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Seven Sussex autumn walks to beat the winter blues

By Weald to Waves - 30 September 2023

Humans footsteps have created and sustained trails across our natural landscapes since the dawn of time. Whether to reach a destination or distract us from the humdrum of modern life, walks in nature provide an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world.

Autumn is a great time to really see the diversity of habitats around us. As the leaves fall and vegetation dies down, new views open up and we can see the shape of our river systems and valleys in sharper relief. Our vast forest floors are peppered with fungi. We are treated to the sounds of the migration as birds leave and arrive, chasing warmer climes. This is also the season when stags compete for mates, so walkers may hear their echoing calls bellowing at dawn and dusk. Exploring the heathlands, you'll find the colour wheel in perfect balance with purple heather and orange bracken. For those in reach of our coastline, there are wilder waves to watch, throwing up seaweed and perhaps signs of the kelp recovery offshore.

Recent research carried out by the National Trust showed just how much autumn walks help to combat the creeping "winter blues", but almost half of those they surveyed felt they did not go on enough walks in the autumn months.

Seven Sussex autumn walks

So for inspiration, try out these seven Sussex autumn walks that cover a range of colour and habitats along the Weald to Waves corridor.

We have partnered with All Trails to track walks along the corridor route. View some of the walks on our corridor maps here. You can also download the app to record your walk, with or without photos, for others to explore and see other walks in your area.

1. Ashdown Forest Walk:

Start from: Ashdown Visitors Centre, Colemans Hatch Road. Highlights: Pooh may have made the Forest famous for the "Hundred Acre Wood" but there are actually 6500 acres to explore at Ashdown. You'll find trails of 2-3 miles to a more ambitious 14 mile circular route taking in sweeping views across the landscape. Walking trail maps are available online or from the visitors' centre.

2. South Downs Way:

Start from: There are many jumping off points for the trail. Try Amberley to Upper Beeding for a 12 mile route or start at the Wiston Estate for a shorter walk up to Chanctonbury, where you can enjoy views along the corridor from the iconic hill forts. Highlights: The South Downs Way is loved for its panoramic views. Enjoy the changing colours as you move between woodland and chalk grassland.

3. Kew Wakehurst:

Start from: Ardingly, near Haywards Heath Highlights: Kew Wakehurst offers a mosaic of diverse gardens, woodlands, and ponds. The colourful acers and shrubs draw the crowds but we love the changing textures of the wetland access along the boardwalk.

4. Knepp Wilding:

Start from : Dial post, West Grinstead Highlights: Get up early and take a flask of tea into Knepp Wilding where you can hear the deer rut bellowing out over the vast scrubland. Both Fallow and Red Deer can be heard roaring from the tree platforms among the veteran oaks. A new series of walking trails have been launched with permissive paths into new areas of the rewilding project.

5. Arun Valley Walk:

Start from: Arundel, West Sussex Highlights: A 10-km circular trail takes you from the historic town along the Arun, skirting the WWT wetland centre. Look out for our winter birds as the big skies and deep reed beds make this the perfect trail for bird watching. You could start or end your journey with a visit to the locally-loved Black Rabbit Pub!

6. Littlehampton West Beach:

Start from: Climping Beach Highlights: Climping is a coastline in transition. With the old crumbling sea defences removed, the area is slowly returning to salt marsh. Walk along the sand dunes to connect with the West Beach, a Local Nature Reserve and part of the Climping Beach Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

7. Barcombe Cross and Barcombe Mills Circular:

Start at: Anchor Inn. Highlights: Another peaceful circular riverside trail starting in the East Sussex village of Barcombe following the River Ouse to Barcombe Mills. Combine this with the adjacent disused railway line for an accessible family trail. While you may not be tempted with a cold water swim in October, you can pause to have a pint among the bobbing boats.

Win! Share your photos or videos of your autumn walks with us on @wealdtowaves on X, formerly Twitter or Instagram to win tea and cake for two at the new Knepp Wilding Café.

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