Two walks in classic Weald territory, with an optional visit to the National Trust property of Standen
Main walk 17.6km (10.9 miles)
Short walk 15.5km (9.6 miles)
Long walk 20.2km (12.5 miles)
Short morning plus long afternoon 18.1km (11.2 miles)
Short walks to Standen 7.5km (4.8 miles) to 11.5km (7.1 miles)
5 out of 10
OS Landranger 187, OS Explorer 135
This walk takes you around pleasant hilly countryside to the south of East Grinstead, with fine views and relatively gentle gradients, and the familiar Wealden mix of pasture, woods and ancient houses. East Grinstead itself, though now surrounded by modern suburbia, still has a quaint old town, perched on a hilltop.
Early in the walk you pass Standen, a National Trust-owned house and garden exemplifying the 19th century Arts and Crafts style popularised by William Morris and others. If you want to make a visit to the house, three short walks to Standen are possible - see below. Later the walk takes you pass the remains of Brambletye House, a romantic ruin almost since it was built in the 17th century.
After lunch in Forest Row - lots of food options here - the walk takes you past the interesting Tablehurst Farm and up over gentle uplands to East Grinstead, whose old town has plenty of tea options. Walk options (see next section) include a shorter start and a longer afternoon, the latter circling around the Weir Wood Reservoir.
Both the main walk and options suffer from rather squelchy fields in winter, though all also have substantial sections on harder surfaces. But on balance, spring, summer or autumn are the best time to do them.
a) Short walk: A shorter start to the walk (6.6km/4.1 miles versus 8.7km/5.4 miles for the main walk) takes you through the historic town centre of East Grinstead and down across fields to Forest Row, passing the Weir Wood Reservoir briefly and also the ruins of Brambletye House. This was the original morning route of the walk before the current option via Standen was created. Combined with the main walk route in the afternoon, this makes a walk of 15.5km (9.6 miles).
b) Long walk: An alternative longer afternoon route takes you along the southern edge of the Weir Wood. This route has fine views of the reservoir, though never actually getting down to its shoreline (to which there is no public access). It has one 2km section on a road which while not exactly busy does have some fast-moving traffic (more on weekdays than at weekends) and then passes the viewpoint of Stone Farm Rocks and Standen as a potential tea stop (though if you want time to visit the house the Standen morning or one of the short walks to Standen below is a better idea). After Standen it repeats a short section of the main walk route and reverses another back to the station, though this latter duplication can be avoided by going back into the historic town centre of East Grinstead instea. In the latter part of this walk you can also hear the puffing and hooting of Bluebell Line steam trains, and there are also bluebell flowers in the woods before and after Standen in late April and early May. Combined with the main walk route in the morning this makes a walk of 20.2km (12.5 miles).
c) Short morning, longer afternoon: You can combine the shorter start and the longer afternoon to make a circular walk of 18.1km (11.2 miles). This is useful if you want to make a later start or to give you a better chance of getting to Standen in time for tea in the afternoon.
|Short walks to Standen
These are three short walk options designed to give you the maximum amount of time and energy to do a full visit to Standen.
i) Circular option: Follow the main walk morning for 3.5km (2.3 miles) until you get to Standen and then switch to the 'To continue the walk' directions in paragraph 190 on page 13 to return to East Grinstead in 4km (2.5 miles). This makes a circular walk of 7.5km (4.8 miles).
ii) East Grinstead to Forest Row: Use the main walk morning as far as Forest Row, a walk of 8.7km (5.4 miles). You reach Standen after 3.5km (2.2 miles) and can have lunch in its tea room. Then walk to Forest Row and take the bus back from there (note that buses are limited on Sundays). There are tea options in both Forest Row and East Grinstead.
iii) Forest Row to East Grinstead: Take the bus from East Grinstead to Forest Row, and then follow the longer afternoon route. It is 8.1km (5 miles) from Forest Row to Standen by this route, and then 3.4km (2.1 miles) to East Grinstead, making a total walk of 11.5km (7.1 miles).
Apart from two of the short walks to Standen (see above), these walks start and finish East Grinstead station. There are trains every half hour to this from London Victoria, with some extra trains to London Bridge in Monday to Friday rush hours. Get the train nearest to 9.50am to get to lunch in Forest Row in good time: for the shorter start a train nearest to 10.20am would probably be fine.
For the short walks to Standen numbers ii) and iii) you will need to take a bus from Forest Row to East Grinstead station or vice versa. There are two routes - the 270 and the 291, both hourly Monday to Saturday until the early evening. On Sunday only the 291 runs and its only every two hours, with departures from East Grinstead at 9.41, 11.41 and 13.41 (etc) at time of writing and from Forest Row at 15.29 and 17.29. For more up to date times see www.metrobus.co.uk. In East Grinstead the bus stop is by the roundabout 80 metres in front of the station. In Forest Row the stop is across the road from the Java and Jazz Cafe and Pizzeria, in front of the Brambletye Hotel.
It is 8.7km (5.4 miles) from East Grinstead to Forest Row by the main walk and 6.6km (4.1 miles) by the shorter morning. Obvious lunch choices are the Chequers Inn Hotel (01342 823333, www.chequers1452.co.uk) which has serves meals, pizzas and ciabattas 12pm-5pm Tuesday to Saturday and from 12-4pm (roasts) on Sunday. There is no food on Mondays, but the pub is open all afternoon for drinks daily.
Next door to it on the left is the Java and Jazz Cafe and Pizzeria (01342 862699) which is open until 10.30pm Monday to Saturday, or 6pm on Sundays. Across the road is the Brambletye Hotel (a pub, essentially).
Forest Row also has various other places to eat, which can be found by starting on the route of the main afternoon walk. One is the Hop Yard Brewery, which has separate Thai and pizza concessions. Shortly after leaving the village on the main afternoon route you also come to the Tablehurst Farm Shop, which has a cafe, open Tuesday to Saturday, 9am-5pm, serving sandwiches, savouries, salad and soup, and with some outside tables.
The most obvious option in East Grinstead is the large Caffe Nero in the historic High Street, which is open until 6pm Monday to Saturday and 5pm on Sunday. Around the corner in London Road, the rather smaller Costa Coffee is open till 7pm Monday to Saturday and 5.30pm Sunday.
Another nice option is CJ’s Cafe Bar just before Caffe Nero, which is open until late in the evening Monday to Saturday, though only till 7pm on Sunday. It has a roof terrace with a fine view of the churchyard. Just before it on the left is the Old Bank Cafe, open to 5pm daily. Pub choices include the Dorset Arms opposite CJs, and the Crown nearby.
Closer to the station is Bluebells (01342 458 491) www.bluebellscafe.co.uk on the corner of Railway Approach, which has a pleasant ambience and good selection of cakes and is open till 5pm daily.
On the longer afternoon, National Trust members can get tea at Standen, which is 8.1km (5 miles) beyond Forest Row. Its self-service restaurant is open till 5pm (or dusk if that is earlier) year round. Non-members may also be able to get tea at Standen without paying the entrance fee for the gardens (which is £4.80), as the self-service restaurant is immediately adjacent to the ticket kiosk. If you arrive towards the end of the day and are very sweet or persuasive (point out it is extra revenue for the NT) they may let you in. Don't spoil it for others by sneaking into the gardens, however.
Another tea option on the longer afternoon is the Old Dunnings Mill, which has outside tables, serves cake and ice creams, and is open all afternoon. A final backstop alternative is the Starbucks Cafe in the Sainsbury’s by East Grinstead station, which has some outside tables (albeit overlooking the car park). This is open till 8pm Monday to Saturday, but only 4pm on Sunday.