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Arlington's Lakeside Trail

Combine this delightful walk with a little birdwatching as you explore the banks of a reservoir by the Cuckmere River.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field paths and trail, some brief road walking, 13 stiles

Landscape Level lakeside terrain and gentle farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 123 South Down Ways - Newhaven to Eastbourne

Start/finish TQ 528074

Dog friendliness Mostly on lead - as requested by signs en route

Parking Arlington Reservoir

Public toilets At car park

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1 From the car park walk towards the information boards and then turn right to join the waymarked bridleway. Cut through the trees to a tarmac lane and look for a bridleway sign. Follow the lane and soon the reservoir edges into view again. On reaching a gate signed 'No entry - farm access only' bear right and follow the bridleway and footpath signs.

2 Skirt the buildings of Polhill's Farm and return to the tarmac lane. Turn right and walk along to a kissing gate and a 'circular walk' sign. Ignore the gate and keep on the lane. Continue for about 100yds (91m) and then branch left over a stile into a field. Swing half right and look for a second stile to the right of a pond. Cross a third stile and go across a pasture to a fourth.

3 Turn left and follow the road as it bends right. Cross the Cuckmere River and then bear left to join the Wealdway, following the sign for Arlington. Walk along the drive and when it curves to the right, by some houses, veer left over a stile. The spire of Arlington church can be seen now. Continue ahead when you reach the right-hand fence corner, following the waymark. Cross several stiles and a footbridge. Keep to the right of the church, cross another stile and pass the Old School on the right.

4 Walk along the lane to the Yew Tree Inn, then retrace your steps to the church and cross the field to the footbridge. Turn right immediately beyond it to a stile in the field corner. Cross the pasture to the obvious footbridge and continue to a second footbridge where there are two stiles. Head across the field towards a line of trees, following the vague outline of a path. The reservoir's embankment is clearly defined on the left, as you begin a gentle ascent.

5 Cross a stile by a galvanised gate and go through a kissing gate on the immediate right. Follow the path alongside the lake and pass a bird hide on the left. Turn left further on and keep to the bridleway as it reveals glimpses of the lake through the trees. Veer left at the fork and follow the path alongside the reservoir.

It was in 1971 that Arlington's rural landscape changed in both character and identity. A new reservoir was opened, supplying water to the nearby communities of Eastbourne, Hailsham, Polegate and Heathfield. Study the blurb on the grassy bank and you'll learn that the area of the reservoir is equivalent to 121 football pitches and that the maxium depth of the lake is 37ft (11.3m), deep enough to submerge four single decker buses.

The 120-acre (46ha) reservoir was formed by cleverly cutting off a meander in the Cuckmere River and it's now an established site for wintering wildfowl, as well as home to a successful rainbow trout fishery. Besides the trout, bream, perch, roach and eels make up Arlington's underwater population. Fly fishing is a popular activity here and the lake draws anglers from all over Sussex.

The local nature reserve was originally planted with more than 30,000 native trees, including oak, birch, wild cherry, hazel and hawthorn. The grassland areas along the shoreline are intentionally left uncut to enable many kinds of moth and butterfly to thrive in their natural habitats. Orchids grow here too.

Arlington Reservoir, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is a favourite haunt of many birds on spring and autumn migrations and up to 10,000 wildfowl spend their winter here, including large numbers of mallard and wigeon. The shoveler duck is also a frequent visitor and most common as a bird of passage. You can identify the head of the shoveler drake by its dark, bottle-green colouring and broad bill. The breast is white and the underparts bright chestnut, while its brown and black back has a noticeable blue sheen. The female duck is mottled brown.

Great crested grebes, Canada geese and nightingales are also known to inhabit the reservoir area, making Arlington a popular destination for ornithologists. See if you can spot the blue flash of a kingfisher on the water, its colouring so distinctive it would be hard to confuse it with any other bird. It's also known for its piercing whistles as it swoops low over the water. The reservoir and its environs are also home to fallow deer and foxes, so keep a sharp look-out as you walk around the lake.

The walk begins in the main car park by the reservoir, though initially views of the lake are obscured by undergrowth and a curtain of trees. Be patient. After visiting the village of Arlington, where there is a welcome pub, the return leg is directly beside the water, providing a constantly changing scenic backdrop to round off the walk.

Where to eat and drink

Arlington Reservoir has a picnic site by the car park where you can relax before or after the walk. The Yew Tree Inn at Arlington has a children's play area, beer garden and a choice of home-cooked dishes. Lunch and dinner are served every day and there is a choice of real ales. Nearby is the Old Oak Inn, originally the village almshouse and dating from 1733. The likes of Newhaven cod in batter, curry and steak-and-kidney pudding feature on the menu.

While you're there

Stop off at the Arlington bird hide, opened in 1996, and see if you can identify members of Arlington's feathered population. In spring you might spot an osprey, a large bird which occasionally visits lakes, fens and estuaries and preys almost exclusively on fish. Look out too for house martins, sand martins, sandpipers, blackcaps, kestrels, mallards and dunlins - among other birds. If you are interested in ornithology, a visit to the bird hide is a must.

What to look for

Call into Arlington's St Pancras Church. One of the most interesting churches in Sussex, it's built of flint and the nave dates back to Saxon times. Look closely and you can see that there are many examples of different architectural styles. Buy a copy of the guide to the church to enable you to learn more about this fascinating place of worship.

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