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Old railway embankment near Copyhold Lane

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Old railway bridge at Copyhold Lane

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Old railway bridge at Copyhold Lane

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Towards River's Farm

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Ardingly branch line

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Through River's Wood

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Ardingly College

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Haywards Heath to Balcombe via Ardingly Walk

An undulating High Weald walk with a contrasting section alongside Ardingly Reservoir

Haywards Heath to Balcombe, via Ardingly
Length

Main Walk: 15¾ km (9.8 miles). Four hours walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8 hours.

Circular Walk, from Balcombe: 16¾ km (10.4 miles). Four hours 15 minutes walking time.

Alternative Walk, finishing at Horsted Keynes: 13¼ km (8.2 miles). Three hours 30 minutes walking time.

OS Map

Explorer 135. Haywards Heath, map reference TQ330246, is in West Sussex, 20 km N of Brighton.

Toughness

5 out of 10.

Features

Haywards Heath is a large commuter town and there is quite a lot of it to get through at the start of the walk, but the route is rather better in practice than suggested by the map (even more so if you take an unofficial but widely-used deviation across a private meadow). An undulating stretch across open ground and woodland typical of the High Weald eventually takes you across the River Ouse, along the dam wall of Ardingly Reservoir and up to the village of Ardingly for a pub lunch.

Near the start of the afternoon section you have an unusually close encounter with a leading independent school as the walk route takes you on a right of way through the grounds of Ardingly College. You then cross over your outward route at the reservoir and join the “Winter Walk” part of Extra Walk 22 (Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir) for a long stretch along its northern side, although with a small variation as you approach Balcombe. After a tea stop in the Balcombe Tea Rooms you can either follow the route in Book 1 Walk 16 (Balcombe Circular) to the station, or a slightly longer new route if you have time before the next train.

As with any walk in the High Weald, you will need to be prepared for muddy or waterlogged paths after wet weather.

Walk Options

A Circular Walk from Balcombe has been included for convenience, but of necessity much of its outward route has been taken from Book 1 Walk 16 and the “Summer Walk” part of Extra Walk 22.

The Alternative Walk takes a shorter but hillier afternoon route in the opposite direction, across more wooded valleys to finish in the attractive village of Horsted Keynes (pronounced ‘canes’: see Walk Notes), strung out along a broad village green. The route goes through the hamlet of Highbrook and includes a particularly scenic section alongside the Bluebell Railway, one of the oldest and most successful preservation railways in the country. The ending is the reverse of the start of Extra Walk 132 (Horsted Keynes Circular).

There is very little overlap between these two options and they could effectively be treated as two separate walks.

Additional Notes

The original version of this walk was from Horsted Keynes to Balcombe, but the transport arrangements for this combination are particularly awkward (which is why a Balcombe to Horsted Keynes option is not explicitly included in this document). The Main Walk and Circular Walk have been retained from the original document, and one of the original routes from Horsted Keynes to Ardingly has been reversed to create the Alternative Walk ending.

Transport

Haywards Heath is on the main Brighton line, with frequent Thameslink services from St Pancras, Blackfriars and London Bridge, plus Southern trains from Victoria. The journey time from London Bridge or Victoria is around 40-45 minutes. On the Thameslink route you can get cheap Super Off-Peak tickets from central and north London (Sat, Sun & BH), but these are not valid on Southern services. Buy a return to Haywards Heath for the walks starting there.

Balcombe is the stop before Haywards Heath but it only has an hourly off-peak service, on the Thameslink route (Mon–Sat) and Southern (Sun). Buy a return to Balcombe for the Circular Walk.

At the end of the Alternative Walk Horsted Keynes is served by Metrobus 270. This runs hourly (two-hourly Sun & BH) between Brighton, Haywards Heath and East Grinstead. The bus stops at the western end of the village green, and at the Bluebell Railway station on weekends. It is quicker to travel back via Haywards Heath but it is useful to be able to return in either direction; the last service to Haywards Heath is at around 7pm (6pm Sat, 5pm Sun & BH), but there are one or two later services to East Grinstead (Apr 2017).

East Grinstead is on a different line, operated by Southern. You would normally have to buy an extra single to East Croydon but if you ask nicely an “Any Permitted” return ticket to Haywards Heath (though not a “Thameslink only” one) might just be accepted.

