Along the High Weald Landscape Trail to some attractive villages in the upper Medway Valley
Main Walk, to Forest Row: 17½ km (10.9 miles). Four hours 30 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, buses, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours.
Extended Walk, to East Grinstead: 23 km (14.3 miles). Five hours 55 minutes walking time.
Explorer 135. Eridge, map reference TQ541347, is in East Sussex, 4 km NE of Crowborough. Forest Row is 4 km SE of East Grinstead, which is in West Sussex.
5 out of 10 (7 for the Extended Walk).
This walk makes no great claims to originality, much of it being along the High Weald Landscape Trail (HWLT). The beginning is the reverse of the Cowden to Eridge walk (#3) and it has the same extended finish as the Ashurst to East Grinstead walk (#110x). Nevertheless, as long as the clay soils are not waterlogged it makes a pleasant outing in the High Weald, with nice places for lunch and tea.
After leaving the rural station at Eridge – shared with steam trains on the Spa Valley Railway – you are soon in the undulating countryside typical of the High Weald. At Mottsmill Stream the walk joins the HWLT and follows this long-distance path through the Buckhurst Estate, with a glimpse of its grand house, Buckhurst Park. As you leave the estate you enter the small village of Withyham with its notable parish church, and a possible pub lunch at the Dorset Arms.
A short stretch then takes you to the neighbouring village of Hartfield, associated with the author AA Milne and his most famous creation: coachloads of tourists regularly descend on Pooh Corner to buy all manner of Winnie-the-Pooh memorabilia. The walk then crosses the River Medway and climbs up the other side of the valley, with fine views across to Ashdown Forest. The descent into Forest Row goes through the co-operative enterprise of Tablehurst Farm.
You can either finish the walk here or complete an Extended Walk up the long gentle incline of the Forest Way, a popular cycle route along the trackbed of a disused railway line. The hilltop town of East Grinstead has many old buildings dating back to the 14thC, including Sackville College (a Jacobean almshouse) and the imposing St Swithun's Church.
As with any walk in the High Weald, you will need to be prepared for muddy or waterlogged paths at almost any time of the year.
You can do a Shortened Walk by starting from either Withyham or Hartfield, in which case you should travel to East Grinstead and then take Metrobus 291 to one of these villages.
For a shorter walk after lunch you could head for Ashurst station, about 6 km away: use the directions in the Ashurst Circular walk (#29) from Hartfield or (partly in the reverse direction) from Withyham. If you want to abandon the walk in one of these villages you could take bus 291 to East Grinstead.
For a longer and tougher walk after Hartfield you could switch to the more southerly route via Ashdown Forest in Walk #110.
At Cansiron Lane you could switch to the main afternoon route in the East Grinstead Circular walk (#40). This takes a more direct route to East Grinstead (bypassing Forest Row) and is about 1½ km shorter than the Extended Walk route.
You will need to print the directions for these additional options from the relevant walk document.
There is an hourly service from London Bridge to Eridge, taking 55 minutes (longer on Sundays, when you have to change at East Croydon and/or Oxted).
There is no station in Forest Row, so if you finish the walk there you will need to take a bus up the hill to East Grinstead. Metrobus 270 & 291 alternate to provide a half-hourly service to around 7pm Mon–Sat, plus some later ones in the evening. On Sundays both services are two-hourly to around 6pm.
For the return train journey East Grinstead is on a different line from Eridge but it is also operated by Southern, with a half-hourly off-peak service to Victoria. The suggested ticket is a return to East Grinstead, which is slightly more expensive and likely to be accepted if checked on the outward journey (there are no ticket barriers at Eridge station).
If driving, there is no direct public transport between the two stations but you could park in Oxted or Hurst Green, where the two lines merge. Oxted station car park notionally costs £7 Mon–Fri, £6.60 Sat, £2.25 Sun & BH (2020), but is free after 10am (though often full on weekdays).
Take the train nearest to 10:00 from London Bridge to Eridge for the Main or Extended Walk. If you are doing a Shortened Walk, check the Metrobus 291 timetable and take an appropriate train from Victoria to East Grinstead.
The suggested lunch stop is the Dorset Arms (01892-770278) in Withyham, after 8 km. In 2014 this attractive old pub was bought by the Buckhurst Estate and fully refurbished; it has plenty of outdoor seating (including a new back garden) and serves very good home-cooked food until 2.30pm (4pm Sun). The alternative is to continue for a further 2½ km to the Anchor Inn (01892-770424) in Hartfield.
