This weekend, on Saturday, I had a chance to enjoy another hike with the Outdooraholics group. This time explored West Sussex, walking through some woods, a few gentle hills and passing under Ouse Valley Viaduct. It was a pleasant and relaxing experience on this beautiful summer day.
We started the hike at Balcombe village, around 50km south of London. There was a National Rail strike which affected many of the connections. Luckily, Balcombe lies on London to Brighton line, and while services were reduced, some trains were still running, and we could get to the start.
For the first hour, we walked through some pastures and farmland.
We had some obstacles on the way: a horse blocking the gate and a herd of cows observing us passing through their field (you can see the pack in the photo above, in the top right corner).
That’s the beauty of hiking through the UK countryside. Thanks to Public rights of way laws, many public footpaths are crossing private land. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be a bit intimidating experience.
But it’s not only farm animals. There was some wildlife too. At one place, we spotted a colony of ducks. There must have been at least a few hundred of them!
While researching topics for this story, I learned that the area where we hiked is called Weald. Its name is derived from the Old English weald, meaning “forest”, similar to the german word Wald.
As you may imagine, there were some woods along the way. While these aren’t huge or ancient forests, walking through them is always a pleasant experience.
Woods have their unique atmosphere. Shade protects from the heat of the summer sun, and there is an incredible amount of detail to observe.
I love spotting wild shrubs with old, twisted branches covered with moss and lichens. They always create a moody, dark atmosphere.
Also, sometimes the tree bark (especially from massive, old trees) offers interesting patterns to observe.
Ouse Valley Viaduct
After around 2 hours, we reached one of the hike’s highlights - The Ouse Valley Viaduct. It’s a 450m long, 29m high construction made of 11 million bricks imported from the Netherlands. The viaduct carries London-Brighton Railway Line.
The tracks are supported on 37 arches, offering a spectacular, hypnotic-like view when you look through them while passing under the viaduct.
At noon we stopped for a snack break at Ardingly Reservoir. It is filled with water pumped from the River Ouse when river flows are high and serves as a water reserve and a place for water-related activities.
The water level was shockingly low, a couple of meters below the marks on the concrete constructions. It shows how severe the drought in the UK is at the moment.
I recall reading just recently The Guardian article illustrating the stark effects of the drought in the UK.
Even if we get the rain, it will not get into our rivers and our aquifers because it will be used to rewet the very dry soil. Unless we get significant rain for a very long time we are going to have an extended drought well into next year and potentially a severe drought.
— Stuart Singleton-White, Angling Trust via The Guardian: “Drought in England could carry on into new year, experts warn”
It wasn’t everywhere, but there were some fields we passed that were looking really dried out.
Giant Redwood at Wakehurst Place
By the end of the hike, we’ve passed a giant redwood tree located somewhere near Wakehurst Place (I think). It belongs to the family of the largest trees in the world!
They are not common in Europe so seeing them from a close distance was impressive!
The path led us through the grounds of Wakehurst Place, passing The Millennium Seed Bank. Didn’t have a chance to visit, but it looks like an exciting place to see if you have time.
Following the trail led us back to starting place at Balcombe village. We had time to grab a refreshing pint at The Half Moon Inn and relax before leaving for a train back to London.
I enjoyed the hike. It was a great way to spend Saturday exploring the UK countryside, socializing with fellow hikers and doing some photography.
I hope you enjoyed this photo story. Feel free to let me know! Below I share couple more highlights from the hike. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!