Release date: 17 September 2020
Representatives from West Sussex County Council and Christ’s Hospital School gathered on Friday 11th September for a photo shoot to mark the opening of a previously disused section of the Downs Link on the old Guildford Railway Line behind Christ’s Hospital station.
Attendees to the low-key, socially-distanced gathering were Head Teacher of Christ’s Hospital Simon Reid and Chief Operating Officer of Christ’s Hospital Nick Tesseyman, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Members Deborah Urquhart and Roger Elkins and local county councillors for the area, Amanda and Nigel Jupp.
Although, due to Covid-19 restrictions, an official opening ceremony has not been possible, it is hoped that a celebration will take place in honour of the new Downs Link section as soon as circumstances allow.
The upgrade – a long-term collaborative project between Christ’s Hospital School and West Sussex County Council – will mean that anyone using the Downs Link between Mill Lane and Christ’s Hospital Station will now be able to do so safely off-road.
The works to the ‘missing’ 1.4km section of the Downs Link included repairing two bridges, vegetation clearance, surfacing, drainage and platform repairs. They were jointly funded by Christ’s Hospital School and the County Council and supported by the local community and organisations.
The School, as a local landowner and large employer in the Horsham area, was keen to assist with improving local rights-of-way connectivity to help promote the use of alternative forms of transport for both the local community and Christ’s Hospital.
Nick Tesseyman, Chief Operating Officer at Christ’s Hospital, said: “This is a really good example of how the School can partner with the Council to improve the environment for the local community. We look forward to seeing increased usage of the path, with people adhering to current Government advice and COVID-19 guidelines, of course.”
Deborah Urquhart, County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “I’m delighted to see the opening of this new section of the Downs Link and thank Christ’s Hospital for its vital contribution to make it happen.
“The new path will provide a safer route for the users of this important off-road recreational route, as well as encouraging new ones – but please remember the need for social distancing at all times.”
Roger Elkins, Cabinet Member for Highways and Infrastructure, added: “This is a success story made possible through a marvellous, collaborative effort involving the School itself, West Sussex Highways’ team, the contractors, Balfour Beatty Living Places, Landbuild and the local community and organisations.
“I would also like to thank all those who have supported the project and helped make it happen.”
The Downs Link is a nationally-important, long distance, shared route connecting the North and South Downs. The Guildford Branch Line was closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching Cuts. The last train ran on 14th July 1965 when a group of Christ’s Hospital School pupils decided to mark the occasion by singing “Abide with Me” as the train pulled out of Christ’s Hospital Station.
In 2011, Christ’s Hospital purchased a 1.6km section of the former Guildford Branch Line from Christ’s Hospital Station to the A264 Five Oaks Road near Slinfold. This was the start of securing the new route.
Since the creation of the Downs Link there has not been an available link along the old railway line to Christs Hospital, so anyone using the route has, in the intervening years, had to resort to using the road for this 1.9km stretch. Christ’s Hospital station can now be safely accessed by bicycle or on foot and walkers, runners, cyclists and horse-riders alike will now be able to enjoy an uninterrupted stretch of the Sussex countryside.
For more information about the Downs Link, including a map of the Christ’s Hospital route, please see: www.westsussex.gov.uk/downslink