Nymans lakes, cascades and meadow short woods walk

Nymans Countryside, Nymans, Handcross, near Haywards Heath, RH17 6EB

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Nymans is a horticulturalist's dream and a peaceful country garden © Edward Shorthouse

Nymans is a horticulturalist's dream and a peaceful country garden

Entrance to the woods and arboretum © Jemma Donaldson

Entrance to the woods and arboretum

Enter Pookchurch Wood, famous for its bluebell display in spring © Jemma Donaldson

Enter Pookchurch Wood, famous for its bluebell display in spring

A giant redwood, the tallest tree in Sussex © Jemma Donaldson

A giant redwood, the tallest tree in Sussex

The lake, originally a hammer pond, is the perfect for bird-spotting © Jemma Donaldson

The lake, originally a hammer pond, is the perfect for bird-spotting

Spot badger tracks in the meadow © Jemma Donaldson

Spot badger tracks in the meadow

Discover tranquil cascades © Jemma Donaldson

Discover tranquil cascades

Route overview

Exploring Nymans gardens can be complimented by a walk around the surrounding estate, an area of the High Weald, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1983.

Discover this ancient woodland of towering redwoods, including the tallest tree is Sussex, lakes, cascades of water, foraging wildlife and carpets of wildflowers.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Wander through Nymans National Trust woodland on this 3km family friendly walk taking in lakes, cascades and meadows
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: National Trust, Nymans car park

  1. To take advantage of stunning views over the Weald towards the South Downs, enter Nymans gardens via the visitor reception building (admission charges apply, free for members). Collect a free welcome map from Nymans staff and head towards the woods and Arboretum via the Pinetum path. Alternative access is available via the public footpath (from the rear of car park) following Sussex Ouse Valley Way, and excludes Arboretum loop of walk. For this route start the from direction 5.

    Show/HideNymans Gardens

    One of the greatest 20th century gardens, filled with year-round colour and interest. Set around romantic ruins, sculptures, unusual international plant collections, sweeping lawns and intimate corners.

    Nymans is a horticulturalist's dream and a peaceful country garden © Edward Shorthouse
  2. Exit the formal gardens at the gate marked 'Woods and Arboretum'. Follow the path downhill towards the lower pond. Take the left hand gate near waymarker 2 and veer right onto the woodland track.

    Show/HideNymans Arboretum

    The Arboretum was created in the early 20th century. Today it is used by a tenant farmer for grazing cattle, helping to keep down the grasses that compete with the wild flowers. In springtime the bluebells and daffodils are plentiful, whilst in autumn the dramatic colour of the tree tops forms a spectacular patchwork.

    Entrance to the woods and arboretum © Jemma Donaldson
  3. Enter Pookchurch Wood and a short section of board walk, weaving slightly downhill following the orange directional arrows (indicating the Millennium Walk) at waymarker 3 and 4.

    Show/HidePookchurch (or Bluebell) Wood

    One legend claims that this area of woodland is named after Reverend Pook who delivered sermons from the nearby Pulpit Rock. The woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells in spring and coppiced for hazel, the cuttings from which support the extravagant blooms of the garden's summer borders. The large pit to the side of the path was probably dug out for sandstone for building or ironstone for the nearby furnace - reminders of this woodland's industrial past.

    Enter Pookchurch Wood, famous for its bluebell display in spring © Jemma Donaldson
  4. As the path descends you will meet a second section of boardwalk that skirts a giant redwood, the tallest tree in Sussex. Turn right at the bottom of this hill on to the flat footpath following the orange route marked on waymarker 6. Continue down Conifer Avenue until waymarker 7.

    Show/HideTallest tree in Sussex

    The magnificent tree at the base of the slope is a Wellingtonia or giant redwood, estimated at over 50m tall. It is due to be re-measured in October 2012.

    A giant redwood, the tallest tree in Sussex © Jemma Donaldson
  5. Continue on the orange waymarked route towards the lake, following the public footpath sign. Turning left at waymarker 9, pass the bird hide and cross over the wooden bridge into a meadow clearing.

    Show/HideThe lake

    The lake was originally created as a 'hammer pond' to drive the iron furnace downstream. The power of the water behind the dam drove hammers to break locally quarried ironstone. It was widened in the 1800s to create a pond with a boathouse and bathing hut. In autumn, shades of colour are reflected in the still surface. The lake is a haven for wildlife including dragonflies, rare beetles, fish and eels. An array of birds can be spotted from the hide and if you are very lucky, you may sight the blue flash of a kingfisher.

    The lake, originally a hammer pond, is the perfect for bird-spotting © Jemma Donaldson
  6. Cut left across the meadow (there may be a path cut through the grass depending on the season) towards a wide gate on the opposite side. Veer left on the path towards a junction of pathways.

    Show/HideFurnace Green, woodland meadow

    Enjoy this flower-rich hay meadow. In the warmer months hear the sounds of crickets and beetles amongst the long grass. Can you see the tracks through the long grass where badgers have dragged their bellies?

    Spot badger tracks in the meadow © Jemma Donaldson
  7. At a fork take the right hand path towards a series of cascades. You can walk the length of cascades past ponds on your left. Turn back, tracing your steps towards the fork. Head right towards waymarker 17.

    Show/HideCascades

    These beautiful pools were created from the natural streams, dammed to form a series of cascades. The work was done after the First World War by returning soldiers. Dragonflies are often glimpsed skimming across the water surface in summer.

    Discover tranquil cascades © Jemma Donaldson
  8. Climb the gentle slope and turn left at the top (away from the orange route) past waymarker 17, keeping the large lake and beach on your left and passing a smaller pond on the right. When you are in sight of waymarker 8 again, turn right to rejoin the public footpath. Head back along Conifer Avenue, continuing straight ahead at waymarker 6 on the blue marked route with the giant redwood on your left.

  9. Continue along the public footpath as it begins to narrow. Take care as you approach steeper, muddier sections of path. Cross an intersecting path and continue uphill. This is the steepest section of the walk and may be slippery in wet weather. Cross a second intersecting path (Nymans garden will be visible through a gate to the left). Continue straight ahead, climbing towards the car park, (accessed via a gate on the left), or emerging onto Handcross High street, opposite the Red Lion pub.

End: Nymans Carpark, off High Street, Handcross

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 3.28km
  • Time: Approximately 1 hour
  • OS Map: Explorer134
  • Terrain:

    You will encounter some slopes and slight inclines. Areas of the route can be slippery and muddy, especially on the final ascent. Although this is a circular walk we recommend taking it in the order described, especially in wetter months, for increased safety on the final ascent. There are some stretches of boardwalk and public footpaths. Well-behaved dogs welcome in the woods but not gardens.

  • How to get here:

    By train: Balcombe 4 miles, Crawley 5 miles
    By road: off London to Brighton M23/A23
    By foot: 5 miles from Balcombe
    By bus: services from Brighton to Crawley and Haywards Heath to Crawley. All stop outside Nymans. Please note there are limited services on weekdays and Saturays and no bus services on Sunday.
    By bike: NCN20 Sustrans

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