|Looking Over the Reservoir|
Back from France and an INSET day came up before youngest daughter and I had to return to school and work respectively. How lucky we were then that the weather was absolutely top notch for the day. In fact it had an end of term feel to it as the weather forecast for the remaining part of the week was absolutely dire. We decided upon walk number 10 from Pathfinder Guide vol 66 West Sussex and the South Downs (It is also walk no.7 in volume 52 More Sussex Walks) as we thought we would see some nice autumn colours before they all disappear.
We packed a picnic but ended up having this in the car before we set off so that we didn't have to worry about finding a dry spot. The car park at Ardingly Reservoir is immediately below the dam and the water company that owns it seem to have finally abandoned charging. I cannot say that I am overly surprised for the post barrier that enabled entry and exit was always failing. It's good to know though - I might be encouraged to come more regularly now!
We walked up the right hand side of the dam and through the woodland alongside the reservoir for a short way before turning our backs on the reservoir and heading up the slopes into Ardingly village. As we wandered up the hill it was clear that autumn was starting to lose its influence to winter. The berries on the hedgerows were starting to shrivel up and every breath of wind brought down a flurry of leaves.
Despite the blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures the one thing that we encountered that confirmed the change of season was the mud, which we encountered almost from the off. It also meant that when we got to Ardingly church we had sufficiently muddy boots that we didn't feel too comfortable going inside. We had a little look around the churchyard and admired the red berries now formed on the ubiquitous yew tree. The church is located in a small cluster of tile hung houses away from the newer village centre. All was very peaceful as we wandered through and headed out alongside the showground nearby.
The South of England Show is still a very big event in Sussex and the showground dominates the Ardingly village. Over 80,000 visitors come every year in June to see the agricultural show, which surprisingly has only been going since 1967. Other events are held throughout the year and as we approached there were large numbers of horse boxes around, suggesting that we may have just missed an equestrian type event.
Our path continued along through some trees away from the showground and then down a farm track to Tillinghurst Farm. There wasn't much action at the farm but the pond outside seemed to be quite a haven for ducks and there were plenty swimming around in the sunshine much to the delight of my daughter. The farm track finished here and we had to continue down the side of a field. To our right the woodland that we walked alongside is actually part of the Wakehurst Place estate. As we reached the bottom of the hill we passed the cabin that is the focus of the Loder Valley Nature Reserve. Any idea that we could access the estate here though were soon scotched by the fact that the entrance gate seems to be very well secured. Seems rather strange, considering you would have to go to some considerable effort to reach the estate from this direction.
The path descended a bit more via a really muddy bit until we reached one of the arms of Ardingly Reservoir again. This steep sided valley must have looked so different before it was flooded in 1978. Now the lake looks quite natural and shimmered in the autumn sunlight. The reflections of the yellow and brown trees in the water were quite beautiful and after we had crossed the footbridge I think we were both agreed that we would have wanted to walk alongside the water rather than climbing up through the trees. It proved to be a rather steeper climb than we expected.
When we got to the top we faced a section of road walking, which wasn't so pleasant especially when we had to stand aside to let cars pass. Fortunately this wasn't too long and when we got to West Hill we took the path opposite the farm buildings to head down to the reservoir edge once again. This was a very squelchy walk down through some spent farm equipment at the top of the hill to what can only be described as a bog at the bottom. I suspect that in the depths of winter this path would be nigh on impossible unless there has been a heavy frost. We climbed over the stile and reunited with the reservoir by an interpretive board that has been rather creatively defaced to show a warrior helmet scratched into the dirt that has built up on the surface.
The last section of our walk was now exclusively along the reservoir edge. We were strangely detached from the water though, with the path mostly hidden behind small trees and bushes preventing open views. There were lots of birds on the reservoir but strangely they mostly seemed to be seagulls rather than ducks or geese. Maybe the seagull mafia protect against such riff-raff?
We soon came back to the road we had left earlier as it crosses an arm of the reservoir via a large causeway. It was only here that we started meeting other walkers as they headed out as far as here along the footpath from the car park. We also passed some runners that looked as if they came from nearby Ardingly College. I wasn't sure that this was a regular PE session though - we only saw three runners and the expected mass behind them didn't materialise much to my relief. Before getting back to the car park we stopped by at the bird hide that has been built near to the dam. This didn't detain us long as there were no birds to see!
This is a short walk ideally suited to an autumn expedition. At only five miles long don't expect a big workout but for daughter and I it was just about perfect for our day together. After finishing we headed off to Nyman's Gardens nearby for a well deserved cuppa - there is also a tea house in Ardingly village that would be worth a look too.