Hilly Wealden landscapes, ancient villages and Bewl Water reservoir
Main walk: 17.1km (10.6 miles)
Plus a) Loop to Bewl Water: 19.6km (12.1 miles)
Plus b) Longer Bewl Water Route into Wadhurst: 20.6km (12.8 miles)
Plus c) Shorter Bewl Water route into Wadhurst: 18.5km (11.5 miles)
Plus d) Robertsbridge start: 21.1km (13.1 miles)
Options b) and c) are alternatives to each other, but the other three options can be combined. The longest possible walks are:
from Etchingham: main walk + a) + b) = 23.1km (14.3 miles)
from Robertsbridge: d) + main walk + a) + b) = 27.1km (16.8 miles)
5 out of 10: quite hilly, but with mainly gentle gradients
OS Explorer 136, Landranger 188 (199 for the Robertsbridge start)
After a fairly flat start across the valley of the River Rother, this is a classic Wealden walk - a hilly mix of pasture and woodland, fine panoramic views across valleys, a succession of converted oast houses, a cobnut orchard, and the typical Wealden villages of Ticehurst and Wadhurst. The route also passes very close to the shore of the beautiful Bewl Water reservoir and there are optional extra sections (see Walk Options below) which take you down to hidden places on its shoreline.
While the walk is very rural throughout, there are three sections of road walking. One is a necessary 2km (1.2 mile) walk along the main road through the village of Ticehurst, which can be broken up by a visit to the pretty village centre (or even lunch at The Bell, though the Bull Inn in Three Leg Cross 1.1km/0.6 miles further on is highly recommended). The other two are idyllic saunters down back lanes whose verges are alive with wild flowers in spring. The first of these is just after lunch, a 2.1km (1.3 miles) back lane which was cut off by the construction of the reservoir and is now something of a hidden lost world. The other is the 3.3km (2 mile) ending from Wadhurst village to Wadhurst station.
These road sections, and others on gravel tracks and lanes, make this walk fairly well suited to winter, which is also the time when the somewhat early closing times of the Wadhurst tea rooms will be less of a problem. At this time of year there could be flooding at the start of the walk, where it crosses the Rother valley, though there is a road alternative to this if necessary.
Easily the best time to do the walk is in spring, however, when the lanes verges are covered in flowers and this ancient landscape looks at its best. From mid May to early June there are also good displays of buttercups at the start of this walk, on the Robertsbridge start, and on the loops to Bewl Water. In addition, this is idyllic walk for a summer day, when there is ample daylight for a leisurely exploration of the margins of the reservoir, or in October, when the wooded landscape provides plenty of autumn colour.
Note: There were reports in the spring of 2020 that the sections of this route around Bewl Water had become popular with cyclists. This has never been an issue before, so it is not clear whether the bridleway around the reservoir has been suddenly discovered by cyclists or whether this was a response to the coronavirus lockdown of that year. If you experience lots of cyclists on this section, please give us an update in the comments section for this walk (see the button menu under the photographs near the top of the page).
The main walk route takes you close to the edge of the picturesque Bewl Water Reservoir, but never actually visits it. These three options enable you to do just that.
a) Loop to Bewl Water . Starting from the Bull Inn, the recommended lunch stop, this takes you on a beautiful circuit down to the edge of the reservoir, returning you to a point a little way into the afternoon of the main walk. It adds 2.5km (1.5 miles) to the walk.
b) Longer Bewl Water Route into Wadhurst. This is the longest of the three options and spends the most time on the reservoir's edge. It explores a remote promontory that sticks right out into the reservoir, and with fine panoramic views as well as intimate close-ups of the water's edge. It adds 3.7km (2.3 miles) to the walk length
c) Shorter Bewl Water Route into Wadhurst. This is the ideal way to visit the reservoir with the minimum of effort. It is in effect a shortened version of option b) which adds just 1.4km (0.9 miles) to the walk length
For those who prefer a longer morning option d) Robertsbridge start adds 4km/2.5 miles to the start of the walk.