If you are doing a Shortened Walk you could have lunch at one of the pubs in Forest Row, about 9½ km from Withyham and 7 km from Hartfield. As you go through the village you pass The Swan (01342-822627), the 15thC Chequers Inn Hotel (01342-823333) and The Bram Bar of the Brambletye Hotel (01342-824144).
Pooh fans could make an early stop in Hartfield for some of Kanga's ‘Strengthening Medicines’ at Piglet's Tearoom, but the logical tea place is Forest Row. The route into the village goes through Tablehurst Farm, whose café is open to 5pm Tue–Sat.
In Forest Row itself an old favourite (Taffels) has closed, but as well as the pubs listed above there are several places clustered along Hillside and the A22: these include a Costa Coffee (01342-822379; open to 6.30pm Mon–Sat, 6pm Sun), Cafe Coco (01342-823136; open to 5pm Mon–Sat, 3pm Sun) and Java & Jazz (01342-826699; open to 10pm Mon–Sat, 6pm Sun), a pizzeria, gelateria and coffee shop.
East Grinstead is not short of places if you need further refreshment after walking up the hill to the town. Two suggested places almost opposite each other on the High Street are the Dorset Arms (01342-316363) at #58 and CJ’s Café Bar (01342-301910) at #55-57, which has a rooftop terrace overlooking the churchyard. You pass these on your way through the town and will need to allow a further 15 minutes to reach the station.
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Out (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
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- Main Walk, to Forest Row (17½ km)
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If you take bus 291 from East Grinstead to Withyham, get off at the stop opposite the Dorset Arms and start at §E.
If you take bus 291 from East Grinstead to Hartfield, get off at the stop opposite Church Street and start at §F.
- Turn right out of the station, then right again into Forge Road. In 500m turn left onto a bridleway through Holden Wood. After passing driveways to several properties turn right onto the Sussex Border Path (SBP) and follow this over a hill and down past Rocks Farm into a valley. At the bottom turn left to head south-west alongside Mottsmill Stream, leaving the SBP but joining the High Weald Landscape Trail (HWLT).
- Leave the station – shared with the Spa Valley Railway? (SVR) – and turn right. In 50m turn right again into Forge Road, passing the station platforms on your right and heading in the same direction as London-bound trains.
- In 300m the road bends left to skirt around several large ponds. Ignore a driveway off to the left and follow the road down to the right, then back uphill. After it curves back to the left, fork left up a lane signposted to Motts Farm and other properties. Follow the lane past some of these houses, then through a wood.
- At the end of the wood ignore driveways on the right to Kentdale and then Motts Farm. 200m later, where the lane curves right towards another property, keep ahead on a rough track. 100m along this track, go over a new wooden footbridge on the right into a meadow, joining the Sussex Border Path? (SBP).
- Follow a grassy path uphill, passing a tree-lined pond on your right and gradually approaching Marchant Wood on your left. Keep ahead alongside a garden hedge and continue in the same direction across a field. Follow a clear path along the right-hand edge of the next field, then straight ahead across three more fields as you go over the brow of the hill.
The path eventually leads you through a metal side gate in a belt of trees into a meadow. Keep right to go downhill, staying close to Rocks Wood on your right and passing through a gap in a line of trees halfway down. At the bottom of the meadow veer left to head SW alongside Mottsmill Stream, leaving the SBP but joining the High Weald Landscape Trail? (HWLT).
- It looks tempting to cut off this corner and head directly for the bottom left-hand corner of the meadow, but the direct route can be boggy.
- Head south-west on the HWLT, initially alongside Mottsmill Stream and then climbing through woods and fields. Soon after going along the right-hand edge of a large field, turn right to go through Park Grove and along its driveway to a road (Lye Green).
- In the corner of the meadow go through a wooden gate and cross the stream on a footbridge. Bear left to continue on the potentially muddy path through a wood, soon climbing gently above the valley floor.
In 250m go straight across a driveway, then almost immediately turn left as indicated. Follow the path down a slope and back across the stream, then round to the right and up to a gate leading into a field. Go over a stile beside the gate and head uphill towards another gate at the top of the field.
The ornamental temple off to the right is in the landscaped grounds of Penns in the Rocks?, the large house away to your left.
- At the top of the field go over a stile and continue on a path uphill through a wood. After going over another stile the path passes to the left of a large sandstone outcrop. Keep ahead through a grassy area dotted with trees, then through a squeeze gate next to a metal fieldgate.
