Haywards Heath Walk

Haywards Heath Walk

by Robert Veitch

For a change we left the rural scenery behind and found solace in the urban landscape with a walk around Haywards Heath.

Plenty of thanks for this ramble must go to the Haywards Heath Society who inspired us to base an urban walk, its routing and historical information on work they had previously researched and collated.

The settlement of Heyworthe, as it was originally known, contained some poor quality land, which wasn’t cultivated, although it would have been used for grazing and firewood. This land was owned by the lord of the manor and known as ‘The Waste.’ Over time it’s possible the characteristics of the land changed, the name certainly evolved and it became known as ‘The Heath.’ Today’s residents might be relieved to learn they aren’t living on Haywards Waste!

This walk starts and ends at the railway station and moves in an anti-clockwise direction around the approximate periphery of the area covered by ‘The Heath.’ Once upon a long ago it would all have been several shades of natural colours but gradual urbanisation has reduced it in size to pockets of green spread across the town.

From the station, which first opened in 1841, walk west and under the railway bridge. Keep an eye on the pigeons above to avoid being showered with unwanted sloppy gifts. The pavement bears left into Market Place, which housed the original station entrance until 1880. Market Place becomes Boltro Road at the end of the one-way. It’s a delightful assortment of old and new properties and businesses along both sides. Keep going up the hill noting the diversity along the way.

As the gradient lessens, keep going until the well kept lawns and well tended flowerbeds of Muster Green appear. The tranquillity of this area, ablaze with summer colours seem at odds with its memorials to armed conflict. At one end of the green is the memorial to the battle of 1642, which was a footnote in the English Civil War. At the other end is the memorial to the two great wars of the 20th Century, complemented by two rather apposite and subtle war themed benches.

Leaving Muster Green behind, walk east towards the one-way system. Cross the main road and take a hundred steps or so along South Road before turning right into Victoria Park, which opens out invitingly.

Take the path on the right and follow it all the way downhill, eventually passing through a small glade of mixed deciduous trees, and then two pairs of green railings. Beyond this is Drummond Close. At the other end of it, turn right into Sunnywood Drive.

Amble downhill, around the island and up the other side, taking in the variations of mixed housing along the way. Note the seven flat-topped homes that were built in the 1930’s and are now Grade II listed. At the end turn left into Keymer End, which evolves into Ashenground Road. In the distance, the water tower of what opened in 1859 as the Sussex County Lunatic Asylum and closed in 1995 as St. Francis Hospital can be seen.

Passing the impressive cedar tree turn right and walk down Vale Road. Formula One followers might be forgiven for thinking this road profile looks similar to Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps. Part way up the other side bear left into Edward Road and carry on towards the increasing sound of the traffic.

At the end, cross Wivelsfield Road using the conveniently located crossing and walk north towards town. 350m later turn right into Petlands Road and observe the houses here are mostly older terraces. At the end, almost opposite, is a path that is fenced on either side. It’s quite short and leads to Petlands Gardens, a row of Victorian cottages.

Emerging onto Franklynn Road you might come to realise you’ve driven past the entrance to Petlands Gardens countless times and never really noticed it. Cross by the lights and walk west towards the town. The wall on the right borders The Priory of Our Lady of Good Counsel, which was built in 1886 and remained open until 1978.

At Sussex Square (one circle that does fit a square), take the second exit and walk north up Hazelgrove Road. The road becomes Oathall Road as it heads over the brow, then downhill. Large desirable properties line both sides of the road. Desirable as they are, it’s still a relief when the next road crossing appears a little further on. Cross here and pass between the bollards then rejoice as the noise of the traffic subsides behind you.

The path emerges to the manicured oasis of the cricket ground, which was created to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. On the left is the woodland, which is about as close to the original ‘Waste’ as it’s probably possible to get these days. Take a few minutes to divert for a wander through the trees. It’s an idyll and easy to forget this is in the centre of a town with 27,000 inhabitants.

Striding on, pass the cricket pavilion (erected in 1900) and check the clock is still working. Emerging onto Perrymount Road, journey’s end is approaching. Turn right and then cross the road outside Clair Hall. From here it’s little more than a downhill stroll and left at the roundabout before easing to a halt at the station.

To enjoy this walk in greater detail and along its original configuration, get in touch with the Haywards Heath Society at www.hhsoc.co.uk

  • Distance: 3.5m
  • Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 135
  • Parking: Pay parking and on street parking available in Haywards Heath
  • Refreshments: Available at various locations along the route
  • Public Transport: Buses -Several buses stop at or close to the station
  • Trains: via Haywards Heath Station

Whilst Les Campbell is recuperating from an accident, Robert Veitch has taken on the role of being Les’ legs. We hope that Les will be back out and walking again soon and wish him all the best with his recovery. Robert has tested the route personally, making sure it is suitable for walking. However, even he cannot guarantee the effects of the weather, or roadworks, or any other factors outside of his control. If you would like to send your feedback about a local walk, please email editorial@sussexliving.com