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Horsted Keynes to Balcombe Walk

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

Horsted Keynes to Balcombe
Length

Main Walk: 16½ km (10.3 miles). Four hours 15 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8½ hours.

Short Walk, from the station: 13 km (8.1 miles). Three hours 25 minutes walking time.

Long Walk, from the station: 18 km (11.2 miles). Four hours 40 minutes walking time.

Circular Walk, from Balcombe: 16½ km (10.3 miles). Four hours 15 minutes walking time.

Alternative Walk, from Haywards Heath: 15½ km (9.6 miles). Four hours 5 minutes walking time.

OS Map

Explorer 135. Horsted Keynes, map reference TQ384282 (village), is in West Sussex, 7 km NE of Haywards Heath.

Toughness

5 out of 10 (4 for the Short Walk).

Features

This walk takes in an undulating area of the High Weald, with contrasting sections alongside attractive fishing lakes and the large Ardingly Reservoir. It starts in the village of Horsted Keynes (pronounced ‘canes’: see Walk Notes), strung out along a broad village green with its interesting parish church of St Giles perched on a neighbouring hill. Harold MacMillan (Prime Minister 1957-1963) lived nearby and he and members of his family are buried in the churchyard.

The Main Walk initially follows the shorter start to Extra Walk 132 (Horsted Keynes Circular), past Broadhurst Lake and a series of fishing ponds. Another part of this walk (in reverse) then takes you across fields and two wooded valleys to the Bluebell Railway, one of the oldest and most successful preservation railways in the country. The remainder of the morning is a new section via the hamlet of Highbrook, across high open ground and more valleys to a pub lunch in Ardingly.

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 come to the large Ardingly Reservoir and soon join the “Winter Walk” part of Extra Walk 22 (Balcombe Circular via Ardingly Reservoir), 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

Two short cuts are described for the Main Walk which save a total of 3 km, although both cut out some interesting features.

Additional Short Walk and Long Walk options are available on Saturdays, when the 270 bus calls at the Bluebell Railway station in Horsted Keynes. This alternative starting point gives you the opportunity to visit this nicely-preserved station.

Bus services are not always convenient and two bus-free morning routes are described from other starting points. These omit the walk features around Horsted Keynes but their crossover design incorporates all the other features. The Alternative Walk heads north from Haywards Heath to Ardingly on a route which is rather better in practice than suggested by the map. Finally, a Circular Walk from Balcombe has been included for convenience but of necessity much of its route has been taken from Book 1 Walk 16 and Extra Walk 22.

Transport

For all the walk options except the Circular Walk you need to travel to Haywards Heath. This has 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, but these are not valid on Southern services.

For the walk options which start from Horsted Keynes you then need to take Metrobus 270, which runs hourly to East Grinstead (Mon–Sat only). From the main station entrance (beneath the London end of the platform), bear right across the forecourt to a road and turn right at the roundabout for the 270 bus stop in Perrymount Road. The main starting point for this group of walks is the Church Lane stop in Horsted Keynes village, but on Saturdays you have the option of alighting a few minutes earlier and starting from the Bluebell Railway station instead.

Balcombe only has an hourly off-peak service, on the Thameslink route (Mon–Sat) and Southern (Sun). Balcombe is one stop closer to London, so you need to buy a day return to Haywards Heath on all but the Circular Walk.

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.

The main walk options are not practicable for car drivers as there is no bus service from Balcombe back to Horsted Keynes. For the more suitable Circular and Alternative Walks, park in Balcombe: the station car park costs £2.50 (2016) and free roadside parking is also available in the village.

Suggested Train

You should aim to start any of the walk options at around 10.30-11am. For the Main Walk, that means a train from London Bridge or Victoria which (on the current timetable) will connect with the 10:18 Metrobus 270 service at Haywards Heath station. If you catch the bus an hour later, consider doing one of the shorter morning routes.

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). Lighter fare is available at the Gallery Cafe (Mon–Sat; closes 2pm) and there is also a bakery in the village.

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

Tea

Except on Mondays, the suggested tea place is the popular Balcombe Tea Rooms (01444-811777), open Tue–Sun to 4pm (they 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.

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Trains

Back: (not a train station)

By Car

Start: Horsted Keynes, West Sussex | Directions

Finish: RH17 6JQ | [Directions]

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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

Sep-16

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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.

