Sunday, 12 June 2016

Cuckfield and Ansty

Cuckfield Church
I'm a little late with posting this but our latest walk was a family affair and designed to catch the height of bluebell season.  We had actually been elsewhere for the day and so this walk was to fill up the remaining time we had on what was a glorious day that demanded we made the most of it. On the face of it this walk didn't look too promising, with rather a lot of road walking in its relatively modest length of 5 and a quarter miles.  However, as we were in the area it did make a lot of sense to give it a go.
"Cathedral Close"

We started in the very agreeable village of Cuckfield.  The guide book describes its olde world charm and it is hard to disagree although these days it has the air of commuter village about it and I suspect that many of its residents jump on the train to head to the Capital each day.  If the railway company had had its way the village would have had its own railway station but perhaps thankfully the local landowner would have none of it and the line took a different route further east through Haywards Heath.  This decision ensured that Cuckfield would remain picture postcard pretty and crucially did not grow in the same way that its neighbour Haywards Heath has done.  That would surely have changed the village out of all recognition.
New Growth

We parked in the free car park and headed south along the High Street.  Although it was Sunday afternoon there were plenty of people about and the shops seemed to be doing quite well.  Although still quite early in the season the heat of the day suggested that summer wouldn't be too far away now.  From the High Street we headed through the gap into the nearby church yard.  It may only be a small village but the church is quite grand and the approach has more than a hint of cathedral close about it.  We crossed the surprisingly extensive churchyard and turned left on the path beyond.
Flush of Colour

What followed was a rather delightful walk with the new foliage of the trees positively gleaming in the warm sunshine.  It is a combination of colours that is such a winner with me - I cannot think of a better time of year to be out walking.  The bluebells we came to see were very much in evidence too although not in the carpets that we wanted quite yet.  The path headed due east along the southern boundary of Warden Park School; a gleaming looking building that was a lot more modern than I remember from a professional visit a few years back.  I guess its academy status helps on that front.

Copyhold Lane
The path was still a bit sticky, courtesy of the winter and early spring weather that we experienced.  Worse was to follow though as we crossed the A272 and headed along the path opposite we discovered that it was completely impassable and was nothing more than a swamp.  With our experience in Burwash fresh in our minds we had no desire to repeat that mudfest and cast around for an alternative route.  Luckily one presented itself although it wasn't especially palatable.  We headed back along the A272 and down Copyhold Lane, adding a short distance to the overall walk.  It proved to be a far more pleasant experience.

Copyhold Lane was to be our companion for quite a while.  Along its length were a number of rather splendid looking houses, although I suspect they have pretty hefty price tags to go along with their agreeable surroundings.  I did enjoy looking in the gardens though - the spring colours really brightening up the route considerably.

Anstye (spelled Ansty most places)
Eventually we ran out of lane as we got to the first of the bluebell woods.  Our path headed right and away from the track and around a large field towards the village of Ansty.  As we got to the end of the field we passed by some people acting rather strangely.  I rather suspected that they might be trying to trap animals judging from what they were doing.  They certainly didn't welcome any attention and so we hurried along on our way into the village of Ansty.  This small place is on the junction of two former coaching roads and I remember stopping here a good few years ago to use its rather agreeable pub (The Ansty Cross).  Sadly this is no more despite what the guide book says so if you need a drink by this point you will have to make do with the fuel station next door.

Ansty Cross
The next stretch of the walk it has to be said isn't very pleasant with more than a mile of road walking.  I cannot say it was even particularly memorable.  Looking at the surrounding map though suggests that there are few alternatives to making the loop back to Cuckfield without adding quite a lot of mileage.  What this section loses in charm though is more than made up on the last stretch heading back into the village of Cuckfield.  Just shy of a place called Winscot the path takes a right hand turn from the road and we breathed a sigh of relief at not having to dodge cars any more.  We were also treated to the sight of a buzzard overhead although it quickly retreated when mobbed by a couple of crows.
Wonderful Sky

We then headed through the woods and saw exactly what we had come for - a whole carpet of bluebells stretching out before us.  This stretch of the path was delightful and perhaps got even better as we flirted with adjacent fields enabling us to get some great views out over the South Downs as well as having the bluebells at our feet.  The path crossed the north end of Cuckfield Park, the local pile once owned by the squire that had refused permission to the railway.  Sadly the path doesn't allow for a great view of the park, but some of the old landscaped features are hinted at, including a balustraded bridge that we passed by.

View of Cuckfield Church
At the top of a small hill that we had to climb is perhaps the best view of Cuckfield; across the park to the church beyond and all neatly framed by a magnificent looking oak tree.  For my money this was the best scene on the entire walk and great that it was saved until almost the very end.  We were soon back in the busy High Street and walking under another memorable tree - an umbrella-like cedar tree that I remember liking as a child.

Umbrella Tree
This walk could only be described as pleasant - it isn't taxing and the views are memorable.  However, the section of road walking does spoil it and perhaps with a bit more research and some more time we could come up with a lengthier but better version.  If I do I shall be sure to let you know :)
The Old Vicarage

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