Sussex Ouse Valley Way: Balcombe to Lindfield

Despite my previous walk along a section of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way being a bit dull I thought I'd give this path a second chance, and having read that the Ouse Valley Viaduct was quite a scenic spot, I decided to do a section which would take in that.

 So today's walk started at Balcombe. It's one of those stations right on the edge of the settlement from which it takes its name, so it didn't take long after alighting the train to get out into the countryside. Albeit that the immediately surrounding landscape is decidedly agricultural, rather than the slightly more wild and untamed feel of the South Down further to the south.

...and by agricultural, given the time of year and how the weather has been the past couple of months, it meant muddy. Really quite muddy.

I should add that the Sussex Ouse Valley Way doesn't pass through Balcombe directly, so I first had to head south on some minor footpaths to join it. The sort of minor footpaths that cross large muddy fields without any real markings, so you just have to wander across the mire doing your best to stick to what you assume to be the route of the footpath according to the map.

Beyond the muddy field was Pilstye Wood, which had an interesting rocky outcrop through which a tree was rather stubbornly growing.

Then beyond Pilstye Wood, open fields once again, occasionally punctuated with a wandering pheasant. I think this was the point on today's walk where I really got into my stride and started enjoying myself. I'd done a bit of a climb prior to this, so had a broad sense that I was probably doing something approximating exercise, and the views had opened up a bit, plus the mud temporarily eased off.

This downhill section past Upper Pilstye and Pilstye Farm was really quite pleasant, despite the unrelenting grey skies.

At the bottom of the hill I met either the river Ouse, which I would then be following on and off for the rest of the way to Lindfield. A little further on from there I joined the Sussex Ouse Valley Way.

Near Great Bentley Farm I was greeted by an odd sight which took me a moment to figure out - off in the distance a bunch of people were waving bit white flags around, which made a loud sort of snapping sound when they wooshed them about. I realised after a minute or two these were pheasant beaters - a shoot was going on. It's surprising really that this is the first time I'd encountered this at close quarters, and indeed a little further along the "guns" (as I believe the people actually doing the shooting are referred to) were all lined up along the path. They all stopped shooting to let me pass, which was made for an awkward few minutes as they were quite spread out, and it took a while to get past the whole line, particularly given that the field I had to walk through was quite boggy.

Beyond, I reach Ryelands Farm, from where I got the first glimpse of the Ouse Valley Viaduct.

It was difficult to get a satisfactory picture of it, particularly from this side - of course the grey weather today wasn't helping, but it's also quite a long structure, and there were various hedges and other obstacles in the way preventing me from getting an ideal shot.

It's nice though that the path takes you right underneath it, and it's really quite an impressive structure, particularly given that it was built in 1842, and considering the many hundreds of thousands of train crossings which must have been made in that time.

The viaduct was perhaps a bit easier to see from the other side (the east side), given the slightly flatter and more open terrain, and I attempted to take a panorama picture of it, which oddly made it look a bit like a hump backed bridge. It is of course very flat - much of the point of a viaduct.

You'll just have to imagine how much nicer it would have looked with a blue sky and a bit of sunshine - or better still the sun setting through one of the spans. Instead what I got this morning was all greys and browns. It was still an impressive sight to see in person at the time though, even if the resulting photos are a bit drab.

Beyond the viaduct, there was a pleasant section of the S.O.V. Way along the river bank of the Ouse, from which I occasionally glanced backwards for some more views of the viaduct.

 After a while, a sharp right turn in the path took me away from the river, and through River's Wood. Which involved quite a lot more mud.

Beyond River's Wood lay River's Farm, where I was greeted by some cows having their lunch, and reminding me that I was getting quite hungry.

Yet more mud, with a bried respite offered as I passed through Haywards Heath Golf Course (where presumably the groundskeeper has thought carefully about drainage to avoid spoiling the golfers' shoes), and then I was on the final stretch into Lindfield.

I was pleased to have arrived in Lindfield, and actually pleased to be on tarmac and have a break from all the mud. It's quite an attractive village, which I've only passed through in the car previously (on the way to and from the vinegrowing course I did in nearby Scaynes Hill). So it was nice to have a chance to explore a little on foot.

Having done a survey of the village's pubs online prior to coming, I had determined the Bent Arms, a Hall and Woodhouse pub, would probably be most like my sort of thing. Therein I ordered one of their Ploughman's Lunches - which turned out to be a huge, unwieldy plate of food. While it may not have won any prizes for presentation it was hearty and rustic and the bread in particular was pretty good (I think I read somewhere they bake it on site). I really didn't need the side order of chips though.

After lunch, I went and perused the local wine shop (South Downs Cellars, it's very good), and then walked to Haywards Heath to get the train back to London.

Maddeningly, the grey firmament actually started to clear a bit by the time I was finishing my walk, and when I passed the Ouse Valley Viaduct again just before 3pm there was quite a nice sky. This would have been a much nicer backdrop to have taken photos of the viaduct, but alas by this point I was hurtling along the top of it on a train back to London! Oh well, another time...