Saturday, 12 December 2009

Stage 8 (Mid Sx Link) - Horsted Keynes to Wivelsfield (9.1 miles)

Just a week after our previous section, we met early at Wivelsfield, and drove to Horsted Keynes car park for the start. The weather looked quite promising although it was pretty cold - hats and gloves were very necessary.

The start at Horsted Keynes
Zuka finds Chapel Lane

From near the green we took Chapel Lane, and bore right on a private road/track to Wyatts. There was a little route checking where a footpath went off to the left, but in fact, the SBP continued down the road – the footpath was actually a short cut, and came back onto the lane a little further down. However, we took the correct route on the lane.

Checking the route
Heading down the narrow lane

We continued gently downhill until the lane ended and became a path as it entered Sandpits Wood. The guide book had warned of the likelihood of terrible mud on this section, but since that was written (1999) they have obviously laid a stony path, and the going was fine. We met a couple of children on their ponies, accompanied (some way behind) by parents walking the dogs.

Youngsters having fun

Sandpits Wood

As we left the wood, we crossed Danehill Brook, before bearing left uphill to reach a private road by the entrance gate to Hole House. The map suggested a slightly different route, but that did not appear to exist on the ground anyway. Turning right we continued uphill on the metalled track, alongside a field.

The dogs having a game of chase

Reaching the private road

We were tempted to bear left across the field too early, but actually the route was quite clear, and following the way marks, took a grassy path away from the drive before reaching a house called Lachetts. This path took us to Freshfields Lane, where we turned right.
Taking the grassy path

Lovely old weathered stone way mark

After about 100m or so we left the lane again by turning left along a drive by a sign to Butchers Barn. The sun was beginning to make an appearance as the clouds cleared a bit, although it wasn’t getting noticeably any warmer!

The drive to Butchers Barn
The sun begins to make an appearance

Passing some buildings, we took a footpath past a pond and along the edge of a field to Heaven Wood, where the route turned sharp right. We were unable to follow the exact route as it was too overgrown, and it was not possible to negotiate the stile. However, other walkers had made a muddy shortcut into the wood, which was the path we took.
Un-negotiable stile!
Muddy diversion

The route meandered through the trees, quite muddy in places, and the dogs had a good run around chasing each other. We were warned to keep to the correct route by unfriendly signs. The sun was still struggling to make a proper appearance through the clouds, although it did lead to some dramatic photographic opportunities.
Lovely moss covered tree
Dramatic sky

We reached a driveway at Northland Farm and continued to a lane. Crossing straight over, we continued through King’s Wood. We nearly missed the right fork, as we were not paying attention, but only went a few yards out of our way. The route was rather muddy, made worse by vehicle tracks.

Tree stump by driveway to Northland Farm
Muddy vehicle tracks in King's Wood

Emerging from the wood, we walked across a large field, initially past a game-bird maize crop, and then past a pond. Zuka was temporarily put on the lead to prevent her disappearing off after her favourite prey. Pops prefers deer (or sheep), so was allowed to remain free at this point!
Approaching the maize crop
Straight on past the pond

In the next field we walked down the edge of a wood (the sign post suggested the path was actually just within the wood, but as such, was completely impassable) towards the Bluebell Railway line. As luck would have it, we spotted steam approaching from our left so we stopped to wait for the train

The impassable official route ...
.....but we take the easier option in the field

Actually, we had quite a few minutes wait, as the train was presumably in a station picking up coaches or something – from the steam it appeared to start off, then reverse again, and stop completely. Anyway, eventually it came past and we waved at the children looking out of the windows.

Bluebell steam train
Under the railway bridge

We set off again (now feeling rather chilly), under the railway, bearing right along the edge of a wood and over a farm bridge. Entering a large field, we headed diagonally across it towards the Freshfield Farm buildings. Approximately half way across there was a stream, spanned by a new wooden foot bridge. An older bridge, which didn't even span the stream, stood nearby.

Poppy chooses the wrong bridge
Approaching Freshfields Farm

Reaching the farm buildings, we crossed two much smaller fields. The first contained a rather lame sheep, which was desperate to get away from us, and the second contained a small flock of healthy sheep. Needless to say, Poppy was on the lead for this bit.

What have they spotted?
Sheep graze at Freshfields Farm

We emerged onto a lane at the end of the farm drive, and turned left to cross the River Ouse, before passing a very sorry looking caravan. Just past The Sloop pub we turned left off the road onto a track.

River Ouse
The derelict caravan

As we passed the pub we had been remembering the bacon sandwiches we had enjoyed at Sharpthorne on our last leg. We were mightily amused to find the name of the house by the track was ‘Bacon Wish’! The owners were entertaining friends to coffee on their patio (despite the cold weather), so we just mentioned briefly that we loved the name.

The Sloop
If only........!

