The Vanguard Way- one of our nearest long distance walks

picture- the Way goes up the Cuckmere Valley, shown here from Exceat

The Vanguard Way was established in 1981 by the Vanguards Rambling Club, which got its name from having been formed in the guard’s van of a train!  Whether you walk the whole 66 miles (107 km), or just your nearest bits, the Vanguard Way takes you through some of the finest countryside in southern England. It is usually walked north to south, but going in the other direction, from Newhaven to Croydon, is just as rewarding.

Starting at Newhaven Harbour Station, the first six miles (9.7 km) follow the coast through the fascinating ruins of Tide Mills, then past Seaford and over Seaford Head, with the famous view of the Seven Sisters as you descend to Cuckmere Haven and Exceat Bridge.

The route joins the South Downs Way to climb over a shoulder of the downs, through sleepy Westdean and past Charleston Manor, to Litlington, then beside the Cuckmere River to Alfriston, Berwick village and Berwick Station. In the Weald now, the route follows footpaths and bridleways in farmland, through Chiddingly and Blackboys, then past delightful Tickerage Mill to the outskirts of Buxted and High Hurstwood.

For many, the highlight of the Vanguard Way is the seven mile (11.3 km) upland stretch across the Ashdown Forest, from Poundgate to Forest Row, via Kings Standing and Gills Lap, in ‘Pooh Country’ now, where the route passes ‘the Enchanted Place’, the ‘heffalump trap’ and the monument to A.A. Milne.

Smithers Cottage near Hammerwood

The Vanguard Way continues northwards into Surrey, through the ramparts of an Iron Age fort on Dry Hill, then crosses farmland among tributaries of the River Medway. Inevitably, the M25 must be crossed, near Oxted, and some steep gradients negotiated, to reach the route’s highest point on the North Downs at 853 feet (260 m). Finally, an undulating section past a Norman church at Farleigh, then through woodlands and leafy residential areas, leads to the finish at East Croydon Station, from where there are of course excellent train services back to Sussex.

More than 80 per cent of the route is on public rights of way or  access areas. It is well served by public transport, and free maps and very detailed route descriptions in both directions can be downloaded from www.vanguardway.org.uk

Article and pictures provided by  Colin Saunders of the Vanguard Ramblers, who is the Vanguard Way route manager.