If you want to abandon the walk after lunch in Ardingly, Metrobus 272 runs every two hours (Mon–Sat) to Haywards Heath in one direction and Three Bridges in the other.

If driving, Haywards Heath station car park costs £8 Mon–Fri, £4.90 Sat, £2 Sun & BH (2017). Balcombe station car park costs £2.50 and free roadside parking is also available in the village. For the Alternative Walk you could park in Horsted Keynes (there are free car parks in the village and at the Bluebell Railway station) and take the 270 bus to Haywards Heath to start the walk.

Suggested Train

Take the train nearest to 10:15 from London Bridge or Victoria to Haywards Heath, or the train nearest to 10:00 to Balcombe for the Circular Walk.

Train Times

Lunch

The suggested lunch stop on all the walk options is the Ardingly Inn (01444-892214), which has a back garden and serves food to 2pm (4pm on Sundays). Except on Sundays when they are both closed, lighter fare is available at the village bakery or Cosy Cafe (01444-891828).

Ardingly's second pub (the Oak Inn) closed in 2014.

Tea

Except on Mondays, the suggested tea place on the main walk variations is the popular Balcombe Tea Rooms (01444-811777), open Tue–Sun to 4pm (may stay open later if called in advance). The alternative is the nearby Half Moon Inn (01444-811582), which serves tea and coffee all day as well as stronger fare. The station is a 7-8 minute walk along roads from the centre of Balcombe; longer if you take one of the nicer routes to end the walk.

There are two friendly pubs in Horsted Keynes village at the end of the Alternative Walk, the Crown Inn (01825-791609) and the Green Man (01825-790656); both are normally open all day at weekends. Alternatively, you could catch the bus first and have tea while waiting for the train: there is a café in the large new Waitrose next to Haywards Heath station, plus other refreshment options in and around the station.

If you finish at the Bluebell Railway station the George V refreshment room on Platforms 3&4 is open “on busy days and weekends” according to the Station Guide.

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Trains

Out: (not a train station)

Back: (not a train station)

By Car

Start: RH16 1DJ Directions then return to your car by train:

Finish: RH17 6JQ Directions then travel to the start by train:

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Start walking Large print Using GPS data

National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234

Version

Jun-17

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Walk Directions  

The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

Haywards Heath to Balcombe, via Ardingly

Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).

Walk Map: Haywards Heath to Balcombe, via Ardingly Walk Map

Walk Options

Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.

  1. Main Walk (15¾ km)
  1. Circular Walk, from Balcombe (16¾ km)
  2. Alternative Walk, to Horsted Keynes (13¼ km)

Walk Directions

Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.

If you are doing the Circular Walk from Balcombe, start at §3.

  1. Haywards Heath Station to Copyhold Lane (2¾ km)
  2. Head north alongside the railway, at first on a path beside Sainsbury's and then up Wickham Way. Continue on the footpath heading north from Wickham Farm, across a golf course and then through a wood to reach Copyhold Lane.

    Bear left out of the station forecourt, cross the road at the pedestrian traffic lights and turn left to go under the railway bridge. On the other side turn right by a mini-roundabout onto a cycleway heading N between a supermarket car park and the railway. At the end join Burrell Road and go up to a T-junction.

    Turn right to go back under the railway. After passing a timber merchants turn left into Wickham Way, signposted as a pedestrian route to Ardingly Reservoir. Follow this quiet private road uphill past houses, later with trees on the right. At the top you come to a T-junction with another private road, with a metal gate ahead leading into a large meadow.

    There is a “Keep Out” notice on this gate, but this is widely ignored and if you feel like joining the local dog-walkers on well-trodden paths a pleasant alternative is to go down the left-hand side of the meadow, across a stream at the bottom and then up to the top right-hand corner, rejoining the public footpath on the edge of a golf course. If you do this, continue the directions at [•] below.

    Until the status of this meadow is clarified, however, the ‘official’ route is to turn right at the T-junction onto another private road (which is also a right of way), going between brick pillars towards Wickham Farm. In 100m turn left at a footpath signpost near the entrance to the old house. Go downhill on a broad and potentially muddy tree-lined path, heading N again.

    At the bottom of the slope go over a stream on a footbridge and continue in the same direction, gently uphill. You eventually emerge from the trees on the edge of a golf course, with a path from the meadow joining from the left.

