A village on the edge of Horsham - once at the centre of a witch’s tale - has been ranked as one of the most beautiful places to live in Britain.
A poll by West Sussex-based estate agents Leaders has rated Slinfold - population 1,650 - as the second prettiest place in the country, just behind Brockenhurst in the New Forest.
Legend has it that there is a boggy hollow near Slinfold, four miles west of Horsham, which contains a sunken bell. Some villagers, in a time long ago, sought the advice of a witch to retrieve the bell.
She told them that it could only be recovered by 12 white oxen, at midnight. But one villager broke the witch’s instructions by speaking - and the bell sank back into the bog.
Meanwhile, Leaders maintain there are none more impressive English villages than Slinfold. “At its centre is a magnificent church, which was rebuilt in 1861 and is based on a classic design with tower and spire. Slinfold also offers a great mix of properties, including sprawling country estates and spacious family homes.”
Camilla Gibson, chairman of Slinfold Parish Council, said: “Slinfold has all that is quintessential to a true English village – a church, shop, pub, school and village hall.
“At the centre of the village is a conservation area, based on the Street, which curves around the Central Fields (the old common land) and contains buildings from every century from the 15th to the 20th.
“Despite its proximity to Horsham, Slinfold retains its rural character, helped by the Downs Link which runs through the parish.
“But what makes Slinfold one of the best places to live in the UK is its community; there are many people in the village who give up their time to help in all sorts of different ways, which whilst unlikely to make the front page of a national newspaper, makes Slinfold somewhere we all want to live.”
Emma Skeates, 48, who has lived in the village for 10 years said : “Slinfold is a really magical place to live for several reasons. One of the most obvious is the beautiful setting, right in the middle of true nature with many untouched, unfarmed pieces of green land that are full of rare species and packed with wildlife.
“Our children really do have the childhood that we all dream of with safe, open spaces to play freely and learn about what is important in life, our environment.
“One of the other special qualities that I have found in Slinfold, that I have never found anywhere else that I have lived, is the true sense of community. People really look out for each other and when an elderly or poorly person is in need, help is at hand from every part of the village.
“The hubs of the community are all to be found within 100 metres of each other; the pub, the village school, the church and the village shop. Most friendships that start in this village, that tend to last a lifetime, all start in one of these places.”
She said Slinfold took “great pride in its heritage and its presentation, what goes on behind the scenes is just as beautiful. I would never live anywhere else.”
Kevin Shaw, national sales director at Leaders, said: “Studies show people with a home in calm and attractive surroundings are happier than those who live in towns and cities, and in the UK we are blessed to have such a huge selection of beautiful places to live.”