Main Walk: 18 km (11.2 miles). Four hours 30 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours.
Explorer 135 & (for a small part around Cuckfield) OL34 (previously 134). Wivelsfield station, map reference TQ321200, is in West Sussex, 4 km S of Haywards Heath.
5 out of 10 (4 with either of the short cuts).
This walk starts from a station called Wivelsfield but the eponymous village is 3 km away from the walk route; you actually set off from the unpromising environs of Burgess Hill. Fortunately this commuter town is immediately left behind for a rural stretch through the woods and meadows of Bedelands Farm Local Nature Reserve, at the end of which you pass the picturesque Valebridge Mill Pond, popular with anglers.
An undulating section through woods and farmland crossed by numerous streams takes you up to the large churchyard of Holy Trinity Church and into the lunchtime village of Cuckfield (pronounced Cookfield: the name is derived from ‘cuckoo-field’). Once an important coaching stop on the turnpike road, this small town declined in importance after local landowners objected to plans for the London–Brighton railway, which accordingly had to be routed through Haywards Heath. A short detour up its attractive High Street and a quick visit to the small Cuckfield Museum is recommended (free admission: open Wed & Fri to 12.30pm, Sat to 4pm; closed winter).
Cuckfield is on the southern fringe of the High Weald and much of the afternoon section is on the High Weald Landscape Trail, a long-distance path through this undulating countryside. It starts alongside the parkland of Cuckfield Park, a large estate which was broken up in the 20thC; its Elizabethan manor house can only be partly seen from the public footpath. A section through a wood managed as a nature reserve takes you up to the neighbouring village of Whitemans Green, where some of the first dinosaur fossils were discovered in its sandstone quarries.
After passing through another hamlet (Brook Street) there are fine views across the Ouse Valley as you approach Borde Hill Garden, a set of formal gardens and parkland overlooked by another Elizabethan mansion. The gardens were created in the early 1900s and contain a nationally important collection of trees and shrubs. Admission (2015) is £8.20 but there are usually 2-for-1 offers available, eg. on the train companies' Days Out Guide.
The final part of the walk into Haywards Heath is something of an anti-climax since you have to endure a fair amount of road walking as well as a stretch across the town's golf course. The consequence of building the railway to the east of Cuckfield can be seen all too well in the suburban sprawl around the station, but it does at least provide a fast and frequent train service back to the capital.
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.
Shorter routes are described for both the morning and afternoon sections, saving up to 3¼ km. These are slightly inferior but are useful if you miss a train and have to start late, or want to leave more time for visiting Borde Hill Garden.
Wivelsfield (one stop beyond Haywards Heath on the Brighton line) is served by Southern trains from Victoria and some (not all) Thameslink trains from St Pancras, Blackfriars, London Bridge, etc; journey time around 50-60 minutes. Its normal off-peak service is one Southern and two Thameslink trains per hour. Thameslink trains do not stop there on Sundays but there is a second Southern train instead. There are frequent services on both routes for the return journey from Haywards Heath.
Buy a day return to Wivelsfield. On weekends and Bank Holidays you can get Super Off-Peak tickets from central and north London on the Thameslink route which are significantly cheaper than the standard fare from Victoria (and even from Boundary Zone 6).
If driving, park at Haywards Heath and take the train to the start of the walk. Its large station car park costs £8 Mon–Fri, £4.90 Sat, £2 Sun & BH (2015). There is no station car park at Wivelsfield.
Cuckfield may have spurned the railway but it has several bus routes if you want to abandon the walk at lunchtime. Sussex Bus 40 is the most frequent, running hourly (Mon–Sat) to Brighton via Haywards Heath; other services to Haywards Heath include Sussex Bus 37 and Compass Travel 89. Metrobus 271 is the only daily service, running every two hours northwards to Crawley and southwards to Burgess Hill and Brighton.
Take the train nearest to 09:45 from London Bridge (or Victoria) to Wivelsfield. If you start later, consider doing the morning short cut.
There are several possible lunch places in Cuckfield, after 8¼ km on the main route, although none of them are ideal. If you just want a drink or a basic meal, the unprepossessing White Harte (01444-413454) is conveniently situated on the southern edge of the village; it serves food to 2pm (Wed–Sun only). A little way up the High Street, the Talbot (01444-455898) looks more like a London establishment; it serves relatively expensive bar meals and also has a formal restaurant at the back. As an alternative there are several tearooms nearby which serve light lunches, such as the Cuckfield Pantry & Tearoom (01444-457246) and the Corner House (01444-454407).