Horsted Keynes to Balcombe

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

Walk Map: Horsted Keynes to Balcombe Walk Map

Walk Options ( Main | Stn. )

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

  1. Main Walk (16½ km)
  1. Main Walk, with morning short cut (14¾ km)
  2. Main Walk, with afternoon short cut (15¼ km)
  3. Main Walk, with both short cuts (13½ km)
  4. Short Walk, from the station (13 km)
  5. Long Walk, from the station (18 km)
  6. Circular Walk, from Balcombe (16½ km)
  7. Alternative Walk, from Haywards Heath (15½ 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 Short Walk from Horsted Keynes station, start at §3.

If you are doing the Long Walk from Horsted Keynes station, start at §4.

If you are doing the Circular Walk from Balcombe, start at §8.

If you are doing the Alternative Walk from Haywards Heath, start at §10.

  1. Horsted Keynes (village) to St Giles Church (½ km)
  2. Horsted Keynes Head north on Church Lane to St Giles church.

    Horsted Keynes If you arrived in Horsted Keynes1 by bus, go back a few paces from the Church Lane stop to the road junction at the western end of the long village green, where you can see the church across the valley to the north.

    Go past vehicle barriers onto the unsignposted lane heading N towards the church, joining the Sussex Border Path2 (SBP). Go down the slope and keep ahead at a crossroads, joining Church Lane. You pass the impressive gates to the Old Rectory on your right, and some attractive old cottages. After climbing gently go through a gap in the hedge into the churchyard of St Giles3.

    After visiting the church take the brick path past its western end. You can return to Church Lane by going up to the village school and turning left, or forking left just before this onto a path past Spring Cottage. Opposite the school driveway there is a three-way footpath signpost.

    To continue the full walk, which heads north on Church Lane, go to §5. If you want to take the morning short cut, however, continue with the directions below.

  3. St Giles Church to the Bluebell Railway Crossing direct (2½ km)
  4. From Church Lane take the footpath heading west from the school, down through a wood and round Old Mill House. Keep right to pass Mill Lake and take the first of two footpaths on the left up through a wood to a minor road. Continue on a footpath alongside Leamland Wood to the picnic area above Horsted Keynes station. Veer right, cross the Bluebell Railway on Leamland Bridge and follow the footpath down and round to the right to return to the railway. Head north along the embankment as far as a crossing point and turn left there, away from the railway.

    Take the potentially muddy track heading W off Church Lane, signposted as a footpath and leaving the SBP. After going downhill through a wood for 250m it bends left to go around the garden of the picturesque Old Mill House4, with its old mill and restored water wheel on the far side. Follow the path round to the right in front of a brick and timber barn to reach a path junction and turn right.

    Keep to the main path around Mill Lake5, avoiding lakeside paths used by anglers. After bending to the right around an outflow you come to a three-way footpath signpost, with another one up ahead by a fieldgate. Turn left at the first signpost to go uphill on a woodland path, heading NW.

    Continue in roughly the same direction for 350m until you emerge into a strip of grassland dotted with trees. Follow the path through this area and turn right onto a minor road. In 100m, with an isolated house on the right, turn left up an earth bank to a stile in the corner of a large field. Follow an enclosed path around its left-hand edge, with Leamland Wood on your left. In 400m go through a metal kissing gate into an open area.

    Unless you want to detour to Horsted Keynes station6 on the Bluebell Railway7 down to your left, follow a track ahead and round to the right (or cut across the grass) to a parking area in the far corner of the field.

    In the top left-hand corner of the field veer left through a small parking area onto Leamland Bridge, crossing over the railway. On the far side turn right and follow the track down to the left. At the bottom go over a stile and follow an enclosed path round to the right and then back towards the railway, through a small plantation. Go over a stile and head N along the railway embankment for 500m, with fine views on both sides.

    The path eventually comes to a three-way footpath signpost next to a designated crossing point, where the Main Walk joins from the right. Do not cross the track but turn left, away from the railway.

    Continue the directions at §6.

  5. Horsted Keynes Station to the Bluebell Railway Crossing direct (1¼ km)
  6. Go up the Bluebell Railway approach road, past the station buildings and up the left-hand side of the picnic area. In the top left-hand corner cross the railway on Leamland Bridge and follow the footpath down and round to the right to return to the railway. Head north along the embankment as far as a crossing point and turn left there, away from the railway.

    From the bus stop go up the approach road and past Horsted Keynes station6 on the Bluebell Railway7. Go past the car park and follow a track up the left-hand side of a large picnic area.

  7. Horsted Keynes Station to St Giles Church (2 km)
  8. Go up the Bluebell Railway approach road, past the station buildings and up the picnic area. At the top of the slope take the footpath on the right alongside Leamland Wood to a minor road. Turn right briefly, then take the footpath on the left down through a wood to Mill Lake. On the far side turn left and follow a footpath round Old Mill House and up through a wood to Church Lane.