- Continue along the right-hand edge of a large field. In 400m go through a gap into another large field, but almost immediately turn right through a metal kissing gate to cross a small orchard. Use the HWLT waymarkers to find your way between houses to a tarmac driveway and follow it out to a road (Lye Green).
To stay on the HWLT, turn left briefly onto Lye Green and then follow the trail past Littlebrook and through Legg Wood to Whitehouse Farm. Turn right down a lane, cross over the B2188 and go up into the Buckhurst Estate.
- For a short cut you could turn right onto Lye Green and follow it for 500m to its junction with the B2188, then turn left onto a footpath leading back to the HWLT.
Main route (1¾ km)
- To stay on the HWLT turn left and walk carefully along this road's grass verge for just under 100m, crossing over at some point. At a footpath signpost go through a squeeze gate in the hedge and across the grass towards some large oak trees.
- Go over a stile near the trees and then steeply downhill, passing to the left of “Littlebrook” in the valley below. Go up the other side and continue along the right-hand side of a field, with a wire fence on your right. In 250m go over a stile into a wood.
- Follow the woodland path round to the left, then in 150m turn right at a path T-junction. Cross a footbridge over a ditch and follow the path out of the wood. Continue along the left-hand edge of a field and out to a lane. Turn right and go down the lane to the B2188.
- Cross the road carefully and go up the potentially muddy track opposite, which climbs and curves round to the right along the edge of a wood. 150m from the road, veer left to cross a stile into a large field.
- Turn right to go up the field edge, later following it round to the left, still climbing. Go over a stile and keep ahead towards some large trees, aiming for the left-hand edge of a wood behind them. At the wood you pass a stile from a path through the wood, the alternative route.
Alternative route (1 km)
- For the shorter route turn right and walk carefully along this road's grass verge for 500m, up to its junction with the B2188. Cross over the main road carefully and go over a stile with a footpath waymarker into a wood. Follow the broad path round to the left to head W.
- After passing a house off to the left, go through a gate beside a wooden barrier and continue through a lightly wooded area, with a wire fence on your right. 500m from the road the path comes to a stile which you go over and turn right, rejoining the HWLT.
If you want to cut out an undulating stretch of the HWLT you can take the shorter and flatter route in [?]. This involves 500m along a road with fast traffic, but there is a narrow grass verge all the way.
- Follow the HWLT along the edge of a wood towards the manor house, Buckhurst Park. Turn right onto its driveway and follow it all the way out through the landscaped grounds to the Dorset Arms on the B2110.
- Go along the edge of the field, with the wood behind a wire fence on your right. At the bottom of the slope follow the field edge briefly round to the left, then go over a stile on the right to continue in the same direction on a track on the edge of the wood.
- In 400m the track curves left and you go down a slope to join the driveway to Buckhurst Park?; you can see part of the house on the other side of the valley. Turn sharp right onto its tarmac driveway, which you now follow for 1 km through the landscaped grounds and out of the estate.
- The drive goes down a slope and bends left by an attractive lake to continue along the valley floor. Later it curves to the right past some estate cottages and an old well, then crosses a stream.
- Towards the end of the drive there are some houses on the right, including the Dorset Arms. If you are stopping at the suggested lunch pub you can either cut through its beer garden, or follow the drive down to the B2110 and turn sharp right to come to its main entrance.
- Turn left briefly onto the B2110. Unless it is closed, take a permissive path uphill and through the churchyard. Go down to a junction of lanes below the church and take the Private Drive heading south. Just after the driveway to Forstal Farm Cottage, go over a stile on the right. Follow the HWLT through fields and a small wood, later passing the house. Continue across more fields to Hartfield and go down Church Street to the village centre.
From the pub go out to the B2110 and turn left. There is only one pavement on this busy road and you have to cross over carefully to the other side, then back again after going past the village hall. Instead of continuing on the pavement, go through a metal kissing gate in the hedge.
- A notice at the top of the slope advises visitors that the continuation of this permissive path through the churchyard is locked twice a year, on March 25th and September 29th. On these days carry on along the pavement and then follow a path past a few cottages to a junction of lanes below the church. If you have to take this route, continue the directions at [?].
- For the normal route go up a grassy path to the top of the slope. Go through a wooden kissing gate and follow the churchyard path round to the far side of the church of St Michael and All Angels? to find its entrance.
