List of walks in date order, with links
Date Walk Distance
01 January 2010 (Balcombe to) B 2036 to Lower Beeding (and then to Crabtree) 19.9 km (12.4 miles)
12 December 2009 Newick to B 2036 (and then to Balcombe) 21.1 km (13.2 miles)
05 December 2009 Lewes to Newick 17.2 km (10.8 miles)
15 November 2009 Seaford Bay (Bishopstone Station) to Lewes 17.7 km (11.1 miles)

I've now completed the Sussex Ouse Valley Way, spread over 4 days of walking. It's a good winter walk if the weather is kind - as it was for me.

Although the guide-book (published by Per-Rambulations) says nothing about public transport, the Sussex Ouse Valley Way is easily walked using public transport, though I needed to add two or three km to get to and from Balcombe Station.

The official route length is 42 miles. The distances in the table above add up to 47.5 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.

Sussex Ouse Valley Way waymark

15 November 2009: Seaford Bay (Bishopstone Station) to Lewes

17.7 km (11.1 miles)

Seaford Bay
Start (or finish) of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way, Seaford Bay

As the forecast for Saturday was so poor, I postponed walking until Sunday. I'd been wondering which project to tackle next, and I decided on the Sussex Ouse Valley Way on the basis of nothing more than the availability of a Sunday rail service to Bishopstone.

Bishopstone station is a bit of an oddity - 1930's design, but with vague overtones of pill boxes and bunkers (an internet search suggests it was built in 1936, with 'two pillboxes added at upper level in 1940').

Sea defences
Sea defences between Seaford and Newhaven

The start (or end of the walk) is not clearly defined by the guide-book, but is indicated on site by a sign and information board, located just to the east of Newhaven and Seaford Sailing Club.

Rainbow, between Newhaven and Piddinghoe

Although the wind had died down overnight, there was still a good swell. For reasons that escape me, both the Vanguard Way and the Sussex Ouse Valley Way soon turn inland to follow the path on top of the old sea defences, rather than taking the pleasanter route along the shore. The way passes the site of the old tide mills just outside Newhaven. There is not a lot left to see, but it's still quite interesting.

Swing bridge
Swing bridge over the Ouse, Southease

The route through Newhaven is largely industrial. The Sussex Ouse Valley Way is not well waymarked through the town. I've described the route from Newhaven Town Station to Piddinghoe in some detail in my description of Section 2 of my Alternative South Downs Way (which shares this part of the route), as it is not entirely obvious.

Southease Church
Southease Church

From Piddinghoe the route takes a short detour inland, before returning to the riverbank. It then follows the riverbank as far as the bridge at Southease (an interesting swing bridge, but no longer operational).

Just before the bridge I spotted a common seal - apparently they are not uncommon in the Ouse, coming up the estuary to feed during the winter.

Approaching the Ouse
Approaching the Ouse from Rodmell

Southease has a very charming little church, with a round tower (one of only three in Sussex, the others being at Piddinghoe and Lewes, so I saw all three on the same day). I stopped here for lunch, and a chat with a reformed jogger who has taken up walking as a result of knee damage caused by running. Lunch was just sandwiches, as sadly the Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell is closed - 'another victim of rising costs & lack of consistent trade', according to its website.

Glynde Reach
Glynde Reach, Mount Caburn behind

From Southease the route passes through Rodmell, with opportunities to see the church there, and Monk's House, the home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf (although it was closed today).

From Rodmell the route returns along a dirt track to the river bank, and then follows the river into Lewes. The section beyond the A27 follows a permissive path around Lewes Railway Land Local Nature Reserve. It provides the best view of the cliffs at Cliffe. The late afternoon light gave them delicate warm glow.

Cliffs at Cliffe

Once in Lewes I decided on a pint of Harveys Old Ale in the John Harvey Tavern (effectively the brewery tap), which then became two pints. I then walked up the high street to see the third round church tower in Sussex, and back to the station for the train home. Unfortunately, police activity associated with a fatality had closed the railway through Balcombe, so it was a bus from Haywards Heath to Three Bridges.