    At the top of the slope turn right and go through a metal kissing gate onto an enclosed path heading E alongside Leamland 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 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 Lake5 and comes to a path crossing where you turn left. After passing a brick and timber barn, with a house ahead, turn left onto a wide grassy path going around the garden of the picturesque Old Mill House4, with its old mill and restored water wheel on the far side.

    At the end of the garden the path becomes a potentially muddy track climbing through a wood. At the top you come to a T-junction with Church Lane, with a school opposite. The continuation of the walk is to turn left, joining the Sussex Border Path2 (SBP), but you might first like to take the path opposite (slightly to the right) past Spring Cottage and look around the churchyard of St Giles3.

  9. St Giles Church to the Bluebell Railway Crossing via Broadhurst Manor (4¼ km)
  10. Head north from the church on a bridleway past Broadhurst Lake and a series of fishing ponds. Go up Broadhurst Manor's driveway and turn left onto Hurstwood Lane. At a T-junction turn right and head north on Chilling Street for 250m. Turn left and follow a footpath across two wooded valleys to Horsted Lane. Turn left briefly onto the road, then take a footpath heading south-west to the Bluebell Railway. Go down a field alongside it and turn right to cross over the track.

    On leaving the churchyard turn right onto Church Lane, signposted as a bridleway and heading N. After passing some houses keep left across a parking area to go downhill on a woodland track. In 300m you pass the attractive Broadhurst Lake5 on your right, followed by a series of six fishing ponds on your left.

    At the end of the last pond fork left to go up a slope, soon with a high stone wall on your right. Turn right at a T-junction (with Garden House on the left), passing a large pond on your left. Follow the driveway round a bend to the left (with the imposing iron gates of Broadhurst Manor8 off to your right) and all the way out to a lane.

    Turn left onto the lane, which goes uphill and round a bend to the right. At a T-junction turn right onto a minor road (Chilling Street), signposted to Forest Row and East Grinstead. In 250m, at a footpath signpost just before a house on the left, turn left through a side gate and follow an enclosed path down the right-hand edge of a large field. At the bottom go through a metal kissing gate and follow a path down through a wood, across a stream and up into another large field.

    Go all the way up the right-hand field edge, turning left when you reach the corner. In a further 200m turn right as indicated to go down through another wood. The path turns left to go alongside a pond, which you then cross on a narrow concrete dam. Go through a wooden gate and follow a grassy path up a small field, passing a small brick hut on your right and with a large house (Tanyard Manor) off to your left. On the far side veer left and go out through a gate in the hedge.

    Continue briefly alongside Horsted Lane, leaving the SBP. At the end of the wide grass verge cross the road carefully and go up a concrete driveway, signposted as a footpath. This leads onto a wide grassy path, which soon turns left and comes to a stile. Go over this, cross a field to another stile on the far side and continue along the left-hand edge of two more fields, heading SW.

    You come out onto a farm lane, with a brick bridge over the Bluebell Railway7 on your right. Go straight across the lane and down the right-hand side of a field, parallel to the railway. At the bottom of the slope turn right and go over the track at a designated crossing point, with the shorter walk options joining from the trackside path on the left. Keep ahead at a three-way footpath signpost, away from the railway.

  11. Bluebell Railway Crossing to Ardingly (village) (3¼ km)
  12. Ardingly Head west on the footpath, going across a valley and then uphill to Highbrook. At All Saints church turn left onto the minor road running through the hamlet. Continue on the footpath heading south-west past Brook House Farm, then across a valley and up through fields and copses into Ardingly. Turn left briefly onto the B2028, then fork right onto a short side street leading to the Ardingly Inn on Street Lane.

    Go over a stile and head W across a small field, towards the spire of Highbrook church 1 km away on the horizon. Continue over another stile and bear slightly left to follow a faint grassy path across the next field, downhill. At the bottom another stile leads you onto a path through a small wood, crossing a wooden footbridge over a stream along the way.

    On leaving the wood keep ahead up the right-hand edge of two fields (with increasingly fine views behind you). At the top go through a metal fieldgate onto a track between hedges which eventually leads into a tarmac lane, with Highbrook Smokery9 on the left opposite a gate leading into the churchyard of All Saints10.

    At the end of the lane turn left onto the minor road running through the hamlet, heading S. Ignore a footpath through a farm on your right and continue along the road until it turns left, where you keep ahead past a fieldgate onto a footpath. At the end of a low building turn right as indicated to go over a stile, then around two sides of a field to the opposite corner.

