(Refer to Ordanance Survey Map: OS Explorer 135 Ashdown Forest)
This is the first of 2 circular walks from Ardingly Reservoir that link together the 2 glorious garden gems of Wakehurst and Borde Hill Garden. The first of these walks, which is approximately 7 miles, follows the outline of the Ardingly Reservoir with Wakehurst as your half-way point and then heads through rolling green countryside to Ardingly Village and through Ardingly College back to your starting point.
The walk starts at the Car Park for the Ardingly Reservoir. From the car park, head up the steep bank to the edge of the reservoir. Facing the reservoir, head left along the path and through the gate and into a wooded area. Follow the path, noticing the path off to the left to a bird hide. Keep on the main path and follow it as it curves and bends around the outline of the reservoir. Eventually the path heads uphill through some trees. Pass through a wooden gate as you leave the reservoir behind and turn right following the road uphill.
After 200m, turn left into an unmade dirt parking area and go through a wooden gate on the far side. Follow the wide path, bearing left, ignoring the path straight ahead, and continue downhill towards the reservoir, which comes in to view on your left. The path bends right and you will pass a bird hide on your left. When the path forks, take the left-hand path across a stream and into a wood. Follow the path round, eventually crossing another stream and then emerging from the wood with views of the reservoir to the left. The path then bears right and follows the edge of the reservoir once again, passing through another wooded area, turning to cross another stream and then opening out with a field to your right. Go through a wooden gate and you will see a bridge crossing the reservoir to your left but ignore this and take the steps up to your right, passing through a metal gate and then heading up hill across a field.
Stop at the bench at the top to admire the views back across the reservoir. Continue on up the path uphill taking a small path off to the left heading into the trees. Follow the path straight through the wooded area, continuing on the track to Tillinghurst Farm and beyond, following the track almost to the main road. Just before you reach the road, pass through a wooden gate on your left and take the public right of way across fields, through a number of gates until you reach the car park for Wakehurst.
Spend some time exploring the stunning gardens at Wakehurst, as well as browsing in their extensive shop and refuelling at their cafes, which stock a wide range of lunch, morning and afternoon tea/coffee options. Once refreshed, leave Wakehurst via the main entrance and turn left following the verge along the side of the main road for a few hundred metres. Once you reach a row of cottages on the right hand-side, cross and taken the marked bridleway between the houses and follow the path through the trees down the hill. Once you reach the bottom and some small ponds, turn right to join the High Weald Landscape Trail.
Follow the path through the wooded area until the path emerges to join a gravel track. Turn right and follow the track for 35m and when you reach a fingerpost sign, take the path down to the left leaving the gravel track. Walk downhill with a field to your right and cross over a wooden bridge across a stream and head uphill. Eventually, you come out of the woods and should head across the fields uphill to the top and through a metal gate. Turn right onto the lane, with Ludwell House on your left, carrying on for a few hundred metres until you reach a dirt track on the left with a sign for ‘Pickeridge’.
Head down the track and when you reach a fork with a fingerpost sign, take the right-hand track, making your way passed Pickeridge Farmhouse on the right and following the track round to the left and into a field. Head downhill with 2 oak trees to your left, go over a stile with a metal gate, crossing another field and then crossing another stile with a metal gate. Keep the trees on your left and negotiate another stile before crossing a steam via a wooden footbridge. After a short distance, take a right turn up the hill at a wooden fingerpost and climb up the steep hill through the trees. Leave the woods and cross a field towards a house. At the wooden fingerpost, ignore the path to the left, heading straight up keeping the house on your left and going through a metal gate. Cross the stile at the top and keep heading uphill through a field, crossing another stile and through another field, ignoring a path through the grass to the left, before reaching the end of a lane, going through a metal gate and heading to the end where you reach the main road through Ardingly village.