The suggested place to stop for tea is at Borde Hill, where Café Elvira (01444-458845) is outside the garden entrance and thus open to non-visitors (daily to 5pm). This large tearoom (next to the more formal Jeremy's Restaurant) has a nice back garden and serves a good range of cakes and desserts.
There are no particularly inviting places as you come into Haywards Heath, but the station itself has a convenient coffee shop inside the booking hall and kiosks on the platforms. Nearby alternatives include a Starbucks in Sainsbury's supermarket (open to 7pm Mon–Fri, 6.30pm Sat, 4pm Sun) and a Londis convenience store in Perrymount Road (open daily to 11pm), while for stronger fare you could try the Burrell Arms (01444-453214) on the roundabout.
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (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.
Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).
Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.
- Main Walk (18 km)
Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.
- Wivelsfield Station to Valebridge Mill Pond (1½ km)
- Valebridge Mill Pond to Upper Ridges (3¼ km)
- Upper Ridges to Copyhold Lane (2 km)
- Copyhold Lane to Cuckfield (1½ km)
- Upper Ridges to Cuckfield direct (2 km)
- Cuckfield to Whitemans Green (1¾ or 1¼ km)
- Main route (1¾ km)
- Direct route (1¼ km)
- Whitemans Green to Brook Street (2 km)
- Brook Street to Borde Hill (2 km)
- Whitemans Green to Borde Hill direct (2¾ km)
- Borde Hill to Haywards Heath Station (4 km)
- Main route
- Alternative route
Head north on a belt of grassland to the west of the railway, then veer left and right on a footpath and residential street to come to a woodland entrance to Bedelands Farm Local Nature Reserve. Take any route across the nature reserve to the western end of Valebridge Mill Pond, on its northern boundary.
Go down steps near the London end of the platform and turn left at the bottom to leave the station by the alternative exit. Cross the road carefully (slightly to the left) and go through a metal kissing gate onto a path heading N along a belt of grassland, with the railway embankment on your right. Where the path splits in front of a dividing line of trees, you can continue on either side (the left fork is slightly shorter).
In 250m you meet a tarmac path and turn left onto it. Follow it between houses and continue along a short street to a T-junction. Turn right and go along another residential street, with a wood on the left-hand side. In 100m, where the street turns right, go through a metal kissing gate on the left into Bedelands Farm Local Nature Reserve1.
The notes below describe a fairly direct route through this attractive Nature Reserve but there are plenty of alternatives, eg. through the woods around its western boundary. Aim for the northern part of the reserve which is bordered by Valebridge Mill Pond; the walk continues along the western side of the pond.
Turn right to go down a short flight of steps and continue on a path heading NW through the wood, crossing a stream on a plank bridge. In 100m the path comes out into a large meadow near its south-western corner. You will be leaving the meadow on its northern side (250m away) and the most direct route is to follow a grassy path initially to the right, then curving left to head straight across it.
On the far side go through a gap in the trees and follow a grassy path heading N across two smaller meadows. In the far right-hand corner of the second go through a gap in the trees into Big Wood. Follow the woodland path around the right-hand side of a pond and then turn left to head roughly N through the trees, passing more ponds on the left. Follow the main path for 200m to a corner of the wood, ignoring paths off to the left.
At the edge of the wood continue briefly on a narrow path heading E, with a meadow behind a wire fence on your right and the sound of a waterfall in a large depression on your left. In 50m turn left at a footpath signpost (by a stile in the fence) and go over two footbridges, crossing the outflow from the picturesque Valebridge Mill Pond on your right.
Head west along a tree-lined valley, later through the wood to the south of a stream. At the end turn right onto a footpath leading to the A273 by Holmbush Cottages (preferably via a farm track on the right just before the main road). Turn right onto the main road, then take the bridleway heading west past Hookhouse Farm and Lower Ridges. Turn right onto a footpath heading north along field edges to Upper Ridges.
You will be turning left off this path and could scramble down the bank on your left, but for an easier route continue a little further and turn sharp left at a three-way footpath signpost to go down a flight a steps. Bear right at the bottom to emerge from the trees onto a path heading W along a tree-lined valley.
