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Life Experience

Countryside walks and rides avoiding mud

Path St Leonard's Forest

It’s the end of February 2021 and it’s been an exceptionally wet winter with an exceptional number of people desperate to get out in the countryside and enjoy some fresh air. Sadly the public footpaths are almost all now deep in mud. But there are a few exceptions!

Muddy path, January 2021


Three Mud-free Walks in Central Sussex

I’m giving details of three mud-free (hard surface) walks that I am aware of in mid Sussex together with maps. One of them is 35 miles long from the Sussex coast and into Surrey so you can choose a section to explore. 
If you would like to add details of more such footpaths in Sussex or other parts of the country please use the comment box to give details.

St Leonard’s Forest  south east of Horsham and mile or two to the west of the A23. Footpath and bridleway.

This walk starts at a small car park holding maybe 40 cars and begins with 1/2 mile gentle climb to point B on my sketch map. The path has a hard surface and is approximately 6 feet wide. At the top of the rise the path turns left and goes dead straight for a mile through quite dense woodland. The path remains wide and there is grassy space to each side before the trees begin. 

At point C there is an interesting seat carved  to display elements of a dragon. This walk does not give you great views but at least the surface won’t pull your boots off at the present time with all the mud about.

The path continues to the north-east but I have not explored this extension. 
A few weeks ago I was wearing wellington boots and I ventured onto the alternative route back and that was boggy in the extreme. I would not recommend it. To get onto this alternative route you double back  to the right at the dragon seat and simply follow the wide track heading roughly South. You will come out very close to point B. 

The Downs link former train track: footpath and bridleway 

This runs for over thirty miles from Shoreham-by-Sea, with the coastal link, north into Surrey. The route runs through pleasant countryside but nothing spectacular and at times you will find yourself walking in a gully with views of bushes or trees to either side and not much more. Nevertheless you are out in the fresh air and getting some exercise.

Henfield walking north and walking south

There is a small car park next to a pub at Henfield. At a guess  I would say it holds only about 8 cars but there are streets nearby where you can park.

The path south from Henfield
view towards south downs from south downs link path
View towards South Downs from Downslink path, south of Henfield.

Downslink paths north and south from the old West Grinstead railway station just by the A272 near Cowfold

The car park here holds maybe  two dozen cars. I think the route south from here towards Partridge Green is particularly pleasant.

Other sections of the Downs link path 
I haven’t walked any of the rest of this long track but I’m sure any section of it will afford decent walking, cycling and riding conditions with little or almost no mud.

Use the hand icon to move the map up and down the length of the Downslink. Click on the green square to see the aerial view.

Buchan Country Park

This is situated to the south west of Crawley and consists of 170 acres of mainly wooded countryside. To begin with, signs of careful management of the environment in the tracks that lead away from the car park take away a sense of being in the wild. However, you are soon in more natural woodland. This area is for walking only.

This wooded area is a continuation of St Leonard’s Forest to the south.

The official website states, “This is a Green Flag Award winning Country Park. Owned and managed by West Sussex County Council, it is a haven for quiet recreation and a variety of wildlife. The waters at Buchan are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the variety of dragonfly species. The park is an ideal place for walking, wildlife watching or enjoying a picnic. We have a permanent orienteering course, 2 way-marked trails and sculpture dotted around the park. The Rangers and the Friends of Buchan Country Park run a variety of events throughout the year. Lose yourself amongst the birch trees, wander around the heath and linger in the meadow.”

Many of the paths here  have a hard surface but there are tracks through  the woodlands which are left in their natural state.

Currently the park is  experiencing high numbers of visitors so you should not travel to Buchan Country Park from outside of the local area (in line with current government guidance, February 2021).

This is an extremely popular walking area so at weekends and weekday afternoons you may be disappointed, parking spaces may not always be available.

Opening hours
Monday to Sunday 8.00am – 6.00pm
The car park, and toilets (access currently limited to one in, one out), are open seven days a week, including Christmas day and bank holidays. There is no need to book a visit.

Ordnance Survey Map

The OS map that covers St Leonard’s Forest, Buchan Country Park and the Downslink disused railway track from West Grinstead to Cranleigh in Surrey is the Crawley and Horsham Explorer Map OL34 (previously 134). It’s available from Amazon. To find it quickly just click this link

Your experiences of mud-free walks

Where would you recommend? Please use the comment box to share your experiences.

David Roberts, 25 February 2021

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David Roberts

Writer, publisher, music promoter

Born in 1942, I now have time to enjoy life more widely and reflect on my experience, interests, and contemporary events.

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