Passing through a gate, we entered Hammer Wood, which was rather immature and straggly. There was evidence of much clearance, and we passed a man photographing fungi on the cut timber

Fungi on the cut timber
Sparse Hammer Wood

We soon climbed up to a stile and left the wood. After continuing gently uphill across a field we bore right at a path junction near a small pond, and approached what must be a camp site during warmer months of the year. There were a couple of portaloos and, a little, incongruously, a fully plumbed-in sink and basin standing alone in the field!

Pond near camp site
Zuka offers to do the washing up

The path then followed the edge of another field, before continuing on a more enclosed path next to Lye Wood. Before reaching Butterbox Lane, we emerged into an open field again, and walked on a roughly made driveway. This was, presumably, the access route to the campsite we had just visited.

Lye Wood
Reaching Butterbox Lane

We turned right at the road and a little past a lovely medieval farmhouse called Massetts, crossed a stile on the left and walked along the edge of a two fields, with good views towards the garden and back of the property.

Walking round two sides of the third field, we ignored a boggy stile in the first corner, at a junction with another footpath, and proceeded to the next corner to negotiate a slightly less wet stile. The field was obviously used for sheep, and so was well fenced. This meant it was a little tricky finding a way through for the dogs as the adjacent gate was unfortunately padlocked.

Waterlogged stile (not our route)
Checking for a way through for the dogs

Our route continued through open fields for a further kilometre or so. First we descended (where we were a little unsure of the route for a moment), and then climbed again through a succession of further fields, past an orphan stile, a pond and a very tall way-marker post.

Orphan stile
Giant way-marker even dwarfs Anne!

The route then curiously skirted three sides of the next field, although there was no obvious reason why you couldn’t just walk straight up the fourth side (indeed we saw a man walking his many spaniels who was doing just that).

Lengthening shadows on this short day
However, by walking the correct route, we were treated to a lovely view north, and to add the icing on the cake, saw a delightful rainbow. Fortunately the rain kept away from us, apart from a brief bit of light drizzle.

Rainbow (one end ........
.... and the other)

Continuing, we walked past the buildings of Hammond Farm, before leaving the field and joining a track, near a large pond. The track became Clearwater Lane, which we followed to the A272 at Scaynes Hill, enjoying fine views both north and south, as the lane followed an east/west ridge. We were a little surprised by the amount of traffic on this no-through road, until we reached the main road and saw the sign advertising Christmas trees for sale at the fruit farm.

Good views from Clearwater Lane
The reason for the frequent traffic on the lane

Crossing the A272, we took a path just to the right of The Farmers pub (where I have eaten several unmemorable meals whilst meeting up with my old friend Hilary – Scaynes Hill being roughly half way between our homes). The route proceeded along several urban footpaths between houses, and crossed two minor roads before reaching a private road to Ham Lane Farm.

The path next to The Farmers - Scaynes Hill
Start of private road

We followed the lane in a south westerly direction for nearly a kilometre, with distant views of the South Downs, under a moody sky. Just past Awbrook Park Farm we turned right down some steps opposite, next to another property.

Another moody sky
Looking towards the distant South Downs

At this point we got a little lost. The route did not seem to be exactly as described in the guide book or we may have missed a path on the ground, in favour of another more widely used, but unofficial path. Anyway, after pottering back and forth in a wood, over streams and in a couple of fields, we finally found ourselves back on track.
A little lost in the wood
Welcome way-mark. Back on track.

Having confirmed our location at the chunk of concrete that is Ham Bridge, we then went astray again briefly as we were looking for a metalled drive (Ham Lane), which actually turned out to be an ancient sunken path between trees. Not sure of the route (the marker post was a bit misleading here too), we walked up the side of a field instead, partly to avoid a particularly muddy section of path, and then had to find a way back through the fence, once we convinced ourselves that the muddy path WAS the correct way. A number of barns in the field also helped us to locate our exact position on the map.

Misleading sign points to a gap into the adjacent field
Wonky barn

Once we were past the muddy bit, Ham Lane was a delightful old path, lined along much of its route with knobbly trees. When we reached Strood Wood, the ‘lane’ became rather muddy again, and there was also a rather overgrown section.

Ham Lane
Another muddy bit
Eventually we reached Slugwash Lane, passing a kennels/cattery, where we turned left. There were views west towards a large building or group of buildings, highlighted by the sinking sun. We struggled to identify it from the map – the pylons didn’t seem to be going in the correct direction – but it was probably More House.

Zuka checks out Santa at the Kennels
View towards More House? (just to right of pylon)

The final kilometre of our walk was on the lane, slowly descending to reach our car parked in the hamlet of Wivelsfield (as opposed to Wivelsfield Green, less than 1km to the east).

Slugwash Lane
The finish at Wivelsfield

The day had certainly been cold, but we had seen a fair bit of sunshine (and a rainbow), and indeed we finished the walk with a nearly cloudless blue sky. Yes, we encountered a fair bit of mud and we had got a little bit lost once or twice, but it was still a grand walk.
Cloudless sky

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