List of walks in section order, with links
Date Walk Distance
17 July 2010 Midhurst to Billingshurst 27.7 km (17.3 miles)
24 July 2010 Billingshurst to Haywards Heath 34.1 km (21.3 miles)
31 July 2010 Haywards Heath to Perryman's Farm then Poundgate 23.7 km (14.8 miles)
07 August 2010 Poundgate to Perryman's Farm then Heathfield 18.4 km (11.5 miles)

I've now completed the Sussex Diamond Way, spread over 4 days of walking. The official route length is 60 miles. The distances in the table above add up to 64.9 miles, as I've included the connecting walks need to reach railway stations and bus stops from the beginning and end of each day's walk.

Unfortunately, I haven't found the time to fully write up more that the first day's walking, so the notes for the other three days are little more than a basic record of dates and start and finish points, with a few highlights.

The Sussex Diamond Way is very pleasant, gentle walk through classic low weald countryside. It's well worth walking, but it would not be the top of my list if recommending a long distance path to someone who hadn't walked much in the territory.

At the time I walked the path, it went through some areas that, by today's standards, seemed particularly rich in butterflies.

GatekeeperCommon BlueCommaRed AdmiralLarge WhiteWhite Admiral
Butterflies seen along the Sussex Diamond Way


17 July 2010: Midhurst to Billingshurst

27.7 km (17.3 miles)

Cowdray House
Cowdray House and Cowdray Park Polo Club

Having completed the West Sussex Literary Trail, I needed to start another long distance path. The list of those I’ve not walked is diminishing, and the last long distance path Sussex on my list is the Sussex Diamond Way, so I decided to make that my next project.

The walk was devised by the Sussex Area of the Ramblers' Association to mark the 60th anniversary (1995) of the Ramblers’ Association. It’s not waymarked, but there is a very good guide book with clear maps that is still obtainable.

Queen Elizabeth Oak
The Queen Elizabeth Oak, Cowdray Park

The walk starts in Midhurst, so I had the choice of train to Haslemere and then the No 70 bus, or train to Chichester and then the No 60 bus. I chose to go via Haslemere as it was marginally quicker.

St Peter’s Well
St Peter’s Well, Lodsworth

Public transport options along the Sussex Diamond Way are limited, and I found that the most convenient end point for today’s walk was Billingshurst, making for a longish walk.


The start of the walk is through Cowdray Park, passing the ruins of Cowdray House, the polo lawns of Cowdray Park Polo Club (the self-declared ‘Home of British Polo’) and Cowdray Park Golf Club’s course. The walk then enters an area of parkland containing some magnificent trees. The most striking is the Queen Elizabeth Oak, a pollard Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) of huge girth, now hollow. Queen Elisabeth I is alleged to have sheltered under the tree on a visit in 1591.

Southdown sheep
Southdown sheep, near Tillington

From Cowdray Park, the Way goes through Lodsworth, where it passes a house with a blue plaque commemorating E H Shepard, illustrator of The Wind in the Willows and Winnie-the-Pooh. I called into the church, which has a very prosperous air. It contains some modern stained glass, including a distinctly gay truncated crucifixion in a narrow window. Nearby is St Peter’s Well, said to be a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, especially for people with eye problems.

Tillington church
Tillington church

From Lodsworth the Way crosses a substantial tributary of the River Rother on Eel Bridge. The area around the bridge was very rich in butterflies, with at least half-a-dozen species represented. It then climbs to a ridge above River Common (River being the name of a hamlet), with intermittently good views.

Leaving Petworth
Leaving Petworth

When I reached the vicinity of Pitshill, I thought I’d lost my way, but then realised that the paths I’d intended to use had been closed and diverted. A later search of the web confirmed that Pitshill, a Grade II* listed house built in the neo-classical style, had been bought by a Mr Charles Pearson, who intended to restore the house, but only on condition that the public rights of way were diverted away from the house. It seems he has got his way. To be fair, the diversions have been well done, and are, I think, unobjectionable.