    [•] Head N on the public footpath through the golf course, which you will be following for about 500m. Initially there is netting on your right protecting you from big hitters on a distant driving range, and shortly afterwards you need to take care when passing in front of a tee. After the path goes into some trees keep right as indicated and continue on the obvious path, passing a groundsman's hut along the way. Eventually you come to a path T-junction with a three-way footpath signpost.

    Turn left into a wood, joining the Sussex Ouse Valley Way1 (SOVW). Follow the path as it bends right, then fork left where a minor path branches off to the right. Further on the sunken path can be very muddy and there are various drier alternatives to the side (but keep the main path in sight to avoid being led astray onto other paths). The main path eventually bends left and leaves the wood through a metal kissing gate, emerging onto a minor road (Copyhold Lane).

  3. Copyhold Lane to Ardingly Reservoir (2 km)
  4. Join the High Weald Landscape Trail and follow it north across the Ardingly branch line, through River's Wood and across the River Ouse to Ardingly Reservoir.

    Cross the road (by the remains of a low embankment for the abandoned Ouse Valley Railway2) and take the tree-lined footpath just off to the right, now on both the SOVW and the High Weald Landscape Trail3 (HWLT). In 150m go through a gate, past a cottage and through a belt of trees. Keep ahead across a potentially boggy field and continue gently uphill on a tree-lined track.

    At the top of the slope go through a metal kissing gate and across a brick bridge over the single-track Ardingly branch4 line. Keep ahead past the side of a large barn and go over a stile ahead into River's Wood, part of the Balcombe Estate. Follow the waymarked HWLT through the wood for 800m, gradually curving to the right while always heading roughly N.

    Towards the end of this stretch you might be able to see the massive main building of Ardingly College – which you will later be walking past – perched on a hill to your right.

    At the end of the wood go over a stile beside a fieldgate and bear right across a grassy area. Cross the River Ouse on a substantial wooden footbridge (leaving the SOVW, which turns left). Continue along the left-hand edge of another grassy area and go over a second footbridge.

    Keep ahead up the right-hand edge of a field; as you gain height you will be able to see the Ouse Valley Viaduct5, just over 1 km away to the left. About two-thirds of the way up the field, turn right as indicated through a gap in the hedge and follow a grassy path through another field, gradually curving round to the left. In the far corner go through a kissing gate and keep ahead through a small area of scrubland (leaving the HWLT, which turns right). At the bottom turn right at a three-way footpath signpost, joining the Circular Walk route.

    Continue the directions at §5.

  5. Balcombe Station to London Road (3¼ km)
  6. Go across the B2028 and up a path to a residential street, Newlands. Turn right and follow it round to the left. Opposite Jobes, take the footpath heading south down to and across the railway. Cross the B2028 and continue on a footpath through Pilstye Wood and over a small hill to Cherry Lane. Turn left briefly onto the road, then left again onto a bridleway through Pilstye Farm to return to the B2028.

    Go up the steps from the platform and turn right at the top to come out onto the B2036. Cross this busy road carefully and take the tarmac path just off to the left, up a slope to a residential road. Turn right and follow this uphill and round to the left. Just after a cul-de-sac of houses on the left, and opposite a street “Jobes”, turn right onto a narrow footpath between houses.

    You are now following part of Book 1 Walk 16, in reverse.

    Keep ahead alongside a garden fence and then along the left-hand edge of a large field. In the corner bear left onto a path alongside the main railway line and cross the tracks on a new footbridge. The path leads to the end of a short lane which you follow to the main road, the B2036 again.

    Turn left onto the B2036, crossing over carefully at some point. In about 100m (and some way past a footpath signpost) bear right onto a narrow path which curves around the edge of a copse and comes out into the top corner of a large field. Turn right to go down a broad grassy strip on the field margin.

    The signposted right of way is to go straight ahead for 75m and then turn half-right down across the field, but it appears that everyone follows the much simpler route around the field margin.

    After about 250m along the field margin, where you are going alongside the bottom of the field, veer right through a metal kissing gate into Pilstye Wood. Go across a stream on a wooden footbridge and continue uphill for 200m on a broad path, heading SW.