Although I had covered much of the route on previous occasions (only Piddinghoe to Southease was new to me), the walk fitted the weather, which turned from threatening with an occasional squall to a being a beautiful late autumn day.

Stinking Iris Seal


05 December 2009: Lewes to Newick

17.2 km (10.8 miles)

Malling Hill
River Ouse, Malling Hill behind, near Hamsey

Today was the first opportunity I've had for a couple of weeks to do a proper walk, so I took the train to Lewes to walk the second stage of my walk along the Sussex Ouse Valley Way. The forecast was for rain later in the afternoon, so I made a reasonably early start.

From Lewes station I walked down to Cliffe High Street, to pick up the Sussex Ouse Valley Way where I had left it on 15 November 2009. The Way goes down North Court (the second alleyway off the High Street after the bridge over the Ouse), then follows around the back of Harveys Brewery and along the banks of the Ouse to reach Willeys Bridge (opened 1965), where the Way crosses the Ouse.

Orange fungi
Orange fungi in stubble (Aleuria aurantia?)

The section north of Willeys Bridge runs along the top of the flood defences until the cut at Hamsey, once the site of a lock. This section, which I've walked many times, is always wet and muddy.

Notice, Barcombe Mills
British Railways Notice, Barcombe Mills

The Way follows a lane through Hamsey, and then turns off onto a track heading north. This was under a couple of inches of water, so I did what others seem to have done, and followed the field edge above the track. The track soon turns into a path across fields, leading to Barcombe village. Just outside the village I found a waymark I'd not seen before - a small disk with a blue wren but no text. A web search suggests this was part of a series of walks created in about 2004, but which don't seem to have been maintained. I later found another of the waymarks near Newick church.

Barcombe Mills
Pond, Barcombe Mills

Between Barcombe and Barcombe Mills the way passes what looks like an abandoned archaeological dig (perhaps part of the part of the Barcombe Roman Villa project?). I also found some very bright orange fungi in the stubble. I can't identify it for certain, but it could be Orange-Peel Fungus (Aleuria aurantia), which grows on disturbed ground in autumn.

Barcombe Mills must have been a very busy place once, but all that remains is a complex of cuts, ponds and weirs. Further up the Ouse is the remains of Oil Mills lock. There are a few remains of the mill - bits of machinery and huge mill stones. Further up still is the Anchor Inn - more restaurant than pub, but they sell Harveys from the barrel, so I stopped for a pint.

Old machinery
Old machinery, Oil Mills

The Way continues to follow the Ouse north of the Anchor to just beyond Isfield, with a number of interesting things to see along the way. There is the old railway bridge that used to take the Lewes to Uckfield line across the Ouse; the remains of Isfield Lock (part restored, though the work looks abandoned) and associated weir; and Isfield church (glimpsed across the river, but not reachable) with the site of a Motte and Bailey close by.

Disused railway bridge
Disused railway bridge over the Ouse

North of Isfield the Way turns west, away from the Ouse, as there is no public right of way along the next section of the river. At Vuggels Farm a pile of logs next to the path offered a dry place to sit, so I stopped to eat my sandwiches. The farm has an oast house, but with a square half-hipped roof replacing the conical kiln roof, giving it an odd appearance. The other odd thing about it was that it hadnít been converted into a desirable country residence.

Osier (coppiced willow), Henry Sclater's Plantation

The Way continues over fields to reach the road into Newick at Founthill. At Double Barns Farm the Way ran through a field occupied by a very large cream-coloured bull (probably a Charolais). Although he watched me cross the field (and I watched him watch me), he seemed unconcerned by my presence.

Just before the Way joins the road to Newick I made a short diversion to touch the trig point at TQ422200 (flush bracket No S5101), sitting on the corner of a rather decayed small brick reservoir.

Oast house
Oast house, Vuggels Farm

The Way follows the road north into Newick, from Founthill. I stopped to look around Newick church - large and well cared for, Victorian restoration (as Pevsner says, 'done well'), with an engraved window dating from 2000. Amazingly the village still has thee pubs, but I didnít have time for a pint before the next bus.