    Go over a stile and continue along the right-hand edge of a field towards a large new house being built at Brook House Farm. Shortly before reaching it, turn half-right as indicated. Pass to the left of a modern barn and continue on a fenced track between fields, following it round to the right at the corner. At the end of the field on your right the track starts to descend and comes to a fieldgate, with a small wooden gate to its right. Bear right through this gate onto a narrow path going downhill near the edge of a wood.

    Ardingly At the bottom of the slope cross a brick bridge over a stream and continue uphill, with a fence on your left. After passing to the right of an isolated house go through an old metal gate and up through some trees, then over a stile into a field. Go up its left-hand edge, then over a stile in the top corner. Bear slightly left across the next field to find a gate leading out between houses into Ardingly's High Street.

    Turn left onto the B2028, then in 100m fork right onto a short side street leading directly to the Ardingly Inn on Street Lane, with the Gallery Cafe to its left.

    To continue the full walk, which returns to the B2028, go to §13. If you want to take the afternoon short cut, however, continue with the directions below.

  13. Ardingly (village) to The Causeway direct (2½ km)
  14. Head north-west on Street Lane. At St Peter's church turn left into Church Lane and continue along it to Townhouse Farm. Turn right to go down to Ardingly Reservoir and turn right onto its perimeter path. At the end turn left onto a lane (West Hill) and go down to the causeway.

    For the short cut, turn left out of the pub or café onto Street Lane, heading NW. In 150m you pass the (closed) Oak Inn and continue along the road for a further 750m. Just after it curves to the left, with a lychgate leading into a churchyard ahead on your left, turn left into Church Lane (if you visit the church of St Peter11 you can leave via another path to rejoin Church Lane a little further along).

    Follow the lane as it heads S for 500m, ignoring ways off. Eventually it bends right and comes to a junction of tracks, with Townhouse Farm on your right. Turn half-right across the farmyard to find a potentially muddy track going downhill between trees and hedges. After curving right and then left, fork left into the top corner of a large field and go down its right-hand edge.

    In the bottom corner go through a gap and then across a smaller field, slightly to the right. At the foot of the slope go over a stile and turn right onto the perimeter path of Ardingly Reservoir12.

    At the end turn left onto a lane and go down to the causeway separating two parts of the reservoir.

    Continue the directions at §15.

  15. Balcombe Station to London Road (3¼ km)
  16. Go across the B2028 and up a path to a residential road, Newlands. Turn right and follow it round to the left. Opposite Jobes, turn right and 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 called “Jobes”, turn right onto a narrow footpath between houses.

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

    Where the path comes out into a field, keep ahead to go through a gap in the trees on the far side and continue along the left-hand edge of a larger field. In the corner bear left onto a path alongside the main railway line and cross the tracks on a new footbridge. This leads to the end of a driveway 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 the Public Footpath signpost) turn right onto a narrow path through a hedge. Follow this as it curves left past a pond in the trees, then go over a stile into the corner of a large field.

    The signposted right of way is to go along the left-hand field edge for about 75m, then turn half-right across the field (possibly with no clear path down through the crops). This route can be very muddy and you could consider turning right after crossing the stile and going round the grassy field edge for 250m. Either way, look for a metal kissing gate in the bottom of the field and go through this 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 onto the next, 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 Viaduct13, 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).

  17. London Road to Ardingly Reservoir (2½ km)
  18. Go across 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 and then heading east across fields to Ardingly Reservoir.

    Cross the main road carefully and take the footpath opposite, going over a stile and then across a field. As you start going downhill, aim for a track going half-right into the trees at the bottom of the field. At the end of this short track veer left onto a wide bridge across a stream. Continue 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 Place14 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.

    Turn left in front of these gates, going through a metal fieldgate into a field. Continue slightly to the left of your previous direction, aiming for the right-hand end of a copse ahead. 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 meadow. Go through this and keep ahead at a three-way footpath signpost (where the Alternative Walk route joins from the right).

    Continue the directions at §12.

  19. Haywards Heath Station to Copyhold Lane (2¾ km)
  20. 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.

    The road comes to a T-junction with Old Wickham Lane on the left, but you turn right 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 wide tree-lined path, heading N again.

    At the bottom of the slope cross a footbridge over a stream and continue in the same direction, now gently uphill. At the end of a wood on your right a large notice warns you that the public footpath now crosses a golf course, but apart from one fork the route is easy to follow (continuing in much the same direction for the next 500m) and you will not be crossing any fairways.

    Continue to head N, initially with netting on your right protecting you from big hitters on a distant driving range. Shortly after going into some trees fork right where the path splits and then simply continue on the obvious path, passing a wooden hut along the way, until you come to a path T-junction with a three-way footpath signpost.

