Saturday, 5 December 2009

Stage 7 (Mid Sx Link) - East Grinstead to Horsted Keynes (10.3 miles)

It has been some months since Anne and I have walked a section of the Sussex Border Path. Injuries to both Anne and Zuka have meant they have been pretty much out of action since the middle of July. We decided to postpone the last section of the East Sussex section, which at 14 miles, and a fair distance away, could have caused problems with shortage of daylight at this time of the year. Instead, we started the Mid Sussex Link, which runs for 33 miles between East and West Sussex, from East Grinstead (where we started our first section back in March 2009), to Mile Oak, near Portslade, on the south coast.
Car park

We met at 8.30am at Horsted Keynes and travelled north to East Grinstead. As it was a Saturday the parking at the station was not free, but we found a slightly cheaper long stay car park nearer to the town centre, which was actually closer to our official start point.

Damn machine!

My day started off badly, as I had trouble working the ticket machine (it was one of those that requires the car registration, and the sun was shining on the screen so I couldn’t read the instructions properly). Then, when I had finally extracted the ticket from the machine, I couldn’t locate my car keys. After emptying everything out of my coat pockets and rucksack, I eventually found them in my sleeveless fleece pocket, that I was wearing under my coat. I must say that Anne remained remarkably patient during my ‘senior moment’!
East Grinstead town center
Festive windows

Finally we were ready to start our walk, initially though a very festive East Grinstead town centre. It is really quite an attractive town, with many magnificent old buildings, including Sackville College. This is a Jacobean almshouse and was founded in 1609 with money left by Robert Sackville, 2nd Sackville, 2nd Earl of Dorset. Throughout its history it has provided sheltered accommodation for the elderly.
Lovely old buildings

Sackville College

Reaching a large roundabout junction with the A22, we turned off the road onto the Forest Way cycle path, formally an old railway line. We are more familiar with this path at its other end, near Groombridge, where we sometimes meet for walks. The going was flat and straight, and we quickly covered the 1.5km to an attractive stone bridge.
Forest Way cycle path

Old railway bridge

Just after the bridge, we left the Forest Way and climbed steps up the embankment to emerge on a private road. Weir Wood Reservoir was visible ahead. We walked down the road, passing a water treatment works, and then just as the road veered to the left, we turned right along a path between conifer trees (incorrectly described as ‘yew’ in my guide book).

Private road
Conifer tunnel

After crossing a footbridge we walked along the edge of two fields, which were a bit wet underfoot. The dogs had a mad moment chasing each other around – over 3km into our walk and this was the first time we had enjoyed grass under our feet.
The dogs are pleased to run on the (wet) grass

Busses Farm

In the third field we bore left to reach Busses Farm. The gateway near the farm was rather muddy. Route findng through the farm foxed us for a few moments and the friendly farmer helped us out. There were lovely views over the pond back towards East Grinstead.

Views over farm pond back towards East Grinstead
Heading for Weir Wood reservoir

After passing the cow byre we went through a gateway to a muddy track leading down towards the reservoir and turned right once we reached it. The reservoir was created in the early 1950s by damming the River Medway. The eastern end is used for fishing and sailing and the western end is a nature reserve.
View over reservoir from picnic area

Tree felling, and new bridge

Unlike Bewl Water, which we had walked round on one of our East Sussex SBP sections, Weir Wood reservoir has no public access, so the (recently made up) path is separated from the water at all times. There was, however, a small picnic site overlooking the water, created in the millennium year.

The path was sometimes in open fields...
... and sometimes on lightly wooded paths

The path continued in a roughly westerly direction around the northern shore, sometimes on wooded paths and sometimes latterly in or alongside open fields. At one point the path was flooded and it was amusing to witness the two dogs’ different reactions to the water. Zuka, who needs no excuse to go paddling, dived straight through it and back again. Poppy, who hates to get her feet wet, tip-toed her way round the edge.

Poppy tries hard NOT to get her feet wet
Standen Rocks

Towards the western end of the reservoir were Standen Rocks. These are large sandstone rocks typical of this area, and were visible across a large grassy field. We were also close to Standen House, a National Trust property, but the house was not visible from our route, being nearly a kilometre north.

The route is well waymarked
View back as we approach the western end of the reservoir
Eventually we met a lane where we turned right and continued to a road. Turning left, we walked past the end of the reservoir, and continued up a hill. Just past Neylands Farm Cottages we took a path on the right through a Guide Camp.

