Autumn in Arcadia: Parkland and Pasture in the High Weald

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Oct 03

21 people attending

9 places left

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Distance is 24 km (15 miles); total ascent is 482 m; terrain is undulating with one long gentle ascent and descent; surfaces are dirt, grass and tarmac.

Arcadia, a mountainous, secluded region of southern Greece, has had its name taken for all sorts of would-be pretty places. The loveliness of Arcadia's landscape and the indolence and innocence of its inhabitants might find a remote resemblance in this part of the High Weald where, unlike, say, Ashdown Forest, the land is lower and the terrain is tended. And while centaurs and satyrs and nymphs and shepherds might not show themselves, the woods and wolds and parks and pastures, dotted with follies, ruins, lakes and gardens (national trails will take us right by the gardens of Borde Hill and Nymans) should back-up my belief that this is a lovely locality in which to go for a walk.

The sights:

Borde Hill: The house was originally from 1598 but after it was acquired by Colonel Robert Stephenson Clarke in 1893, much was rebuilt in 1912. Stephenson Clarke sponsored plant collectors to acquire specimen plants from around the world, which were planted in the garden and in the parkland. The parkland is grade II* listed. In autumn, acers, cornus, beech and oaks should give a rich display of colour. The High Weald Landscape Trail runs right through the park allowing it to be seen at close quarters.

Staplefield: The village is just a few houses around a huge green. St Mark's Church is simple, 1847, but the William Morris-style wall paintings in the chancel are pretty. The gardens at the C18 mansion of Tyes Place include some follies such as a tetrastyle Tuscan portico.

Nymans: Of the ruined house of 1925-30 that replicated a C16 manor house, we'll unfortunately see nothing. The National Trust website states: 'walk along tree-lined avenues while surrounded by the lush countryside of the Sussex Weald. The adjoining woodland, with lake and bird hides, has plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife.' The Sussex Ouse Valley Way footpath passes through the woodland (along an avenue of superb redwood trees) but not near the famous gardens.

Handcross: A cheerful, mostly Victorian village on the Brighton Road, bypassed by the A23 in 1959.

Slaugham: ("Slaffam") A well-preserved place. The church faces a small triangular green which funnels, narrowing, up to the cottage-lined street that feeds into Slaugham Park. It was the Manor of the Covert family, the wealthiest ironmasters in the Weald in the C16 and C17. St Mary's Church is C13 with a spacious interior, C12 font and C16 wooden panels of saints. There is a superb array of monuments to the Covert Family. The tower top is Victorian. Slaugham Place is a ruined Elizabethan house we'll see at a slight distance, dating from 1571. The ruins provide structure for a garden and have been incorporated into the grounds of Moat House. 

Cuckfield: An unspoiled village sitting atop a hill and with many fine buildings such as Old Vicarage (Georgian), The Sanctuary (Tudor) and Grammar School (Jacobean). Holy Trinity Church is a spacious C13 building with an elegant shingled broach spire. The nave roof was painted in C15.

The route:

We'll follow the suburban Balcombe Road north out of Haywards Heath which becomes Bordehill Lane. At Borde Hill we'll then pick up the High Weald Landscape Trail west through Borde Hill park. At Brooke Street we'll follow Spark's Lane further west, before turning north to pick up the Sussex Ouse Valley Way to Lake Hart where we'll veer west again and pick up Brantridge Lane to take us to Staplefield. At this village we'll use the Sussex Ouse Valley Way to go to Handcross through Nymans, then the High Weald Landscape Trail south to Slaugham. After lunch at Slaugham we'll use footpaths and bridleways going southeast under the A23 picking up Mallions Lane south, then Sloughgreen Lane east, then Broxmead Lane south. We'll then use the High Weald Landscape Trail to go east to Cuckfield where a footpath and suburban streets will take us back to the centre of Haywards Heath.


I love having dogs on my walks and this walk is very suitable for them, although they may not be welcomed in the tea shop in Cuckfield if we stop off there. There will  be some fields with sheep and horses and some stiles and roads to negotiate. A dog off its lead must be obedient. 

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  • Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are extremely mild, or who lives or is in a support bubble with someone showing symptoms, is asked not to attend. This is in line with the government’s coronavirus advice.
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(Picture credits: Banner image is The Parkland on the Approach to Borde Hill Garden by Tony Hammond (image cropped top and bottom), which is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; the other images are: Path, Nymans Woods by Robin Webster; Borde Hill House by Simon Carey; Sussex Ouse Valley Way north to Sidnye Farm by Dave Spicer; Folly in the grounds of Tyes Place by Andy Potter; House, Staplefield, East Sussex by Christine Matthews; Fish Pond by don cload; An August visit to Nymans by Basher Eyre; View over Slaugham Park by Peter Jeffery; Old Cottages, Slaugham by Colin Smith; St Mary, Slaugham - brasses by David KempRuins of Slaugham Place by Sally; Footpath towards Staplefield Common by Robin Webster; Mallion's Lane by Peter Jeffrey; High Weald Landscape Trail by Chris Thomas-Atkin; Cuckfield High Street by Kevin Gordon, which are all attributed to their copyright holders and are licensed for re-use under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0.)


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