In Easter school holidays I embarked upon the High Weald Way which is more officially called the High Weald Way Landscape Trail. It’s a 100-odd mile long-distance path that stretches from Horsham to Rye linking the area’s ridge-top villages through the High Weald of West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent. I was with Jack (5) and Daisy (8) (12-year-old Molly was busying herself elsewhere as long-winded slogs like this aren’t quite her cup of tea). Jack and Daisy rode their Islabikes and, as I can’t fit my bike and trailer on the train, I trotted along pushing/pulling an old pram loaded with kit/food/children’s clobber.

Gary seeing us off on the train to Horsham.

Waiting an hour at Dorking Deepdene due to the excitement of a fire on our train. 

By the time we reached Horsham hours had passed and seasons had changed. Leaving home it had been sunny and warm. Horsham, in contrast, was very cold and very wet. We donned balaclavas and full waterproof regalia and headed off through the muddy wooded tracks and quagmires of St Leonard’s Forest (apparently St Leonard once slew a local dragon here). The sun did eventually show its face, though not until the next day. In fact we had rather peculiar weather as the first week was particularly cold with nights down to below freezing. The second week was a heatwave and involved buying shorts in charity shops, slapping on the sun cream and sweating up hills wondering how the heck we ever wore mittens and multiple layers a mere few hours before. But such are the joys and vagaries of the British weather.

Wet mud. St Leonard’s Forest.

Slippery mud.

Sunny mud. Near Ardingly Reservoir

Large puddly mud.

Wonked bridge.

Over 12 days we walked/ cycled/pram-pushed/staggered/dragged/clambered (some off-road gradients were nigh-on vertical and spectacularly slippery) 127 miles averaging about 10-11 miles a day. One of  the trickiest parts was negotiating the scores of styles and kissing gates that we came across. This involved not kissing anyone (apart from my own offspring), removing a total of eleven hefty bags of kit off the pram and carrying them (and the bikes and pram) back and forth, back and forth over said obstacles, while often being chased by frisky cows and bullocks at the same time. The whole operation to move a mere handful of feet would take not much short of half an hour. And so the days passed.

Negotiating style with pram on head.

Jack on depth-testing duties.

Near miss!

Not a position I can keep up for long due to arduous gradient.

Jack giving a helping push up testing terrain.

Our route took us from Horsham to Rye via Cuckfield, East Grinstead, Groombridge, Tunbridge Wells, Cranbrook, Rolvenden and Wittersham. We slept on floors in houses or in cramped pubs where we shared the toilets and showers with chefs and in-house dogs called things like Juno and Dulux. The scenery was a delight in so many places: wooded tracks bordered by carpets of wild flowers (bluebells, daffodils, stitchwort, anemones, wild garlic), sweeping views of hills and valleys and Downs. Accompanying us on our way were birds like red kite and lapwings and larks. I think it must be impossible to hear the song of a lark and not feel happy. The only unpleasant thing was rare encounters with motor traffic. For hours we would travel in beautiful quiet countryside with just the accompaniment of bird song. Then, shock to the system, we would encounter a swathe of noisy dangerous road and have to run the gauntlet to cross the tarmac before being hit by the torpedo speeds and menace of modern vehicles.

Field crossing.

More field crossings.

Easy cycling.

Not so easy cycling.

Come-a-cropper cycling.

Sights at the side of the road: attractive pub (Kent)…

Unattractive dumped fridges and freezers.

Ingenious use of a bike tyre on farm gate.

Wooded picnic spot.


Experiencing proper trains. The Bluebell Line.

Jack and Daisy after emerging from beautiful 120-year-old carriages made of American oak.

Eridge station and the Spa Valley Railway: modern and not so modern. We prefer the not-so-modern (lovely slam-door trains with big caged guards’ vans).

Close up encounter of the Kent and East Sussex Railway just before we crossed the tracks at Wittersham.

Short grass cycling. Following the River Rother in the Rother Levels.

Long grass cycling. River Rother.

Daisy in perfect cycling weather action.

Me beside Jack’s ‘spear’ he dragged out of the River Rother.

Arrival Rye Harbour.

Arrival the sea! Rye Bay.