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Hamsey and Barcombe Mills

Peaceful hamlets, mill pools, Roman sites, a pub that offers boat hire and a fair-weather extension to see a steam railway.

 

Minimum time 3h00

Distance 12 miles (19.3km)

Difficulty Medium

Suggested map  OS Explorer 122 South Downs Way: Steyning to Newhaven

Start/finish  Barcombe village centre; roadside parking; grid ref: TQ 418157

Trails/tracks  back lanes, hard stony track; optional extension along a track and through fields that get muddy after rain

Landscape  farmland and river, with distant views of the South Downs

Public toilets  none; when open, Barcombe Mills station has toilets

Tourist information  Lewes tel: 01273 483448

Bike hire  Lifecycle, The Tile House, Preston Park, Preston Road, Brighton tel: 01273 542425 (www.lifecyclebrighton.com)

Recommended pub  The Anchor Inn, Barcombe

Notes One short climb after Barcombe Mills, otherwise more gentle ups and downs. Take care on blind bends

 
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Getting to the start

Barcombe is signposted from the A26 and A275, 4.3 miles (7km) north of Lewes.

1 With the Royal Oak pub on your right go along the main street in Barcombe and turn left in front of the village sign for The Anchor Inn and Newick. At the bottom of the hill turn right on Boast Lane, signposted Anchor Inn. After passing Delves Farm, and just before a house on the right, look for a track signposted 'bridleway' on the left, into a triangular field. At the next triangular area, look to your left for a gate with a yellow arrow on it: at the far end of the field a line of hedgerow trees rising up to the top right skyline marks the line of a Roman road that ran from London to Lewes. Continue along the track, which later follows the left side of a field and passes a wartime brick pillbox. The route drops to a footbridge. Continue across a meadow to the gate ahead, up over another footbridge and along a track; ignore driveways to the right. At the road T-junction turn right into Isfield. Pass the Laughing Fish pub on your left to visit the Lavender Line.

2 From Isfield retrace your route across the meadows and back past the pillbox. Turn left on the road to continue to The Anchor Inn.

3 Retrace your route a short distance from The Anchor Inn and, just before Keeper's Cottage on the left, turn left on the old railway track, signposted 'licensed bridleway to Barcombe Mills'.

4 On reaching a road opposite the old Barcombe Mills station, detour left and take the first road on the left. Turn right at the junction in front of the driveway to Barcombe House to reach the millpond and weirs of Barcombe Mills. Return the same way to the road, past Barcombe Mills station. At the next junction go straight ahead for a short-cut back into Barcombe. For the main route, turn left here, and pass Barcombe church. Carry on along the road, keeping left at the next two junctions towards Hamsey.

5 Just after Hamsey Manor turn left down Whitfeld Lane to Hamsey. There is a lovely half-timbered house called Yeoman's dated 1584; just after, turn left at a T-junction. The road crosses a former canal via a bridge. After the bridge, you can pick up the keys to Hamsey church from Pine Barn, the first house on the left. The road rises over the old railway to reach Hamsey church, a wonderful example of what medieval country churches used to look like. Return to Hamsey, keep left at the road junction by the canal bridge, past a pillbox.

6 Turn right at the T-junction, and after Whitfeld Lane joins from the right follow signs for Barcombe to return to the start.

Old advertising signs and railway paraphernalia adorn the beautifully painted and restored station at Isfield. If you visit Cinders Buffet, on the platform, you can see 'before and after' photos that show how much volunteers and lovers of this little country railway have put into running a short section of the line that once ran from Lewes to Uckfield. Steam and diesel trains run during most weekends throughout the year, and on some other days during summer; one ticket allows you to ride all day. You can also go into the signal box at Isfield, try pulling the levers and operating a signal, while the former coal office houses a model railway layout. This ride crosses a bridge at Hamsey over the old railway (where the track has been removed), and from The Anchor Inn it follows a section along the trackbed itself (a licensed bridleway, which the landowner allows the public to use) to reach Barcombe Mills station, now a private house. You also cross twice over another line that ran from Lewes to East Grinstead.

Two Roman roads - one from the west and the other from London - once met here. There was a mill here for 900 years until 1939; all that remains are the huge mill pool and gushing weirs. A plaque tells you this was, in 1066, the first place in Sussex to have a tollgate: look out for the list of tolls by the bridge, showing charges in old money - 's' for a shilling (5p) and 'd' for a penny (12 pennies to the shilling).

Why do this bike ride?

Along this route of quiet lanes you'll find everything from Roman sites to wartime defences. Off-road sections follow a disused track, with distant views of the South Downs, and an ancient 'green lane' that crosses fields and leads to the Lavender Line preserved railway.

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