- After visiting the church, return to the churchyard path and turn right. Ignore a private path on the left leading to the Rectory? but veer left down a flight of steps and turn right at the bottom to go down its driveway. At a junction of lanes below the church turn sharp left.
- Head S on this Private Drive, with Wealdway? (WW) and HWLT waymarkers confirming that this is also a public footpath. You pass some interesting old houses off to the left, the first one (with the ‘sawn-off’ corner) being Monk's House?. In 300m there is a stile on the right immediately after the driveway to Forstal Farm Cottage.
- Go over the stile, leaving the WW but staying on the HWLT. Follow a grassy path across the field, passing to the left of a large oak tree and with a stone tower? coming into view ahead on the left. Follow the path into a small wood, where you might have to negotiate some muddy patches.
- On the far side of the wood the path bends left and comes to an earth track where you turn sharp right to cross a stone bridge over a stream. Go along the right-hand field edge towards Forstal Farm Cottage, heading NW. After passing the house continue through a small grassy area into the bottom corner of a large field, with a signpost indicating two footpaths ahead.
- Take the left-hand footpath, a faint grassy path sloping up the field towards a footpath marker post in the centre of a line of tall trees 250m away. Keep ahead past the trees to the far side of the field. Go over a stile and continue along the right-hand edge of two more fields.
In the far corner follow the path round to the right, going over a stile and down a few steps to a lane opposite the church of St Mary the Virgin?. Turn left along the lane, passing Lych Gate Cottage? in the corner of the churchyard. Keep ahead down Church Street, coming to the later lunch pub (the Anchor Inn) at the T-junction with Hartfield's High Street.
- If you want to visit Pooh Corner (with Piglet's Tearoom), it is 200m along the road to the left. Return the same way and go past the junction with Church Street.
- Go along the left-hand edge of Hartfield's recreation ground and continue across fields to the Forest Way. Go straight across this disused railway line and over the River Medway on a footbridge. Follow the HWLT as it slants up the side of a valley, across several fields and through a small wood. Cross a lane leading to St Ives Farm to reach a pond and a small caravan site.
Opposite the Anchor Inn's car park on the main road, go through a wooden gate with a footpath waymarker into Hartfield's recreation ground. Pass to the left of the tennis courts and continue along a clear path down the left-hand edge of several fields, heading NW. At the end go over a stile and straight across the tree-lined Forest Way?.
You are crossing the route of Walk #110, which includes a short stretch along the Forest Way.
- For an easy (but monotonous) route you could turn left and simply follow this cycle route for 4½ km to Forest Row. If you take this short cut (which only saves 1 km), continue the directions at [?] in §J.
- On the far side of the pond continue on the HWLT along the right-hand edge of more fields, then through Paupersdale Wood. On the other side bear right up a slope to cross another large field. Take the left-hand of two footpaths across the next field to reach Cansiron Lane.
- Bear right onto a track going around the pond, which leads to a picnic area where you keep right. Go over a stile in the corner and continue along the right-hand edge of three large fields, heading W. You pass some farm buildings off to the right and in the last field you are going alongside Paupersdale Wood.
- In the far corner cross a track and keep ahead on a broad grassy path through the wood. On the far side the path veers right to cross a ditch on a plank bridge. Go over a stile to emerge into the bottom corner of a large sloping field.
- Turn half-right and follow a grassy path going diagonally up the field, heading towards the left-hand end of a line of trees on the horizon. In the top corner several paths merge and you go through a wide gap into another field. Take the left-hand of the two grassy paths ahead, going diagonally across it towards a prominent communications mast.
In the far corner go over a stile to come out onto Cansiron Lane at a bend. The onward route is a stile just up ahead, to the right of a metal fieldgate on the left-hand side of the lane.
- If you want to switch to Walk #40 (bypassing Forest Row) you could pick up its directions in the “Cansiron Lane to border of East Grinstead” section after heading west along Cansiron Lane for 600m, where it joins from a driveway on the left. The route is shown on the Walk Map.
- The suggested route diverges from the HWLT. Turn left off the lane onto a footpath going past a communications tower and the edge of Highams Wood. Follow the path downhill through Tablehurst Farm to its shop and café.
- Go over the stile and follow a track down a slope and round to the right of the communications mast. Cross another stile and follow a clear grassy path heading SW, past the edge of a wood and then downhill beneath power cables. Go over a stile and keep ahead across a meadow, towards a wooden fieldgate in a belt of trees.
