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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks in Sussex throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 6th June 2009
Balcombe - West Hoathly - Horsted Keynes - Balcombe Viaduct - Balcombe
18.5 miles

It was raining when we started out for the train station today (the bike is poorly again), and to make things even gloomier, our train was cancelled. Nevertheless, by the time we got to Balcombe Station at 10:00 the sun was trying to come out. It carried on trying all day in fact, but never quite got round to managing it. 
This time of year is all about breeding, and we came across whole families of: Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Moorhens, plus we saw fledglings of other species including: Blue Tits and Robins.
As we approached the viaduct, we were hoping there would be a Barn Owl about, as this would have made a great picture. There wasn't of course, but one came out of a small barn and started hunting soon afterwards.
Other notable sightings today were: Brown hare, Roe Deer, Painted Lady, a Common Shrew (dead) and some very obstinate bullocks in a field. These had already halted a group of rucksack-bearing teenage boys in their tracks and were succeeding in putting a stop to Gill's forward momentum too (scaredy cat). It was up to me therefore to show everyone how to move these bovine bully-boys along, without upsetting them, and without getting trampled.
This is a beautiful walk with only a small amount of uphill, that takes in many kinds of wildlife habitats. There is a lot of water on route too, with: ponds, streams, a reservoir and also a long line of fishing lakes just outside Horsted Keynes. You spend quite a bit of time crossing bridges of all sizes, including those over the Bluebell Railway, which you cross twice. Finally, you get to stroll along the River Ouse up to the spectacular Viaduct near Balcombe.

Bee hives near the reservoir - only a few of the hives seemed to be inhabited though

The bridge over the Eastern arm of Ardingly Reservoir. A lovely, quiet spot.

The ferns are starting to take over in some parts now

St. Margaret's church, West Hoathly

West Hoathly is home to The Priest's House - a 15th century timber-framed house
and also to Gravetye Manor (pictured).

We used parts of this long distance footpath today, as well as The High Weald Landscape Trail
and part of The Sussex Ouse Valley Way.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)- they were everywhere today, peeking out from amongst the ferns.

Purple Toothwort (
Lathraea clandestina) a parasitic plant that originates from Europe
but which has made a home here in Britain.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding one of its chicks

Balcombe Viaduct - Built in 1842, 1475 feet long, 96 feet high, 37 arches, 11 million bricks!

A Roe Deer bounding off into the distance