1 - If you have arrived in West Hoathly by bus, head down Chapel Hill for a few yards and turn right into North Lane. Follow the village road for a quarter of a mile to The Cat pub, opposite the church of St Margaret of Antioch. (Car drop-offs are possible at this point.) Before starting our walk, enter the churchyard through the lychgate and follow the path around the church, heading for the far south-east corner of the grounds. A small memorial viewing platform offers a wide-ranging view southwards, across the Wealden woodlands towards the South Downs. It is possible to see the Ouse gap between the hills around Lewes.

You may decide to visit the church, where there are remin-ders of 16th-century ironmasters, view the stone-built Manor House and walk further down North Street to the historic Priest’s House. There is plenty to see in this small village.

2 - Return to the arrival point beside the pub and locate a small stone shelter opposite the hostelry, at the road junction with North Lane. Turn west, around the corner of the shelter, and follow the public footpath, passing two houses. The path rises a grassy slope, crossing a stile to a field edge.

Walk ahead along the right hedgeline, descending into a shallow and then climbing beside a hilltop copse, which contains a dark pool. In the next field continue westward for 400 yards to join a surfaced access drive. Keep direction along the drive, passing two estate cottages and descending to pass by the entrance to Chiddinglye.

3 - At a junction of tracks and driveways, and with the buildings of Chiddinglye Farm ahead, take a half-right line on a footpath, descending into woodland. In about 75 yards the footpath leaves the rough track, diverting right through a kissing gate beneath rhododendron bushes, descending a twisting path to arrive at a stile, adjacent to a shallow valley.

Cross into the valley pasture-land and turn left down to the field corner; there is a cottage at the top of the opposite slope. From the corner turn right for about 100 yards, then go left over a stile, descend into a stream gully and crossing a footbridge.

The streams and drainage ditches on this part of our walk flow into the Ardingly reservoir, which is to the south. From the footbridge bear right beneath the trees, climbing an embankment to a wider track and turning left. The path soon bears right beside a bank, with a building above, and climbs steeply to arrive opposite a stone-built estate cottage.

Do not go ahead through a gate but turn left, crossing a brick-built stile, leading to the edge of the Ardingly Road.

4 - Cross with care to the opposite grass verge and turn right for a few yards, taking a left turn on to the Old House Estate driveway – a public foot-path. Follow the drive for about a quarter of a mile, passing a pond on the right and then the entrance to Old House.

Continue for a few paces and, just before a farm gate, turn left on to a signed public footpath. In 50 yards, the enclosed path turns right, descending rough steps to a low-lying meadow and crossing a bridge. The path bears left, crosses a stile beside a metal gate and then traverses a bank on the right.

Climb to a stile and in the next field walk ahead, keeping right of a field-centre oak tree and aiming for the far corner. Cross a stile and pass through a bridle gate close to Great Strudgate Farm. Go past the farmhouse to arrive at a hilltop junction of farm buildings and tracks.

5 - Walk ahead, south-westerly, on the farm access track that descends for one-third of a mile, passing Green Wood, to come to Newhouse Farm. Bear slightly left between the farm buildings and, ignoring a left-turning footpath, begin a steeper descent for half a mile.

At the bottom of the incline, the track passes above the weir outlet of the Ardingly Brook upper catchment. The surface water run-off from fields, streams and drainage gullies on the west side of the watershed ridge that we crossed on leaving West Hoathly generally feed into the Ardingly Reservoir that supplies water to much of Mid Sussex.

From the low point, above the weir, the track begins a climb, sweeping right and arriving beside Little Strudgate Farm. Climb past the farm buildings to the top of the slope and cross a stile leading to Paddockhurst Lane.

6 - Turn left along the lane for 150 yards, then turn right on to a public footpath, passing by hilltop houses and entering Great Wood.

The wide unsurfaced track, known as Boundary Road, is used as an access drive for forest working and descends for a little over half a mile to Lowerstaff Wood and there bears left.

After crossing beside the parapets of a stone bridge, above a stream that feeds into Balcombe Lake, the path clears the woodland (ignore a crossing footpath) and continues for nearly half a mile to a concealed three-way path sign in the left hedgerow.

Turn left down an earth ramp and in a few paces go right, walking on a raised wooden causeway across a boggy flatland, crossing a stream at the far side and climbing steps into Walk Wood. Ignore a midway left turn and climb to the top of the woodland to enter a sloping meadow.

Climb up the left edge of the meadow, passing by the impressive eastern facade of Balcombe House. Continue to the top right corner of the field, pass through a metal kissing gate and turn right up a lane that leads to the centre of Balcombe village.

  • For the next stage of this walk, see Seven Days magazine on Saturday, May 24.

Click here for a full-sized map of the West Hoathly to Balcombe walk

Distance/Time: Five miles, taking two and a half hours

By Car: Drop off: West Hoathly is on Selsfield Road, turn south into North Lane for drop off. Pick Up: Balcombe village centre, beside Half Moon Inn and Balcombe Stores. Start point grid ref: TQ365330; pick-up point grid ref: TQ309307

By Public Transport: Brighton to Crawley, Metrobus 273; Metrobus 84 for West Hoathly. Balcombe to Brighton (bus stop Haywards Heath Road), Sussex Bus Co 37, change at Whitemans Green to Metrobus 271. Balcombe to Crawley (bus stop Bramble Hill), Sussex Bus Co 37. Travel details at www.traveline.info, call 0871 200 22 33. All stages of this walk accessible by public transport

What’s underfoot: A High Weald walk on well-defined paths, muddy after wet weather, many stiles. Care required when crossing wooden causeway (Stage 6). Possible with a baby backpack but tough going. Not possible with an off-road baby buggy

Thirsty Work: The Village Tearooms, Bramble Hill, Balcombe; or Half Moon Inn, Haywards Heath Road, Balcombe

So you don’t get lost: OS Explorer map 135, plus a compass for general direction