Saturday 15 March
12 miles. Moderate pace; not suitable for slow walkers.
Have you ever worried that you can’t see the wood for the trees? This circular walk solves the problem. Ashdown Forest is the wildest area of South East England. It is not a forest in the commonly-understood sense. There are wooded bits but it is mainly open heathland with tremendous views of surrounding woodland in The Weald, north to the Greensand Ridge and south to the South Downs. So it’s mostly sandy soil which in theory means it drain well. However given how much rain we’ve had, you’re recommended to wear wellies, walking boots or trainers that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy.
Ashdown Forest is away-from-it-all and difficult to reach by train which is why we rarely organise walks there. This walk takes a new approach, using the fast and frequent train service to Tunbridge Wells and then a short hop on a connecting bus to the back gate of Ashdown Forest.
In the morning we follow the Vanguard Way. Disconcertingly we drop down before climbing steeply up onto the central plateau. Kings Standing Clump is one of many clumps of trees that were planted as ornamental features; needless to say they were planted on vantage points so there are extensive views. We continue above Old Lodge Nature Reserve and past Gills Lap Clump, immortalised as Galleons Leap in the Winnie-the-Pooh books (A A Milne lived nearby). We then drop down to Newbridge before climbing up again to the often-overlooked northern ridge. We follow this to the visitor centre (loos) and then cross a valley skirting the llama park to the old Second World War airstrip. Keeping to the high ground above Chelwood Vachery we make our way back over undulating ground past Millbrook Clump, Nutley Windmill and Friends Clump to Camp Hill trig point and Crows Nest Clump before descending above Barnsgate Manor vineyard to the bus stop.
Bring a packed lunch for a picnic; we will not be passing any pubs or tea shops though there is a pub at the end if we have to wait for the bus and the possibility of tea or a drink in Tunbridge Wells before getting the train back to London.
Look out for other Cloggies about 8.45am at Charing Cross Station near the National Railways ticket office. Take the 9am train from Charing Cross to Tunbridge Wells. This train calls at Waterloo East and London Bridge. Note that I will meet you on the platform when it arrives at Tunbridge Wells at 9.57am. (If you miss this, there's another train from Charing X at 9.15am but you'll only have a few minutes to reach the bus stop opposite Platform 2 exit at Tunbridge Wells). We take the 10.15am bus to Crowborough Crow & Gate. We will be walking by about 10.45am.
Return train fare about £18 (about £12 with a Network Card or £9 with Groupsave 4). Return bus fare probably about £5. Buses back to Tunbridge Wells run at 05 and 35 minutes past each hour and trains from Tunbridge Wells back to London run every 15 minutes. Bob