Ardingly Reservoir

Balcombe Circular walk

11-Dec-05 • Saturdaywalker on Flickr

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Book 3, Walk 22, Balcombe Circular

Cock, Westup Farm, 5 May '07

05-May-07 • mew2005b on Flickr

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Book 3, Walk 22, Balcombe Circular

Homeward bound, 5 May '07

05-May-07 • mew2005b on Flickr

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Book 3, Walk 22, Balcombe Circular

Balcombe, 5 May '07

05-May-07 • mew2005b on Flickr

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Book 3, Walk 22, Balcombe Circular (winter)

Some of the walkers had long suspected that Sean was an angel incarnate. Here was the proof, 6 Jan '08.

06-Jan-08 • mew2005b on Flickr

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Book 3, Walk 22, Balcombe Circular (winter)

One of the less-muddy sections of the walk, 6 Jan '08.

06-Jan-08 • mew2005b on Flickr

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Book 3, Walk 22, Balcombe Circular (winter)

A procession of trees, 6 Jan '08.

06-Jan-08 • mew2005b on Flickr

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Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir walk

Two interlocking circular walks (one for Summer, one for Winter) around Balcombe, taking in Ardingly Reservoir, the Ouse Valley Viaduct, and fine Weald territory.


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Updated: Thu, 17-Jan-19

Date # Post
Sat, 12-Jan-19 20

Saturday Walk: Balcombe Circular (winter walk)

10 miles / 16.2 km with pub stop in Ardingly
7.9 miles / 12.8 km with picnic lunch

A walk specially designed for the winter months with reduced mud and a chance of reaching the tea room before it shuts. Highlights include Ardingly Reservoir and an impressive close up view of the Ouse Valley Viaduct.

Trains: Bedford to Brighton train: 9:20 St Pancras, 9:29 Blackfriars, 9:35 London Bridge, 9:48 East Croydon, arrives at Balcombe at 10:17. Return trains at xx22/xx52.

Lunch: The Ardingly Inn (01444 892214). Next door is the Ardingly Cafe with sandwiches/soups.

Back in Balcombe, the Balcome Tea Rooms are open til 4pm. The Half Moon Inn also has tea, maybe cake and definitely beer.

Click here for full walk details
Oh yes, I forgot: there is at least ONE other walk created specifically to be done in January.... (Read the Guildford to Gomshall post to understand this comment). Yes, this walk has quite a lot of firm surfaces: some potential mud in places but it has been so dry this probably won’t be an issue.
20 on this walk a mild and overcast day. The group spread out quickly with a around a third skipping the pub to have a packed lunch or just walk on without a break. The Ardingly Arms was welcoming and served basic pub food without delay. Some eat at the cafe next door. Not too much mud underfoot. Those that tackled the full walk were rewarded with a wide choice of brilliant home made cakes at the Balcombe Tea Rooms where the staff were friendly and welcoming. A good day out with only delayed trains to contend with.
Sat, 29-Sep-18 34

Saturday walk - Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (Summer walk) - The Weald before it gets muddy

Length: 19.3km (12 miles) T=3.22
Toughness: 7 out of 10 - some hills

9.20 Thameslink train from St Pancras or 9.35 London Bridge (9.24 Farringdon, 9.49 East Croydon) to Balcombe, arriving 10.16.

** Missed the train option: see end of post.

Buy a day return to Balcombe. If a cheaper "Thameslink only" ticket is offered you can buy it, providing you don't plan to make any connections from/to any other services on the outward or return journey.

For walk directions click here (you only need pages 1-3 and 7-12). For GPX click here.

This walk shares the same first mile or so as the Book 1 Balcombe Circular posted four weeks ago, but otherwise is completely different, looping back around the south of Balcombe to make a brief pass of the Ardingly Reservoir, then climbing up to the village of Ardingly for lunch at the Ardingly Inn.

After lunch you are in classic Wealden territory - hills, valleys, woods, views. This is a "summer walk" because this tends to get very muddy and soggy in winter: but that will not be a problem at this time of year when the soil is still hard.

