The heathlands of Ashdown Forest. Travel by Bus.
Forest Row Circular: 17.7km (11 miles)
Morning only: 7.7km (4.8 miles)
Afternoon only: 10km (6.2 miles)
Extension to East Grinstead: adds 5.5km (4.3 miles)
4 out of 10: mainly level, but with some gentle hills
OS Landranger 187 & 188; Explorer 135.
This walk explores the interesting high heathlands of Ashdown Forest, with extensive views both south and north (there is for example a fine distant view of the South Downs in the early stages of this walk).
The heaths are particularly beautiful from mid August to mid September, when the purple heather is at its best, and from March to May when there is plenty of gorse in bloom. In the afternoon the walk passes the Ashdown Forest Visitor Centre, which has lots of interesting displays about this unique habitat.
The walk is not all heathland, however. Interspersed with it are sections across some pleasant green valleys, as well as some woodland. For lunch there is a pub with a fine garden.
Special note : these directions aim to be comprehensive, but need careful following on the heath sections, where once you are lost it is very hard to re-discover the route. A compass and the Explorer map is certainly useful for emergencies (as is a GPS, obviously).
The 270 bus (see Transport below) carries on from Forest Row to pass the Red Lion in Chelwood Gate, the recommended lunch pub, enabling you to do just the morning (7.7km/4.8 miles) or afternoon (10km/6.2 miles) of this walk. Last buses back are at roughly 8pm Monday to Friday. 7.40pm on Saturdays and 6pm on Sundays, but the timetable changes regularly, so do check.
On a summer evening it is possible to extend the walk to East Grinstead (5.5km/3.4 miles) in just over an hour on the path along the old railway line. This starts on the left, just beyond the bridge at the bottom of the village’s main street.
The Horsted Keynes Circular walk on this website shares the same lunch pub as this walk, so you could combine the morning of one walk and the afternoon of the other to make a linear walk. Forest Row to Horsted Keynes is 16.2km (10.6 miles) while Horsted Keynes to Forest Row is 18.9km (11.7 miles)
Unlike most other walks on this website, this one requires a bus ride as well as a train to reach the start. But the bus leaves from right outside the station and only takes 13 minutes. The fare is currently £2.60 one way or £3.40 return. If there are four or five of you, it may be not much more expensive to squeeze into a taxi.
First you need to take a train from Victoria to East Grinstead. These leave every 30 minutes, and the train at 9.23 is a good one to take in order to reach the lunch pub in good time.
Coming out of East Grinstead station, turn half left to find the bus stop just outside the station. From here you can take the 291 or 270 buses to Forest Row (the ultimate direction of the bus being Tunbridge Wells for the 291 or Brighton for the 270). Both buses are hourly Monday to Saturday, with the 270 currently at 5 past the hour and the 291 at 41 past the hour. On Sunday the buses run every two hours, the only convenient buses being the 9.25 and 11.25 for the 270 and the 9.41 and 11.41 for the 291.
Get off the bus in at the ‘Brambletye’ stop in Forest Row, which is the first one after you enter the village, with the Chequers Inn on your left.
The return bus leaves from the opposite side of the road. The last bus is late in the evening Mondays to Saturdays but only around 6pm on Sundays.
The Red Lion (01825 740836, www.redlionchelwood.co.uk) in Chelwood Gate (7.7km/4.8 miles into the walk) is a modernised country pub, which has both a restaurant area and more informal bar dining. It has an extensive garden, and advertises itself as welcoming to “dog walkers, ramblers and families”. It serves food until 2.30pm Monday to Saturday and around 3.30pm Sunday (“until the food runs out”
There is a Costa Coffee in Forest Row, open to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday and 5pm Sunday.
Java and Jazz (01342 826699 www.javaandjazz.co.uk) just downhill from the Chequers Inn, has a good selection of cakes as well as serving pizzas, and does indeed play jazz as background music. It is open till 8pm Monday, 8.30pm Tuesday to Thursday, 9pm Friday and Saturday and 7pm on Sunday.
Otherwise the Chequers Inn is a reliable pub stop, and the petrol station just uphill on the far side of the road has a Tesco Metro selling cakes. The Brambletye Hotel, a pub situated conveniently just behind the bus stop for East Grinstead (in summer you can sit at an outside table with a pint as you wait for the bus), also serves tea and coffee.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (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