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The search for Balcombe Lake

The next morning, I was eager to get on. Tacked down, we headed straight for the village of Balcombe. Below the church is a long layby set away from the road, possibly part of a previous road. On the satellite map it looks ideal, but in reality it’s on a bit of a hill. I positioned the caravan on as flat a section as I could. Once settled and a cup of tea consumed, I decided to go for a walk. It wasn’t yet mid morning.

I walked down the hill to an old disused road which is still marked as Boundary Road on many maps.

A stream runs parallel with the old road.

Wild Garlic

Unfortunately, the footpath that I wanted that takes one to Balcombe Lake was closed. It seems that a bridge along the route had collapsed.

The notices stated that there was no alternative footpath. Yet, looking at the satellite map, there appears to be another footpath further along the old road that reaches the lake via a farm. I decided to chance my luck, spurred on by a local I met along the way who confirmed that there is indeed a route round, via some fields.

I continued along Boundary Road to an old bridge over another stream


A few paces on, a footpath heads into the woods via a boardwalk.

The footpath then crosses a field to Woodwards Farm. Here, I was faced with locked gates and a number of signs declaring ‘private property’ and ‘no footpath’.

I checked the satellite map again. Of course, the map doesn’t differentiate between public and private rights of way. The lake was really close by. To skirt around the farm entailed quite a detour along a number of lanes and the top end of Ardingly Reservoir. Alternatively, if I could find a path through Chestnut Wood, I could get to the lake. Unfortunately, a barbed wire fence separates the wood from the field.

Undeterred, I followed the line of the fence. Eventuality, down in the corner, where Lowerstaff Wood meets Chestnut Wood, there is a stile over the barbed wire fence. Beyond is an obvious footpath. I carefully clambered over.

I had found the edge of Balcombe Lake, at the point where the stream I had crossed at the old bridge empties into the lake.

I searched for ages to find a path that would lead around the lake. Every turn is impassable. The only other option was to cross the stream. However, that was not viable, either. The stream is either too wide, too deep or, mainly, too silted. A younger, fitter man may have found a way across, but I wasn’t about to risk it. There was simply no way through for me.

Looking at the footpath that I had joined when crossing the stile, I gauged that it would lead back to Boundary Road at some point. I was not wrong. In fact, it was a pleasant walk through the woods.

I then headed back along Boundary Road, homebound. I passed what appears to be a Christmas tree farm.

When I reached the heras fence that blocked the footpath that I had originally intended to take, I noticed that people had clearly been going around it. I decided to do likewise in order to investigate the extent of the bridge collapse. A very short distance on, I came across a long boardwalk. The first boards had collapsed into the wetland. However, closer examination revealed that it was easy enough to cross. I decided to go home and return the following day to make a second attempt to reach the lake, this time via the broken boardwalk.

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Rachel Whitlam
Rachel Whitlam
May 19, 2023

Im sure you’ve already done it but you can access Balcombe lake by walking into the village from where you were parked then taking the first ‘proper’ left turn. The path becomes private beyond the lake.

Wizard Steve
Wizard Steve
May 19, 2023
Replying to

I came from the lake to the village in the next post (publish soon)😉

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