Mid Sussex has many excellent walks. Much of the northern part of the district is in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty whilst the southern most part is in the South Downs National Park, including famous landmarks, the Jack and Jill windmills and Devil’s Dyke. The High Weald offers classic English countryside, and there are several botanically rich gardens in the region – Nymans, Wakehurst Place, Borde Hill and High Beeches.
pub and cafes in Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint (small detour to High Street – try the New Inn), Jack and Jill at Clayton
accessible by bus and train
Easy but much of the route is likely to be muddy, particularly during the winter months, as it is mainly through low-lying farmland, where there may be animals grazing.
I would recommend diverting through Butchers Wood shortly after the start of the walk rather than sticking to the main path, especially during the spring for bluebells and wild flowers (but again often muddy).
Along the way, you will pass the castellated turrets above the entrance to Clayton Tunnel, the longest tunnel on the London to Brighton line at over 1 mile long.
With fine views towards Wolstonbury Hill and the Downs, you will also pass Danny House. In the Great Hall of this magnificent (but private) Elizabethan mansion, the terms for the armistice at the end of the First World War were drawn up and Lloyd George and his Cabinet held many meetings here.
This is Walk 4 of the ‘Circular Walks Around Hassocks’ series of walks by the Hassocks Community Partnership. See also Butcher’s Wood Walk.
Excellent walks with fine views and a chance to walk through the Devil’s Dyke, a spectacular, steep-sided downland combe or cleft 91m deep and 800m long. Legend has it that the Devil was attempting to drown the parishioners of the Sussex Weald by gouging out a channel to the sea. Halfway through his sinister task, an old lady lit a candle and the Devil, mistaking the flame for the rising sun, did a runner, leaving his work unfinished. The truth is more prosaic – the Dyke was carved through ridges of rolling rock by meltwater during the last ice age leaving a fine and spectacular example of a dry chalk valley.
View from devil’s Dyke towards Fulking
The pretty village of Fulking with the perfectly positioned Shepherd & Dog pub, is tucked away at the foot of the Downs. A steep haul leads you back to the top of the South Downs escarpment and the South Downs Way. There are stunning views northwards across the Weald and south across rolling downland landscape to Brighton.
cafe (free to all) at Nymans, Red Lion pub in Handcross (near to the walk’s start/end)
accessible by bus
Nymans is one of Sussex’s great English gardens. Developed from late 19th century, the garden reached a peak in the 1930s and was regularly opened to the public. The house now survives as a rather romantic garden ruin following a severe reduction of staff during World War II and then a disastrous fire in 1947.
The best option for this walk takes in Nymans Gardens themselves (paid entry or free for NT members) but there’s an option to nearby public footpaths too. Either way, it’s an excellent walk around the surrounding estate amongst rolling hills and woodland in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Cow Wood. near to the gardens, and the woods within the estate in the Ouse Valley, are noted for their bluebells in the spring.
Short steep ascent at the beginning and in the middle.
Shepherd & Dog at Fulking
Accessible by bus if you walk down the hill from Devil’s Dyke (slightly longer walk); this also makes for a good extension to the walk
This short 2 mile circular walk starts from The Shepherd & Dog at Fulking, a wonderfully situated pub right under the Downs near Devil’s Dyke.
The pub has a very attractive garden with a stream running through it. The stream’s source is a downland spring. Just beside the pub, look out for the public tap and horsetrough with a tiled inscription from a psalm in honour of the leading Victorian art critic and patron, John Ruskin.
The path up to the Downs starts from a path adjacent to the garden. At the top, take in the spectacular views across the Downs.
Fountain Inn in Plumpton Green, plus The Plough (just off the Walk 11 route, to the North of Plumpton Green)
many stiles, generally flat, with some gentle undulation, can get muddy after wet weather
Sussex is full of bluebell woods and there are good trails at Arlington and Heaven Farm which charge an entrance fee, but Blackbrook Wood is just as stunning at the height of the bluebell season, whilst this walk also offers good woodland walking at any time of the year, with a profusion of bluebells, wood anemones and primroses in spring.
These two walks offer varied walking to the west of Plumpton Green, starting and finishing at Plumpton Station. The first passes via Mid Sussex Golf Club and along the Sussex Border Path, it reaches Ditchling Common before returning through lovely woodland. It is mostly on level ground and includes numerous stiles. The second walk is more to the North West taking in St Helena Farm. Both take you through Blackbrook Wood.
The Winning Post pub referred to in the leaflets didn’t win and is no more, whilst the beautifully situated Half Moon is further away to the south, nestling under the downs.
starts at Balcombe train station on Brighton-London line
Half Moon Inn at Balcombe (mid Sussex Times Pub of the Year 2014) and Balcombe Tea Rooms
cafe at Ardingly Reservoir Activity Centre with small range of snacks
This is a classic but mixed rural Sussex countryside walk taking in views across the Sussex Weald, the impressive Balcombe Ouse Valley Viaduct and the wide expanse of water at Ardingly Reservoir.
Built in 1841, the Ouse Valley Viaduct (also called Balcombe Viaduct) over the River Ouse on the London-Brighton Railway Line is 1,475 feet (450 m) long. The viaduct was opened in July 1841. The 11 million bricks needed for its construction travelled up the Ouse River from the Netherlands.
short easy access walk (Ardingly Reservoir walk), free from gates and stiles and suitable for buggies, wheelchairs and the less mobile, and longer less accessible walk
smooth wide path with plenty of benches
1.5m, 2.5k, about one hour walking time for accessible walk, full Kingfisher Trail extends further and is 4k but furthest parts are not suitable for wheelchairs.
small cafe serving limited range of snacks, drinks and ice creams at the Activity Centre
A walk with views across the water for the length of the route. The reservoir and surrounding area provide an important habitat for a variety of wildlife. A good walk for those with buggies, wheelchairs and kids over a wide compacted path.
choice of short 1.5 mile walk (1 hour) or longer Butterfly Walk, 3 miles
Start and end of walk can be muddy in winter.
Short, steep ascent to begin but then gently undulating, grassy terrain
Hikers Rest at Saddlescombe Farm
Royal Oak in Poynings (short detour on Butterfly Walk)
accessible by bus
These walks can both start from Saddlescombe Farm, an almost hidden hamlet sitting at the base of the Downs which is owned by the National Trust along with the surrounding countryside. Listed as a working farm since the Domesday Book and having belonged to the Knights Templar for around 100 years – there are plenty of historic buildings to explore.
Both walks give you a chance to walk up to Newtimber Hill and explore the downs above the farm, which is some of the best for butterflies and flowers on the South Downs, with Adonis and chalkhill blues, dark-green fritillary and silver-spotted skipper. It’s also good for orchids.
An easy walk with one gentle descent visiting the historic Downland village of Ditchling and the beautifully restored working mill, Oldland Mill. There are fine views towards the ridge of the South Downs. Some sections can be muddy in winter and after rain.
An easy, mainly level stroll, through Butchers Wood with fine views of the Downs. Butchers Wood is managed by the Woodland Trust and lies in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Ancient oak woodland is complimented by hazel, bluebells and other flora. The wood is particularly lovely in the Spring..
Butchers Wood and the fields in the second half of the walk can be muddy in winter and following wet weather.
This is Walk 1 of the ‘Circular Walks Around Hassocks’ series of walks by the Hassocks Community Partnership.