I took the No 31 bus from the village green in Newick to Haywards Heath, and from there I caught the train home.

An interesting walk, but very wet and muddy underfoot. The weather was kind - very warm, and only a little light rain towards the end of the afternoon, but not enough to need waterproofs.

Trig point
Trig point at TQ422200, Founthill (flush bracket No S5101)



12 December 2009: Newick to B 2036 (and then to Balcombe)

21.1 km (13.2 miles)

Fungi, just outside Newick

I took the train to Haywards Heath, then the No 31 bus to Newick to pick up the Sussex Ouse Valley Way where I had left it last Saturday. The way starts by following a lane, the verges of which had a surprising variety of fungi. I also found what I think was a pale cream slime mould covering a dead branch. I need to read up about slime moulds.

Wapsbourne Farm
Wapsbourne Farm

At the end of the lane, the Way follows the route I had taken to Sheffield Park Station (the end of the Bluebell Line) when following the meridian. The sound of whistles and discharging steam was to accompany the walk for a long way, as the Bluebell was running Santa Specials.

Wapsbourne Wood
Wapsbourne Wood

From Sheffield Park Station, the Way turns south for a short distance along the A 275 (unpleasant) and then follows the drive leading to Wapsbourne Farm, a fine half timbered manor house. The farm hosts the Wowo camp site (campfires and Mongolian yurts a speciality), and a little further on, where the way turns into Wapsbourne Wood, there is a sign on the stile saying 'No Campers Please'. I suspect it means 'No Camping'.

Rainbow, Henfield Wood

Wapsbourne Wood is being actively managed as 'coppice with standards', and the foresters' tractors had churned up some of the forest roads. I passed a pile of freshly made Chestnut fencing rails, which smelt beautifully of new-cut wood. The Way leaves the wood close to the Sloop Inn (which wasn't yet open, so no beer). The Sloop is on the banks of an old section of canal which cut off a couple of meanders in the Ouse. On the opposite side of the road to the Sloop is the remains of a brick lock chamber. The Ouse itself is a further 100 m up the road.

Golf course
Haywards Heath golf course

The Way then cuts over fields and through woods to reach Lindfield, skirting Scaynes Hill. There are some good views over the weald. In Henfield Wood I thought it was going to rain, but there were only a few drops and a rainbow. At the edge of the wood the path splits, but only one way is marked - and it isn't the path that the way follows.

Ouse Valley Viaduct, north end

Lindfield was once a village, but is now a posh suburb of Haywards Heath. The Way enters Lindfield by passing behind a curious house called the Pavilion, with wooden towers, and then going through the churchyard. I called into the church briefly, where the local ladies were bussing doing the flowers.

The pub in Lindfield is the Bent Arms - I can't recommend it.

Ouse Valley Viaduct - the classic view

From Lindfield the way passes behind houses and along a lane to High Beach Lane, a fairly busy road, which the Way follows south until turning west to cross Haywards Heath golf course - less unpleasant than most golf courses. The Way then turns north to meet the High Weald Landscape Trail (which I have walked). The two paths are then coincident to just before Ardingly Reservoir, where the Sussex Ouse Valley Way turns west again, following the banks of the Ouse.

The Way then crosses Bordehill Lane and a field to pass under the Ouse Valley Viaduct, which carries the main London to Brighton Line. This is one of the greatest railway structures in Britain, and worth the walk just to see it. The classic photograph is along the length of the viaduct, taken through the holes in the brick piers. I added to the excess stock of these photos.

Shooting party
Shooting party, near Ryelands Farm

From the viaduct the Way passes over pleasant countryside to reach the B 2036. The weather had turned clear and sunny, and everything was bathed in a warm glow - including the row of 4 x 4s waiting to pick up a shooting party.

From the B 2036 I left the Way and followed Rowhill Lane over the hill to Balcombe (with one shortcut over a field). Balcombe Station is reached by climbing a stepped footpath where the lane turns sharp north, to reach the entrance to Balcombe Station car-park.