- Go through the gate onto a broad track going down through the trees. In less than 50m turn left off the track onto a narrow and slightly awkward path heading S, hemmed in between the trees and a wire fence. At the end of the fence follow a faint grassy path as it curves round to the right. AFter going through a couple of metal fieldgates the path continues between a fence and a wood before eventually coming out onto a broad track.
- Turn left onto the track and follow it round to the left past a quirky wooden dwelling, Pericles?. Go downhill on the track for 500m, between the fields and orchards of Tablehurst Farm?. At the bottom of the hill its shop and café are on the right, opposite a tea garden and its car park (containing an unusual wooden dovecote).
The suggested route into Forest Row diverges from the HWLT in order to go via Tablehurst Farm.
Go through the farm's car park and across meadows, recrossing the River Medway and the Forest Way. Continue across another meadow and a small recreation ground. Go along the B2110 into Forest Row, turning right down Hillside just before the A22 for a choice of tea places. Where this side street merges with the A22 there is a bus stop nearby if you are finishing the walk here.
- Leave the farm through its car park and veer right onto a narrow path down to the right of some converted stables. Cross a ditch on a wooden footbridge and follow a grassy path across two meadows, with another footbridge taking you back across the River Medway between them. On the far side go over a stile, up a flight of steps and turn right onto the Forest Way.
Go along the cycle route for just 100m, then turn left down a flight of steps into an open space. Turn right and make your way to its far left-hand corner.
Judging by a footpath signpost nearer the right-hand corner, the official right of way (when this was a farm field with gates and hedges) was slightly different.
- In the corner keep ahead along a tree-lined track “Forester's Link” heading W towards a small recreation ground. Go past a skate park and diagonally across the ground to the far corner. Go up to the B2110 and bear right onto the road.
- Go across Station Road and follow the B2110 up past a parade of shops. Just before the roundabout with the A22 turn right down Hillside, passing the small village green, War Memorial and the distinctive Freshfield Hall? on your left.
The Swan is on the far side of the main road, but most of the refreshment places are on the right-hand side of Hillside: Costa Coffee, Cafe Coco, the Chequers Inn Hotel and finally Java & Jazz. Hillside merges with the A22 here and you can see the Brambletye Hotel? opposite.
If finishing the walk here, the bus stop for East Grinstead is outside the Brambletye Hotel.
- If finishing the walk here, the bus stop for East Grinstead is outside the Brambletye Hotel.
Head north briefly along the A22 and bear left onto the Forest Way cycle route immediately after crossing the River Medway. Follow this all the way into the outskirts of East Grinstead, forking left near the end to come out at a major roundabout. Turn left onto Lewes Road and keep ahead where this becomes the town's High Street. At a mini-roundabout turn right into London Road. Go straight on at traffic lights, then turn left into Railway Approach. Go over a major roundabout to reach the station.
From any of the tea places make your way to the A22 and head N on the main road. Just after the road crosses the River Medway, bear left at the pedestrian traffic lights onto the Forest Way, signposted as Cycle Route 21. In 700m the track crosses Brambletye Lane and goes into a deep cutting.
- If you wish you can fork left onto a narrow path along its top, with views out to the left including the ruins of Brambletye House?. This side path eventually drops down to rejoin the main track.
- The later stages of the Forest Way are on a high embankment, with glimpses through the trees of the countryside beyond. On reaching the outskirts of East Grinstead, go straight across Herontye Drive and fork left up an incline to come out in front of a large roundabout, with the A22 continuing on Beeching Way? on the far side.
- Turn left onto Lewes Road, heading W towards the town centre. In 250m keep ahead at a road junction into the town's ancient High Street, with a bronze monument? in honour of Sir Archibald McIndoe in front of Sackville College?. You then pass the imposing church of St Swithun? on the right.
- Two suggested tea places nearby are CJ’s Café Bar in front of the church, with the Dorset Arms across the road. At the end of the High Street turn right at a mini-roundabout to go down London Road, passing more refreshment places.
Keep ahead at a road junction with traffic lights, then 100m later turn left into Railway Approach. At the far end you have to negotiate a large roundabout to reach the station opposite. It is a terminus and trains can leave from either platform, but most leave from Platform 2, on this side.
For simplicity this extension follows the Forest Way all the way up a gentle incline to East Grinstead. There are more varied and stimulating alternatives but they can be boggy and not always easy to follow.
» Last updated: October 27, 2020