In 200m fork left as directed and cross a stream on a wooden footbridge. Turn right and follow the path up a short flight of steps and through the trees. You soon come to a large hollow and bear left to skirt around it, passing a footpath marker post. The path then descends and comes to a three-way footpath signpost where you turn right to head NW, with a field behind a line of trees on your left.
After crossing a stream on a footbridge the main path curves off towards a field on the left but you should keep ahead on a narrower path through some trees, which comes out into the same field a little further ahead (by a footpath signpost). Keep to the right-hand edge by the trees and follow an enclosed path around the edge of this large field, curving round to the left.
In 400m you come to a tarmac driveway and turn right onto it. In a few metres a footpath signpost pointing left indicates that the right of way goes through scrubland to the nearby A273 (where you would turn right onto a narrow verge for an extra 100m of roadside walking). However, if there are no “Private” notices to deter you it is tempting to continue along the farm drive and turn left at the end onto another driveway (which is a public bridleway) leading to the main road.
Turn right onto the A273 and cross over carefully just past the bridleway exit onto a wider grass verge. In 100m turn left into the driveway to Hookhouse Farm, another bridleway. When you reach the farm buildings bear left as indicated onto a track skirting around them, which continues along the right-hand edge of a large field.
In the far corner follow the path down to the right into a wood, across a stream and up a slope. At the top turn left onto a broad track, soon with a large house (Lower Ridges) off to your left, behind a large pond. At a T-junction in front of another pond turn right and follow a pleasant green lane between hedges for 250m, heading NW.
At a three-way footpath signpost turn right through a wooden kissing gate to go up the left-hand edge of two large fields, following the boundary as it turns right and then left in the second field. 100m after the left-hand turn, veer left and right as indicated to continue in the same direction on a farm track on the other side of a line of trees. In a further 100m you come to a three-way footpath signpost at the driveway to a house (Upper Ridges).
If you are taking the morning short cut, go to §5.
Turn right onto a footpath heading east across a field, then north-east through woods and field edges. 150m before the path comes to the A273, turn left onto a footpath heading north to Copyhold Lane, again through fields and woods.
Turn right at the footpath signpost and go across the grass to the right of the driveway. If there is no clear path, aim for a marker post to the left of a large tree in the field, 100m away. Continue across the grass to the far right-hand corner of the field and follow a path down into the trees.
Ignore a footbridge on the right and bear left onto a track heading E, with a plantation of young trees on your left. The track soon curves left in front of a more open area and drops down into a valley. Immediately after crossing a stream, turn left at a footpath signpost onto a broad grassy track. In 50m go straight ahead where the track splits into three. The path climbs through the trees and comes out into the bottom corner of a large field.
Continue along the bottom of the field, with trees on your right. Soon after going through a small wooden gate by a (possibly temporary) fence across the field, turn half-left at a footpath signpost to cut across the field towards a wooden fieldgate in the top corner. Go through a metal kissing gate to its right and head towards a conifer plantation. On reaching the trees turn right to continue alongside them.
At the end of the plantation turn half-left as indicated to cut across the grass towards a gap in the trees 50m away. Go through this onto a track along the right-hand edge of a field. You will be leaving this field down to the left, but the right of way goes along the field edge for 100m to a footpath signpost, where you turn left. Pass to the left of two large trees near the bottom of the field and take a path down into a wood.
The path soon merges with a track from the left and you follow this down a slope, across a stream and back up the other side to emerge into another field. Continue in much the same direction on a faint grassy path, passing to the right of a clump of trees in the field and heading just to the left of a house which comes into view on the far side.
The right of way then appears to go through the house's garden but it appears that most walkers simply continue along the grass to its left. At the end of the hedge (where a stile would let you out of the garden) turn half-right as indicated and go across the grass to a stile on the far side of the field. Go over the stile, across a driveway and along the right-hand edge of a field to reach a lane (Copyhold Lane).
Cross the lane and continue on the footpath opposite. Cross the A272 and follow the footpath as it turns left to head west past school playing fields and Newbury Pond to Cuckfield. Make your way across the large cemetery on your right to the parish church.
Cross over and take the footpath opposite, to the right of a driveway. In 200m cross the A272 carefully and continue on the footpath opposite. In 100m turn left at a three-way footpath signpost to head W, with school playing fields behind the trees on your right.
In 350m you reach the end of the wood and and go over a stile to continue in the same direction along the top of a large field, with fine views off to the left. At the end go over another stile and follow a path around Newbury Pond. Continue along a track, soon coming to a cemetery on the right.