    About 50m before a woodland track up ahead, fork left at a footpath signpost and go up to a junction of tracks. Go straight ahead across one track and bear left, still climbing and soon passing an impressive rock outcrop on the right. The track curves right and comes out into the open, where you keep ahead along a field boundary. As you go over the brow of the hill and start to descend you should be able to glimpse the Ouse Valley Viaduct5, 2 km ahead on the left.

    Go past a house on the right and follow the field edge briefly round to the left, then go over a stile on the right by a pole carrying power cables. Go down a few steps, across a small field and through a gate. Continue downhill between fields and turn left onto a lane.

    You soon leave the Book 1 route, a footpath off to the right of the lane. The remainder of the morning section is the same as the “Higher Route to Ardingly” in Extra Walk 22.

    Where the lane turns sharply right, fork left onto a signposted bridleway to Pilstye Farm. Follow this farm track up and round to the right past the farmhouse and outbuildings, then simply head E along it for 500m to reach London Road, the B2036 again.

  7. London Road to Ardingly Reservoir (2½ km)
  8. Cross the B2028 and take the footpath heading east across a stream and then uphill alongside Furland Wood to the railway. Turn right to go alongside it, then cross it on a bridge and continue across fields to Stonehall Lane. Take the footpath going past Stone Hall, later heading east across fields to Ardingly Reservoir.

    Cross the main road carefully and take the footpath opposite, going over a stile into a field. Follow a faint grassy path straight ahead, leading to a farm track going half-right into the trees at the bottom of the field. At the end of this short track veer left to cross a stream on a wide bridge (or the footbridge to its right). Make your way across a potentially boggy area and up the left-hand edge of two large fields.

    At the top follow the field edge round to the right, with the main railway line on your left. About 100m before the end of the field, turn left to cross it on a brick bridge and continue on a track across the next field. This gradually approaches a hedge where you turn half-right by a footpath sign, crossing a ditch on a plank bridge. In the next field bear slightly left and go across it to a stile in the trees on the far side. Go over this and down a bank to a road (Stonehall Lane).

    Cross the road, turn left and immediately fork right into a driveway, passing a couple of stone pillars and a lodge. 200m from the road, turn right onto a concrete track, heading E. There are two impressive houses here, Stone Hall at the corner and then Balcombe Place6 off to the left. The drive goes across a small dip and past a few cottages on the right, then comes to a metal fieldgate and wooden side gate across the drive.

    Do not go through either of these gates but go through a metal fieldgate on the left into a field. Turn right to go slightly to the left of your previous direction, aiming for the right-hand end of a copse. Go over a stile in the hedge here and continue alongside the copse. At the end of the trees keep ahead across the field to a stile in the hedge on the far side.

    Go over the stile into the next field and follow a faint grassy path slightly to the left, with the reservoir visible beyond the trees on your left. Near the bottom corner go through a gate and follow a path half-right through some trees, then over a stile into a small area of scrubland. Go through this and keep ahead at a three-way footpath signpost, joining the Main Walk route.

  9. Ardingly Reservoir to the village (2½ km)
  10. Ardingly Go along the dam wall and then through a copse alongside the reservoir. Turn right and go uphill to Townhouse Farm and continue on Church Lane. At St Peter's church turn right and go along Street Lane into the village.

    Go down a short slope to a corner of Ardingly Reservoir7, with the Activity Centre (which has a small café) on your left. Walk along the dam wall and continue through a gate into a copse. Unless you want to make an out-and-back detour down the signposted path to a Bird Hide on the edge of the water, follow the main path through the copse.

    Unless you are doing the Alternative Walk, you will be repeating this short stretch through the copse in the afternoon.

    Ardingly Immediately after emerging from the copse, turn right at a three-way signpost and go over a stile into a field. Go up its right-hand side, through a gap in the corner, and then straight across a larger field, still climbing. At the top, with Townhouse Farm on your left, go across a junction of tracks (slightly to the right) onto a lane, initially heading NE.

    The lane soon curves left and you follow it past houses for 500m, ignoring ways off. Eventually you come to a churchyard on your left; if you visit the church of St Peter8 you can leave via its lychgate further up the lane.

    At the end of Church Lane turn right (into Street Lane) and follow the tarmac path on its left into Ardingly. In 750m you pass the (closed) Oak Inn on your right; the Ardingly Inn is 150m further along Street Lane, between the village bakery and Cosy Cafe.