Black Bryony Fern


01 January 2010: (Balcombe to) B 2036 to Lower Beeding (and then to Crabtree)

19.9 km (12.4 miles)

Sidnye Farm
Sidnye Farm

I had wanted to finish the Sussex Ouse Valley Way in 2009, but didn't find the time. However, finishing the walk in perfect weather made a good start to 2010.

I took the train to Balcombe (fortunately a Southern service, not First Capital Connect, so I could depend on it running). Travelling home involved catching a bus with a 2 hour interval, so I didn't want to be late.

View, Bigges Farm
View from diverted path at Bigges Farm

From Balcombe station I retraced my steps southwards along Rowhill Lane, over the hill and across the Ouse, to pick up the way where I had left it on 12 December 2009.

Pillbox, on permissive path after B 2114

The way went past Sidnye Farm, very much a traditional working farm, then Bigges Farm, which was not. At Bigges Farm, the footpath has been diverted away from the house to follow the ridge, benefiting everyone. Walkers get a fine view, and the owners a bit more privacy.

Staplefield village sign

After Bigges Farm, the way meets and follows the B 2114 to cross the Ouse. Just after the bridge there is the option (which I took) of following a permissive path along field boundaries and a short section of the Ouse, now not much more than a large stream.

Stream between Staplefield and Nymans

The logical route for the Sussex Ouse Valley Way would be to aim for Slaugham by way of Stanbridge House. However, this involves a very scary crossing of the A 23 (a motorway in all but name). I have done it (following an excellent walk in the Time Out Book of Country Walks), but it took 15 minutes and isn't recommended if you can't run fast. Instead, the way sensibly diverts north through Staplefield and Handcross. Staplefield has two pubs, but it was too early for a pint (though I remember the Victory as being a good pub).

Chainsaw carving
Chainsaw carving, Nymans

Before reaching Handcross, the route goes through the woodland of Nymans, a National Trust Property. At the boundary there was a path closure notice (for resurfacing works), unhelpfully saying that there was no alternative route. As there was no alternative, I carried on. At first the route was fine, but I soon came to the site of the work, where the surface had been churned and dug into deep mud. Here I met a couple of other walkers, wondering what to do. I picked a way through the mud to reach the woodland on the other side of the path, and they followed me. We then dodged through the trees to reach the end of the closed section of path.

A 23
Crossing the A 23, Handcross

At Handcross there is a safe way over the A 23, using the bridge carrying the B 2110. From there the way follows a private road to Slaugham, a pretty village. To my astonishment the pub, the Chequers, has reopened and was selling Harveys (well kept, and at the right temperature). An unexpected pleasure - the last time I had walked through Slaugham, the pub had been turned into an expensive restaurant.

Lytchgate, Slaugham church, with the Chequers beyond

From Slaugham the way crosses fields and follows minor roads to reach the B 2115. The way then goes through East Hanger Wood (requiring a little care to avoid missing the point where the way turns west), crosses a couple of fields of young brassica (probably rape) and then enters the woods alongside Leonardslee Gardens. This section of the walk was accompanied by the continuous hysterical barking of dogs from Keepers Kennels. I would not wish to be their neighbours.

Coppice, East Hanger Wood

The way emerges onto the road between Lower Beeding and Crabtree. A short way north along the road brought me to the end (or rather, the official start) of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way, on the verge next to the village hall, marked by an information board and a post. There can't be many more dismal end points for a walk (though the Serpent Trail manages it). The only reason for the way stopping here is the presence of a car park.

Official start
Official start of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way

I had three quarters of an hour in hand, so I strolled down the road to wait for the No 17 bus in Crabtree. Unsurprisingly the pub (the Crabtree) was shut and up for rent. While I waited for the bus, a couple came up in a Jag and inspected property - but it looks so run-down I doubt they will take it. And an east European girl (probably working at the South Lodge Hotel) told me that a taxi-driver had told her there were no buses running. I think she had probably paid for a taxi she could ill afford.

The No 17 arrived on time, and I got to Horsham in perfect time for the train home.

Sussex Ouse Valley Way waymark on start post

Holly Ivy