Tea is mid afternoon at Wakehurst Place. This National Trust property is crossed by a right of way, which the walk route uses, but the cafe is about 100 metres to one side of this. This is usually not a problem but try not to be too obvious about it, since the NT are naturally a bit wary about people using this as a way to visit the property without paying. If challenged, point out very politely that you only want to provide the cafe with some extra revenue and be on your way (or flash your NT card if you are a member). If you want to actually visit the gardens, please enter by the official entrance. The cafe closes at 5.30pm

Otherwise in Balcombe there is the Half Moon Inn which does hot drinks and (sometimes) cakes.

Trains back from Balcombe are at 22 and 52 past. The prettier (and not much longer) back way to the station is recommended over the prosaic shortcut down the main road.

** Missed the train option: I shouldn't encourage slugabeds, but if you miss the specified train and catch the one half an hour later, you could do the first section of the Winter walk, which is 1.4 miles shorter, to catch up with the group: see page 3 of the walk directions.
Balcombe tea rooms is now a community run pub. They didn't seem to mind that we brought our own cakes to go with their tea last time. They do however do a great bowl of chips.
34 on this walk, including one late starter, on a lovely sunny day. Beautiful scenery, lovely weather, nice company, no mud yet: what more can one want?

Quite a lot of people seemed to have brought sandwiches. Maybe 15 ate in the Ardingly Inn but some did not like the offering and went next door to the Ardingly Cafe (which I have never noticed before).

Most seemed to bypass tea at Wakehurst Place, though some of us went there and enjoyed a new outside seating area in the sunshine. Groups of people coalesced at various times for drinks in the Half Moon Inn in Balcombe.

Thameslink trains operated without incident, which made a nice change, and the Thameslink only fare with a Network Card was only £6.55.
Sat, 17-Feb-18 30

Saturday walk - Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir Winter Walk (possibly with a new lunch pub)

Length: 16.2km (10 miles)
Toughness: 4 out of 10

9.42 train from London Bridge (9.56 East Croydon) to Balcombe, arriving 10.22

From Clapham Junction get the 9.29 East Grinstead train and change at East Croydon (arrive 9.40).

Buy a day return to Balcombe: if coming from London Bridge you will be going out and back on Thameslink services, so can buy a "Thameslink only" ticket if offered one

For walk directions click here (you only need pages 1-7).

For GPX click here.

There are very few walks on the SWC website that were actually designed to be done in winter, but this is one of them. It is a winter walk because it has reasonably long stretches on firm surfaces, particularly in the first half of the morning and in the afternoon. That being said, there are some gloopy bits: just a lot fewer of them than on other walks.

The first 2.2km is all on a quiet road. A bit later there is a kilometre or so on farm tracks. Once you are out into the fields you have the distraction of passing under the wonderful Ouse Valley Viaduct which is very impressive close up (your train journey to Brighton will never seem the same again). Then there is a potentially muddy bit as far as the Ardingly Reservoir, your water feature for the day, as one of our midweek posters likes to say.

Lunch has traditionally been at the Ardingly Arms, but I have been alerted to a new option, the Gardener's Arms, which is a bit off the walk route but not much further away than the Ardingly Arms as far as I can see. To get to it, just after the right turn at the T-junction by the church in paragraph 33, turn left and keep straight ahead up the side of the agricultural show ground, with the ground to your RIGHT. 800 metres or so of walking brings you to a road and the pub.

In the afternoon you follow the edge of the Ardingly Reservoir on a largely firm (though not entirely mud-free) path. Tea is at the Balcombe Tea Rooms, which can close their doors as early as 4pm, or otherwise at the Half Moon Pub, assuming it is still open, which has in the past offered cakes as well as tea.

Trains back are 22 past. The back lane route to the station is recommended. T=3.22

Is the Winter Walk the one marked by the red line on the OS map?
After four wet and windy Saturdays, a perfect one. Sunny. Blue skies. A big powerful sun, no longer pale and wintry. Mild, even warm temperatures. Chaffinches singing for the first time this year. Occasional primroses and daffodils: one celandine. And yes, even a butterfly. It was easy to believe that spring was round the corner. It almost certainly isn’t, but we had a sneak preview.

