When I lived in Brighton it was so easy to just stay in town, maybe venture to the beach or Stanmer Park, but since living in the Sussex countryside I realised the surrounding area is just incredible and well worth leaving the city for. Sussex continues to astound me every single day and with each walk I feel like I'm feeling more and more affinity with it. There are obvious spots (and for good reason) like Seven Sisters, Ditching Beacon and Devil's Dyke but what about the less obvious spots that you may have heard talked about in passing but never thought of going to? Well, I'm armed with a new, more compact camera (a Fuji XT1 for those curious!) than my workhorse Canon and I'm hopefully going to inspire you to get out of the city for the odd day - to detoxify by breathing in the air, see some wildlife and forget about your to do list in the city, if just for a few hours.
My first post is about an ancient area of open heathland that occupies the highest ridge top of the High Weald area of outstanding beauty - Ashdown Forest. And more specifically the airstrip section of the area. It's approximately 30 miles south of London and approximately 20 miles from Brighton.
Ashdown Forest itself is perhaps best known as it's setting for Winnie the Pooh (AA Milne lived on the edge of the Forest with his son, Christopher Robin, with whom he walked there with) but it's also a rich archaeological heritage area with the first human activity dating back 50,000 years ago.
From Brighton take the A275 (left at the prison) to Newick, heading straight on at the Chailey crossroads continuing on the A275. This is an amazing stretch of road - passing the Bluebell Railway, Sheffield Park (more on this very soon!), then through the pretty village of Danehill, passing a few excellent farm shopsand then entering Ashdown Forest into Wych Cross. Observe speed limits and slow your car down incase any deer shoot out at you because believe me they might! You have two parking options - the first just at the end of the A275 by the reservoir or turn right on the A22 and pull in to the first car park (my preference) on the right just past the Llama park.
As soon as you get out the car it's obvious where the air strip is - it's a wide sandy track that disappears in to the descending horizon. As you start walking down the track you start to unlock the beautiful views from Ashdown Forest - the different colours of the trees, the wispy heathland, the spindly trees that rise out of nowhere and, if you're not too loud, the deer that frequent the area. You're also likely to pass horses (and riders) and friendly dog walkers that bid you a good day. Ashdown Forest is a perfect spot for a picnic, there are lots of clearings and grassy areas to sit and take half an hour.
Towards the end of the air strip you have options as to which way to go - if you delve a little deeper into the trees you'll find a series of large ponds with a network of mini waterfalls and bridges crossing over them. Kids will find rope swings that will entertain them for hours and if you sit still for a while you might spot the odd water bird.
Veer right and head back up in a loop and you'll have walked about 4 miles when you get back to the car that translates to a few hours of walking curiously (stopping to look at things). If you parked opposite the Llama park and come to the reservoir (as we did!), you may have become a bit disorientated as it feels like you're walking parallel to the way you came but in fact you walked a big V - head back down a bit further to find your car on the left.
If you're walking a dog (as I was), please, be responsible and pick up your dogs poo. It's not fair on the people walking on the park, the people maintaining it (usually volunteers) and the wildlife that live there to have to put up with your dog poo. Unfortunately there aren't any dog mess bins so double up on bags to transport to the nearest bin en route home.
There's some more information on the Airstrip here. Please come back and let me know what you thought in the comments!
Formally Emma Gutteridge