Woodland wine walk: Bluebell Vineyard via heritage railway
Sussex Modern Stories | 10 minutes read
All aboard for a big day out! This long but rewarding hike takes you through glorious Sussex countryside and woodlands, with steam train, vineyard, pub and brewery all en route.
On the map
Before you begin: Double check the timetable
This route involves catching the Bluebell Railway, which runs seasonally from April to September and then operates reduced services in autumn and winter. Timetables vary by day, with trains running from around 10am and the last train home from Sheffield Park back to East Grinstead usually departing at either 3.30pm or 4.45pm, depending on the day. Always check the timetable in advance.
Catch the Bluebell Railway
The adventure begins at East Grinsted railway station, which is around an hour (direct) from London Victoria. Next door to the main train station is the start of the Bluebell Railway – a Victorian heritage line that chuffs across Sussex for 11 glorious miles. Your destination is Sheffield Park station, which is about half an hour away. Get your ticket (in advance is better), board the train and settle in for the ride.
Begin your walk at Sheffield Park Station
Hop off the train at the historic Sheffield Park station. From here, you’re on foot. It’s a steady but long walk ahead, so we recommend filling up your water bottles and snack bags before heading off – and don’t forget to double check the time of the last train back to East Grinsted.
Leave the station and walk past the vintage signs along the station approach, with the playing area on your left. When you reach the main road, turn left. Cross the road to walk along the pavement and continue over the bridge.
After around 100m you’ll see a footpath into Sheffield Park and Garden, which is well worth exploring if you have the time, either now or before getting the train home later. Often you’ll find food trucks here under the trees. Follow the signs to the walled garden for a real treat: a treasure trove of garden antiques, a small vineyard and an Aladdin’s cave of a wine shop owned by local winemaker and merchant Harry ‘The Grape’.
Five fields, each more beautiful than the last
If you decide not to check out Sheffield Park at this point, keep following the road along, and just before the bend look out for a gate leading into a field, on the other side of the road from Sheffield Park. Cross the road (carefully), and go through the gate onto the public right of way.
Once in the field and off the road, keep to the faint track, following the line of the hedgerow until it brings you to a gap in the hedges. Follow the track through the gap into the next field, and walk straight across the middle of that field, listening out for the sounds of the Bluebell Railway in the distance. Once across the field, the path becomes more visible again, so follow it through the trees, down a dip and over a little stream into a third field.
Stick to the track, which skirts around the edge of the field, towards the woods. In the corner of the field, the track takes you through a clearing, over the brook and into field number four. Veer left, sticking to the path as it takes you across this field and up to a gate into the fifth and final field. You may need to hop over this gate if it is locked, but be assured this is a public right of way.
In field number five, with only the sounds of the wind rustling through the trees and the occasional fluttering of a bird overhead, keep to the left alongside the woodland, and head towards the buildings in the distance. At the top of the fifth field, there are several gates out onto Ketche’s Lane. Take any of them, and turn left.
You’re nearly there! Stay on the lovely Ketche’s Lane through the trees for around 500m,then take a right onto Sliders Lane (signposted Bluebell Vineyard), which will take you through the woods to the entrance of the wine estate. Set amidst bluebell-strewn woods from which the vineyard derives its name, this award-winning vineyard and winery on the edge of the Ashdown Forest was established in 2005, with nearly 100 acres under vine. Try their still ‘Ashdown’ wines – the Rose gets our hearty approval – and Hindleap’ traditional method production sparkling wines.
Bluebell woodland trail
When you’re ready to leave the vineyard, pick up a map of the vineyard and woodland trail and leave the estate through the woodlands which, as the name suggests, comes alive with bluebells and anenomes in the early spring. Follow all the clearly marked points on the Blue Trail up to point 10. After this point, take the opening on the right that leaves the Bluebell Vineyard estate and joins up with the public footpath. Look out for a sign saying ‘thank you for visiting Bluebell Vineyard Estate’ and follow the path through the woods.
Hike through fields and woods
Leave the woods onto a beautiful grassy track, which gives way to a tarmac lane (Northland), which in turn leads back onto Ketche’s Lane. Follow the footpath across the land, and into Kings Wood. Keep to the path through the woods, until the trees fall away behind you and you find yourself in a field. Follow the path straight across several fields, and listen out for the steam trains chugging up ahead that tells you you’re headed the right way.
The path will lead you towards the trainline and under a railway arch. Keep going, through (or over) the metal gate, and into a long, narrow field lined by trees. Walk straight ahead, keeping to the right as the field opens up, then turn right at the wooden signpost, passing through a gate into another field.
Cross the field, towards the small wooden bridge traversing a stream. Walk over the bridge then keep straight ahead, towards the farm buildings. Aim for the next small wooden bridge that crosses over a second, larger stream, and keep the barn on your left as you walk through the next field. Hop over the stile, and then another one as you leave the farm and join up with the road.
Turn left onto the road and cross the bridge over the Ouse towards The Sloop Inn, which makes for a great pit stop to recharge for the final part of the walk.
The final push
Leaving the pub, walk up the hill and turn left down a gravelly lane, passing the houses and heading through a gate and into another woodland. Walk through the woods, following the path signposted ‘WoWo Campsite’ up to the top of the hill and into an apple orchard. Follow the path in between the young trees, through a wooden gate and into another woodland. Walk through these woods, and out into a big green field. You’ll see a ‘welcome to Wapsbourne’ sign, and the white bell tents of Wowo campsite in the distance.
Turn left onto the footpath, which skirts around the edge of Wowo campsite and past the impressive Wapsbourne Manor House. The path will bring you back to the road, from where it’s a short walk back to the Bluebell Railway. If you’ve time, then drop by 360 Degree Brewing Company taproom before getting your train home, where you can often find pop-up food stalls serving up culinary rewards.
The last train from Sheffield Park Station usually departs at 3.30pm or 4.45pm, depending on the day – so always check the timetables on the Bluebell Railway website.