Two walk choices – 4.75 miles, 7.6k, 2.5 hours, linear route from Bodiam to Northiam (use Kent & East Sussex Railway to return to Bodiam) and 6 miles (9.7k) circular.
Several pubs along the way – Castle Inn oppsosite the Castle at Bodiam, White Dog at Ewhurst Green (walk one), Salehurst Halt at Salehurst (walk two, closed Mondays, attractive garden with views). Refreshments at Bodiam and Northiam stations.
These walks are two of 6 Railtrails by the Kent & East Sussex Railway, a small rural light steam railway. The line gently wends its way from Tenterden in Kent for ten and a half miles, through the unspoilt countryside of the Rother Valley, passing through several stations including Northiam, to terminate in the shadow of the magnificent and perfectly moated National Trust castle at Bodiam.
Both walks begin in Bodiam. The first passes the 15th-century timber-framed manor house of Great Dixter set in one of the most beautiful gardens in England, created in 1910 by English architect Edwin Lutyens and renowned for the use of bold planting and strong colours by the late gardener and gardener writer Christopher Lloyd. The walk ends in Northiam where you can catch the train back to Bodiam or the start of the line in Tenterden.
The second walk includes a good section of waterside walking along the River Rother, passing the site of the Cistercian Robertsbridge Abbey, founded in 1176. Nothing survives of the abbey church, but substantial parts of the monastic buildings are incorporated into the private Abbot’s House which now occupies the site. The Salehurst Halt is a good stopping point for refreshment before returning to Bodiam across field paths.
A 6km walk along the wonderfully sandy beach of West Wittering and around the sand dunes of East Head with far-reaching views across Chichester Harbour to the Isle of Wight. East Head is the sand dune spit situated at the eastern side of the entrance to Chichester Harbour. It is a stunning example of a natural and dynamic coastal feature which is of great interest to environmentalists and ecologists because of its fragile nature.
East Head is on tidal sands. The walk is most enjoyable at low tide when large expanses of sand are revealed. When the tide is 4.6m or higher it is possible to walk through the dunes instead.
Although this walk is good at anytime of the year, be warned that the beach can be extremely busy on good summer days, as can the traffic to and from the beach, including West Wittering village itself .
Cooksbridge, Offham and Hamsey are three villages which sit in the East Sussex parish of Hamsey. With viewpoints from the top of the Offham Chalk Pit and on the approach from the Ouse Valley, these two walks are an ideal way to explore the industrial heritage of the chalk and lime industry in and around the parish of Hamsey.
Hamsey itself can be considered a lost village, the original village, now abandoned apart from the church and a few cottages, lay on an island in the River Ouse. The church in Hamsey, St. Peter’s, was a prosperous church with a large congregation until the Black Death decreased the local population so much that by the 19th century it was decided that a new church (also St. Peter’s) should be built in the hamlet of Offham. The Hamsey church still stands (pictured above) but has a slightly eeerie feel.
Second walk: good choice of pubs and cafes in Alfriston if visited plus Cricketers’ Arms in Berwick,
accesible by the Downsman bus (not Sundays) serving Lewes, Firle, Polegate & Eastbourne
These are two terrific walks over the best of the South Downs near Lewes in East Sussex with contrasting sections through picturesque downland villages giving you a chance to see or visit some historic houses. Charleston House has important literary connections with the Bloomsbury Group and is full of artworks from the early 1900s. Firle Place is a stately home going back to early Tudor times. Up on the downs, it is a walk eastwards along the ridge with views of the sea to your right and the weald to your left, passing Firle Beacon, the highest point of the Downs between Brighton and Eastbourne.
In Berwick, The Cricketers’ Arms is an extremely attractive flint stone cottage with a lovely garden, whilst its church contains the hand-painted murals of Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who lived in nearby Charleston Farm House.
For a slighty shorter walk (missing out Alciston), opt for the Fancy Free Walk and take a path on the left shortly after Firle Beacon, and heads towards Charleston House.
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.
A walk across fields and along quiet country lanes, following the River Ouse to Barcombe Mills, visiting the ‘three villages of Barcombe’.
The original village of Barcombe near the church was largely deserted at the time of the Black Death, when Barcombe Cross replaced it as the main centre. The settlement of Barcombe Mills grew up around the river Ouse, with flour mills being mentioned in Domesday.
Take a short detour to visit the Anchor Inn with its riverside garden and boating hire.
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.