Continue the directions at §6.
Go straight ahead and follow a series of footpaths heading alternately north and north-west, eventually passing a water treatment works. Cross the A272 and continue on the footpath past farm buildings to Cuckfield. Make your way across the large cemetery to the parish church.
For the short cut, keep ahead at the footpath signpost. Go through a belt of trees in a dip and then up the left-hand edge of a large field. In the top corner veer left onto a path into a wood, initially heading NW. As you enter the trees a narrow path branching off to the right skirts around a potentially muddy stretch at the start of the main path; the two paths soon rejoin.
The main path descends through the wood and comes to a stile on the far side. Go over this and turn half-right onto a grassy path going down across a field, heading N. At the bottom cross a ditch on a plank bridge and go through a kissing gate. Turn right onto a driveway (which is also a public bridleway) going downhill past a house and round a bend to the left.
Shortly before reaching a bridge over a stream, turn left at a footpath signpost onto a path into the trees. This crosses a ditch, goes up a slope and soon comes out into the bottom corner of a field. Bear right and go along its edge. In the next corner veer right at a footpath signpost and go through the trees to continue on a track heading N, ignoring a footpath off to the right.
In 200m you pass a house and continue on a path down into the trees on your left. At the bottom you cross another stream on a footbridge and climb back up, soon coming out into another field. Follow a faint grassy path heading N across several fields, later passing a water treatment works (and a thinly-disguised phone mast) on your right to reach the A272.
Cross the main road carefully and continue on the footpath opposite, directly towards Cuckfield church. You pass some farm buildings and eventually come to a lane in front of the church cemetery, with a gate just off to the right.
There is a choice of routes for this section. For the main route head west from the church, along Church Platt and past the White Harte pub. Cross the B2036 and take the footpath along the northern boundary of Cuckfield Park. After going down a slope and crossing a stream turn right to head north through New England Wood, initially near its western boundary and then along a valley. Continue along the left-hand edge of field, then briefly join a footpath heading north-west to reach the corner of a large recreation ground. Go diagonally across this to meet the High Weald Landscape Trail (HWLT) where it heads north off the B2115. For a shorter route from Cuckfield's church, go into Church Street and continue briefly up the High Street to the Talbot bar/restaurant. Go along Ockenden Lane and turn right onto a footpath heading north-west, joining the HWLT. Follow this past a corner of New England Wood and northwards to Whitemans Green.
There is a choice of routes for this section. The more interesting main route passes one of the possible lunch places, the White Harte pub. If you want to investigate alternatives and/or see more of the village, follow the directions for the direct route in §6b. Either continue with this option or make your way back down the B2036 to its junction with Church Platt (below the White Harte), rejoining the main route at [•] below.
Leave the churchyard through the small lychgate in its north-west corner (ie. turn left if coming out of the church). As you go down Church Platt you pass the back of the White Harte; if you are visiting this pub you can enter through its back garden and afterwards turn left down the B2036 to come to its junction with Church Platt.
[•] At the junction cross the main road carefully and go through a gate on the left of the driveway opposite Church Platt, briefly joining the High Weald Landscape Trail6 (HWLT), though in the ‘wrong’ direction. Continue along the left-hand side of grassland for 400m, passing through a few kissing gates along the way.
The grounds of Cuckfield Park7 are behind a fence on your left. As you draw level with the mansion (you can just see the top) the path drops down towards a wood. At the bottom of the slope make your way over a stream on a plank footbridge, a potentially muddy area. Immediately afterwards turn right through an old metal gate into New England Wood8, leaving the HWLT.
You will be heading north through this wood for 500m, roughly following the course of a stream in a valley and leaving the wood on its northern boundary. There are plenty of paths to lead you astray and if you veer too far to the right you will come out in its north-eastern corner by another stream, inadvertently joining the direct route.
Follow the main path up a slope, with the stream you crossed down on your right. The path soon levels out and there is an old fence just off to your left. About 100m into the wood the path splits and you fork left, staying fairly close to the fence. There are several stretches of planks and wood chippings on this potentially muddy ground to make the going easier. In about 200m the path splits again and you fork right.
The left fork would take you on a longer loop around the western edge of the wood. You would eventually come to the correct exit from a different direction.
