Highbrook - 3 miles
There’s a high chance you’ll get a really close view of a train on this walk as the footpath takes you within a few feet of the rails for a third of a mile. The views are typical of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and at one point (on a clear day) you will be able to see the South Downs in the distance. A perfect combination of steam trains and countryside with a few surprises on the way.
|OS Grid Ref||TQ 3710 2951|
|Post Code||RH17 7BB|
From the car park at Horsted Keynes Station, walk uphill and follow the path over the railway bridge. Looking south from the bridge you will be able to see three platforms and perhaps a train waiting to pick up its passengers. Once you are over the bridge, bear right and follow the footpath until you reach the railway again.
Cross a style and follow the path along the railway. The path continues for about 1/3 mile and there is ample opportunity to see a train anywhere along this stretch. There are few other places along the line where you can safely stand behind a fence and be so close to a locomotive thundering past.
At the end of the path, you will reach a level crossing. Do not cross the railway track but instead take the footpath on the left, immediately crossing over a style. Now head across the field to a second style. After crossing this style carry on downhill to yet another style on the edge of Hudds Wood.
Cross the style and enter the woods. Dropping down a number of steps you will soon find yourself at a wooden footbridge spanning a small stream. The path then winds its way through the trees, heading uphill and eventually emerges from the woodland at a metal gate.
Follow the footpath along the edge of the field to another style. Continue uphill until the path starts to level just before another gate. Perhaps take a break here to look at the view behind you. Across the High Weald landscape you may even catch sight of steam rising in the distance as a train makes its way towards East Grinstead. Go through the gate and follow a track which eventually passes the distinctive cylindrical shape of 18th century Highbrook (meat) Smokery before meeting a road at All Saints Church. Some of the buildings at Highbrook (originally known as Hammingden) trace back to the 11th century but the church is relatively new with roots only going back to 1884.
Turn left onto the road and continue past a red telephone box. As the road turns sharp left, take the footpath immediately ahead and cross the style. Soon you will make your way through a gate into to a small field. Walk around the edge of the field to the opposite corner where you will find another gate.
Continue along the footpath to Hammingden Place. Turn right onto the tarmac track which bears left past a large outbuilding. Then continue along a grassy track between two hedges. Go through a gate at the end of the track and keep to the left side of the field until you reach a kissing gate in the hedgerow. Sometimes this gate can be a little hidden so don’t go too far. It is only about 40 yards from the end of the track.
Go through the gate and follow the path at the rear of a cricket pavilion. The cricket pitch here is said to be one of the oldest in England. Continue to another kissing gate. After passing through this gate, follow the footpath along the bottom of a vineyard. As you make your way along the footpath, Highbrook House reveals itself to the right. This early 19th century Arts & Crafts mansion is now divided into a number of prestigious flats. Proceed all the way to a road. Turn right then very soon take the footpath on the left.
Follow the footpath signs through Ham Cottage Gardens where, in spring, you may briefly be treated to a riot of colour from rhododendrons and azaleas as you drop down towards a footbridge. Now cross the footbridge and head steeply uphill to a gate. After going through the gate go straight on all the way along the footpath through Orchard Wood. At the end of your journey through the woods, proceed downhill across a field until you meet a road.
Turn left onto the road. This road, aptly named Station Approach, winds around a double bend, passing through a gap which once housed a now-dismantled bridge supporting the Ardingly branch line. This section of disused railway runs between the Bluebell Railway and the London to Brighton line. It was purchased by the Bluebell Railway in 1997 to keep open the possibility of extending the line to Haywards Heath one day. Continue along the road and pass under “New Road” bridge. A hundred yards or so after the bridge turn left into Horsted Keynes Station. From here you can make your way back to the car park.
As this walk is only 3 miles long it is ideal to combine with a trip on the Bluebell Railway. One option would be to park your car at Sheffield Park Station and get the train to Horsted Keynes, returning to Sheffield Park after your walk. Another would be to catch a train to East Grinstead and back after your walk. Or perhaps just a platform ticket to explore Horsted Keynes station.
Waypoint Arrival Times – 2021 Timetable