Ardingly - 9 miles
This walk begins with nearly half a mile of waterside scenery before taking off across the High Weald towards Horsed Keynes Station. Village churches and views to the South Downs along the way combine with the longest stretch of path along the railway to provide a memorable day out in the Sussex countryside.
|OS Grid Ref||TQ 335 286|
|Post Code||RH17 6SQ|
From the right-hand side of the car park, walk towards the top of the dam. Go through the gate on the right-hand side of the reservoir. Initially the path heads into woodland but then descends again towards the water. Ignore the first footpath on the right. You will later be returning by this route.
Keep following the path along the reservoir. Often, the water level is high during late winter and spring but can drop substantially in the summer months when demand for water is high. The photograph shows the reservoir in early May. After about ⅓ mile look out for another footpath on the right. Take the footpath and follow it uphill.
When you reach outbuildings at Town House Farm, take the track straight ahead. Passing to the right of the farm, follow the road all the way to Saint Peters Church, ignoring all the footpaths on the left and right. Turn right at Saint Peters Church and then take the footpath on the left by the “Street Lane” sign. Go through a gate and turn right onto a wide road which passes through the South of England Showground.
Turn left onto the main road. Cross the road opposite Alderwood Cottages. Just after the cottages follow the bridleway downhill. After 50 yards, bear left just as you emerge into woodland. Follow this path for ½ mile. The path here is full of wild garlic, ferns and bluebells in spring.
When the footpath widens onto a farm track, take the footpath on the right which leads you further downhill into woodland. Cross the bridge over a stream and start climbing again. When you leave the woods, go left uphill across the field and continue all the way up to Hook Lane. Turn right onto the lane.
As the lane turns right (downhill) go straight on towards Pickeridge Cottage and Holly Farm, passing Bellows Nose on the way. Turn left past Old Holly Cottage and Holly Farmhouse. Opposite a barn, cross the style on the left and turn right, following the edge of the field all the way to the bottom of the hill.
Cross the bridge over the stream and soon you will come to a field. Cross the middle of the field towards its right-hand corner at the top of the hill. Pace yourselves here, the last part of the hill is surprisingly steep! Go through the gate and continue to follow the track through a farmyard and onwards to Hammingden Lane. Turn left onto the road. You are now in the village of Highbrook.
At All Saints Church turn right, pass the round brick building of Highbrook Smokery, and follow the track downhill. Go through a gate and out into the field. Here there is a view over the Wealden landscape where you should be able to see the Bluebell Railway in the distance (especially if a steam train gives away its position). Now follow the path down the hill, all the way to a stream at the bottom.
Cross the bridge and continue onwards into to a field. Cross the field and follow the footpath all the way to the Bluebell Railway. Here you will find a level crossing. This is a good place to wait to see a train if you have time but please stay well away from the track.
Turn right at the level crossing and follow the footpath along the side of the railway track. Eventually the path leaves the railway but when you continue along this path it will take you back over a railway bridge. From here you can see Horsted Keynes station. Continue over the bridge and follow the path to the railway station. Perhaps take a break here and buy a platform ticket so that you can relax for a while or explore the station.
Leave the station buildings and head towards the road. Turn right onto the road, eventually passing a double bend (which used to pass beneath a railway bridge under the now-dismantled Ardingly Spur). Take a footpath on the right and follow it gently uphill across the field. Continue on the footpath ahead through the Orchard Wood plantation.
Emerging from the trees after about ¼ mile your view expands across a small but deep valley. The path ahead now descends steeply into the grounds of Ham Cottage. Continue through the garden but be sure to keep to the footpath until you come to a road. At the road, turn right and then immediately left taking the footpath which now passes along the edge of a vineyard. At the end of the footpath, go through the gate and proceed along the edge of a cricket field, past the rear of the pavilion and onwards to a kissing gate. Once through the gate go straight on downhill. Cross a brick bridge and continue uphill. Half way up the hill there is a house called Withyland. Climb past the house and continue along the footpath until you reach the High Street at Ardingly.
At the High Street, turn right. As you head out of Ardingly, cross the road and take the wide track on the left back into the South of England Showground.
Follow the footpath on the left back to Saint Peters Church and walk all the way back to Townhouse Farm. At the farm, bear left and follow the path downhill towards the reservoir. Turn left at the reservoir and follow the path back to your car.
Over to the far side of the dam, towards the boats and canoes, the Black Hut Café is open at weekends and school summer holidays (in case you need refreshment). Please check the website at Ardingly Activity Centre for opening times.
Waypoint Arrival Times – 2021 Timetable