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This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

Blog Archive

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Saturday Walk – The Bluebell Railway and Ashdown Forest

Extra Walk 132a – Horsted Keynes [Station] Circular
Length: 16½ km (10.3 miles) if finishing in the village. Toughness: 5/10

For the cheapest (Thameslink-only) fare from central London, take the 09:00 Brighton train from St Pancras (Blackfriars 09:09, London Bridge 09:15), arriving Haywards Heath at 09:59. Alternatively, take Southern's 09:16 Eastbourne train¹ from Victoria (Clapham Jct 09:23, East Croydon 09:33), arriving at 10:01.

At Haywards Heath make your way to the Perrymount Road bus stop for the East Grinstead-bound Metrobus 270 at 10:18, alighting at Horsted Keynes Station (10:36) before the village (unless you want to do the slightly longer start). A return ticket on the 270 is £5.40, cheaper than two singles at £3.40.

[1] If you just miss the Eastbourne service, a Brighton train nine minutes later should still be in time to make the bus connection.

Buses from Horsted Keynes village back to Haywards Heath are hourly at xx:39 until 16:39, plus a final service at 17:52 (four minutes later from the station if you choose to complete a full circular walk, an extra 2¼ km). At Haywards Heath there are three Thameslink trains an hour back to London (at xx:16, xx:31 & xx:47) plus four Southern ones (at xx:14, xx:21, xx:44 & xx:51).

Apologies for the lengthy train info and the need for a bus, but I felt that this rather neglected walk deserved a rare outing when the heather on Ashdown Forest should still have some colour. I've chosen to start the walk from the Bluebell Railway station because this way you should get to see one or two steam trains on the morning stretch alongside the track, a southbound train just before 11am and a northbound one shortly afterwards.

After an undulating climb onto the fringes of Ashdown Forest you should reach the Red Lion in Chelwood Gate at around 12:30. There's an optional short cut at the start of the afternoon leg, but the full walk includes an attractive stretch through the gorse and heather. A gradual descent through woods and fields brings you back to Horsted Keynes, where a couple of decent pubs will be vying for your custom before the bus ride back to Haywards Heath.

In recent years the trend has been to substitute the second half of the Forest Row Circular walk after lunch, since the two share the same pub. If you're tempted by this variation, be aware that you might need to buy an additional ticket back from East Grinstead (the same applies if you choose to take the 270 in that direction at the end of the walk).

You'll need to bring the directions from the Horsted Keynes Circular walk page.


Anonymous said...

Thameslink return £7.85 from London with Network Card. Count me in. Thanks, Sean.

Walker said...

£7.85 was certainly good value for the train ticket for this walk - a Super Off-Peak Thameslink-only Day Return with a Network Card (try saying that after a couple of glasses of wine). It was also nice to get on a Brighton train which was not packed to the rafters with summer beach goers and their kiddies. I might have known it would not last, though. The words “Thameslink” and “hassle-free” are never long in each others’s company and on the 5.17 train back it was standing room only. Had there been a tsunami warning in Brighton? Was it the Hove Air Show? Was a fool giving away £50 notes in Borough High Street? We will never know, but we stood all the way back to London.

This apart, it was a nice day out. Nine assembled at Hayward’s Heath, most but not all arriving on Thameslink. Getting off the bus at Horsted Keynes station we were joined by the Walk Inspector, who took his duties unusually seriously today and did the whole walk. Finally one other regular turned up at lunchtime, having topped it the nob and taken the steam train from East Grinstead. (He got the 4.20 train to Sheffield Park at the end of the day and then the last train back up to East Grinstead to get full value from his Day Rover). So n=11 in all, a very nice group size.

We dawdled long enough along the Bluebell Railway line to see a Down and Up train, the latter chuffing very prettily up the incline. The walk to lunch was uneventful and we had nice food in the garden of the pub.

After lunch there was some heather, though not lots, to be honest: this was more bracken heath than heather heath. W=It-was-sunny-until-2pm, cloudy thereafter, but it did not rain (as it did on the journey home). There were some surprisingly stiff hill climbs - or rather our leg muscles felt surprisingly weak doing them - and we even had a sit-down at one point.

All in all, by the time we got to Horsted Keynes village at 4pm we felt well-exercised and deserving of the very calorific puds and tea in big pots offered by the Crown. We got the 16.39 bus to Haywards Heath.