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Blackboys to Balls Green

We did this walk on 11th May 2008, walking between Blackboys and the small village of Balls Green.

Wealdway nr Blackboys
Wealdway nr Blackboys
Donkeys, Hempstead Farm Stud
(1) Wealdway nr Blackboys
(2) Wealdway nr Blackboys
(3) Donkeys, Hempstead Farm Stud

From the parking spot in Blackboys it was just a short walk back along the B2102 to rejoin the route of the Wealdway. This headed down a track, over a large wooden stile, alongside a field and then downhill through the edge of Tickerage Wood. Reaching a track the route bears to the left, joining the route of the Vanguard Way for a few yards before the Wealdway takes a path off to the left. Here the path runs along field edges besides a line of ponds, photo 1. It was a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky and it was very pleasant walking through the fresh green countryside, photo 2, as the route made its way over fields along the bottom of a shallow valley to join a minor road by Great Streele. Here the Wealdway turns left along the road, climbing gently uphill before taking another footpath that runs off to the right. This heads over a couple of more fields, drops down to cross the single line railway to Uckfield, and then passes round the grounds of the Hempstead Farm Stud, photo 3. Whilst walking through a field here we also encountered a very lively Shetland Pony.

St Margaret the Queen Church, Buxted
Ice cream break
Fields nr Hendall Manor Farm
(4) St Margaret the Queen Church, Buxted
(5) Ice cream break!
(6) Fields nr Hendall Manor Farm

From the Stud the route heads over a field and along a path that was slightly overgrown with nettles to briefly join a road a take a bridge over the River Uck on the outskirts of Uckfield before turning to the right and taking a path that initially runs between houses parallel with the river. At one point in a sports ground besides the path a group of the musicians were practicing their instruments behind the hedge which provided an unusual accompaniment to the walk as we went past. A little further on we met a man with a large group of Labradors which provided good company for Zuka to have a splash about in the stream with. The path turns left, then right and heads up to join a surfaced track through the grounds of Buxted Park, passing the Buxted Park Hotel and the church of St Margaret the Queen. Leaving the park grounds the Wealdway turns to the left along the A272 before taking a driveway off to the right that runs past Oast Farm which had a small farm shop and cafe where we stopped for a short break, photo 5. From Oast Farm the route continued ahead, across a number of paddocks up to the A26 at Five Ash Green. Crossing the A26, the path goes through a gap in the hedge and takes a track that runs ahead for a short distance parallel to the road. Here we lost Sally for a few minutes as she missed the gap in the hedge which we all took, effectively disappearing from view. The path then turns to the left and crosses a field over to Hendall Wood before heading up over fields, photo 6, towards Hendall Manor Farm.

 Furnace Wood
Approaching Ashdown Forest
Looking towards the South Downs
(7) Furnace Wood
(8) Approaching Ashdown Forest
(9) Looking towards the South Downs

Having passed round Hendall Manor Farm the Wealdway heads through Furnace Woods where we stopped for lunch under the shade of the trees. Leaving Furnace Wood the path heads over a meadow, photo 7, and makes it way to join a road near the village of Fairwarp. The road is followed to the entrance to Oldlands Hall where the route turns left and starts heading uphill through access land on the outskirts of Ashdown Forest, photo 8. As the path gradually ascended it became possible to see over to the South Downs which could be seen through the haze on the horizon, photo 9, which gave some indication of how much progress we had already made along the Wealdway from the start point.

B2026 Signpost
Camp Hill Clump Trig Point
(10) B2026 Signpost
(11) Camp Hill Clump Trig Point
(12) Caterpillar

Approaching the top of the hill the Wealdway heads past Crest Farm and crosses over the B2026, photo 10, before heading through a gate and heading over the open heathland of Ashdown Forest towards the trig point, photo 11, at Camp Hill Clump, a group of trees on top of a small hill, which is also where the group photo at the foot of the page was taken. Besides the clump there was also a very small metal plaque on a post commemorating the opening of the Wealdway by the Countryside Commission on 27-9-1981. Originally a deer hunting forest in Norman times, Ashdown Forest is now the largest free public access space in the South East, enjoying spectacular views over the Sussex countryside. The Forest is at the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has national and international protection because of its wildlife. Nearly two thirds of its 6500 acres (2500 hectares) are heathland, amounting to 2.5% of the UK's extent of this rare habitat. On a path by the clump I spotted the caterpillar in photo 12 although I have not been able to identify it yet.

Ashdown Forest
View over the Weald
500 Acre Wood
(13) Ashdown Forest
(14) View over the Weald
(15) 500 Acre Wood

For the next couple of miles from the Camp Hill Clump, the Wealdway heads across the open heathland of the forest, photo 13. The route crosses back over the B2026 and continues heading in a generally northern direction over the heathland past the Greenwood Gate Clump, which at 220m is the highest spot on the Wealdway. Good views opened up over the Weald to the north, photo 14, before we started descending gently through the proper forest of the 500 Acre Wood, photo 15. Ashdown Forest is closely associated with the Winnie the Pooh stories by AA Milne and the 500 Acre Wood becomes the 100 Acre Wood in the stories.

Fields nr Withyham
Black Pigs
River Medway, nr Withyham
(16) Fields nr Withyham
(17) Black Pigs
(18) River Medway, nr Withyham

Reaching the edge of the woodland the path turns to the right, running just inside the trees to join a tarmac track. Here the path headed uphill for a short distance before turning left to head towards Fishers Gate. The path briefly leaves the road to head round the edge of a field before rejoining the minor road for a longish stretch of walking along the tarmac towards the B2110 at Withyham. From the road there were still good views across the surrounding countryside. On the way we passed a number of fine houses and a small enclosure with a number of black pigs, photo 17. Just before reaching the road there was a large pond nestled amongst the trees. Crossing over the road the Wealdway heads down over fields besides the River Medway, photo 18.

Crossing the Medway
Oast House
End of the walk
(19) Crossing the Medway
(20) Oast House
(21) End of the walk

Heading across on meadows on what must once have been the floodplain of the river the route crosses over the path of the Forest Way, a disused railway line which is now a walking and cycling path and takes a small wooden bridge, photo 19, over the river. The path then turns to the East, rising slightly above the banks of the river to take a footpath that runs past the buildings of Summerford Farm, photo 20, down to a road. Here we left the Wealdway for the day for the short walk down the road to where we had parked the cars, photo 21.

Reaching the cars we had walked 14.3 miles and have now completed more than half the total distance of the path. After the walk we drove back to collect the other cars at Blackboys and had a quick meal at the Blackboys Inn. I had really enjoyed walking this stretch of Wealdway. The weather and company had both been excellent and the heathland of Ashdown Forest, an area I had not walked in before, was a particular highlight and a place I will have to visit again in the future.

Group photo
Group Photo

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