Walk: three miles at Chelwood Vachery, Ashdown Forest

PUBLISHED: 08:34 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:05 24 September 2020

A pond at Chelwood Vachery. Photo: Deirdre Huston

A pond at Chelwood Vachery. Photo: Deirdre Huston

Deirdre huston

This short route through Ashdown Forest takes in sandy tracks, woodland springs and pools, with some surprises along the way

A heathland track, Ashdown Forest. Photo: Deirdre HustonA heathland track, Ashdown Forest. Photo: Deirdre Huston

Begin by ambling along sandy tracks to take in views over undulating heath, made unique by years of common land usage. Today, the Ashdown Forest is run by a Board of Conservators, who have helped to restore the Edwardian garden at Chelwood Vachery. The word ‘vachery’ may come from the French ‘vache’ for cow and could relate back to the 14th-century century practice of grazing cattle in the forest.

In 1905, new owner, banker and MP Sir Stuart Samuel built a large house and spectacular grounds on the site of Vachery Wood. The mansion and ornamental gardens remain in private ownership, but the surrounding woodland is owned by The Ashdown Forest Trust and includes a series of springs and pools, interspersed with rocks. Meander down a forest path and look for small waterfalls, decked with ferns. The four lakes and ponds were built just before 1910 and have been recently restored. Volunteers cleared invasive rhododendrons to open up views under the canopy of native and ornamental trees. The Folly Bridge was built in the early 1930s and there’s something wonderfully decadent about its lack of functionality.

Soak up the tranquility of the forest as you ramble through the woodland of Braberry Hatch. End your walk at Jubilee Green, where the Parish Council has created a woodland area with picnic tables, some woodland play equipment, Fairy Cottage (an undercover thatched seating area) and the Giant’s Chair, a storytelling circle.

Fairy Cottage, Jubilee Green. Photo: Deirdre HustonFairy Cottage, Jubilee Green. Photo: Deirdre Huston

Where to Refuel: a short drive will take you to The Red Lion at Chelwood Gate . This real ale pub is handy for walkers because it serves food all day. Choices include pub classics with a twist, gourmet nibbles and cream teas. Walkers are welcome, but bookings are essential. Covid-19 measures are in place.

- Location: Chelwood Gate, Ashdown Forest

- Where to park: roadside (Beaconsfield Road) in Chelwood Gate village, off the A275, near the village hall and small church.

Folly Bridge. Photo: Deirdre HustonFolly Bridge. Photo: Deirdre Huston

SAT NAV RH17 7LG

- Map: O.S.Explorer 135, Ashdown Forest

- Navigation: use map with directions, as forest paths are unsigned.

- Dog-friendly: yes, but observe conservators’ notices about grazing livestock.

The walk

1. Take the track to the left of the church. This wooded track passes beside Jubilee Green and continues down between trees. Stay on this sandy track as heath opens to the left.

2. Keep left to continue straight ahead by the bench where another track joins. The path climbs slightly.

Turn right at the fork by the pine trees.

3. After about 75 metres, go right at a second fork. Descend then climb back up to enjoy views over the heath. Descend again.

4. At the junction (by the rowan tree) turn right. The path climbs.

5. Cross a tarmac lane and continue straight ahead for a few steps on a mud/grass track.

6. Turn right along a stony track. The track becomes wooded.

7. At the signpost, turn right. Pass a garage and some houses. Continue along a walled path, circling around Chelwood Vachery House. Walk alongside a fence.

8. To see the springs, turn left at the ‘no horses’ green sign opposite a gate (NB: to stay on main track, continue, rejoining route at stone folly bridge). Take the right fork and, almost immediately, reach a pond. Amble down alongside a series of springs and ponds. Shortly after a brick well, cross a footpath and continue down.

9. After the second plank bridge, turn right along a mud track. This runs alongside a stream bed. Pass a noticeboard.

10. Turn left through a stone folly bridge. Cross the stream either by the ford (stepping stones) or across a new footbridge. Continue on along this wooded path. Climb a slight slope.

11. Turn right at a grassy glade where paths cross. See a small heath on your left. Continue straight ahead at the crossroads with the stony track. Stay on this sandy path.

12. Turn left at the T-junction and walk away from the footbridge. Go through another folly bridge and walk along a fenced track. Explore the wooded recreational area at Jubilee Green, or continue back through the park to your car.

More...The best Sussex walks - With the South Downs, quaint villages and coastal trails, Sussex is a great place for a walk. Here we round up some of the best

Join the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages

Latest from the Sussex Life