Highbrook - 6 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. This walk can either be started from Ardingly (where there is free parking) or completed as a shorter 3 mile walk from Horsted Keynes Station after hopping off a train.
|OS Grid Ref||TQ 3710 2951|
|Post Code||RH17 7BB|
If you came by steam train and are doing this walk from Horsted Keynes station, start the walk from waypoint 21.
To start the walk from Ardingly, park in the layby (a short stretch of the old road) opposite the South of England Showground. Near the south end of the layby, look out for a public bridleway next to a cottage and follow the footpath downhill until you reach a fork in the path.
Take the right-hand path. As you proceed, ferns and pine trees cover the steep slope which drops to your left. Continue along this path until you reach a road.
Turn left onto the road. The narrow road crosses a stream at the bottom of the valley and then you begin a long climb up the next hill. Sandstone rocks appear along a sunken part of the road as you near the top. As the road turns sharply left, take the footpath on the right towards Pickeridge and Holly Farm.
After another deeply sunken stretch of lane ignore the footpath to Holly Farm on the left and continue downhill towards Pickeridge Farm. Pass Pickeridge Farm and follow the path all the way down to the bottom of the valley crossing several stiles and gates along the way. At the bottom of the hill cross a bridge. A few yards after the bridge, follow the footpath to the right. Soon you will emerge from the trees to see a lone house (Withyland) in front of you. When you reach the house, take the path on the left downhill to the bottom of a valley.
At the bottom of the hill, you will find an old kissing gate and a little brick-built footbridge over a stream. Now start your climb once more out of this valley. Eventually you emerge from the trees into a field. Continue climbing until you near the corner of the field. Before you reach the corner take the less well-worn path on the right across the field towards a kissing gate in the hedgerow.
Go through the gate and follow the path around the rear of a cricket pavilion which stands in front of what is said to be one of the oldest cricket pitches in England. Continue to another kissing gate. After passing through the kissing gate, follow the footpath alongside a vineyard. As you make your way along the footpath, Brook House reveals itself to the right (best seen when there are few leaves on the trees). 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 proceeding through the gate go straight on all the way along the footpath through Orchard Wood. As you emerge from the woods pass through a gap in the hedge and proceed downhill across the 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. Continue along the road and pass under “New Road” bridge.
A hundred yards or so after the bridge, turn left into Horsted Keynes Station. Pass the station entrance and continue uphill continuing all the way to Leamland 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 stile 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 stile. After the next stile/gate carry on downhill to the left-hand corner of the field to edge of Hudds Wood.
Cross the stile 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 across/through another stile/gate and continue up the steep hill 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 stile. Soon you will make your way through a gate into to a small field. Walk to the opposite corner of the field where you will find another gate.
Go Through the gate and 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.
If you parked your car at Ardingly, follow the path along the right hand edge of the field, heading downhill. This footpath leads you all the way to the bottom of the valley, then over the little brick bridge and back up to Withyland.
If you came by steam train and wish to limit your walk to 3 miles, 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 as it is only about 40 yards from the gate). Now follow the walk back to the station from way point 12.
Continue uphill past Withyland. The path becomes increasingly steep as you go through a patch of woodland. A stile takes you into a field and shortly afterwards you will see houses which line the main road through Ardingly. Continue to the path between the houses and soon you reach the road.
Turn right onto the road. It is recommended that you cross the road some time before the ‘ARDINGLY Thank you for driving carefully‘ sign. Now continue along the road, past the South Of England Showground south gate and back to the layby.
If you came by steam train and chose to do the longer 6 mile walk, continue from the walk from waypoint 1.
Waypoint Arrival Times – 2022 Timetable