High Weald. Bicycle Travel Basics
Best 100-Mile Bike Routes
If you expect the High Weald to be hilly you won’t be disappointed. This is a hard ride in tough but beautiful terrain. Very few hills on it surpass the 200-metre mark, but there is almost no flat riding as the ride makes a complete circumnavigation of the High Weald, visiting some of its outstanding beauty spots. It starts in Royal Tunbridge Wells, a place that earned renown when a chalybeate spring was discovered there in 1606. Chalybeate springs are full of minerals, particularly iron, and in the absence of much other medicine they were claimed to cure lots of diseases. In reality there wasn’t much that drinking mineral-rich water could ‘cure’ but it would have made up for deficiencies and so made people feel better. Rich folk flocked to the wells and Tunbridge Wells hit boom time.
The hills start right outside town. The High Weald is good cycling country, full of quiet, tree-lined lanes, which this ride uses to good effect. You need a good sense of direction to follow it, but if you miss one turn another will be along in a minute. Just after Penshurst and its vineyard you pass a great off-road cycling centre called PORC (Penshurst Off-Road Cycling). It’s worth a separate visit here if you’re into mountain biking. The trails are great, there’s a good cafe and, like all the best places, it runs on enthusiasm. From there the ride threads along the northern edge of the High Weald past three castles, Chiddingstone, Hever and Bolebroke, bound for Forest Row and the Ashdown Forest.
This is Sean Yates country. Yates is a Tour de France stage winner and a yellow jersey who earned a reputation for forcing the pace at the head of the peloton for hour after hour. He was an invaluable asset to the teams he raced for, and he later became one of the world’s best team managers. Yates was in the Team Sky car and in constant radio contact with Bradley Wiggins when he won the 2012 Tour de France. And despite the hundreds of thousands of miles he’s ridden, Yates still loves bombing around the same High Weald roads that he trained on as a pro.
The hilly, tree-lined, country-lane character continues throughout this ride. Haywards Heath and Crowborough are the only towns on it, other than Tunbridge Wells. Crowborough and its approaches are the hilliest part of the route, with Crowborough Warren being the highest point of the whole High Weald at 248 metres. David Jason was born in Crowborough (sorry, I’m a fan), and so was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Bewl Water, 70 miles into the ride and straddling the border of Sussex and Kent, is an attractive reservoir made by damming the River Bewl. It has a glorious setting in the hills and you can see it almost all of the way along the road to Ticehurst.
Kent is orchard country, and many fields have striking regiments of tall hop poles in them. They’re called hop gardens, and Kent is sometimes called the Garden of England. The hops used to be dried in round buildings with conical roofs called oast houses, many of which have been converted into desirable dwellings. You catch glimpses of one or two on the way back into Tunbridge Wells. Head west on the A264 and take the right turn in Rusthall just before a church. Keep right, then go left at the fork to Speldhurst, where you turn right. Turn left onto the B2176, then left onto the B2188 in Penshurst, then right and keep right. Turn left at the T-junction to ride through Chiddingstone and Markbeech and turn left onto the B2026. Follow this road to Hartfield, where you turn right onto the B2110 to Forest Row.
Cross the A22 and keep right past Weir Wood Reservoir to the B2110 and turn left. Turn left onto the B2036 and left in Whitemans Green to Haywards Heath. Ride through Haywards Heath and turn left onto the B2028, then right to Horsted Keynes. Cross the A275 at Danehill and go right at Chelwood Gate, cross the A22 and continue to the B2026 and turn left. Take the right fork to follow the B2188. Turn right at Friar’s Gate to Crowborough. Follow the B2100 through Crowborough, turn right onto the B2101 and right onto the A267, then turn left to ride through Mayfield.
Follow this road to Best Beech Hill, where you turn right onto the B2100 then right onto the B2099 and go left in Ticehurst on the B2087. Cross the A21 to join the A268 and follow this to the Orchards just after Four Throws, where you turn left. Turn left in Benenden onto the B2086, then turn left onto the A229 and first right onto the B2085. Turn left onto the A262 and go straight on at the A21 roundabout through Lamberhurst to turn right onto the B2169 back to Tunbridge Wells.
Start and Finish. High Weald: Tunbridge Wells.
Getting There. High Weald: Tunbridge Wells is on the A21, 13 miles from Junction 5 of the M25 and the end of the M26.
Bike Shop. High Weald: Wild Side on Camden Road.
Cafe. High Weald: The Velo House on St John’s Road.
Local Delicacy. High Weald: Kentish pudding pie.