A walk of mysteries
Tiny flint tools, thousand of years old, a 150 year old railway which has never carried a train, a skeleton of our very earliest ancestor – the “missing link” between man and ape – dated to the twentieth century. This walk around Uckfield and Fletching takes in many mysteries.
LENGTH – 4.5 miles
TIME – 3 hours
START – West Park Nature Reserve, Princes Close, Batchelor Way, Uckfield, TN22 2BT (NGR 463 211)
PARKING – Street parking in Princes Close, Ellis Way and Batchelor Way.
TOILETS – No public toilets available.
REFRESHMENTS – Pubs at Shortbridge, Piltdown and Uckfield (1 mile off route). Restaurants and cafes at Uckfield (1 mile off route).
CAUTION – This walk includes a couple of crossings of the A22. Beware of golf balls on the Piltdown Course.
OTHER INFO – Optional walk around lake wood
This walk contains stiles.
Step by Step Guides
Starting off at Lakewood (1), walk 110m down Rocks Road and over the A22. On the right, you will be able to see a stile where you should turn onto the path. In 90m, turn left onto another path.
Keep on the path and you will find Flint tools (2). There will then be some steps and a bridge, followed by another bridge and some steps and finally a gate. Continue on the path for 200m where you will turn left onto a track, leading you onto Fairhazel Gardens.
In 220m, there will be a stile, followed by a gate. Walking another 100m, you will see Roman Roads (3). Towards the end of the track there is a bridge. When you reach the end of the track, in front you, across Golf Club Lane, there will be another track marked by a waymark.
Follow the track for 100m, and just as you are near Shortbridge Road, turn onto the track on your right for 150m and then turn left and continue for 260m where you will turn left onto a path.
At the end of the path, you will cross Shortbridge Road and slightly to the right is a path marked with a waymark. Walking 80m over the bridge you will follow the path all the way down until you get to Sharpsbridge Lane, where you’ll also see Roman Roads (4) and a bridge.
Cross Sharpsbridge Lane and head to the lane opposite and slightly to the left. Walk 250m and continue on the track to the right. In 230m, turn left onto the path where there will be some steps. Continue for 500m and turn left, where you will see a waymark and a bridge.
Walking for 230m, you will find Missing Village of Barkham (5). Continue on th path for 870m where you will then be on Sharpsbridge Lane again. Turn right and follow the lane for 150m where you’ll find Ouse Navigation (6). Continue for 130m through the centre of Sharpsbridge and at the stile and the waymark, next to Sharpsbridge Farm, turn left onto the path.
Continue on the path and in 130m, step over the stile. Similarly distanced is another stile and just ahead you will find Sharpsbridge Papermill (7). You will then see some steps, followed by a bridge over the river and some steps on the other side.
In 300m, you will see Ouse Navigation Junction (8) followed by another bridge and then a stile. In 90m, at the waymark, turn right onto the track. In 250m, open the gate and continue for another 300m. Keep to the track on the right and you will see Roman Road (9). In 110m, keep to the track ahead and there will be two stiles. In 80, you will be on Buckham Lane.
Cross the lane to the track ahead marked by a waymark, step over the stile and the other stile in 200m. There is another stile in 150m. In 100m, turn left onto the path and follow for 300m. Step over the stile, turn right and you will see Half a Bridge (10). In 40m, turn right again, where there will be another stile.
Continue on the path for 400m where you’ll cross over and bridge, closely followed by a stile. In 160m there is another stile followed by a final stile at the end of the path. You will now be on the A22. Turn left and cross the road with caution, continuing up towards Copwood Roundabout.
Cross Bell Farm Road to the right and walk 40m up from the roundabout where there is a track. Follow the track for 450m and then veer right around the woodland. Continue until you come to a path and follow it ahead towards Rocks Road. Cross Rocks Road and you will find yourself back at Lakewood (1).
Points of Interest
Rock Tunnel. On taking over Rock House in 1789, the Streatfeild family began to landscape their new estate. At Lake Wood, a three acre pond was created surrounded by massive sandstone outcrops and planted with many exotic specimen trees and shrubs. To complete a walk around the lake, tunnels were driven through the rocks and they remain in use to this day. The land is now owned by the Woodland Trust and is open to the public and can be viewed as a slight diversion from this walk.