The path now crosses the stream which has been on your right and curves left up some steps in the bank to continue on the other side of the wooded valley. In 200m you come to a junction of paths at the edge of the wood, where you go out via a stile next to a wooden fieldgate into the corner of a field.
Go along the left-hand field edge. In the next corner veer left through a gap in the trees and continue on a grassy path curving up to the right towards a house. At the top go over a stile in the hedge and turn right onto a track. Shortly after passing the house the track joins a tarmac driveway and there is a footpath signpost pointing left, but you turn right through a belt of trees into the corner of a large recreation ground.
You should be able to see two blocks of changing rooms in different parts of the ground. Make your way across (or around) the sports pitches towards the right-hand block, about 250m away. As you approach it veer left to go around a large clump of trees between the block and a car park off the B2115; on the north side of these trees you will find a memorial stone9 and an information panel “Gideon Mantell and the Cuckfield Dinosaurs”.
From the memorial stone go across the grass to the right of the car park. Cross the B2115 carefully and turn right to go along a broad strip of grass alongside the road. 75m beyond the corner of the recreation ground the longer afternoon route is along a driveway on the left signposted as the HWLT, now in the ‘right’ direction.
Leave the churchyard through the large lychgate at its northernmost point (ie. turn half-right if coming out of the church). Go up Church Street to its junction with the B2036 at a corner, with the Cuckfield Pantry & Tearoom opposite. 50m up the High Street the Talbot bar/restaurant is on the right-hand side opposite Ockenden Lane, the continuation of the direct route.
If you carry on up the High Street the Corner House is on the far side of the mini-roundabout with Broad Street. The Cuckfield Museum4 is in Queen's Hall, 100m past this roundabout.
For the direct route out of the village, go along Ockenden Lane. Shortly before this turns sharply left in front of the entrance to Ockenden Manor5, turn right onto a tarmac driveway, signposted as the High Weald Landscape Trail6 (HWLT). This swings left and right, passes the entrance to Ockenden House and makes another turn to the left. At the end of the drive go through a rusty metal kissing gate and bear right to go down the edge of a field towards a wood.
At the bottom of the slope go into the trees and cross a stream on a wooden footbridge. Keep ahead on a path climbing through the trees, with New England Wood behind a wire fence on your left. In 75m keep right at a three-way footpath signpost (ignoring a kissing gate into a field on the left) to come out into an area of scrubland. Follow a clear path along its left-hand edge, climbing steadily and occasionally going between small trees and bushes.
In 350m ignore a footpath on the right heading back to Cuckfield, and later a gap on the left leading onto a large recreation ground. The path leads into a driveway which you follow between houses to the B2115. Just off to the left a driveway on the other side of the road is the continuation of the HWLT and the longer afternoon route.
If you are taking the afternoon short cut, go to §9.
Head north on the HWLT, initially on a driveway, then round the edge of a field and along the eastern side of a golf course. After crossing a stream the right of way goes along field edges past Lower Spark's Farm, but it is simpler to continue alongside the golf course. Turn right onto Spark's Lane and follow this into the hamlet of Brook Street.
Head N along the driveway off the B2115, signposted as a public footpath. Ignore a street off to the right and keep ahead, now on an unsurfaced track. Opposite the last house on the right turn left at a footpath signpost by a large oak tree and go through a kissing gate into a field. Follow a grassy path along its right-hand edge, turning right as indicated after 125m. In the next corner go through another kissing gate into a small wood. Where the path splits you can take either route; a fallen tree up ahead had once blocked the main path.
You soon come out into a large open area. Take the centre path ahead through rough grassland for 500m, heading N with trees down to your right and a golf course on your left. At the bottom of a long gentle slope continue through a belt of trees. As you come out onto another part of the golf course, there is a footpath signpost by an old stile in the hedge on your right.
The right of way continues on the other side of the hedge, but up ahead you would have to negotiate a narrow enclosed path with discouraging notices about swarming bees. In practice it appears that most locals simply continue along the side of the golf course and this is the route described below.
Providing there are no “Private” notices ahead, continue along the edge of the golf course for a further 350m. In the corner go through a gap in the hedge, down an awkward little bank and turn right onto a track. In 150m this public bridleway meets a lane at a bend, with the footpath you left earlier rejoining from the right. Keep ahead on the lane, which in 350m comes to a T-junction with the B2036 in the hamlet of Brook Street.
