A whole day could very happily be spent getting educated at Wakehurst, but instead this walk takes in two good pubs, avoids the crowded car park and sets this extraordinary place delightfully in its landscape. Little London, appropriately enough, is where The Gardeners Arms can be found, half a mile down the road from the main entrance to Kew at Wakehurst and opposite the north gate of the South of England Agricultural Society’s Showground.
The pub belongs to the Dorset family brewery Hall & Woodhouse, famous for their Badger beer, and it occupies an 18th-century tile-hung cottage dating back much earlier, possibly as far back as the 1100s. Certainly the oak beams and the fireplace looks so ancient I could be staring in the mirror.
We start the walk here, but it could just as easily be joined, by train even, at our half-way stop, The Half Moon Inn at Balcombe, a couple of miles or so away beyond two headwater valleys that feed Ardingly Reservoir and the River Ouse.
Turning right out of the pub, we walk a few yards up the road before crossing over to take the lane marked Tillinghurst Farm. We continue straight on through the farmyard until we come to bench number one. A particular charm of this walk, and proof that it has long been close to the hearts of many locals, is the number of commemorative seats placed at viewpoints along the way. This one overlooks an arm of Ardingly Reservoir, constructed in 1978 to meet the growing water needs of mid-Sussex. The path then slopes down beside the fence of Wakehurst Place on the right, down to the water, which it crosses via a picturesque 100-yard wooden footbridge.
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