Tiny Flint Tools. The Mesolithic period 10,000 to 5,000 BC saw the Sussex climate warming after the last Ice Age and small groups of hunter-gatherers moving around the area. The settlement pattern saw an extended family or clan living in each main river catchment, with a main base just below the Downs and summer hunting camps spread along the tributaries of the river. The “Ouse Group” had one such shelter under the rock outcrops alongside the stream in Butcher’s Wood, where they camped and waited for game to come down to the stream to drink. Sone of their tiny, beautifully knapped flint tools can occasionally be picked up on the site.
Piltdown Man. In 1913 Charles Dawson discovered bones and flint tools in a gravel pit in Piltdown, near Sharpsbridge Road. On further study they were proclaimed to be of great age. British science was triumphant and crowds flocked to see the “missing link” in evolutionary terms between apes and man. However, further investigation in 1953 revealed that they were composed of a modern ape’s jaw and a prehistoric man’s skull, stained to look older than they were. The whole affair was a hoax, probably perpetrated by Dawson (who was dead by then) on the British Archaeological Establishment but why he did this will never be known.
Missing village of Barkham. Today a private drive serves the single house of Barkham Manor. However, at the time of the Norman conquest this area was occupied by a village of about 45 people in 10 families living on a spur above another tributary of the Ouse, providing drinking water and transport. It appears from the records (or lack of them) that the village disappeared fairly quickly after this time with the inhabitants moving on elsewhere.
Ouse Navigation. A navigation is a form of cheap canal where an existing river is improved by cutting off meanders and installing weirs and locks to manage water flow to produce a viable transport route. An engineer of national repute, William Jessop, was asked by local landowners to survey the river in 1787, with a view to providing a navigable route as far as Slaugham. Three years later the Upper Ouse Navigation Act was passed and work began. Progress was painfully slow and costs quickly exceeded initial estimates. In 1812, when work finally ground to a halt, the river was navigable for 22 miles and 19 locks to Balcombe, a construction rate of 1 mile and 1 lock per year.
Sharpsbridge Paper Mill. In a bid to exploit the transport route of the Ouse Navigation and the timber resources of the Weald, paper mills grew up alongside the River Ouse. In 1813, James Pimm constructed a mill and wharf on a 7 acre site at Sharpsbridge, powered by a steam engine. 8 cottage were provided for the workforce. It was not a huge success and was offered for sale in 1853 without any takers and was demolished shortly afterwards.
Navigation trade consisted of the carriage of lime, chalk and manure for soil improvement, timber and coal. There were only 21 barges working on the system which was never a huge success. The small ditch to the west of the footpath is the decayed route of a branch of the Ouse Navigation to Shortbridge where there was a wharf to serve Uckfield. However, in keeping with the rest of the undertaking, management became lax, essential structures were not maintained properly and tolls were not collected effectively. The arrival of the faster railways in Sussex from 1840 onwards marked the end of the Navigation and it shut in 1868 since when it has deteriorated to the state seen today.
Roman road. Coming up the slope towards Buckham Hill, a slight kink in the hedgeline alongside the path marks the crossing point of the London to Barcombe Mills Roman road. This route was built early in the second century to link the grainfields of the South Downs and the ironworks of the Weald to Londinium. The southern end of the road, for long unknown, was at a Roman town and port on the Ouse at Barcombe Mills, which has only recently been discovered. Slag 15 inches (0.4 metres) thick from the ironworks was recycled as the top surface of the 15 feet (4.5 metres) wide road where it rusted into a solid layer over time.
Half a bridge. In 1864 a new railway was to be built from the main Brighton to London line, down the Ouse valley, to provide a new, fast route to Eastbourne and Hastings. Works had already started when the money ran out in 1866. An immediate halt was made to the works, leaving isolated lengths of embankments and cuttings and half-finished structures, such as this bridge, along the route which has the abutments and an embankment on the west side but nothing on the east and no arch. Work was never restarted leaving a ghost railway which never actually carried a train.
Whilst we have taken reasonable endeavours to ensure the information is up to date and correct, you will be using the information strictly at your own risk. If you come across any inaccuracies whilst you are on your walk, please contact Wealden District Council’s Community and Regeneration team.
The self-guided walk descriptions are provided to help you navigate your way, however we recommend that you plan your route prior to walking the route and that you carry an Ordnance Survey map of the area being walked and follow your position on the map as you proceed.
Please note, we cannot be responsible for the conditions of the footpaths and land and you are responsible for your own safety.