Woodlands, fields, art and history and an introduction to the issues of keeping footpaths open.
Distance, Terrain and Time
7 miles, 10 km, gentle, slightly undulating countryside. Deduct 1 mile, 2km if starting from Chiddingly car park.
This walk is on the border of the low Weald and the High Weald. Once all the Weald was covered in forest. Now only small snippets of woodland remain, but these are delightful. The walk visits a number of them, as well as traversing the fields that replaced them. There are two good pubs, a new community shop and café and Farley Farm, where photographer Lee Miller and surrealist Roland Penrose lived and where Picasso visited. All of these are on the route.
The walk also takes you over some paths that were no go areas a few years ago. Thanks to strenuous action by the council rights of way team and the Ramblers these are now open again. The walk encourages the use of these paths so that they will not become overgrown again. It also introduces you to some of the reasons the Ramblers needs to continue to be active.
There are a number of stiles on this route. After the pub at Gun Hill there are two short stretches that may be churned up by horses after periods of rain.
Start and finish points
If using public transport start at Golden Cross TQ537125. Motorists should start at TQ545143, Chiddingly church car park.
Buses run to Golden Cross from Eastbourne, Polegate, Hailsham, Uckfield and Lewes on Mondays to Saturdays. For bus and train times see Traveline South East. Get off at the Golden Cross Inn
Explorer series number 123 Landranger series 199
A) The highly recommended 6 Bells at Chiddlingly
B) Chiddlingly Community run village shop and cafe open Monday to Friday and Saturday Mornings. New cooperative venture and worth supporting. Toilets for customers.
C) The noted Gun Inn is very welcoming to walkers and even has its own walks guides. It is closed in the afternoons on weekdays.
There is also a petrol station selling food at the bus stop.
From the bus stop at Golden Cross walk north east up a road signposted to Muddles Green. After just under a kilometre turn right on another road. Shortly afterwards you come to the Chiddingly Village shop and café and Farley Farm, The house is sometimes open for tours and there are also exhibitions in the Farley Barn Gallery.
2) 20 metres further on there is a road junction by some attractive houses. Motorists coming from the car park at Chiddlingly Church meet the walk here. Take the right hand fork, signposted to Gun Hill. Walk along this road until you meet a junction. Across the road, slightly to the left, is a metalled track which leads off in the same direction as you have been travelling.
Follow this, past some buildings. It turns into an unpaved bridleway. Continue straight ahead for just over a kilometre. This is not a very exciting stretch. Things will get better!
3) Go through a gate. A track joins our route from the south. Shortly afterwards look out for a bridleway sign on the right Take this. Do not take the farm track which continues straight ahead. A couple of metres further look out for small bridge and stile in the hedge on the left. Go over this.
For the next couple of kilometres you are on routes that were impassable a few years ago. Rum doings by landowners made the routes impossible to follow. The Ramblers Association has press East Sussex Council over a period of five years to ensure they were open. Now they are!
You will find yourself in a field. Walk ahead, keeping the hedge at the field edge on your left, until you reach the end of the field. You will see two gates. To the left of the first gate(partially hidden behind the field shelter) is a stile. Cross this stileYou find yourself on a farm track. This turns right into the drive of the house. But opposite you, immediately next to the house gate is your route. If the house gate is open you will need to walk round it. There is a footpath sign which points in the generally right direction.
Foliage can make the route difficult to find here, although the council do clear the route and walkers using the path often keep the way clear. (If it needs clearing again please let them know.) You are aiming to walk north east, gradually moving away from the garden boundary on your right. Follow the clearest route. Keep to the right of the pond. You emerge from the trees by a mound that is the remains of the dung heap. The landowner has been made to clear the middle of it leaving a way through.
You now find yourself in a large field. To the right of you is a wood. Straight ahead, on the horizon, you can see a line of trees which comes in from the left. Aim for the end of this line (one larger tree).
This is Broad Farm. There are a lot of paths on the farm and for many years nearly all of them have been ploughed up and over-planted with crops. Those paths that were not ploughed up were often used for motor cycle racing (None of the paths you are walking have been raced on, although they have been ploughed up in the past.) Following pressure by the Ramblers over many years, the council rights of way team have taken action to ensure that the paths are cleared and made easy to use.(If they are not, on your visit please tell East Sussex Council
Once you reach the large tree you will find that you are at a junction of paths, at the top of a ridge. There is a four way footpath sign. Your aim is to follow the path in the same direction that you have been travelling. This goes down the hill, across the field, aiming for a bridge at the bottom of the valley.