Turn right briefly onto the B2036, then turn left towards Tanyard Farm to continue along the HWLT. This heads east along field edges and through small woods, gradually climbing to a ridge above the Ouse Valley. Join the farm drive from Lullings Farm and follow the track to Borde Hill Garden.
Turn right to go alongside the main road for 50m (crossing over carefully at some point), then turn left at a footpath signpost into a farm drive. After skirting around some derelict farm buildings at the bottom of a slope, keep left to go into the bottom corner of a large field and turn right to go up its edge. In 100m go over a stile in the hedge into another field and turn left along its edge, curving round to the right.
In 250m follow the path down through a wood and across a stream at the bottom. Go up the right-hand edge of the next field. At the end of the trees on your right keep ahead across the grass towards a stile in the hedge on the far side. This takes you into another field where once again you go up its right-hand edge. Where the field opens out bear slightly right, still climbing; you will soon see a footpath signpost in the wire fence running across the field.
Go over a stile to the left of a metal fieldgate here and straight across the next field. In the far corner go through a wooden gate and bear left onto a track, which immediately forks. The walk continues along the right-hand track (straight on from your previous direction across the field).
A detour of just 25m down the left-hand track would give you a fine view of the Ouse Valley Viaduct10, 1½ km off to the left.
Head E along the right-hand track, initially with trees on your left. In 150m you go through a wooden side gate and the track continues through the grounds of Borde Hill11. The gardens are behind a wall on your left and later you get to see the mansion across a lawn.
Eventually you come to the garden entrance on the left. For the suggested tea place, bear right towards a cluster of buildings around a small courtyard to find Café Elvira at the back.
Complete the directions at §10.
Turn right onto the B2115, leaving the HWLT. Go across the junction with the B2036 and continue on a footpath heading east to Ardingly Road. Turn left onto the road and follow it round to the right, then take the public bridleway on the left into the Borde Hill estate. Go past Lullings Farm and turn right at a footpath junction (rejoining the HWLT) to reach Borde Hill Garden.
For the short cut, ignore the driveway and head E alongside the B2115, towards its junction with the B2036. On the far side of the mini-roundabout take the signposted footpath to the right of “Chilcotts”. Follow this alleyway for 500m, ignoring a right fork into a residential street after 60m and passing the entrance to a new housing estate (Mantell Park) halfway along.
The path comes out onto Ardingly Road. Ignore the footpath opposite (by Longacre Crescent) and turn left onto the road. In 150m turn right at a mini-roundabout, now on Hanlye Lane. At the end of the houses continue on a tarmac path behind a hedge on the right-hand side of the road for 100m, then go through a gap in this hedge and cross the road with great care to take the driveway opposite (a public bridleway) into the Borde Hill estate.
You will be following this drive for more than 1 km, soon with fine views ahead. In 500m, at the end of the wood on your left, keep ahead at a crossing. In a further 150m go through some imposing entrance gates by a lodge and follow the main track between fields. After bending right there is a long straight stretch as you head towards some trees, where a footpath joins from the left (the longer route via Brook Street) and the track forks. The walk continues along the right-hand track (rejoining the HWLT).
Turn left onto Borde Hill Lane, then turn right at a junction into Copyhold Lane. Follow this minor road for just under 1 km, crossing the London–Brighton railway line. Where the HWLT turns off to the left, turn right to climb through a wood, briefly joining the Sussex Ouse Valley Way. Continue on a footpath heading south across a golf course. On the far side either cut across a large meadow to come out opposite Wickham Way, or continue along the public footpath via Wickham Farm. At the bottom of Wickham Way turn right and go under a railway bridge. Turn left onto a residential street and continue on a cycleway past a supermarket. Go back under the railway for the station.
From the tearoom go back towards the garden entrance and turn right onto a tarmac drive going past a lodge to Borde Hill Lane. Turn left onto this fairly busy road, taking great care as there is no pavement. In 200m you will be turning right into Copyhold Lane (signposted to Ardingly), so cross over when it is safe to do so. You have quite a bit more road walking to contend with, again with no pavement to protect you from traffic on this minor road.
In 300m you cross the London–Brighton railway line, with the Ardingly branch12 alongside it. Continue on the lane as it winds its way between fields and woods, passing the occasional cottage. The turning off this road is a signposted footpath on the right 600m past the railway bridge, where the road is curving gently to the right by the remains of an old bridge for the abandoned Ouse Valley Railway13; there is a small parking area up ahead on the left.
