Short walk from Standen to Weir Wood Reservoir
Explore historic woodland, flower meadows and ancient sandstone rock outcrops on this circular walk that takes in Weir Wood Reservoir, with views across to the Ashdown Forest and North Downs.
Standen car park, grid ref: TQ391356
(Point 1 on map) Start at the gate at the lower (southern) end of the bottom car park. Turn left once through the gate onto the path enclosed by hedges.
(Point 2 on map) Continue along this path into the woodland to the right at the public footpath sign. As the path next divides, follow the left-hand fork to Weir Wood Reservoir around the top side of a small pond.
The hedgerow on the left of the path is fully established with native plants such as wild rose, hawthorn, elder and hazel. The newly forming hedgerow on the right allows views over the valley to Weir Wood Reservoir and Ashdown Forest beyond, a picnic area is also to the right. From a gateway on the left, St Swithun’s, East Grinstead’s 18th-century parish church, is silhouetted on the skyline. This path probably follows the original Saxon field boundaries and is still used for driving cattle - and can be muddy!
(Points 3 - 5 on map) At the entrance to the field turn right, following the ‘Footpath’ sign down the hill. Cross a stile and carry on straight ahead, following the edge of the field until you reach a stile. Cross the stile to join the Sussex Border Path, which runs alongside the reservoir. Turn right and continue along the path with the chain link fence on your left.
Wier Wood Reservoir
Weir Wood reservoir, completed in 1952, is ahead. Much of the western end of the reservoir is a nature reserve. From the path you can see some of the unusual birdlife living there. Look out for great-crested grebes with their elegant head bobbing dance, cormorants perched on the rafts spreading their wings to dry and, occasionally, osprey hunting during their migrations. When the water is low, wading birds can be seen hunting in the exposed mud.
(Points 6 - 7 on map) Cross another stile in the line of the path, and continue straight on. Cross the next stile into the field, keeping the chain link fence to your left.
A path runs along the bottom end of Hollybush Wood. This woodland makes up part of the Standen estate. Much water drains through here and often floods the path. On the far side of the field to the right is an old barn, which is all that remains of the original Standen Farm, one of the three farms the Beales bought in the 1890s to form the Standen estate. This is remembered as a 'small, low-pitched cottage, inhabited by an enormous family'. It was demolished in 1896 and the name was adopted for the big house.
(Points 8 - 9 on map) Continue along the edge of the field. Cross a small wooden two-plank bridge, then a stile. Shortly afterwards, leave the Border Path and cross another stile into the field on the right at the ‘Public Footpath’ sign.
Standen Rocks, once used by the Beale children and grandchildren from Standen for picnic teas, on the left, are moss-covered sandstone outcrops close to the path. If there’s time, make a detour to explore them and the wonderful views they offer across the reservoir. In the Beales’ day, the view would have been very different, as the reservoir, fed by the River Medway, was not built until 1952. Back on the path, alongside the hedgerow there is an interpretation board on Standen Rocks.
Walk up the hill, keeping the wide, scrubby hedgerow on your right and crossing under the high-voltage power cables. The steeper headland path leads through more scrub to another public footpath sign pointing up the hill. (Please persevere in this area; the scrub can become very overgrown in summer but a brief search will reveal an open path to the top of the slope.)
Views of Standen
The path here is sunken between deep banks, caused by the gradual wearing away of the surface by centuries of use and erosion. Soon there are good views back down to the reservoir on the right. Many of the fields here are relatively small and were probably carved in Saxon or Norman times from the great Andredsweald Forest which covered this area. Across these fields, Standen House comes back into view on the right.
(Points 10 - 11 on map) Very shortly you will come to another stile with a ‘Public Footpath’ sign. Cross over and carry on along the path up the hill. Carry straight on up the hill, following the Public Footpath sign, keeping the hedgerow/fence line to your right.
Most of the farmland around Standen is managed organically for grazing or for hay, and wildlife is always considered as part of the management. The top corner of the adjacent field has been allowed to grow with brambles and bracken, which provide a valuable habitat for different kinds of wildlife and nesting places for birds and small mammals.
(Point 12 on map) Pass through the top corner of this field, and turn right along the path between the woodland and the barbed-wire fence.
Saint Hill Manor
Across the valley to the left is the 18th-century Saint Hill Manor. Previous owners have included the Maharaja of Jaipur and Mrs Neville Laskey, who allowed the manor to be used for wartime RAF officers who received treatment from Sir Archibald McIndoe, the world-famous plastic surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. The hills in the far distance are Leith Hill and the North Downs.
(Points 13 - 14 on map) Continue along this path until you reach Standen’s drive (with two cottages on your right), turn right down the drive which leads back towards Standen.
The cottages on the right of the drive used to be lived in by estate workers, the first being designed by Phillip Webb at the same time as Standen House. On the right further down the drive are the large sandstone outcrops which were a mediaeval quarry, and which the Beales thought would make a suitable entrance to their new property at Standen. Just before the Standen gates, on your left, is the entrance to Jack and Tommy Field, which has been restored to a wildflower meadow with the help of Exmoor ponies.
Standen car park, grid ref: TQ391356
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