Walk from Standen to Selsfield Common and back
A moderate walk for more experienced walkers, to and from Selsfield Common, a heathland habitat of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with bilberry flowers in the spring.
Main entrance, Standen, grid ref: TQ389357
From the lower car park, walk back up to the main entrance and out past the sandstone rocks along the drive to the end where it joins the road. On the public road, turn left, walk 50yd (45m) past the green triangle with newly planted trees.
Cross the road and follow the footpath, through the woodland, leading leftwards to series of rugby fields. Walk along the right-hand edge of the field, (ignoring a footpath on the right which leads downhill to East Grinstead) towards the distant buildings, until you are able to step onto a concrete drive which runs alongside some cottages.
Follow this drive, past an old converted wood-clad chapel to a public road. Turn right and walk along the left-hand side of the road, past the entrance to Saint Hill Manor and the East Grinstead sports field to a footpath to the left.
Follow the path beside a green wire fence, until it reaches a concrete track. Turn left and then walk straight ahead between a hedge and metal fence beside a sports area. Follow the path which leads straight ahead into a thick woodland, ignoring the drive which turns sharp right. Follow this long path, sometimes muddy in places, gently down for about ½ mile (800m) to a sharp bend where you turn right into a field.
Follow the path almost to the opposite corner of the field, but turn down to the left through a gap in the hedge/tree line. Turn right immediately towards and over a stile, into the woodlands of the Ridgehill Woodlands Estate. Walk downhill to the private gravel drive and almost immediately turn left on the footpath.
Go down to a stile and into the field. Turn right and walk along the right-hand edge to the corner, through some woodland and emerge into another field. The path runs along two sides of this field, reaching yet another field through which the path becomes a wide grassy track.
The view here includes Manor Hill Farm and the embankment of the Bluebell Railway line. The Bluebell Railway follows part of the course of the old East Grinstead to Lewes line. This railway dates from 1882 and ran until 1958. In the early 1960s the section from Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes was saved and a dedicated band of volunteers has restored and run the railway. In 2014, after the removal of 1000s of tonnes of rubbish, the line was finally re-connected to the main line station at East Grinstead.
Walk ahead, down to the valley bottom by the fishing lake, to a brick bridge. Turn right across the bridge over a stream and walk through the farmyard of Mill Place Farm. Follow the track under the Bluebell Railway bridge, ignoring the footpath to the left. Enter the woods, in which you turn left onto a footpath. This leads across an asphalt road, through a kissing gate, and into a field.
Walk beside the left-hand edge of the field and cross a wooden sleeper bridge. Follow the muddy path, between sedges in a woodland, until you pass through a kissing gate into another field. Follow the left-hand edge of the field and turn immediately left when you reach a stony drive. This deeply-rutted farm track leads past the end of the Gravetye Lake. The route can be shortened in summer months by turning right off the track and following the path along the left-hand side of the lake but this eliminates an interesting viewpoint further along.
Gravetye Manor is now a hotel and most of the woodlands are permissive access in summer months, but this route follows only public footpaths.
Follow the track out into a grassy field in a straight line, uphill, almost parallel to the right-hand woodland edge. When you reach a gap in the trees, the footpath continues uphill into the next field, to a viewpoint and a stile.
West Hoathly village
From this stile, you can see the distant North Downs and the grey square tower of St Swithun's church, East Grinstead. By the stile, within the wood, is a track which leads to the village of West Hoathly. The 84 Metrobus bus stops here and runs between Crawley and East Grinstead, via Selsfield Common and Standen main entrance. Please ensure you have an up-to-date timetable if you intend to use this bus.
At this point the route makes a 170-degree turn, down towards a large clump of oak trees, halfway down the slope. The path enters the clump and emerges in the next field, whose left-hand edge leads you down towards the corner, heading towards Gravetye Manor.
Leave the field and descend some crude stone steps, over two wooden planks, and along the rough path down to another stile into another field. The indistinct paths follows the left-hand edge of the field, in which a small barn/shed is visible up on the right. Passing through clumps of bracken and gorse, you should reach the corner of this field and desend into woodland. Ignore an indistinct path down to the left by the fingerpost and pass through a wood and metal kissing gate. Follow a wire fence, past the end of another lake.
Permissive path to Gravetye
Here a permissive path (in summer months only) on the right leads along the right-hand edge of the lake back to an earlier part of this route.
Follow the path past the lake, uphill alongside the wire railing on top of an old low brick wall. Cross the private drive of Gravetye Manor and then cross the car park of the staff quarters. Forward uphill through an anti-deer gate. Follow the track past a walled garden on the right, along to a bend by a fingerpost.
Turn right here through another tall anti-deer gate and persist up a long dark track under laurels, between banks, while the track becomes sunken. After passing a back garden, carry on past a long low brick farm building. Where the path levels out it continues between rhododendrons to reach the private drive of Moatlands, on Vowells Lane. Emerge on a bend in Vowells Lanes, by a small red post box at the entrance to Moatlands. Walk along Vowells lane to the kissing gate just past Kingscote Kennels. Follow this rough track through the woodland to a field. Walk along the straight wide grassy track across the field towards the distant buildings.
View to Turners Hill folly
In the distance to the left is the red brick Turners Hill folly and on the right is a view towards the North Downs and the distant East Grinstead church.
Walk through a kissing gate and across a private drive, past two Wellingtonia trees and along a wide grassy path between two paling-and-wire fences. Walk through a small kissing gate beside a large wooden gate. This is Selsfield Common and the turning point for the return to Standen. If you follow the fingerposts in a straight-ish line until you exit the wood at a memorial bench there is a view over the Weald and Turners Hill.
Selsfield Common is an area of secondary woodland on acid soils. It is part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and commands great views across the Weald to Cissbury and Leith Hill, on the South and North Downs respectively. The geology of the area is unusual as the Sussex clay that is across the surrounding area is capped with sandstone. This gives rise to some heathland plants on the common, such as bilberry. Selsfield Common is managed by the Standen estate who hope to restore some of its original heathland habitat.
The return route is the same as the outward route, unless some skilled map-work enables an interesting variation. The bus route can be reached by walking south-westwards along the gravel drive to the main road. 84 and 82 buses to East Grinstead will stop here if signalled clearly and in good time, although the bus-stop disappeared in 1977!
Main entrance, Standen, grid ref: TQ389357
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