Turn right through a metal kissing gate onto a woodland path, leaving the HWLT (which turns off in the opposite direction) and briefly joining the Sussex Ouse Valley Way14 (SOVW). Follow the main path round to the right and gently uphill, heading S. Further up it can become very muddy, but there is a side path on the right which skirts around the worst stretch. In 300m the footpath bends right at a marker post, then turns left and comes out onto the edge of a golf course.
Turn right at a three-way footpath signpost (leaving the SOVW) and follow a clear path through the golf course for 500m, heading SSW. After passing netting on your left protecting you from big hitters on a distant driving range you come to the end of the golf course. There is an opening into a large meadow ahead, and a footpath signpost pointing down a tree-lined path on its left.
The main route now follows some well-marked paths which are clearly used by locals, but if a “Private” notice has appeared you should take the alternative route along public footpaths described in §10b.
Go into the meadow and follow a clear grassy path curving slightly away from the trees on the left. At the bottom of the slope go through a gap in the hedge and follow the path round to the right to find a substantial plank bridge across a stream. On the far side continue up the right-hand edge of another meadow. Near the top, fork left onto a path leading to a (locked) metal fieldgate. Go past this and keep ahead into Wickham Way.
Take the tree-lined path to the left of the field. At the bottom of a long slope cross a footbridge over a stream and continue in the same direction, now gently uphill. At the top turn right onto a track in front of the entrance to Wickham Farm. In 100m you pass between brick pillars and turn left into Wickham Way, opposite a fieldgate where the main route rejoins from the right.
Head S on Wickham Way, a private road but also a public footpath. This quiet residential road soon drops downhill and comes to a T-junction with College Road at the bottom, where you turn right. You could turn left into Mill Green Road just before the railway bridge, but the suggested route is to go under the bridge and then turn left, later continuing on a cycleway to the left of a supermarket car park.
At the end go back under the railway and cross the road at the pedestrian lights opposite the station forecourt. There is a coffee shop inside the booking hall (and kiosks on the platforms) if you want some refreshment while waiting for a train.
- Bedelands Farm was bought by Mid Sussex District Council and subsequently designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 1991. Its 80 acres are a patchwork of ancient woodland, wildflower meadows, hedgerows and ponds.
- Holy Trinity, Cuckfield dates from the mid-13thC, although there was an earlier Norman chapel on the site. It was gradually enlarged in the following centuries as the town prospered. Its most striking feature is the vaulted ceiling, decorated by Kempe as part of a comprehensive restoration in the mid-19thC. The church steeple suffered several fires in the 20thC and had to be completely rebuilt after the last one in 1980.
- The Old School operated as a school for nearly 500 years. The buildings were acquired by Holy Trinity Church in 1992 and it is now a parish and community centre.
- The Cuckfield Museum “traces the history of the town from its earliest days”. It contains some of the earliest dinosaur fossils ever discovered (see 9 below).
- Ockenden Manor was bought by John Burrell, a local ironmaster, in 1658. It was owned by his descendants until the 20thC and is now a luxury hotel and spa.
- 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.
- Originally named Cuckfield Place, Cuckfield Park was built around 1575 by Henry Bowyer, a local ironmaster. It was later owned by the Sergison family and is said to be haunted by “Wicked Dame Sergison”, who had to fight for her inheritance after a family feud (dramatised in the 1834 novel Rookwood by William Harrison Ainsworth).
- New England Wood was bought by the local community in 1980 after the Cuckfield Park estate was broken up. It is managed as a nature reserve.
- The memorial stone at Whitemans Green commemorates the discovery of some fossil teeth by Gideon and Mary Ann Mantell in 1822. After collecting and meticulously analysing more fossil bones from the local quarries Mantell (a Lewes doctor) was eventually able to convince the scientific community that these were the remains of a huge reptile with teeth similar to the modern-day iguana, which he named Iguanodon in 1825. It was one of the first prehistoric creatures to be identified and named (the word dinosaur was not coined until the 1840s).
- 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.
- Borde Hill was built in 1598 and the house was owned by several different families in the following centuries. The gardens were created by the Clarke family, who bought the property in 1892 and were patrons of plant collectors in the early 20thC. They have been open to the public since 1965.
- 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. This short section is still used by freight trains.
- 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.
- 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.
» Last updated: March 28, 2016