Etchingham and Wadhurst are both on the railway line from Charing Cross and London Bridge to Hastings. Trains currently stop hourly at Etchingham and half hourly at Wadhurst (hourly after 7.30pm), taking just over an hour from London.
The train that currently leaves London around 10.15am would be enough to get you to lunch in time, but if you want more time to explore Bewl Water in the afternoon, or if you want to get to the tearooms in Wadhurst before they close, the 9.15am train might be more advisable. Buy a day return to Etchingham.
For option d) Robertsbridge start get the 9.15am train and buy a day return to Robertsbridge.
Shortening the walk with buses
The 254 bus runs Monday to Saturday between Ticehurst, Wadhurst village, Wadhurst station and Tunbridge Wells station enabling you to start or finish at Ticehurst or save yourself the 3.2km (2 mile) walk from Wadhurst village to its station. Buses from Ticehurst go from the shelter roughly opposite The Bell Inn hourly at 54 past till 17.54 Monday to Saturday. Buses from Wadhurst go from the Greyhound Inn ten minutes after the Ticehurst times. If you are heading for London it might be better to stay on the bus all the way to Tunbridge Wells station (about 20 minutes after Wadhurst) which has a much more frequent train service.
To start the walk at Ticehurst (6.4km/4 miles into the walk) it is probably better to get the bus from Tunbridge Wells: it leaves from the far side of the main road from the east side exit of the station at 39 past Monday to Saturday. If you get off at the Bell Inn in Ticehurst and turn around to go back the way you have come, you are at paragraph 34 in the main walk directions on page 5.
There are two possible pub lunch stops for this walk. The first you come to, 6.4km/4 miles into the walk, is The Bell, High Street Ticehurst, (01580 200234 www.thebellinticehurst.com). It has a spacious interior and a nice patio area with outside seatings. The menu is rather on the trendy side, with prices to match, but service is efficient and friendly. It also has a room that can be reserved by groups. (The Chequers Inn, passed 100 metres before The Bell, seems to be a traditional locals-type pub: if it does food, it does not advertise the fact.)
The recommended lunch stop, however, only 1.1km (0.6 miles) further on, is the Bull Inn in Three Leg Cross (01580 200 586 www.thebullinn.co.uk, 7.5km (4.6 miles) into the walk. This is a large walker (and dog) friendly pub in a pleasant rural location, with an interesting and not overpriced menu, and plenty of outside tables in summer. It majors on table service but you can also eat in the bar area, and even when fully booked they are good at squeezing people in. It serves food from 12-2.30pm Monday to Saturday, and later on Sunday "according to demand". The pub is also open for drinks all afternoon and does food 6.30-9pm Tuesday to Saturday.
Ticehurst also has two cafes, though both have somewhat limited hours. The Greedy Goat Cafe (01580 200 955) does hot meals and is open to 3pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but only to 1.30pm on Wednesday and midday on Saturday. The Courtyard Cafe, despite its name, is situated in a modern residential development and has unromantic decor: it serves omelettes, baked potatoes and sandwiches until 2pm Tuesday, 3pm Monday and Wednesday to Saturday.
Ticehurst churchyard, just beyond the Greedy Goat Cafe, makes a very nice picnic spot, with pleasantly situated benches. There is a convenience store on the corner at the start of Church Street.
The best tea option, if you can get there in time (which is almost impossible), is the characterful Wealden Wholefoods Cafe, open until 4.30pm Monday to Saturday, with last orders half an hour earlier. The Piccolo cafe nearby keeps the same hours. Otherwise the One Shop convenience store has a hot drinks machine as well as cakes and pastries, and is open until 10pm daily. There is also a Jempsons supermarket, open till 10pm Monday to Saturday.
Both the pubs in Wadhurst seem to be open all afternoon and serve hot drinks. The Greyhound, the first you come to, is a more traditional pub. It has plenty of tea pots but can refuse to use them when the bar is busy. It has a large (but well-hidden) garden that can be very pleasant in summer. 100 metres up the road the White Hart has been revamped and is now quite smart with a gastro menu. It serves tea in pots.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (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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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk