There is always a walk for a mood - the rolling drama of the Sussex Downs are great for when you need to think, breathe and blow the cobwebs out. The Sussex coastline suits a hangover or a bad mood you need to shake off and the winding countryside walks of Sussex are great for when you’re feeling ready to discover what’s round each corner. This walk at Barcombe Mills has a mood all of its own - the serenity of the River Ouse, along with the wildlife you may spot if you have time to just sit and be along the way makes for a peaceful hour or two to be by water. To take a break from drama or just the daily hustle and bustle.
Depending on what time of year you visit Barcombe Mills, you may encounter varying degrees of busyness - in the warmer months there are often lots of kayakers and wild swimmers rocking up. In the colder months, it’s mostly deserted apart from the odd fisher person or dog walker. If its warm enough - it’s a perfect spot for a picnic or to spend some time whiling away some hours with a book. The sound of running water is never far away and there’s plenty of trees to add to the atmosphere.
Barcombe Mills is a nature reserve and also a small settlement, with a few picturesque cottages and a stately house. The mills have existed in Barcombe since around the 11th century and it remains an important water storage and treatment works site, including Barcombe reservoir which you’ll pass on your walk. Barcombe Mills was served by a railway station on the Lewes to Uckfield line until 1969 - the disused station is still visible from the road and the former railway line can be walked along.
There used to be a pub and button factory on the Barcombe Mills site but now just houses and stable blocks exist with the former pub, The Angler’s Rest, closing in the 90’s. The Anchor Inn is an existing pub in the area, which can be included in this walk (or can be driven to separately down a long, single track road by heading through the village) and here you can hire boats to row down the Ouse. In all honesty, the pub is a bit lacking on the food side (and often the service) but a pint in the vast garden doesn't go amiss.
The walk stats
Duration: anything between 45-2 hours (depending on how much you stop)
Terrain: easy and fairly flat but does get muddy/slippy in places
Parking: Barcombe Mills Rd, Barcombe, Lewes BN8 5BX
Public transport: the Compass Bus 122 from Lewes serves Barcombe three times a day on weekdays only. See timetable here. You can also get the 28/29 - timetable here, getting off at Barcombe Mills Road and walking along the narrow road to Barcombe Mills - walk with caution as people drive fast down the road and there are no pavements.
This is a flexible walk, you can do as much or as little as you like. I’ve given you the short version, the one I do to go early bird and wildlife spotting on an early morning with Monty. Stopping to watch and wait can take some time but if you want to keep moving you can do a longer version of the walk. I’ll give you an option as we go through the walk.
We’re starting at Barcombe Mills car park - Barcombe Mills Rd, Barcombe, Lewes BN8 5BX. Be aware thieves are fairly prevalent in this area (I found out the hard way) so take all valuables with you. Head to the left hand side of car park with the road behind you and take a right - just before you get to the bridge leading to the waterworks take another right through the gate and here you pick up the first bit of footpath.
You’ll pass a pillbox on the right and then the water will open up to an expanse on your left. I often spot a kingfisher in the early mornings here if I sit long enough on the bench and its quiet enough. You’re then taking the little bridge left and heading along the trodden route around 10’o’clock on the diagonal to the top left corner.
You’ll arrive at a gate and you’ll hear a pump. On your left is the river and the reservoir on your right - you won’t actually be able to see the reservoir but it’s obvious what the site is.
Continue along the right hand side of the river until the path takes you in no other direction than over a bridge. This is a very peaceful spot to pause for a little while.
Head on into the field (watch for geese here, especially if you have dogs with you!) and again, you’re following the obvious path to the right of the river. You’re heading to the buildings and a big concrete bridge which you cross.
You have two options here, for the shorter walk you can head on the 10’o’clock again to pass through the gate to the top right corner of the smaller house, here you turn left and you’re picking up the old railway line. For the longer walk take the path to the left of the new build, big white house and you can follow the path to the left of the river to the Anchor Inn, perhaps stop for a drink and to take in the area and then head left down the road until you come to the disused railway line crossing that you take a left on (the right doesn't lead anywhere and is often filled with wood).
Continue down the disused railway line (for clarity, it was getting too dark for pictures here so I took a shortcut), there’s quite a lot to see along here if you’re into your flora! Before you get to the road there’s steps running up to the left and right - take the left hand steps (unless you want to continue on to have a look at the old station) and head though to the houses. Take the road to the right after big metal farm structure and the gate then take the left into the main water works area (with Barcombe House on your left). Here you can head back to the car, not before you’ve had a good game of pooh sticks and taken in the complex maze of weirs and millstreams.
As always, I would love to hear if you do this walk - it keeps me motivated to keep posting if I know these posts are inspiring you to get out - do tag the blog in on Instagram if you share photos. Enjoy!
Formally Emma Gutteridge