The Sussex Ouse Valley Way 31st July to 4th August 2006
The Sussex Ouse Valley Way begins in the car park of the village hall at Lower Beeding. Skirting Leonards Lee Garden the path drops into a valley quite unconnected to the River Ouse and continues through lovely High Wealden countryside of woods and open fields. Only as we approached Slaugham, some two and a half miles into the walk, did we meet the Ouse for the first time, a modest stream crossed by a farm track.
As the guide book explains, in the upper reaches there are few public footpaths running close to the river that can be easily linked together. The chosen way almost perversely dips in and out of the broad Ouse valley, but in doing so takes in some of the prettiest scenery to be seen in Sussex. There is no doubt that it is a well chosen route with good sign posting thanks to East and West Sussex County Councils and the Sussex Conservation Board.
Our midday picnic was taken over looking the lakes in Nyman's Woods. Our arrival sparked a flurry of activity in the local duck population on the lake some twenty feet below us. As we settled down to eat, the ducks suddenly arrived, having waddled up the steep bank. We guessed that we were not the first to choose this lovely spot for a picnic.
The weather was kind, avoiding the great heat of the previous days and refusing to rain. The first day ended at the great Balcombe Railway Viaduct, completed in 1842. The first glimpse from the path, is of the trains as they cross over, then a few arches and finally the whole magnificent 37 arch structure. A splendid end to the first day and to the start of the second day, all eleven million bricks of it.
From the viaduct, the route follows the river for the best part of half a mile before taking off into the woods, rising out of the valley and heading for Lindfield across the golf course for a coffee stop in the churchyard, with the bonus of organ music wafting out of the church.
From Lindfield the path took us south east towards Scaynes Hill before turning east, descending gradually to meet the river again at the Sloop Inn. We picnicked over looking the wide panoramic view of the valley. This day as we sat down to eat, the rain arrived. Umbrellas appeared and rain jackets hastily donned. After five minutes it was all over. The black cloud departed and the sun returned. As we packed up to leave, the steam train from the Bluebell Railway puffed into view.
Crossing from West to East Sussex and from West to East over the Meridian, the path reaches the river again at Sheffield Park Station. After crossing an over grown field we encountered a scout camp, except none of the boys were in uniform. However they were cooking three skinny looking rabbits on a spit over a smoking campfire. Very Swallows and Amazons. The second day ended in Newick with a very welcome drink at one of the local hostelries.
The weather on day three was not as expected. Rain over Kent seemed to have lost it's way and started to fall on Newick just as we set off. Barely sufficient to annoy the rain gave up but left the clouds and a cool north wind. As we were heading south, even the wind failed to spoil our walk. After half a mile of road walking we soon found ourselves back in the Ouse valley where we then stayed close to the river all the way to Barcombe.. On the way we passed Isfield Lock, now in the process of being restored. The valley is very broad and very flat. It is hard to believe that the modest and gentle River Ouse had any thing to do with its formation, rather it seems that first there was a valley and then the river chose to flow along it. Approaching the Anchor Inn we came amongst a herd of cows quietly grazing. On the river bank was the bull, also quietly grazing. Those of us at the front were waiting for the laggards when the bull began to move toward us. Prudent members of the group moved to the end of the field, the rest of us reckoned that the beast did not have enough go in him to chase us. Certainly he was showing more interest in the cows than us.
Lunch at Barcombe Mills was a quiet affair unattended by any excitement. Perhaps the general level of fitness within the group had gone up over the course of the walk, because, quite suddenly, we arrived in Lewes in the early afternoon. All the better to enjoy some afternoon tea.
The last day began at Cliffe Bridge. The way passes through the railway land and along the river, the noise of the traffic on the opposite bank is almost oppressive but once under the by-pass it soon settles to a gentle hum that quite disappears by the time the River Glynde joins the Ouse from the left and the sign reminds us that we should not walk faster than five and a half knots.
A detour away from the river through Rodmell provided a peaceful coffee break in the churchyard before returning to the river bank via Southease and a glimpse of the new bridge for the South Downs Way over the A26(T). Newhaven is not pretty but the industrial landscape is interesting as one approaches from the north. The route through the town is just noisy. Finally we reached the last mile, beginning after crossing over the railway on a footbridge that is so old Hornby Dublo, continuing beside Mill Creek and through the ruins of the Tide Mill emerging onto the seafront at Bishopstone where the Sussex Ouse Valley Way ends.
Nearly thirty walkers took part, over twenty completing the whole route. We enjoyed it immensely.
©Lewes Footpaths Group