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Balcombe to Haywards Heath Walk

With the dog days of summer preceding the arrival of autumn, or an Indian summer (who knows!) we asked Robert Veitch to find an interesting route from Balcombe to Haywards Heath. He took his friend Donna along for the gallivant, to brighten his day and count the kissing gates

From Balcombe Station, find the way up to London Road, via the footbridge and steps. Turn left, cross the road at the traffic island towards the red telephone box then take the path up the  slope to the junction with Newlands.

Turn right and follow the path for 200m, before turning right by the three-way fingerpost opposite Jobes. Beyond the wooden gate is a field of maize. Walk gently downhill to a kissing gate, after which the path leads to a footbridge up and over the railway. On the other side, beyond the redundant gate, follow the drive over two speed bumps to the road.

Cross with care then walk south towards the traffic for 100m, before taking the path on the right, by the Copper beech tree, into the woods. Continue to a stile and another field of maize. Bear right, following the field periphery to the kissing gate on the right, leading into Pilstye Wood, then down the steps to the footbridge.

Once over it, head uphill, then veer left at the second 2-way fingerpost, along the track, past the sandstone outcrop and decaying trunk of a once great tree. Wander into the field and over the brow, which is the highest point of the day at 105m (344 feet).

Keep right, past the 2-way fingerpost, heading downhill towards the power lines, before the path swings left to a stile by a telegraph pole. Carefully down six steps and over the sleeper bridge aim across the paddock to the wooden gate by the ancient oak, then across the adjacent field to the junction with Cherry Lane.

Turn left and follow the road around the 90° bend, then downhill over the stream, heading uphill, over the brow and down to the main road. Cross carefully to the track leading towards Great Bentley Farm.

Ramble past the gates and corrugated farm buildings to a 90° bend, after which there is a gap in the hawthorn on the left, by the 2-way fingerpost.

Once through the gate and down the steep steps, keep to the right side of the meadow and continue to the bend, then strike out across the grass to the footbridge. On the far side of the footbridge is an unusual gated stile, “but the stile is easier” noted Donna.

The path leads across the field and around the perimeter to a stile, then diagonally uphill across the adjacent field to a pair of stiles. Continue around the field perimeter to a redundant kissing gate and track. Follow the track around the left-hand bend to a fingerpost and gate on the right, which leads to a paddock.

Walk towards the viaduct and after two more kissing gates the path emerges beneath the majestic structure known as the Ouse Valley Viaduct. The 37 arches, up to 29m (96 feet) high, span a length of 450m (1,480 feet), and were built from 11,000,000 bricks that were shipped up the Ouse on barges. It opened in 1841. Donna peered through the ovals in the columns in admiration of the structure as a train rumbled overhead. “It has a wonderful, mystical effect, sloping down and up the other side, into infinity.”

Walk to the kissing gate then turn right and continue along the road, over the River Ouse, to the kissing gate on the left. Continue alongside the river, until the meadow narrows at the gateway. 100m beyond the gateway enter River’s Wood on the right via the kissing gate by the 3-rail barrier.

The path eases uphill through the deciduous and coniferous woodland to a fingerpost marked ‘HWLT’ and a five-way junction. Cross over and take the track on the left, which is squelchy in places, but eventually leads to a kissing gate and track.

Continue in the same general direction, over the railway bridge, and what was once the branch line from Haywards Heath to Horsted Keynes, to a kissing gate. Follow the track across both fields, treating livestock with respect, to a kissing gate and sleeper bridge at the entrance to the woods. Ramble past the roundabout kissing gate, and then a redundant kissing gate  to the junction with Copyhold Lane.

Across the road is a fingerpost marking the junction of the Sussex Diamond Way, High Weald Landscape Trail and Sussex Ouse Valley Way. It’s a symbolic column of wood. Once through the kissing gate, pursue the sometimes muddy path all the way to the golf course boundary.

Turn right and walk about 500m to the gravel path, before turning left, then immediately right, around the redundant kissing gate, into the drove. The route passes fallen oak and silver birch trunks before meeting the tarmac.

Turn right, and wander, past the silver cedar tree, wisteria and Copper beech, as far as the black and yellow posts.

Turn left into Wickham Way and follow the concrete down to the junction with College Road. At the junction, turn right, then left into Mill Green Road, towards the town.

At the roundabout it’s time to congratulate oneself for a completed walk, as Donna noted, “That was great, it was lovely. Now, I’m looking forward to my Sunday lunch and putting my feet up.”

  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Walk Time: 3 - 3. hours
  • Stiles: 6
  • Kissing Gates: 15
  • Elevation Gain: 169m (555 feet)
  • Calorie Burn: Approximately 650kcal
  • Map: Explorer 135
  • Trains: www.southernrailway.com
  • Parking: Pay parking at Haywards Heath Station and Balcombe Station www.apcoa.co.uk

Robert has tested the route personally, making sure it is suitable for walking. However, even he cannot guarantee the effects of the weather, or roadworks, or any other factors outside of his control. If you would like to send your feedback about a local walk, please email editorial@ sussexliving.com