30 set off from Balcombe, at a cracking pace that Mo Farah might have struggled to keep up with. Some newbies got left behind, I think. The ground was fairly muddy in places but this walk does have more than its fair share of firm surfaces. The Ouse Valley Viaduct was a wonder, as usual. Sandwichers got to picnic by the reservoir. Of the rest of us, most went to the Ardingly Arms and seemed well pleased, but six of us diverted to the Gardener’s Arms. This was a lovely place with fine food, but you need to book it. Four of us secured the last table, the other two sat in the garden. I actually envied the latter, as for the first time this year it was warm enough to sit outside.

In the afternoon a lovely saunter along the reservoir. A bit of sitting in the sunshine on benches. About a dozen of us still got to the Balcombe Tea Rooms before their cruelly early closing time gorgeous cakes as usual. Some got the 4.20 train: I was glad I stayed for the 5.20. On the platform as the sun dipped behind the hill there was for the first time this year layers of birdsong: several ardent song thrushes, a dunnock or two, great tits, robins.

And at that moment a blackbird sang. Distantly but clearly. The sound of spring.

Remember this day during the cold weather to come....
Sun, 06-Nov-16

Figure of Eight Wealden walk around Balcombe

Download walk 22a Balcombe circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)
Distance 16.2km (10.1m); toughness 4/10
Trains: 09.32 London Victoria (Clapham Junction 09.38, East Croydon 09.48) arrives Balcombe 10.27.
Return trains from Balcombe to London Victoria at xx:30
This is a figure of eight walk taking in some fine Wealden scenery. You will be doing the shorter winter walk option but faster walkers may wish to tackle the summer version which is 12.6m.

Click here for further information about the walk and the pdf tab giving full walk instructions and the refreshment options.
When you alight at Balcombe be careful not to get swept up by a Ramblers group (the Capital Walkers) doing a similar Wealden walk. They'll be setting off on a more northerly route via Wakehurst Place, but you'll have the opportunity for another skirmish at Ardingly when your paths cross at lunchtime.
I am not quite sure why the home page for this walk describes this as a figure of eight walk because it is no such thing. It is two interlocking circular walks. The circular walk has three segments and on each segment you have a choice of two routes. The "winter walk", as chosen here, is the recommended walk for shorter days but those wanting a longer walk could try the summer start. Whatever you choose to do you will be doing a circular walk, however, NOT a figure of eight (which would be having the same place for lunch and tea as on Saturday's Wadhurst walk).

All this being said, it is a very nice day out.
OMG Sean, I wont know which group to walk with!!!
Wed, 25-May-16 5

Midweek day walk - Balcombe Circular

Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir

Two interlocking walks in a figure of 8 around Balcombe (one for Summer, one for Winter), taking in Ardingly Reservoir, the Ouse Valley Viaduct, and fine Weald territory

Book 3* Walk 22 * online only

Length : 20 km or 12½ miles ( A shorter 16 km / 10 mile variant is possible if the weather is inclement)

Toughness : 8 out of 10 ( 4 out of 10 for the short 'un )

Getting there : Catch the 9:42 am Brighton train from London Bridge to Balcombe (9:56 am from East Croydon if you're travelling from Victoria or Clapham Junction )

(From Horley catch the 9:45 am Horsham train to Gatwick Airport and change there catching the 10:12 am Brighton train to Balcombe)

Meeting point : Balcombe Station at 10:22 am

Tickets : Buy a cheap day return to Balcombe

Brief Description

The trains to Balcombe are hourly (some walkers may recall that one failed to stop there on one occasion!) so a slightly earlier start today. The Ouse Viaduct carrying the London to Brighton Railway is a spectacular engineering achievement and worth a photo or two as you walk underneath.
Ardingly Reservoir and the Weald also make for great scenery and there's a chance to visit the National Trust's Wakehurst Place for an afternoon cuppa with the Millennium Seed Bank adjacent.
Mike from Vancouver may join us on this walk. If he does, please make him feel welcome.