Leaving the Mens
Leaving the Mens - 'Beware bull in field'

From Pitshill the Way passes through a vineyard to reach Tillington. From here the way is coincident with the Serpent Trail until beyond Petworth. I was tempted to call in at the Horse Guards, a very nice gastro-pub I visited when walking the Serpent Trail. However, in the end I decided to press on to Petworth itself and have a pint there. I ended up in a pub called the Star, a Fullers pub. Not really a drinker’s pub (more a restaurant), though I had a perfectly good pint of Gale’s Seafarer (actually a Fullers’ beer).

Longhorn cattle
Longhorn cattle, Shipbourne Farm

From Petworth, the Way continues over Brinkshole Heath and through Flexham Park, a big area of coppice woodland. The Way then turns north-east through Hammonds Wood and the Mens (a Sussex Wildlife Trust Reserve, and area of ancient woodland). The Trust’s website explains that ‘The unusual name of this area comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘ge-mænnes’, meaning common land’.

River Arun
River Arun, looking north

The Way then heads east again, crossing farmland, to reach the River Arun, and the Arun Canal (disused, but subject to sporadic restoration by the Wey and Arun Canal Trust). This section of the Arun Valley is particularly lovely, and feels very remote. The Sussex Diamond Way then follows the Wey South Path along the canal to just short of Lordling’s lock. From there it follows a ridge above a loop in the Arun, then drops down to follow a tributary, Brockhurst Brook. A section of this has been dammed to form a small, narrow lake, complete with boathouse.

Floodgate Bridge
Floodgate Bridge, Arun Canal, rebuilt 2002

The Way then skirts the edge of Great Lordlings Wood, and crosses the A 29 (originally a Roman road, Stane Street) and the railway at Denham’s Farm. It then crosses a few more fields to reach the main road leading to Billingshurst Station. At the station I found I had 25 minutes to wait for a train home, and so I decided to try the Railway Inn, opposite the station. A very basic boozer, but selling Harveys and perfectly acceptable for a quick pint.

A very good walk – nothing dramatic, but the Sussex Weald it its best. And I saw more varieties of butterflies than I have for a long time.

Boathouse, lake on Brockhurst Brook

Yarrow Dark Mullein


24 July 2010: Billingshurst to Haywards Heath

34.1 km (21.3 miles)

Stained glass
Stained glass, Bolney church

Train to Billingshurst to continue with the Sussex Diamond Way. I’d intended to finish in Bolney, a walk of about 24 km (15 miles). However, as I had started early, I got to Bolney mid-afternoon. I had a pint in the Eight Bells (OK, but not one of the best pubs in Sussex) and looked round the church (some 20th century stained glass), but feeling restless I decided to walk on to Cuckfield, as I recollected the White Hart there as good pub. Unfortunately the pub was shut - I think they had had a wedding reception. I therefore bought a sandwich in the Co-Op and walked on to Haywards Heath for the train home.

View to the downs, approaching Cuckfield

A pleasant walk, though nothing of particular interest, other than to note that the crossing of the A 24 just south of Southwater was awkward. The guide book says ‘there is a gap in the scrub covered central reservation’. The council clearly want to discourage use of this right of way, as there was no waymarking and no gap, though it was possible to squeeze through the scrub.

The weather was excellent, though there were occasional threatening clouds.


Purple Loosestrife Common Fleabane


31 July 2010: Haywards Heath to Perryman's Farm then Poundgate

23.7 km (14.8 miles)

Freshfield Lane Brickworks

Train to Haywards Heath to continue with the Sussex Diamond Way. I set off in a very fine warm drizzle - not enough to warrant waterproofs, but quite unpleasant. Fortunately the drizzle stopped as I cleared Lindfield.

The walk was much like earlier sections of the Sussex Diamond Way, but there were a few highlights.

Greenwich meridian
Wellingtonia marking the Greenwich meridian

Shortly after crossing the Bluebell railway, the Sussex Diamond Way skirts around the (still active) clay pits of Freshfield Lane Brickworks, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The reasons for notification given are that it is internationally important for palaeoenvironmental, provenance and palaeogeographical studies and provides extensive sections throughout two of the Wealden sedimentary megacycles. Interesting, but rather sticky going in places.

Young toad
Young toad, Sheffield Forest

The Way crosses the Greenwich meridian near Danehurst, a large country house. The point is marked by a Wellingtonia ‘brought from Yosemite National Park, California, in 1987 as a one year old tree’.

