Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Resevoir - winter version
T=swc.22 Length:16.2km (10 miles). Shorter walk (picnic only): 12.8km (7.9 miles)
Toughness: 4 out of 10
The winter route is suggested because it includes quite a bit of walking on quiet lanes and dry tracks, so avoiding the worst of the mud. Ardingly Reservoir is particularly beautiful in low winter sunlight, and the walk should enable you to get to the Balcombe Tea Rooms before they close at 4pm. (The summer walk is just an extra 2 miles for those who would like a longer walk. The directions cover both routes)
Trains: 09.39 train from London Bridge (St Pancras 9.24, East Croydon 9:53) arriving Balcombe 10.31. Or, 09.29 from London Victoria (Clapham Junction 9.36) to Gatwick Airport (10.06) where you change for the 10.16 to Balcombe. The Victoria train is more expensive than the Thameslink from London Bridge.
Return trains from Balcombe: 14.44, 15.34, 16.44,17.34
Lunch: The Ardingly Inn (01444 892 214), 8.8km (5.4 miles) into the Winter Walk and 10.1km (6.3 miles) into the Summer Walk, serves a basic menu, but with good quality and hearty portions. Next door is the Ardingly Cafe (01444 891 113), which serves sandwiches, salads, soups and light meals until 4.30pm Monday to Saturday and 3.30pm on Sundays and bank holidays.
The Gardeners Arms (01444 892328), is an alternative lunch option 8.9km (5.5 miles) into the Winter Walk or 10.2km (6.4 miles) into the Summer Walk. It is often fully booked at weekends, so best reserve a table in advance if you would like to eat there.
Tea: The Balcombe Tea Rooms (01444 811 777) serve great doorstop slabs of homemade cake, as well as doing simple meals such as lasagne or fry-ups. This is the recommended tea stop for the winter walk if you can get there before they close at 4pm.
The Half Moon Inn in Balcombe is a possible tea stop for both walks. Newly refurbished, it is open all afternoon and now serves tea and (sometimes) cakes. After 6pm it offers hot food, including deserts.
For walk directions, map and GPS click here