only man I regularly read).

The Illustrated London News is wed
To letter press as stodgy as a bun,
The Daily News might just as well be dead,
The ‘Idler’ has a tawdry kind of fun,
The ‘Speaker’ is a sort of Sally Lunn,
The ‘World’ is like a small unpleasant weed;
I take them all because of Chesterton,
(The only man I regularly read).

The memories of the Duke of Beach Head,
The memories of Lord Hildebrand (his son)
Are things I could have written on my head,
So are the memories of the Comte de Mun,
And as for novels written by the ton,
I’d burn the bloody lot! I know the Breed!
And get me back to with Chesterton
(The only man I regularly read).


Prince, have you read a book called “Thoughts upon
The Ethos of the Athanasian Creed”?
No matter—it is not by Chesterton
(The only man I regularly read).

A nameless Ballade by Hilaire Belloc (quoted in Return to Chesterton, by Maisie Ward, p. 131.)

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Treasures in Trust on the Slindon Estate and the Belloc connection...

Much of the West Sussex village of Slindon is part of the National Trust's 3,500-acre (1,419ha) Slindon Estate on the southern slopes of the South Downs between Arundel and Chichester. The estate, the setting for this lovely walk, was originally designed and developed as an integrated community and it is the Trust's aim to maintain this structure as far as possible.

As well as the village, it consists of a large expanse of sweeping downland dissected by dry valleys, a folly, several farms and a stretch of Roman road. Glorious hanging beechwoods on the scarp enhance the picture, attracting walkers and naturalists in search of peace and solitude. Parts of the estate were damaged in the storms of 1987 and 1990, though the woods are regenerating, with saplings and woodland plants flourishing in the lighter glades. Typical ground plants of the beechwoods include bluebell, dog's mercury, greater butterfly orchid and wood sedge.

Take a stroll through Slindon village as you end the walk and you can see that many of the cottages are built of brick and flint, materials typical of chalk country. During the medieval period, long before the National Trust was established, Slindon was an important estate of the archbishops of Canterbury. Even earlier it was home to Neolithic people who settled at Barkhale, a hilltop site at its northern end.

To help celebrate its centenary in 1995, the National Trust chose the Slindon Estate to launch its 100 Paths Project, a scheme designed to enhance access to its countryside properties by creating or improving paths. This glorious, unspoiled landscape offers many miles of footpaths and bridleways, making it an excellent choice for a country walk.

What to look for:

As you stroll through peaceful Slindon Wood, at the start of the walk, look for the remains of the medieval Park Pale, more commonly described as a bank and ditch. This was originally designed to protect the park's deer. In palaeolithic times, the sea extended this far inland - hard to believe now as you look at the wooded surroundings. A preserved shingle beach indicates that the sea was once 130ft (40m) higher than it is today. Courthill Farm, towards the end of the walk, was once the home of the French-born writer Hilaire Belloc and his wife when they were first married. He spent part of his childhood in the village.

Where to eat and drink:

The Newburgh Arms at Slindon has a good choice of food. As well as sandwiches, jacket potatoes and salads, the menu offers steak and kidney pie, shepherds pie and a selection of roasts. There's also a children's menu and a summer beer garden.
While you're there

Have a look at the Church of St Mary, which is partly Norman and greatly restored. Inside is a rare wooden effigy to Sir Anthony St Leger who died in 1539. Slindon House, now part of a college, was one of the rest-houses of the Archbishops of Canterbury during the Middle Ages.

Tour and explore a sprawling National Trust estate on this glorious woodland walk which offers fine views of Sussex:

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Woodland, downland paths and tracks, 4 stiles

Landscape Sweeping downland and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 121 Arundel & Pulborough

Start/finish SU 960076

Dog friendliness Unless signed otherwise, off lead, except in Slindon village

Parking Free National Trust car park in Park Lane, Slindon

1 From the car park walk down towards the road and turn right at a 'No riding sign', passing through the gate to join a wide straight path cutting between trees and bracken. The path runs alongside sunny glades and clearings and between lines of beech and silver birch trees before reaching a crossroads.

2 Turn right to a second crossroads and continue ahead here, keeping the grassy mound and ditch, all that remains of the Park Pale, on your right. Follow the broad path as it begins a wide curve to the right and the boundary ditch is still visible here, running parallel to the path. On reaching a kissing gate, continue ahead, soon skirting fields. As you approach the entrance to Slindon campsite, swing left and follow the track down to the road.

3 Turn left and follow the road through the woodland. Pass Slindon Bottom Road and turn right after a few paces to join a bridleway. Follow the path as it cuts between fields and look for a path on the right.

4 Cross the stile, go down the field, up the other side to the next stile and join a track. Turn right and follow it as it immediately bends left. Walk along to Row's Barn, cross the stile and continue ahead on the track. The folly can be seen over to the left.

5 Continue straight ahead along the track, following it down to some double gates and a stile. Pass to the right of Courthill Farm, turn right and follow the lane or parallel woodland path to the next road. Bear left and pass Slindon College on the right and St Richard's Catholic Church on the left before reaching Church Hill.

6 To visit the Newburgh Arms, continue ahead along Top Road. Otherwise, follow Church Hill, pass the church and make for the pond, a familiar weeping willow reaching down to the water's edge. Look for mallard ducks here. Follow the obvious waterside path to enter the wood and on reaching a fork, by a National Trust sign for Slindon Estate, keep left and walk through the trees, back to the car park.

Courthill Farm