- Distance – 5 3/4 miles
- Duration – 2 hours.
- Exertion – Medium, a few climbs.
- Terrain – path and track. Can be wet underfoot.
- Dogs – Be aware of livestock and keep to the countryside code.
- Map – OS Explorer 135 Ashdown Forest
- Start – The Cat Inn
- Refreshments – The Cat Inn
Standing at the front door of The Cat with the church in front of you, turn right and right again. Follow the road through the village and when it turns to the left carry on straight to a track. Once out of the village and through the woods the fields open up in front of you and are often littered with deer. Continue going straight on a large country house comes into view in the valley.
This is Gravetye Manor which is a posh hotel. It was built in the late 16th century – for love. The original owners initials (R & K) can be seen carved in stone above the main entrance and their portraits are carved into wood above a fireplace. Its gardens were once the best in the country. But, like Sheffield Park, the residence was used as a military training ground for the Canadian army in WWII. They dug up most the gardens to grow potatoes to help boost their dwindling rations.
Join onto the drive of Gravetye Manor and take the footpath on your right. This takes back into thick woodland.
Pheasants, squirrels and rabbits are everywhere. Join onto a small road and turn right.
Aftwr a short distance you come parallel to the Bluebell railway. Go under the railway, past a small pretty gate and over a river. Climb up the hill and enter into another wood. This is an impressive area home to a number of large boulders looking down on the valley. The area, known as Stone Hill Rocks, is run and owned by the British Mountaineering Council. It seems to be a popular place to boulder with bolt belays on top of some of the rocks. The rocks themselves are amazing.
Join onto another road and turn right. Follow it down the hill, over a bridge and take the next left. This brings you to the Weir Wood Reservoir, a site of special scientific interest.
Join a footpath on your right and climb up the hill. Walk though another school – the Step by Step school for Autistic children. Continue on the footpath through another wood and to a farm. The railway slowly comes back into sight. Follow the farm’s entrance road to go under the railway for a second time. Turn left and head back to the village of West Hoathly.
When you arrive at the house, turn right up the footpath-quite a steep climb. Join the road at a junction. Go straight over and follow it around, returning back to The Cat.