1 - From the bus stop, or drop-off point, in Ashurst Wood walk west up Hammerwood Road for 200 yards, passing the village pub and shop, to arrive beside the Lewes Road. Cross, with care, and locate the footpath, to the right of a pair of white gates.

Follow the path, climbing beside a fence across the top of the low hill beneath rhododendron bushes, and descend through a brick-lined tunnel on to the path bearing right. The path skirts around a small sandstone outcrop, descending to a metal kissing gate at a level field corner, with glimpses towards Weir Wood reservoir.

Ignore the side turnings and take a line that descends the left field-edge beside woodland, to the bottom left corner. Walk towards the metal field gate, close to the corner, crossing a stile on to Luxford’s Lane.

2 - Turn left down the lane, crossing a bridge above the former East Grinstead to Tunbridge Wells railway line, which is now the Forest Way recreational trail. The lane bears left to arrive at Horseshoe Farm.

Just after the farm cottage, turn right on to a bridleway for 100 yards to a footbridge and three-way path junction. Cross the bridge and bear left through a metal field gate (ignore the right turning).

In the field, turn left (yellow arrow) along the left field-edge footpath, with a stream down to the left. In 200 yards, at the left corner, go through a kissing gate, descend a bank, go over a footbridge and climb to take a second stile on the right.

Turn left up the rising field-centre trodden path and at the top go through a gate in hedgerow. In the next field walk for 150 yards to the opposite fence and gate. A short detour through the gate offers a view of the dam that holds back the waters of the reservoir; there is no access on to the dam wall.

3 - Return to the gate and turn left, south-west, passing through the field corner gate. The onward path follows a twisting line, never more than about 100 yards from the water’s edge and keeping to the left fence. Initially the path passes through woodland, soon coming to the Millennium Picnic Site, perfect for a tea break.

For centuries the River Medway flowed through this Sussex countryside heading into northern Kent. Stone Age hunter-gatherers came and went, Ice Ages lowered temperatures and Roman iron-making was later established along the southern shoreline. Sixteenth-century iron founders refined local ore, casting it into cannon for a Tudor navy, before the land returned to agriculture. The one-and-a-half-mile-long reservoir was completed in 1954, damming the headwaters of the Medway and providing a water supply for the growing Sussex communities.

4 - Keep direction on the path, negotiating the rise and fall into gullies where water from the hillside drains to the reservoir. The browny-red staining seen in pools and streams along the way is evidence of ironstone or ferrite-containing rocks, made soluble by percolating water. There’s iron in them there hills.

The path twists around the inlets of the reservoir but our route keeps to the left fenceline, passing an information board for Standen Rocks, which are up the hill on the right.

After descending to a lower point among scrub, the path skirts around a deeper inlet, drawing alongside a small car park on the right. Pass right across the enclosure to a roughly surfaced track giving working access to the reservoir. This track was the line of a road that, in earlier times, crossed Admiral’s Bridge over the Medway.

5 - Turn right up the track for nearly a quarter of a mile to arrive beside a minor road, just below Stone Hill House. Turn right up the road edge, crossing with care to the left-turning bridleway, passing a small sandstone outcrop. Walk up the wide track for about 100 yards, where a detour left can be made to inspect the sandstone outcrop of Stone Farm Rocks, with views across the reservoir.

Return to the approach bridleway and resume direction above the outcrop, descending to a three-way junction. Go left through a metal gate, following a slightly rightward line across the field, passing a midway marker post and descending to a gap in the lower treeline. Pass through the opening and bear right, crossing a footbridge and turning left at the far side to cross a low-lying meadow and second footbridge.

Climb up the field to a gate and enter woodland, walking towards the embankment ahead. When beneath the bank, climb right to the edge of the single track Bluebell Line, cross with care, descending the opposite side. Cross a stile and go right through the rise and fall of woodland on a rough path.

6 - On coming to a surfaced track turn left, soon bearing right up a slope for about 100 yards and go right over a stile, just before Birch Farm. Head for the top right corner of the meadow and enter Marl Pit Shaw.

Climb up through the wood-land, passing over a crossing path and keeping direction for a further 300 yards; you are now in Giffard’s Wood.

On arriving at a crossing forest service road, turn left for 100 yards and, at a signpost, turn right, back into the mixed woodland. The path climbs in the woodland for nearly half a mile, to finally bear left and pass through a metal kissing gate close to the top of the hill. Keep to the track, behind houses, to arrive beside West Hoathly Garage: the end of our first day on the West Sussex traverse.

Bus stops are to the right up Chapel Row. To visit the village, cross to North Lane and walk towards the village pub and church.

  • The next stage of this walk will be published in Seven Days Magazine on Saturday, April 26


  • Distance/Time: Five and a half miles, taking three hours
  • By Car: Ashurst Wood is north of the A22 road, midway between East Grinstead and Forest Row. Drop off beside the village shop. Pick-up point is at West Hoathly in North Lane or adjacent to The Cat pub. Start point grid ref: TQ416368; pick-up point grid ref: TQ361325
  • By Public Transport: Brighton to Ashurst Wood: Metrobus 270. Crawley to Ashurst Wood: Metrobus 291; bus stop opposite Three Crowns pub, Ashurst. West Hoathly to Brighton/Crawley: Metrobus 84 to Crawley, change to Metrobus 271 for Brighton. Travel details at www.traveline.info or call 0871 2002233. All stages of this walk are accessible by public transport.
  • What’s underfoot: A linear High Weald walk on well-defined paths that can be muddy after wet weather. Possible with a baby backpack, but tough going. Not possible with an off-road baby buggy.
  • Thirsty Work: The Cat pub in West Hoathly village
  • So you don’t get lost: OS Explorer map 135, plus a compass for general direction

Click here for a full-sized map of the High Weald to Rowland's Castle walk