As usual, you may find full details of this walk here and a PDF here

Suggested Lunch stop

The Ardingly Inn t: 01444 892 214

Those with a packed lunch may enjoy eating by the side of the reservoir.

Suggested Tea stops

Wakehurst Place (mid afternoon)
The Balcombe Tea Rooms t: 01444 811777 closes at 4:30 pm
The Half Moon Inn t: 01444 811582


OS Explorer : 135

Return train times

Trains return from Balcombe to London Bridge at the following times 15:22 | 16:29 | 17:28 | 18:22
Change at East Croydon for London Victoria.
Apologies for Southern Train services.
The 9:42 became initially delayed then mutated into a "fast" service to Brighton.
The next train was at 10:42 but there was no guarantees that wouldn't suffer a similar fate.
In many ways the Southern Staff "sicknesses" are worse than a strike at least with a strike the you know for certain your train will be cancelled!
In the mean time I'm going to avoid posting any more walks using this train service until Southern Rail resolves this conflict.
On a final note, I find it reassuring to have a guard/ticket inspector on longer journeys, what do you think?
it was jinxed because you posted a pre 10 o'clock walk start Arthur !
5 overcast cool breeze
When the 9:42 became a "fast" service, Thameslink heeded a protest from one walker at East Croydon and got the next Brighton bound train to make an unscheduled stop at Balcombe. Two walkers who stayed on the original train were able to change at Gatwick and join two others who boarded the later train at East Croydon, thus starting the walk only half an hour late. Unfortunately others must have given up at London Bridge without waiting for news of the alternative service. A fifth walker coming from the south coast caught up with the rest during the morning. All did the longer "summer" version of this lovely walk in perfect walking conditions and most got back to Balcombe for the 16:29 train home.
Sat, 05-Dec-15 11

Saturday Second Walk - A viaduct and a reservoir

SWC walk 22 - Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir, winter walk
Length: 16.2km (10 miles)
Longer option: 18.1km (11.3 miles): see ** below
Toughness: 4 out of 10

9.12 train from London Bridge (9.25 East Croydon) to Balcombe, arriving 9.51

For walk directions click here (you only need pages 1-8, unless you want to do the longer option).

It has been a couple of years since the Balcombe Circular winter walk had an outing. It is designed to make use of lanes and firm tracks as much as possible, but it does inevitably have some mud. You start with a walk along quiet lanes and then pass under the magnificent Ouse Valley Viaduct on the Brighton Line (more interesting than it sounds: see comments for this walk), then passing Ardingly Reservoir to climb up to Ardingly village for lunch.

Here the Ardingly Arms is now the only lunch option. Its website has gone a bit more fancy so I am not sure if the food has done the same, but in the past it served hearty meals.

I have picked a train to get us to the pub early in case there is competition for tables (though this has never been a problem in the past) and also because after lunch it is 4 miles to Balcombe village and it is nice to get to the Balcombe Tea Rooms in time. They close at 4.30pm, but will sometimes stay open a bit later for a group if you phone them to say you are coming. Otherwise, the nearby Half Moon Inn sometimes has some of the tea room's cakes on offer at its bar, plus tea.

Trains back are at 22 past the hour. In the dark it is tempting to use the main road route to the station, but the recommended route down the back roads is only a bit longer and is very atmospheric at night.

** Longer option: Hard nuts and those keen to put the mud-resistant qualities of their boots to the test can, if they wish, do the summer afternoon of this walk (pages 12-16 of the walk document). It is only 1.3 miles longer, but is a squelch-fest in winter (as the walk author can attest, having researched it in a long-ago January. He reckons this makes him the only SWC-ite who has ever done this route in winter: YOU could be the second!!). It is also much more hilly. Astonishingly, the Wakehurst Place Cafe is still open in winter (until 4.15pm), though you will have to be a speedy walker to both complete the walk route and get your chocolate cake in. Nevertheless I have given you an early train, so it might be possible.
Sounds great. A good viaduct, often travelled on it but not under it.
It is the CHRISTMAS PARTY on Thursday don't forget!! See listing below
11 on this walk Windy cloudy mild As walk poster I have to concede that a train an hour later would probably have been better since we were leaving lunch by 1.30pm and finishing the walk by 3pm.

