Chailey Common Walk
by Robert Veitch
Pack your wellies for our trek around Chailey Common, across lowland heathland with picturesque views to enjoy as well.
Pound Common car park is on the south side of North Common Road, about 50m along a track. Before leaving the car park be sure to put on some wellies or stout footwear, because this walk might be a little squelchy in places.
The 450 acres of Chailey Common has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) since 1954, becoming a Local Nature Reserve in 1966. It’s an excellent example of lowland heathland.
Leaving the car park, walk under the green height restriction towards the short grass across the lane, reminiscent of a lush green carpet. Sheep, cattle and ponies graze the five commons at Chailey on a rotating basis from spring until late autumn, with one common left animal free each year.
After 100m the path skirts a pair of short, well shaped oaks on the left. Beyond, the path curves to the left and then splits. Take the left fork towards the three silver birches about 30m ahead. The path bears left again, gently uphill along the green line in the heather, past a metal water trough on the right, briefly brushing against gorse on the left. Continue as far as Beggars Wood Road. Look to the holly hedge opposite and cross the road aiming for the left edge of the holly.
Once through the gate, enjoy tramping through the leaves. The ditch on the right is the boundary to Chailey Heritage. Continue past a solitary yew and then under two partly fallen trees. The path stops at the busy A272.
Cross safely to the pavement opposite, turning right, walking for about 50m before turning left into a drive. Almost immediately, turn right and follow the drive uphill past the houses, into the trees, through the chicane until it ends at a turning circle.
Take the gate on the left (of the pair) at the end of the drive. Note how the mechanism works as it’s popular across Chailey Common. The path meanders through woodland, but it doesn’t take long for trees to make way for the heathland of Red House Common.
Continue onward, with the stock proof fence on the right, which borders St. Georges, a former school. Chailey Common was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, and has other links to Chailey Heritage, Sir William Goring, Anne of Cleves and Thomas Cromwell.
Stay on the path, all the way up to the fingerpost, about 200m ahead. Keep going a little further, past the benches on the right and then another 100m or so, before taking the split in the path that peels off to the left.
Soon after, the path widens out becoming barren ground. Aim for the distant pylon peeping out above the tree line. Heading downhill, the barren ground eventually coalesces into a path further on. It turns a little to the right, across another path and enters the woodland periphery.
Just inside the woodland, turn left and after 50m the path will again turn left. Stock fencing creates as a boundary to the right, with a track on the other side. Follow the path through the woods, bearing left at the split Scots pine, then downhill and across the bridge over the stream. Beyond the bridge, bear right, and after another 40m, cross a clone of the previous bridge.
Veer left on the other side, across the slope as far as the wide intersection of several paths. Turn left and continue up the slope until two benches appear over the horizon. The ‘Pinkney’ benches are memorials, so take a seat and enjoy the view northwest that pans from the former St. Francis Hospital in Haywards Heath across to Scaynes Hill and Danehill.
From the benches, walk back towards the fingerpost from earlier on. At the fingerpost turn left into trees and walk towards the arched door in the building ahead. Follow the path around the left of the building and along the boundary to St Georges. This is close to the highest point on Chailey Common and Chailey Windmill should be visible through the trees. Arriving at the tarmac, follow the path down the drive, across the cattle grid to the A272.
Cross the road safely and follow the track past the houses to the gate. Beyond the gate, wander downhill across the familiar green carpet on to Memorial Common. On a good day the South Downs will be obvious in the distance. Just after ‘Ryan del Bianco’s’ bench, turn left, up and over a brow. Keep going for 100m down the other side to the bottom of the gully. Take the path to the right and follow it to Beggars Wood Road.
Turn right at the road, walking along the verge (or against the traffic) for 100m, crossing at the bend, by the wooden ‘Pond Common’ sign.
The path skirts around the car park to the right before turning sharp right 20m beyond. It’s an easy turn to miss even when paying attention. It meanders through tall gorse, which opens out, becoming the heathland of Pound Common as the gorse dissipates.
The spire of Chailey Heritage will appear to the right. Soon enough the water trough from earlier will be visible. Keep walking straight on and before you know it, you’ll be passing those two well-shaped oaks again, then under the green height restriction and back to your car, ready for tea and cake.
Distance: 3¼ miles
Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 135
Parking: Free Parking
Public Transport: Bus Routes: 31 (Haywards Heath – Uckfield) 769 (Brighton – Sheffield Park)