    If you are doing the Alternative Walk to Horsted Keynes, go to §10.

  11. Ardingly (village) to College Road (1¾ km)
  12. Head south-east on Street Lane and turn right onto the B2028. In 200m turn right onto the High Weald Landscape Trail. Head south across several fields, then turn right at a path crossing. Go through Standgrove Wood to reach College Road.

    To head for Balcombe, turn right out of the pub or café and go up to the road junction at the end of Street Lane, where two roads meet the B2028. Go straight across College Road and bear right onto the main road, heading SE. In 200m, shortly after passing Ardings Close on the left, turn right into a driveway, signposted as a public footpath and joining the High Weald Landscape Trail3 (HWLT). At the end of the drive veer right to go round the back of a house, then left onto an enclosed path.

    At the end of the path go over a stile; you will be heading S across three large fields for the next 750m. Go along the left-hand edge of the first field, then straight across the second (crossing a concrete track in the middle). In the third field bear slightly left, aiming for the left-hand end of a hedge projecting into the field 250m away. Go through a gap here into a fourth field.

    Go along the left-hand edge of this field for just 75m, then turn right at a four-way footpath signpost onto a grassy path across the field, heading W. On the far side go over a stile beside a metal fieldgate and follow the potentially muddy main path through Standgrove Wood. At the end of the wood keep left through a parking area to reach a road (College Road again).

  13. College Road to The Causeway (2¼ km)
  14. Take the main entrance into Ardingly College and follow this public bridleway through the school grounds. Keep right at a junction onto a footpath going past Great Saucelands, then turn left to come out onto a green space below the dam wall of Ardingly Reservoir. Turn right and join its perimeter path along the eastern side of the reservoir. At the end turn left onto a lane (West Hill) and go down to the Causeway.

    Cross the road carefully and take the main entrance into Ardingly College9, signposted as a public bridleway. Stay on the main drive through the school grounds: after passing the South Quad in front of the imposing main building it turns left and goes past some more school buildings; keep right and follow it down a slope.

    At a three-way junction keep ahead and follow the drive as it curves to the right past a large pond, with an attractive house (Great Saucelands) on the far side. The drive bends left in front of the house and goes across a small wooded valley. Shortly before a fieldgate across the drive, turn left as indicated onto a woodland path.

    At the end of this short path go over a stile and turn right (leaving the HWLT), climbing a grassy slope onto the dam wall of Ardingly Reservoir again. Veer right at the top and repeat your morning route through a copse, with another chance to detour to the Bird Hide. This time, ignore footpaths on the right after emerging from the copse and simply continue along the perimeter path for 1 km. At the end turn left onto a lane and follow it across the causeway separating two parts of the reservoir.

  15. The Causeway to Balcombe (village) (3½ km)
  16. Turn left onto another section of the perimeter path and go all the way round the northern shore of the reservoir. Continue through Great Burrow Wood and turn left onto Mill Lane. Follow the road round to Balcombe Mill, then turn left onto a footpath going up steps to a field. Turn right at the top and go through a small wood to rejoin Mill Lane. Turn left and follow the road briefly round to the left, then turn right onto a footpath heading north-west. Go across a valley, past a cricket pitch and the entrance to Balcombe House to reach the village.

    On the far side of the causeway turn left through a gate and follow another section of the perimeter path for 2 km, again with the reservoir on your left. The final section is through a wood where the path climbs a slope and comes out onto Mill Lane.

    Turn left and follow the lane downhill, then round to the left, again crossing a causeway. Shortly after the lane passes Balcombe Mill and curves to the right, turn left at a footpath sign to go up a long flight of steps (with a stone seat “for the enjoyment of walkers” along the way).

    At the top go through a wooden kissing gate into a field and bear right towards a three-way signpost. Go through a gate here into a small wood, initially heading N. In 75m the bridleway turns left; later it narrows, curves back round to the right and emerges from the wood on Mill Lane again.

    Turn left onto the lane and follow it round to the left (note the cautionary sign at the track leading to Woodwards Farm). 50m after this left turn, go over a stile in the hedge on the right. Go down across a field to find a gap in the trees on the far side and cross a stream on a wooden footbridge. On the far side turn left and go up the side of a field. In the top corner bear left and go through a gate onto a short path through some trees to a cricket pitch.