Turn left and follow the pavement along the main road through Ardingly village towards Lindfield & Haywards Heath. Cross across the road passing the Village Hall on your right and an island junction signposted to Ardingly College and also the Ardingly Arms on your right. Carry on beside the main road a short distance looking carefully for a fingerpost on your right. Turn right to follow the sign and continue ahead as the lane narrows towards Stable Cottage. As you reach the last house in this lane the view opens up to the south and a fingerpost indicates that you should go left. A narrow grassy track leads to a stile into an open field and you must follow the hedgerow on the left hand side. Crossing a second stile walk across the middle of the next field and continue ahead to a metal gate. Cross the stile to the right and continue heading in the same direction across the middle of the next field. Waymark discs indicate that you are following the High Weald Landscape Trail. At the bottom of this field cross another stile beside a metal gate. After a further 50 metres you will reach a four-armed finger post. Turn right to cross the field towards the woodland. At the far side of the field enter the wood and follow the path through to a car park for Ardingly College with hockey and tennis courts on either side.
Use the pedestrian crossing to cross across the road and join the main drive into Ardingly College. Follow the public right of way, keeping to the pavements on the main drive with the cricket grounds on your right and the impressive main buildings to your left. Follow the drive around to your left, passing the Catering Department building on your left and the Estate Office on your right. The drive drops down the hill and at the bottom, take the footpath in front of a pond on the right and walk towards Great Saucelands. Just before the house, turn left and walk to the end turning left onto a footpath before you reach the gate of Little Saucelands. Follow the path through the wooded area, crossing a wooden boardwalk along the way before emerging and passing through a kissing gate with the Ardingly Reservoir Car Park on your left.
Point of Interest
The reservoir,which feeds the River Ouse, was created in 1978 by damming Shell Brook, a tributary that flows into the Ouse about 500m south of the reservoir. When full the reservoir holds 5,000 million gallons of water. The Ardingly Activity Centre, which has a small café, provides a range of watersports on the reservoir, including wind surfing, canoeing, powerboating and dinghy sailing.
The outstanding botanic gardens at Wakehurst are owned by the National Trust and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The late 16th-century Mansion, built by Sir Edward Culpeper, is a centre piece for the stunning surrounding gardens that were largely created by Gerald Loder (later Lord Wakehurst), who purchased the estate in 1903 and spent 33 years developing the gardens.Wakehurst is also home to the largest living Christmas tree in England, a giant redwood, which stands 35 m (115 ft) tall and is lit with around 1,800 lights. Visitors are able to enjoy over500 acres of gardens, whichinclude walled and water gardens, woodland and wetland conservation areas and also Kew’s modern and fascinating Millennium Seed Bank, where you can see scientists at work.
The Parish of Ardingly covers 50 square miles with a population of less than 2,000. Mesolithic flints found nearby suggest that this area was inhabited over 6,000 years ago. The correct pronunciation of the name is actually Arding LYE – the last syllable meaning a place where cattle are kept.As you walk along the High Street notice the house names that indicate that this was actually the original hamlet of ‘Hapstead’, which has now become the centre of the larger village of Ardingly.
The journalist and television presenter, Jon Snow, was born in Ardingly in 1947.
You can pick up supplies and refreshments at the Post Office on the High Street or refuel at the Ardingly Inn or pick up something to eat from the local Ardingly Bakery close by. A short walk from here is also St Peter’s Church whereyou can see an altar tomb and brass of Richard Wakehurst who died here in 1454. His daughter married Richard Culpeper and it was the Culpeper family who, in 1590, built the house at Wakehurst.
The independent co=educational school has a long academic history, originally founded as St Saviour’s School in Shoreham in 1858. In 1862, Canon Woodard, the founder, acquired the 196 acre Saucelands estate for £6,000, and the foundation stone at the current site was laid on 12 July 1864 by Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, with the new school officially opening on 14 June 1870.The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited the college in its centenary year in 1958 and former pupils include the satirist Ian Hislop and the first UK Formula 1 World Champion and 24 Le Mans winner, Mike Hawthorn.