The daily commute for passengers travelling the Brighton to London line involves crossing the Ouse Valley on the spectacular grade II listed Balcombe Viaduct.  Vincent Hallett’s walk from Haywards Heath station gives an opportunity to go below its 37 arches and explore “probably the most elegant viaduct in Britain.”

From the station forecourt, cross the road in front of the Burrell Arms and walk down Mill Green Road, first left. At College Road, cross and turn right and immediately left past a timber yard into Wickham Way, a private road and public footpath. This road steadily climbs to a T-junction with a metal gate and footpath ahead but instead walk right down a drive, between brick piers and ornamental gates, marked Private Road leading to Wickham Farm and The Annex only. At the entrance to Wickham Farm, take the left path descending into woods at a 3-way post and hydrant marker.

In 200 yards cross a footbridge, continue in the same direction indicated by a marker, to leave the wood at a gate. A finger post indicates a forward route but a large sign also warns of high velocity golf balls and not to loiter whilst traversing Haywards Heath Golf Course. A driving range is right. Quickly pass in front of a tee and enter trees for a short distance, alongside greens where the path becomes a track.

A wide expanse of golf course opens out ahead at a 3-way post. Leave the golfers and take the left footpath, with a blue circle plaque indicating the Ouse Valley Way, with the Balcombe Viaduct depicted. The marked path meanders through woodland to Copyhold Lane. Opposite the path becomes the High Weald Landscape Trail. Go through gates, passing a house on the right, across a footbridge and out from woods over an open field. A farm bridge affords access along a track between oaks, rising to River’s Farm. Go through a gate, donated by Sussex Ramblers, through the farm and over the single track freight branch to the former Ardingly station. Enter the Balcombe Estate, River’s Wood, through a gate and proceed for ½ mile following finger posts until the far side of the wood is reached. A gate gives access to a wide grassy bank to the River Ouse. Do not cross the river but turn left and follow the southern bank for just over ½ mile to a style at Borde Hill Lane. Walk right along the grass verge beyond a white house and cross over in 50 yards to take the footpath left over a field to the viaduct.

The viaduct was designed by engineer John Urpeth Rastrick and completed in 1841. Stop and take in the scale of the structure and the perspective between the brick arches. A short path between two stiles leads across a field, the other side of which is a gate. Take the track left through Ryelands Farm and in 25 yards the Ouse Valley Way goes left through a gate. Traverse three fields over stiles at each field boundary and head towards a wooden footbridge.

The Way continues alongside a hedge on the left to reach a stepped access onto a farm road. Proceed between farm buildings for ½ mile to reach the B2036. Opposite, Cherry Lane and the Ouse Valley Way is indicated. Walk up this road 200 yards and take the first left to Sidnye Farm. The road turns south at the farm and descends. At the first 3-way marker take the footpath angled left and leave the Ouse Valley Way. Cross a field to a gate where the path bears right. Go through another gate and over a plank bridge. The path goes through further gates then rises to a style and gate by properties. Follow the road for 300 yards to a crossing bridleway, ignoring the gated access into a field.

Take the footpath over a plank bridge and up two steps that initially follows the bridleway right. This is a narrow path between a hedge and fence. After 50 yards, a style allows diagonal access across a meadow, keeping a pond to the left. At the top of this enclosure, walk through a gate and then go down towards woodland with a high hedge on the right. Just before this pasture meets the wood, cross the style right onto a track. The path inclines, skirting Cuckfield Golf Centre and then veers left, across scrub into a wood, over a plank bridge and through a gate into open land. The way is marked left to a gate, where a right turn leads to the B2114 at Whitemans Green.

At the main road turn left along the pavement, cross the T junction and take the surfaced footpath by Chilcotts, opposite the Wealden Stores. The footpath is 300 yards. It crosses Bylanes Close and leads to Ardingly Road. Cross to Longacre Crescent but keep to the marked footpath. At the 3-way post keep left. At the next 3-way post keep forward. Pass in front of Horsgate, the former home of Richard Bevan, ‘Cuckfield’s leading citizen’ and artist Robert Bevan. The path widens and runs alongside buildings with a wooden post and rail fence.

At the end of this fence, leave the footpath and descend a wide grassy strip between trees to an information board announcing this is the Bordehill Millennium Woodland, Hanlye Farm. Ease to the right and continue down to a crossing path just before Scrase Stream. Walk right for 25 yards and enter woodland to cross a double plank bridge. Ascend to an initially level path that leads left and then upwards to exit Bluntswood and Paiges Meadow at a car park.

Parking is possible here for walkers not wishing to take the train to Haywards Heath. Blunts Wood Crescent leads into Blunts Wood Road and then Harlands Road to return to the station.


DISTANCE/TIME: Nine and three quarter miles, taking four and three quarter hours.
BY CAR: Park in car park at the end of Blunts Wood Crescent.  GR TQ318248.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Haywards Heath station.
WHAT’S UNDERFOOT:  The start and latter part is along Wealden woodland footpaths and farm fields that are muddy in wet weather. Section from the viaduct to Horsgate is on tracks and better drained ground.  A number of styles have to be crossed, otherwise gated access.
THIRSTY WORK:  Pumpkin Cafés, Haywards Heath station platforms. The Burrell Arms, opposite the station entrance.  
SO YOU DON’T GET LOST: OS Landranger 198 Brighton & The Downs. OS Explorer maps 134 and 135.