    Turn right and go around the side of the playing area. In 100m veer right through a gap in the hedge and turn right onto a track. Follow this gently uphill between hedges, in 200m going past a wooden fieldgate and round to the left. In 75m turn half-left again, passing the Balcombe Stores and the Half Moon Inn (a possible refreshment stop) on your right. If you arrive before 4pm the suggested tea place is the Balcombe Tea Rooms: bear right at the road junction and go across Haywards Heath Road into Bramble Hill, where the tearoom is one of the first houses on the right.

  17. Balcombe (village) to the Station (1 or 2 or ½ km)
  18. Balcombe There is a choice of routes to complete the walk. The main route goes down Bramble Hill, across the B2028 and along Rocks Lane. After going under the railway and passing below the station climb a flight of steps on the left to the station car park. For a longer route, head north-west out of the village on Haywards Heath Road. Briefly join the B2028, then turn left onto a footpath going through a small wood to a farm lane. Follow this across the railway and round a long curve to the left. At Peter's Wood take the footpath heading south-east to a lane. Go across this and up steps to the station car park. The shortest route is simply to go down Bramble Hill and the B2028.

    The main route to Balcombe station is the same as the end of Book 1 Walk 16. If you have plenty of time to catch the next hourly train you could take the longer route in §9b, an arc around the hill on the other side of the railway line. If you are short of time, take the direct route in §9c.

      Balcombe
    1. Main route (1 km)
    2. Turn right out of the tearoom and go down Bramble Hill to its junction with the B2036.

      Cross this busy road carefully and continue on Rocks Lane, which goes downhill past a few cottages and under the railway after 300m. In a further 300m, just before a track branches off to the left and the lane bends right, turn left at a footpath sign.

      Go up a flight of stone steps, across a strip of grass and then up more steps to return to the B2036 by the entrance to Balcombe station. Turn left and go through its small car park. The platform on the near side is for trains to London.

    3. Longer route (2 km)
    4. Make your way to the road junction in front of the Half Moon pub and turn into Haywards Heath Road, heading NW. At the end of a small green continue briefly along the B2036 for about 50m, then cross this busy road carefully onto a signposted footpath. Go down a slope and veer left at the bottom onto a grassy path between trees, which soon bears left and goes downhill to join a lane.

      Turn right onto this lane and now simply follow it for 750m. After crossing the railway there is a wood on your right and a field on the left; later, ignore a footpath branching off to the right and stay on the lane as it curves round to the left. At a three-way junction fork left briefly onto an unsurfaced track.

      The final part of this section is the same as the start of Book 1 Walk 16, in reverse.

      Soon after passing a shed you are confronted by a plethora of Keep Out notices on the track ahead. Go over a stile on the left and head SE down the right-hand edge of two fields, with some thinly-disguised phone masts (which you might have spotted earlier) away to your left.

      In the bottom right-hand corner go over a stile and continue downhill alongside a temporary fence. Towards the bottom of the field go through a gate and then over a stile. Turn left briefly onto a lane; just after a track branches off to the right and the lane bends left, turn right at a footpath sign.

    5. Direct route (½ km)
    6. Turn left onto the main road. The station entrance is on the right in 350m. Go down a few steps and across the footbridge for trains to London.

  19. Ardingly (village) to Highbrook Church (2 km)
  20. Head north briefly on the B2028 and turn right onto a footpath. At Withyland fork right and cross a stream in a valley. At the top turn half-left and follow the footpath past a new building at Brook House Farm into the hamlet of Highbrook. Head north on Hammingden Lane to All Saints church.

    To head for Horsted Keynes, cross Street Lane opposite the Ardingly Inn and go along a short link road to join Ardingly's High Street (the B2028), heading N through the village. In 100m, with Holland House (#29) on your left, turn right into a short lane signposted to 28-60 High Street. At the end go through an old kissing gate next to a fieldgate and keep ahead (slightly to the left) on a faint grassy path across a field, soon starting a long descent into a valley.

    Go over a stile in a belt of trees and continue down the right-hand edge of the next field. In the bottom corner go over another stile and follow the path between a wood and a garden fence. At the start of an open area fork right at a three-way footpath signpost, then keep ahead at another signpost, ignoring a footpath off to the right. Go along the right-hand side of a grassy strip, gently downhill towards a wood.

