Villages and Views in the Vicinity of the Viaduct

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Nov 23

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Distance is 21 km (13 miles); total ascent is 332 m; terrain is moderately hilly with some short ascents and descents; surfaces are dirt, grass and tarmac.

Many OutdoorLads will have seen the Ouse Valley Viaduct except for me, so here's my attempt at including it on a walk. The most elegant railway viaduct in England (and perhaps the most impressive too, barring the Ribble Valley one) will form the centrepiece of a route that visits, at Lindfield, 'the finest village street in East Sussex' and, at Ardingly, one of the county's most prestigious private schools and biggest reservoirs. The usual Wealden fields, forests and farmsteads complete the line-up of reasons why you should come along even if you have seen the viaduct before, plus as a reward for climbing the hill upon which it stands, there will be tea and cake or a pint in charming Cuckfield.

The sights:

Haywards Heath: A Victorian new town started on the site of a Civil War battle in 1642 when the railway arrived in 1841. A dormitory town for commuters to London and Brighton with pleasant housing estates stretching out. 

Lindfield: Adjoining Haywards Heath but with its own character. 'Without any doubt the finest village street in East Sussex' (Pevsner: The Buildings of England: Sussex). (In 1974 relocated to West Sussex.) Around 40 ancient buildings line the high street, around half of medieval origin. 'The alternation of timber-framing and stately Georgian brick is the leitmotif' (Pevsner). Some buildings of note: Church Cottage and Thatched Cottage (15th century); Old Place (1590); Lindfield House (18th century); Lindfield Place (early 18th century) get the idea. St John Baptist Church is mainly c1300 with shingled broach spire and decorated gothic windows and porch.

Ardingly College: A Woodard School founded in 1858 and begun in 1864. Around 400 2 to 18-year olds many of whom are on scholarships. Anglo-Catholic ethos. Main buildings 1864-1870 by Slater and Carpenter in red brick and a pared-down 14th century style.

Ardingly Reservoir: A 198-acre (0.80 sq km) reservoir, formed in 1978 and that tops up the River Ouse. A local nature reserve with two bird hides and a recreation site for windsurfing, canoeing and fishing. 

Ouse Valley Viaduct: 29m tall, 450m long, built 1839-41, 37 piers, Grade II-listed, designed by locomotive builder John Urpeth Rastrick and railway architect David Mocatta. One of England's most impressive viaducts, and with its classical balustrade and double-pair of Italianate pavilions at either end, the most elegant. Restored in 1999. We'll have lunch beneath it, sitting on the inverted arches in each pier that mirror those at the top.

Cuckfield: An unspoilt village bypassed by the railway, like Lindfield on the other side of Haywards Heath. Lying on 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 13th century building with an elegant shingled broach spire. The painted 15th century roof is unusual.


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. It is of moderate length but there will  be some fields with sheep and horses. There will also be a number of stiles and roads to negotiate. A dog off its lead must be obedient. 

The route(please click the link to see it)

Before we reach pretty Lindfield, we'll have to walk northeastwards for a kilometre along Hayward Heath's suburban streets. At the end of Lindfield High Street we'll head north along footpaths to Fullingmill Farm, Buxshalls, Bursteye Farm and Avins Farm. Turing west we'll head to Ardingly College and follow a footpath through its grounds. Upon reaching the dam at Ardingly Reservoir, we'll hit the Sussex Ouse Valley Way heading west under the viaduct. At Sidnye Farm we'll turn south to Sparks Lane and follow footpaths to Whiteman's Green then Cuckfield. After refreshments in the village we'll turn east and follow a bridleway (lit after-dark) to Hatchgate Farm and Paige's Wood. After a kilometre more of Haywards Heath's suburbs we'll reach the station.

(Picture credits: Ouse Valley Viaduct in 2007 by James Kilfiger (Zeimusu); Ouse Valley Viaduct by Antiquary; High Street, Lindfield, Susex by Peter Trimming; Lindfield High Street near the Church by Nigel Freeman; Old Place, High Street, Lindfield by Simon Carey; 88 High Street, Lindfield by Simon Carey; High Street, Lindfield, Sussex by Peter Trimming; Bursteye Farm by Glyn Baker; View across sqaure from junction called Woodslands Cross by Dave Spicer; Ardingly College by N Chadwick; Balcombe Viaduct (Ouse Valley Viaduct) by Matthew Hoser; The Footbridge over the River Ouse by Nigel Freeman; Pondtail Rough by Simon Carey; Church Lane, Cuckfield by Kevin Gordon; The Old Vicarage, Cuckfield, by Kevin Gordon (images licensed for reuse under Creative Commons).)


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