Airman's grave
The Airman's Grave, Ashdown Forest

In Sheffield Forest I had to be careful to avoid treading on young toads (or perhaps frogs), only 10 mm or so long.

At Nutley, I stopped at a very strange pub, once the William IV, now called the Nutley Arms, but actually Anne’s Cafe. The pub is now confined to one corner of the cafe, but still sells beer.

Past Nutley, the route crosses the southern side of Ashdown Forest, where I made a short detour to see the Airman's Grave, a memorial to the six man crew of a Wellington bomber of 142 Squadron which crashed in the forest on the morning of 31 July 1941 on its return from a raid on Cologne. The memorial was erected by the mother of Sergeant P.V.R. Sutton, who was aged 24 at the time of his death.

Beacon near Perryman’s Farm

I left the Way at Perryman’s Farm and headed north to join the Vanguard Way for a short stretch, to get to the Crow and Gate Inn at Poundgate for the No 29 bus to Tunbridge Wells (no time for a beer). Just where I left the Way near Perryman’s Farm there is an extraordinary circular structure marked on the map as a beacon.

At Tunbridge Wells I found that the railway was suffering from signalling problems, so I had to get a rail-replacement bus service to Tonbridge, before finally getting a train home.

The weather improved steadily all day after a foul start.

Inn sign
Sign of the Crow and Gate Inn, Poundgate

Lords and Ladies Black Knapweed


07 August 2010: Poundgate to Perryman's Farm then Heathfield

18.4 km (11.5 miles)

High Hirstwood church

I got the train to Eridge station, then caught the No 29 to the Crow and Gate Inn. I then retraced my steps to where I’d left the Sussex Diamond Way on my last walk.

Again, the walk was much like earlier sections of the Sussex Diamond Way, but as I went east, there were signs that the paths were used by fewer walkers, and the maintenance of the stiles deteriorated.

Viaduct carrying the line to Uckfield

I was rather surprised to come across a church in High Hirstwood, as none was shown on my OS 1:25 000 map. A working party was cleaning gutters, weeding and polishing as I went past, and when I remarked that the church wasn’t on the map, one lady explained that it had been accidentally omitted from some OS maps for a time, but had now been reinstated on current maps. The church was built 1870-72, with a tower added in 1903.

View south, approaching Huggetts Furnace

Shortly afterwards the Way goes under a fine brick viaduct carrying the line to Uckfield over a tributary of the River Uck. A neighbouring cottage harboured an hysterical Alsatian dog, who barked ceaselessly.

Approaching Huggetts Furnace the Way follows the remains of an overgrown lane, that presumably once served the furnace. One source claims this was where the first English iron cannon was cast by Ralph Hogg or Huggett, a notable iron-master of Buxted.

Huggetts Furnace
Huggetts Furnace

At Five Ashes I made a short diversion to the Five Ashes Inn for a pint of Harveys. A tiny pub, which has not been done up. The nearby church was built by local people in 1921. It’s little more than a scout hut in appearance, but evidently well cared for.

Herrings Farm, a couple of kilometres north of Heathfield, has a curious rear elevation, though the front is conventional enough. The Way follows an unsigned permissive route between the house and adjacent barn. Nearby is an airstrip, and there were a few light aircraft parked in the barn.

Five Ashes church

Between Herrings Farm and Marklye Farm the Way crosses the disused railway that ran between Eridge and Polegate, passing through Heathfield. The bridge over the railway is high, and now forms the driveway to an isolated house. I’d not like to be liable for its maintenance.

Herrings Farm
Rear elevation of Herrings Farm

The final approach to Heathfield is up a moderately steep hill, and I passed a lady going the other way who remarked that I was obviously used to walking up hill.

Heathfield appears to be largely modern and largely uninteresting. The Sussex Diamond Way finishes in a grim little car park behind the fire station on the western edge of the town. The Sussex Diamond Way is not the most interesting of walks, but it deserves a better finish than this.

From Heathfield I took the No 318 bus to Uckfield. Uckfield has a railway service, but I had a long wait for the next train, so I caught the No 29 (actually the 29A variant) for a second time, to go on to Lewes, and got a train from there.

The weather stayed dry, but overcast, and often threatened rain.

Heathfield town sign

Bitter Sweet