As much as the South Downs is a focal point for many a local Sussex walker, it can be a bit ‘samey’ after a while. I also love woodlands, water, and places of historical interest. The walk from Balcombe station to Haywards Heath offers all three.
I first stumbled across Ardingly Reservoir in the mid-80s, much the same as the Ouse Valley Viaduct, but, in the former’s case, only returned in recent years.
The walk, well under four hours long (depending on how long you spend gazing at the glorious viaduct) takes you through Balcombe itself, across the Haywards Heath Road, and through the rolling meadows, the lush Alder woods, and on to the eastern path around the reservoir. It takes about an hour to get around the reservoir itself, but you wont tire of it-especially on a wet summers day (Yes, a wet day…)
At the bottom of the reservoir there is a choice of heading straight through Rivers Wood, whilst admiring the variation of natural tree crops, or heading out towards the viaduct and entering the woods half way in from there. To be honest, if you miss out the viaduct then you must be either running late, or have lost your marbles. This spectacular piece of Victorian architecture is a special to me as it was the first time thirty years ago. I’ve written more about it, from a point of social history, in the link below:
From there, full of awe and wonder, you can wind your way back southwards through various copses and woodland eventually finding yourself in the Urban sprawl of Haywards Heath. Take your time and, as ever, plot the route on an OS Explorer Map.
Definitely recommended for a day of light rain. There is much woodland cover, and early in the morning the countryside is so liberating.
Distance: About 7.5 miles
Duration: Varied, depending on stops. Quickest time would be just under three hours.