    Go into these trees and across a stream, then uphill on a narrow path at the edge of the wood. At the top of the wood go through an old gate and keep ahead along a broad grassy path, soon alongside a young hedge between wire fences. Follow the path as it turns half-left, going through a metal fieldgate and now with fences on both sides. At the far end go through another fieldgate and continue past a modern barn on your left. Briefly join a tarmac driveway, then opposite a large new house turn left as indicated.

    Cross a ditch and go along the left-hand side of a field towards the spire of Highbrook church. In the corner veer left to go over a partly-concealed stile into the corner of a grassy enclosure in front of a house. Go diagonally across it to the opposite corner and over another stile. Turn left and go out onto a minor road (Hammingden Lane) at a bend. Keep ahead along the lane through the hamlet of Highbrook to come to the lychgate for All Saints10 church in 200m.

  21. Highbrook Church to Leamland Bridge (1¾ km)
  22. At the church turn right onto the footpath heading east across a valley and up to the Bluebell Railway line. Turn right onto the footpath running alongside the railway, then round a short loop onto Leamland Bridge.

    In front of the lychgate turn right onto a broad track, signposted as a footpath and immediately going past an unusual building on the right, Highbrook Smokery11. Keep left alongside the churchyard and then between hedges for 300m, heading E with fine views ahead as you gently descend into a valley. The track eventually opens out and you continue near the left-hand edge of two large fields, still downhill.

    At the bottom go through a metal fieldgate onto a path through a small wood, curving round to the right. After crossing a wooden footbridge over a stream go up earth steps and leave the wood over a stile. Follow a grassy path slightly to the left across a field, climbing steadily. At the top go over a stile in the fence and keep ahead, skirting the corner of a horse training area on your left. Go over another stile in the trees on the far side to come out in front of a level crossing over the single-track Bluebell Railway12.

    Do not cross the track but turn right onto a footpath running along the railway embankment, with fine views on both sides. In 500m you can see Leamland Bridge over the railway ahead, but you have to take a circuitous route to reach it: over a stile on the right and through a small plantation, round to the left along a short enclosed path and then up a track curving round to the right. At the top turn left to go over the bridge, with a view of Horsted Keynes station13 off to the right.

  23. Leamland Bridge to Horsted Keynes (2¼ or ½ km)
  24. Horsted Keynes To finish in the village, veer left at the top of the slope overlooking the picnic area and take the footpath alongside Leamland Wood to a minor road. Turn right briefly, then take the footpath on the left down through a wood to Mill Lake. Keep ahead at a path crossing to go along the valley floor and turn right up Church Road to the village green. Alternatively, simply go down past the Bluebell Railway station to the bus stop at the end of the driveway.

    On the other side of the bridge veer right through a small parking area. Follow the track to the top of a slope overlooking the Bluebell Railway's main car park and picnic area.

    At weekends the 270 bus calls at the station and if you want to cut the walk short, follow the directions in §12b. However, the only possible tea place here is the refreshment room on Platforms 3&4, and you would probably have to buy a platform ticket to reach it.

    1. Finishing at the village (2¼ km)
    2. Horsted Keynes Turn left at the top of the slope and follow the track up to Leamland Wood. Go through a metal kissing gate onto an enclosed path heading E alongside the wood. At the end go down an earth bank and turn right onto a minor road. In 100m go over a stile on the left into a strip of grassland dotted with trees.

      Follow a grassy path through this area and continue on a woodland path going downhill for 350m, ignoring ways off. At the bottom of the wood turn right at a three-way footpath signpost onto a grassy track. This curves to the left around Mill Lake14 and comes to a path crossing.

      If you want to detour to St Giles church, turn left and follow the path past the picturesque Old Mill House and up through a wood to the village school and church. After visiting the church, go along Church Lane into the main part of village and complete the directions at [•] below.

      For the most direct route into the village, keep ahead on a signposted footpath and follow this narrow path through the trees, heading SE and ignoring ways off. In 150m you pass a pond on your left and continue on a fenced grassy path along the valley floor. At the far end turn right onto Church Lane (away from the church, up on the left).

      [•] Follow Church Lane uphill, passing the impressive gates to the Old Rectory on your left and some attractive old cottages. Where the road forks, the shortest route to the bus stop is to keep ahead up a steep little tarmac path to the main road, but the suggested route is to follow Church Lane round to the left. This comes out onto the long village green in Horsted Keynes15 opposite the Crown Inn16, with the village stores off to the left.