    Turn left into a wood, joining the Sussex Ouse Valley Way15 (SOVW). Follow the path as it bends right, then keep left as a minor path branches off to the right. If the sunken path becomes too muddy you can take a slightly higher parallel route through the trees, but keep the main path in sight to avoid being led astray onto minor paths branching off to the right. In 300m the footpath bends left and you leave the wood through a metal kissing gate, emerging onto a minor road (Copyhold Lane) by the remains of an old bridge for the abandoned Ouse Valley Railway16.

  21. Copyhold Lane to Ardingly Reservoir (2 km)
  22. 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 and take the tree-lined footpath just off to the right, now on both the SOVW and the High Weald Landscape Trail17 (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 past farm buildings and across a brick bridge over a single-track railway line, the Ardingly branch18. Continue for a short distance to a corner of River's Wood. Keep ahead over a stile and follow the waymarked HWLT through the Balcombe Estate for 800m, gradually curving to the right while always heading roughly N.

    Towards the end of this stretch you can 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 Viaduct13, just over 1 km away to the left. About two-thirds of the way up, turn right as indicated through a gap in the hedge into another field and follow a grassy path round a gradual curve to the left. In the far corner go through a kissing gate and keep ahead through a small meadow (leaving the HWLT, which turns right). At the bottom turn right at a three-way footpath signpost (where the Circular Walk route joins from the left).

  23. Ardingly Reservoir to the village (2¼ km)
  24. 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 Reservoir12, 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 detour down the signposted path to a Bird Hide on the edge of the water, follow the main path through the copse.

    You will be repeating this short stretch through the copse in the afternoon.

    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.

    Ardingly 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 Peter11 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, with the Gallery Cafe just beyond it.

  25. Ardingly (village) to College Road (1¾ km)
  26. 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.

    Turn right out of the pub or café 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 Trail17 (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 and continue for 75m along the left-hand edge of the next field, where there is a four-way footpath signpost by a fieldgate on the left; turn right here onto a grassy path across the field, heading W.

    On the far side of the field go over a stile beside a metal fieldgate to enter Standgrove Wood. Follow the potentially muddy main path through the wood and out into a parking area. Keep ahead through this to reach a road (College Road again).

  27. College Road to The Causeway (2 km)
  28. 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 College19, 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 Reservoir12. Veer right at the top and follow the perimeter path through a gate into a copse.

    Just inside the copse, you might like to detour down the signposted path to a Bird Hide on the edge of the water; if you do this, return the same way.

    After going through the copse simply continue along the perimeter path for 1 km, ignoring a couple of footpaths on the right.

  29. The Causeway to Balcombe (village) (3¾ km)
  30. Follow the lane across the causeway and turn left onto another section of the perimeter path. Go all the way round the northern shore of the reservoir and then through Great Burrow Wood to reach Mill Lane. Turn left and 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.

    Follow the lane across the causeway. On the far side 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 in the hedge. 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.

  31. Balcombe (village) to the Station (1 or 2 or ½ km)
  32. 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 §16b, an arc around the hill on the other side of the railway line. But if you need to hurry, take the direct route in §16c.

      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.


Walk Notes

  1. 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’.
  2. The Sussex Border Path runs for 240 km along the length of West & East Sussex, from Thorney Island on the Hampshire border to Rye.
  3. St Giles, Horsted Keynes was probably built on the site of a pagan temple as its orientation is towards the midsummer sunrise instead of the usual E-W. There may have been a church here in Saxon times and it still has some Norman features. In the north wall of the chancel a small figure of a Crusader with a lion at his feet is thought to be a ‘heart shrine’. The graves of Harold MacMillan (Prime Minister 1957-63; later the Earl of Stockton) and members of his family are to the east of the church, surrounded on three sides by a hedge.
  4. Old Mill House was built around 1450. The old wooden mill with overshot water wheel was still being used 500 years later and remains in working order.
  5. Mill Lake and Broadhurst Lake were part of a long series of lakes created to supply water for the local mills. They are now popular fishing ponds.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. The 16thC Broadhurst Manor was largely destroyed by fire in the late 18thC and subsequently rebuilt in Tudor style in the 1920s. The TV scriptwriter Carla Lane ran her Animaline wildlife sanctuary in its grounds until she sold the house in 2009.
  9. 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.
  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. 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.
  12. The 198-acre Ardingly Reservoir is a popular fishing venue and its Activity Centre provides watersports such as sailing, canoeing and windsurfing.
  13. 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.
  14. 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).
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.

» Last updated: September 16, 2016

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