Since the whole aim of the earlier start was to go to the lovely Balcombe Tea Rooms before they closed at 4.30pm, it was disappointing to find them shut. They obviously HAD been open as there were sounds of washing up coming from beyond the shutters, but they presumably had had little business that afternoon and decided to shut early. Lack of tea room caused most to go straight for the 3.20 train but four of us stayed and parlayed with the pub, who let us buy mince pies from the local shop to go with our tea, and we had nice comfy sofas to sit on as we consumed them, so maybe that was better.

The lunch pub, the Ardingly Arms, was unchanged,despite posher website (or did I look at the wrong website?). As usual we were practically the only customers and as usual the food was hearty. In the morning the Ouse Valley Viaduct was a highlight, as ever, causing mobile phone cameras to be brought into play.

Two did the summer afternoon route and reported it not so muddy really. They also finished easily in the daylight. We just seem to whip through these walks nowadays....

Those of us who did the main route had to contend with gunfire from a shooting party across the water. One walker reported that stray shot came across the path in front of him. The rest of us discussed the ecology, politics and morality of hunting as a pastime.

At least four of us took the back way to the station in the intense dark. For me, this was one of the loveliest bits of the day and all too short.

Apart from the yells and gunshot from the deranged bloodsport enthusiasts near Ardingly Resevoir, it was a very enjoyable walk!
aha! walker 'concedes' that this walk would have been better with a later start... Some of us agree.

a vote for later starts please..
Sat, 18-Jul-15 10

Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir

Length: 20.2km (12.6 miles), Toughness: 8/10

Features: Ardingly Reservoir, Wakehurst Place

Trains: 10:12 from London Bridge to Balcombe arriving at 10:51. Buy a day return to Balcombe. Return trains are at xx:22 (40 minutes to LBG) until 19:22 then xx:57 (about 1h10 to LBG, change required).

Options: There are various options to reduce the walk length. Refer to the instructions for details.

Lunch: The suggested lunch stop is The Ardingly Inn (01444 892 214) in Ardingly about 10km into the walk. Food served 12:00 - 14:00.

Tea: About half-way through the afternoon section there's a cafe at Wakehurst Place. In Balcombe, The Balcombe Tea Rooms (01444 811 777) tends to close early. The Half Moon Inn also serves tea.

Directions: For more information including directions, maps, GPS etc. see SWC.22

The Half Moon also serves some cakes from the Balcombe Tea room, after the tea room has closed. In the past, they have also been ok with us buying cakes from the shop next door to have with our tea.
Just checking the trains, and it seems cheaper to buy a return from London Bridge rather than a return from East Croydon (the zone 6 boundary). Odd!
Thameslink only tickets are **much** cheaper.
10 walkers. Sunny all day. A core group of seven stayed together most of the day, with three opting for variations including one who managed to combine both the winter and summer variants of this walk. The Ardingly Inn has good variety on its menu but the quality was somewhat lacking. Tea at the Wakehurst Place cafe after having been told off (at length) for entering through the wrong door.
Sat, 26-Jul-14 12 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 05-Apr-14 30 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)
Sat, 21-Sep-13 7 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 29-Dec-12 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)
Sat, 25-Aug-12 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 03-Mar-12 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)
Sat, 23-Jul-11 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 05-Mar-11 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)
Sat, 26-Jun-10 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 13-Feb-10 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)
Sun, 04-Oct-09 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 20-Jun-09 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 17-Jan-09 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)
Sat, 04-Oct-08 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sun, 03-Aug-08 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 24-May-08 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sun, 06-Jan-08 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)
Sat, 05-May-07 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir
Sat, 17-Feb-07 Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir (short walk)