Negotiating a wet path on the edge of the Guide camp
Fences prevent us straying from the path through Blackland

At the edge of the site we crossed a track into Buckland Wood and went downhill, over a footbridge, before climbing again out of the wood. We now entered the land belonging to Blackland Farm, and how unwelcome they made us feel! There were signs ordering you not to ‘make a noise’ or ‘stop on the path’ – fortunately this extreme attitude is not common amongst landowners.

Fortunately, not all landowners are as unwelcoming as this!
Approaching the Bluebell Railway bridge

Leaving Stalag 14 (!) we passed under the Bluebell Railway line and continued into Sharpthorne village. As we past the Organic Café, we spotted a sign advertising bacon rolls…. Well, it was nearly lunch time!

Village sign depicting the Bluebell Railway
"Tough, it's all mine!!"

Travelling west towards the centre of the village, we took a drive on the left between the Sharpthorne Club and a garage. It took a moment to spot the path which led downhill between high hedges, before emerging into a field. Here there were distant views to the South Downs.

Leaving Sharpthorne
Distant views to the South Downs

At the corner of Moon’s Wood we bore right over a stream, then headed uphill, diagonally across a number of fields. Near the top we spotted the tell-tale steam trail of the Bluebell Railway and so waited for the train to come into view so Anne could get a photo.

Looking back towards Sharpthorne
Steam train
We descended along the edge of the next field to a metalled drive, where we turned left and walked to the public road. Turning right, we walked along the road for about 400m. Just before Tanyard Manor, we left the road, taking a path across a field and into a wood.

The SBP, was devised in 1982, but signed by WSCC in 1989, their centenary year
Tanyard Manor

After crossing a dam, we zig-zagged through the wood, and then climbed to reach a field. Turning left and right round two sides of the field, we again descended to pass through another small wood, and over a stream.

Crossing the dam
Me waiting for Anne

Then we continued the switch back ride as we ascended round the edge of a sheep field, to a road. This was pretty much the only livestock we saw out in the fields today, and it was quite a large flock complete with a resident tup wearing a crayon harness. I understand the farmer changes the colour of the crayon every week, so he has some indication of when each ewe is served (and therefore when she will lamb).
Virtually the only sheep we saw all day
Reaching the road, we crossed straight over and continued into the next field as the signpost clearly indicated. However, a look at the map suggested that the SBP turned right and followed the lane. The signpost seemed relatively new, so we thought perhaps the route had been diverted. At the next field boundary however, we concluded that we were indeed going the wrong way and decided to turn south and hope we could get out of the field to meet up with the route as shown on the map.

Sign clearly (but incorrectly) indicates the route across the field

This proved a little tricky. There was a gate but it was rather overgrown and securely tied. Anne and I were able to climb over, but it was necessary to untie several knotted ropes to allow us to lift the gate high enough to let the dogs scrabble underneath it.

Driveway to Broadhurst Manor
Broadhurst Manor (former home of Carla Lane)

Back on track, we continued up the drive to Broadhurst Manor, a very impressive old house which used to be an animal sanctuary run by the famous script writer Carla Lane. She has now moved back to Liverpool.

A man hangs Christmas lights on the tree outside his house
Start of the track past the many ponds

We followed the driveway past several other buildings, then turned left by a timbered house, where the owner was busy hanging Christmas lights on one of the bushes in his garden. The track continued roughly due south for a little over 1km past numerous ponds and lakes. These were first constructed to provide a reserve of water for the hammer pond (the lowest pond), which powered the forges and hammers of the Sussex iron industry. However, they are now used for the more leisurely pastime of fishing, although we saw no one out today.

The final lake & absent fishermen

Beehives on the outskirts of Horsted Keynes

Finally, the track climbed to join a road on the outskirts of Horsted Keynes. Here we passed a small paddock containing a number of beehives, although they looked pretty dormant at this time of year. The sign on the gate said that honey from these hives was for sale in the village shop.

Horsted Keynes church

Walking through the village
After passing the church, we climbed a hill, past the magnificent grounds of The Old Rectory, and into the village centre. Crossing the road, to the post office, we arrived at the car park. Considering the recent wet weather, we were not as muddy as we might have been, although we were carrying a reasonable amount of Sussex on our boots and gaiters.

Weather vane mimics the house it belongs to
Muddy shoes fit for the bin?

As usual when walking with Anne, the walk had passed quickly, and was another enjoyable section. Although Anne is much fitter than me, she stops often to take all her many lovely photos. This gives me the chance to catch my breath, so I can keep up with her at other times during the walk!
Village sign
As we were leaving the village to drive back to East Grinstead, we stopped at the village shop for Anne to purchase some honey. Although it was local, I'm not sure it was actually from the hives we had passed.

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