4) Once over the bridge, you will see the path curving to your left. The legal right of way goes straight ahead, through the hedge, but it is impassable, so continue left into the next field and then turn right. You will see a small footpath sign on your right that indicates that you now keep straight ahead, with the hedge on your left.
Where it is not possible to follow the legal right of way, you are allowed to make a reasonable diversion, even if this is on land where there is no right of access.
The route goes round the left hand side of the house in front of you and then crosses the field to a pinch stile which you will see straight ahead. (larger people will need to lift themselves higher to get through) Cross the next field, aiming for the right hand corner, where a short track takes you down to the lane. Turn left and follow the lane northwards. At a pond, follow the track to your left.
5) Pass a house on the right. Then come to the garages of the house. There is a concrete courtyard with a tree in the middle, a double garage with white doors on the right and another building on the left. Pass between these two buildings, going through a gate with a footpath sign on it.
Unlike some of the previous landowners whose lands you have crossed, the owner of this house has always been completely amicable about people walking on his land.
Continue to follow footpath signs north west, through some slightly scrubby land, to find a stile in the fence ahead of you, that has been constructed with tree stumps. Keep heading in the same general direction to arrive at a small lane. Cross this and take the path straight ahead of you. This initially keeps close to the edge of a wood. But when the boundary of the wood turns off to the right keep straight ahead across the field to enter the garden of the Gun pub. This is a good place to stop if the pub is open.
On leaving the garden, head for the road (The gap in the fence is at the right hand end) Turn right up the road past the pub car park and take the first turning on the left, to Strood Farm. This is not signposted but is a bridleway.
Pass through the farm building and keep straight ahead, heading slightly down. The path beyond here can be muddy after prolonged rain. Emerge at a road. There is a farm drive opposite, slightly to the left.
Your ordnance survey map may show the wrong route here. The path you followed to the road has recently been diverted at the request of the owner. The path ahead has been diverted twice, both at the request of the owner. Users of the farm equestrian centre are often confused about where the path goes. We follow the legal route.
6) Walk along the farm drive and through buildings on either side. Come to a fenced area used for training horses. Turn right immediately before this and follow a track going up to the right. Enter an attractive wood, keeping straight ahead. At the end of the wood, cross a stile and walk down the edge of a field, keeping the hedge on your left. Cross another stile and join a track. Keep going straight ahead.
Pass a house and then bear right, along the side of a line of conifers. Meet a drive and turn left on this. Follow the drive to a road.
7) Turn left here and go slightly downhill to cross a bridge over a stream. About 30 metres after this look out for a footpath sign on your right. It is easy to miss. Go over a stile. Do not follow the sunken lane straight ahead, but turn left up a bank to emerge in a field. Turn right along the edge of the field. At the end of the field, slightly to the left, see a footpath sign, highlighted in yellow, which directs you across a lane, over a still opposite, and onto a path ahead. You are now on the Vanguard Way which runs from Croydon to Newhaven. The route follows this way to Chiddlingly.
Continue ahead across a field. The remains of a hedge point the way. Continue straight ahead as the route continues between a hedge and a fence. The route emerges at a road. The route through the gate opposite is illegally blocked by barbed wire, so turn right along the road, and then left in 20 metres, to follow an alternative path through a squeeze gate. The path emerges at the attractive Chiddlingly village between the 6 Bells pub and the church car park.
The Six Bells is described by the Good pub guide as a lively, unpretentious village local with good weekend live music, extremely good value bar food and a friendly long-serving landlord. It is said that Picasso, who frequently visited Farley Farm, walked into the pub and offered to pay for a drink by doing a drawing. But the landlord said he could pay like everyone else. Perhaps a disappointed Picasso walked back along the route we will now take.
(Motorists using the church car park have now finished the walk.)
1)If you visited the Six bells walk back to where the path emerged onto the road and keep straight ahead to the church. Otherwise turn left at the end of the path, heading for the church. Enter the churchyard and walk to the right of a church and climb over a stile which enters the cricket ground. Do not follow the Vanguard Way signs, but turn left along the edge of the field and then right along the other edge. Continue to the bottom left side of the cricket field and then cross a stile in the corner of the field. Keep ahead, cross a bridge and pass a wood to your left. Emerge at a road. This is point (2). To continue the walk turn left here, but to visit the Community Shop and return to the bus stop turn right. From the community shop retrace your steps to return to the bus stop.
© Text and pictures Copyright Chris Smith