ST. LEONARD'S FOREST
Recollections of the Forest—Leonardslee—Michael Drayton and the iron country—Thomas Fuller on great guns—The serpent of St. Leonard's Forest—The Headless Horseman—Sussex and nightingales.
To the east of Horsham spreads St. Leonard's Forest, that vast tract of moor and preserve which, merging into Tillgate Forest, Balcombe Forest, and Worth Forest, extends a large part of the way to East Grinstead.
Only on foot can we really explore this territory; and a compass as well as a good map is needed if one is to walk with any decision, for there are many conflicting tracks, and many points whence no broad outlook is possible. Remembering old days in St. Leonard's Forest, I recall, in general, the odoriferous damp open spaces of long grass, suddenly lighted upon, over which silver-washed fritillaries flutter; and, in particular, a deserted farm, in whose orchard (it must have been late June) was a spreading tree of white-heart cherries in full bearing. One may easily, even a countryman, I take it, live to a great age and never have the chance of climbing into a white-heart cherry tree and eating one's fill. Certainly I have never done it since; but that day gave me an understanding of blackbirds' temptations that is still stronger than the desire to pull a trigger. The reader must not imagine that St. Leonard's Forest is rich in deserted farms with attractive orchards. I have found no other, and indeed it is notably a place in which the explorer should be accompanied by provisions.