      To complete the walk turn right (or left if leaving the Crown) and go along the green, past the Green Man. The 270 bus stop for Haywards Heath is just beyond the road junction at the western end of the green (buses to East Grinstead leave from the stop outside the Green Man).

    3. Finishing at the station (½ km)
    4. Keep ahead down the slope and go past the right-hand side of the car park onto a short access road leading to the station buildings. The 270 bus stop is at the far end of the station approach road.

    At Haywards Heath alight from the bus at the Perrymount Rd/Stn stop, just past a roundabout and opposite a large new Waitrose store. Cross Perrymount Road at the roundabout and go past the store (which has a café) on your left to reach the station entrance.

Walk Notes

  1. The Sussex Ouse Valley Way runs for 68 km, closely following the course of the River Ouse from its source in Lower Beeding to Seaford.
  2. The Ouse Valley Railway was a ‘spoiler’ operation by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, which wanted to keep rivals out of its territory. It would have linked the Brighton line to St Leonards (near Hastings) via Uckfield and Hailsham. Shortly after work began in 1866 the collapse of the bank financing its construction led to the project being abandoned.
  3. The High Weald Landscape Trail runs for 145 km across the length of the High Weald, mostly near its northern edge, from Horsham in West Sussex to Rye.
  4. The Ardingly branch connected the Brighton line at Haywards Heath with the Bluebell line at Horsted Keynes. The intermediate station at Ardingly was popular with ramblers and often the destination for special trains. A short section is still used by freight trains, while the Bluebell Railway hope to restore the remaining section for their steam trains.
  5. The Ouse Valley Viaduct (seen to better effect on Extra Walk 22) was opened in 1841 and carries the Brighton main line 450m across this wide valley, 29m above the river. Its 37 brick arches are topped with a stone balustrade and four classical pavilions, making it one of the most elegant railway structures in Britain.
  6. The imposing Balcombe Place was built in 1865; originally the home of Lord Denman, it was the Headquarters of the Women's Land Army in WWII and is now a care home. The Jacobean Stone Hall was its dower-house (one set apart for a widow, usually on her late husband's estate).
  7. The 198-acre Ardingly Reservoir is a popular fishing venue and its Activity Centre provides watersports such as sailing, canoeing and windsurfing.
  8. St Peter, Ardingly dates from around 1330, with the tower added in the early 15thC. The village later developed around the main road to the east, leaving the church on the outskirts.
  9. Ardingly College is a fee-paying independent school, catering for around 750 pupils from 2½ to 18. It was founded by Canon Nathaniel Woodward in Shoreham-by-Sea in 1858 and moved to these new buildings in 1870 (with an inaugural sermon from “Soapy Sam” Wilberforce). Now one of a group of Woodward Schools, it retains a strong Anglo-Catholic tradition.
  10. All Saints, Highbrook was built in 1884, mainly using local sandstone. The tower contains a clock and carillon which plays tunes on the church bells at noon, 3pm and 6pm.
  11. Highbrook Smokery was built around 1780 to preserve meat from pigs brought into the Weald to feed on acorns in autumn. The building was restored in 2009.
  12. The Bluebell Railway began operating a steam railway between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes in 1960, just two years after British Rail closed the line from East Grinstead to Lewes. In 1994 it was extended north as far as Kingscote, and after a major project to clear a cutting of landfill waste steam trains started running through to East Grinstead again in March 2013.
  13. Horsted Keynes Station has been re-created as it was when part of the Southern Railway network in 1935. It is surprisingly large for a sleepy country station on a secondary line, some way from the village it was built to serve. There is a £2.50 admission charge for non-travellers, rather more than the 1d platform ticket in 1935.
  14. Mill Lake was one of a series of lakes created to supply water for the local mills, and is now a popular fishing pond.
  15. The Saxon manor of Horsted (meaning a place where horses are kept) was given to the Norman knight Ralf de Cahaignes by William the Conqueror. The anglicized version of his name changed over the centuries to Keynes but the pronunciation stayed as ‘canes’, not ‘keens’.
  16. The Crown Inn was seriously damaged by fire after being struck by lightning in 2003, and was closed for six years.

» Last updated: May 25, 2017

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