This route in the East/West Sussex boundary lands descends from East Grinstead into the Upper Medway Valley and past Weir Wood Reservoir and then meanders through an undulating landscape of hills, streams, ponds, heaths and mixed woodland, rich in bluebells and wood anemones in season. For the most part, it largely shadows the course of The Bluebell Line steam railway, and lunch is either in tranquil Horsted Keynes or in Scaynes Hill, near the (Sussex) Ouse River. Later you pass through several parts of the large Chailey Common heathlands and continue westbound through flatter ground – mostly pastures with fine South Downs Views – to Burgess Hill (for Wivelsfield station).
As this is a very long walk, an Alternative Finish at Sheffield Park, the terminus of the Bluebell Line, for a return by steam train, is described, as are other alternatives to shorten the route by taking buses at the start or near the end. For details see below Walk Options.
Note: the notoriously mud-prone descent from East Grinstead has gotten worse, if anything, as it is now fenced for the particularly mud-prone part.
Start from Forest Row (bus stop by the Chequers Inn, line 270 from East Grinstead, hourly Monday-Saturday, 4 buses on Sundays or line 291 from East Grinstead, hourly Monday-Saturday, two-hourly on Sundays): cut 3.6 km/2.2 mi.
Start from Horsted Keynes (bus stop on the Village Green, line 270 from East Grinstead or Haywards Heath, hourly Monday-Saturday, 4 buses on Sundays): 18.0 km/11.2 mi and 225m ascent, 3/10.
Finish in Horsted Keynes (bus stop on the Village Green, line 270 from East Grinstead or Haywards Heath, hourly Monday-Saturday, 4 buses on Sundays): 13.7 km/8.5 mi and 226m ascent, 2/10.
Finish at Sheffield Park station (Bluebell Line back to East Grinstead) for a 22.5 km/14.3 mi walk with 336m ascent: 5/10.
Finish at a bus stop in North Chailey (line 31 from Uckfield to Haywards Heath, hourly Monday-Saturday and line 121 from Uckfield/Newick to Lewes, two-hourly on Saturday, more frequent weekdays): cut 7.9 km/4.9 mi and 75m ascent for a 6/10 rating.
Finish at a bus stop outside Wivelsfield village on the B 2112 (Chapel Hall stop; lines 33, 166, 271, 272; last buses: late midweek, 18.42 Saturday and 18.08 Sunday): cut 2.6 km/1.6 mi.
The Green Man The Green, Horsted Keynes, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH17 7AS(01825 790 656). The Green Man is located 13.7 km (8.5 mi) into the walk. Open 12.00-15.00 and 17.30-23.00 Mon-Fri, 12.00-23.00 Sat and 12.00-22.30 Sun. Food served 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-21.00 Mon-Fri, 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-21.00 Sat and 12.00-16.00 Sun. A Greene King pub.
The Crown Inn Horsted Keynes, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH17 7AW(01825 791 609). The Crown is located 13.8 km (8.6 mi) into the walk. Open 12.00-15.00 and 17.00-23.00 Tue-Fri, 12.00-23.00 Sat and 12.00-21.00 Sun. Food served 12.00-14.30 and 17.45-21.00 Tue-Sat and 12.00-15.00 Sun.
The Sloop Inn 99 Sloop Lane, Scaynes Hill,Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH17 7NP(01444 831 219). The Sloop is located 19.2 km (11.9 mi) into the walk. Open 12.00-15.00 and 17.30-23.00 Tue-Fri, 12.00-23.00 Sat and Sun. Food served 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-21.00 Tue-Fri, 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-21.00 Sat and 12.00-15.00 Sun.
The Sloop Inn As above.
Real Ales at Worlds End 1 Valebridge Road, Worlds End,Burgess Hill, West Sussex, RH15 0RA (01444 616 950). Open to 21.30 daily (22.00 Fri-Sun).
The Watermill Inn 1 Leylands Road, Worlds End,Burgess Hill, West Sussex, RH15 0QF (01444 235 517). This pub is currently shut.
The Windmill 134 Leylands Road, Burgess Hill, West Sussex, RH15 8AB (01444 235 537). The Windmill is located 600m beyond Wivelsfield station.
Tea (Sheffield Park Station):
The Bessemer Arms Station Approach Road, Bluebell Railway, Sheffield Park Station, Uckfield, TN22 3QL (01825 720 800). Open every day until 16.00 hours, and open late on Saturdays from March to December.
While the 'East' in the town's name was added late on to distinguish it from (West) Grinstead, a village in the Horsham District, 28 km to the south-west, Grinstead means 'green place' in Saxon, i.e. a pasture clearing in the great Forest of Anderida, which historically stretched along the northern boundary of Sussex. Nowadays East Grinstead lies in the northeast corner of west Sussex, near the East Sussex, Surrey, and Kent borders. Until 1974 East Grinstead was even located in the county of East Sussex. The town is located on the Greenwich Meridian, which runs through the grounds of the 1769 East Court mansion, and The High Street has one of the longest continuous runs of 14th century timber-framed buildings in England.
Dr Richard Beeching was a resident of the town at the time he wrote the (in)famous report into British Rail. In the late 1970s the town's inner relief road was built along a section of one of the closed railway lines and it is named "Beeching Way". It is rumoured though that this road, which runs through a cutting, was to be called "Beeching Cut", but that the name was altered in the interests of formality.
GMT (Greenwich Meridian Trail)
The Greenwich Meridian Trail is a 467 km (290 mi) waymarked long-distance walk that follows the line of the Prime Meridian. Inaugurated in 2009 to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the Meridian, it begins at Peacehaven in East Sussex and ends on the Holderness peninsula at Sand le Mere in East Yorkshire.
SBP (Sussex Border Path)
The SBP is a partially waymarked 222 km (138 mi) long distance footpath that uses existing rights of way to broadly follow the inland border of the old county of Sussex, connecting Thorney Island to Rye. There is also an additional 53 km (33 mi) spur known as the Mid Sussex Path which follows the modern boundary between West and East Sussex. sussexborderpath.co.uk
Weir Wood Reservoir
Weir Wood Reservoir is a 2.4 km long stretch of water, situated on the north-western margins of Ashdown Forest. It has a full water capacity of 5,566,000 cubic metres, covering a site of 1.1 km2. The reservoir was built over the period 1951-54, a process which involved damming the valley of the River Medway.
The River Medway
The Medway is 113 km long, rising in Turners Hill, Sussex in the High Weald and flowing through Tonbridge, Maidstone and the Medway conurbation in Kent before emptying into the Thames Estuary near Sheerness. Its catchment area of 2,409 km2 is the second largest in southern England after the Thames.
Horstede (The Place of Horses in Saxon) was given to Guillaume de Cahaignes, a French knight who participated in the Norman conquest, and became Horstede de Cahaignes and in time Horsted Keynes.
On Saturday, 28 August 1624, it hosted what was probably the earliest organised cricket match in Sussex.
Two months before being assassinated, U.S. President John F. Kennedy slept in the parish when he stayed at Birch Grove, the home of the former PM, Harold Macmillan (buried in the parish church's graveyard). The American Secret Service closed the village that night, siting their communication hub in The Crown Inn.
On 1 July 2003 a lightning bolt struck the electricity pole beside The Crown Inn. The roof and much of the building were destroyed in one of the largest fires in the area for many years.
The Bluebell Railway is a 17.7 km heritage line almost entirely in West Sussex, except for Sheffield Park which is in East Sussex. It is managed by the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society. It uses steam trains between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead, with intermediate stations at Horsted Keynes and Kingscote.
The first preserved standard gauge steam-operated passenger railway in the world to operate a public service, the society ran its first train on 7 August 1960, less than three years after the line from East Grinstead to Lewes had been closed by British Railways. On 23 March 2013, the Bluebell Railway started to run through to its new East Grinstead terminus, where there is a connection to the national rail network, the first in 50 years, since the Horsted Keynes - Haywards Heath line closed in 1963.
Today it has over 30 steam locomotives - the largest collection in the UK after the National Railway Museum - and also almost 150 carriages and wagons, most of them pre-1939.
(Sussex) Ouse River
The river rises near Lower Beeding and flows eastwards into East Sussex, meandering narrowly and turning slowly southward. It flows through Lewes and past Glynde, finally reaching the Channel at Newhaven.
The Ouse is one of the four rivers that cut through the South Downs. It is presumed that its valley was cut during a glacial period. In the warmer interglacials the lower valley would have flooded; there are raised beaches 40 metres (Goodwood-Slindon) and 8 metres (Brighton-Norton) above present sea level. The offshore topography indicates that the current coastline was also the coastline before the final deglaciation, and therefore the mouth of the Ouse has long been at its present latitude.
'Ouse' is a very common name for rivers in England, stemming from a Celtic word for water.
The author Virginia Woolf drowned herself in the River Ouse on 28 March 1941, near the village of Rodmell.
SOVW (Sussex Ouse Valley Way)
The SOVW is a waymarked 68 km (42 mi) long distance footpath opened in 2005 and broadly following the course of the River Ouse from close to its source to the sea. It runs from Lower Beeding near Horsham through the Low Weald to Newhaven and Seaford Bay. sussexousevalleyway.co.uk
Chailey Common is with over 180 hectares one of the largest commons in the south of England and was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 1966. The common is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its heathland plants, and diverse insect and bird communities. It includes Red House Common, Memorial Common, Romany Ridge Common, Pound Common and Lane End.
Chailey Windmill & Museum of Local Artefacts
The windmill near North Chailey is known as Heritage Mill, or Beard's Mill and is a Grade II listed Smock Mill, which is maintained as a landmark and open to the public. A windmill was first recorded at this site in 1596. Heritage Mill, the seventh on this site, was built in 1830 at Highbrook, West Hoathly. In 1844 she was moved to Newhaven, from where she was moved to her current location at Chailey, replacing a post mill.
A Smock Mill consists of a sloping, horizontally weather-boarded or thatched tower, usually with six or eight sides. It is topped with a roof or cap that rotates to bring the sails into the wind. This type of windmill got its name from its resemblance to smocks worn by farmers in an earlier period. The mill museum is open to visitors regularly on the last Sunday of each month from April to September, 15.00-17.00 hours. chailey.org
Sussex Hospices Trail
The SHT is a waymarked 314 km (195 mi) long distance footpath around East and West Sussex. The trail has been created by Friends of Sussex Hospices and dedicated to raising awareness of hospice care, as a venue for fundraising activities and as a permanent route for walkers. hospicestrail.co.uk