The Vanguard Way Blog has been started to complement the Vanguard Way official website: The Vanguard Way is a 66 mile, long distance footpath between East Croydon (South London) and the South Coast port of Newhaven.
Primarily we hope to record interesting sightings along the Vanguard Way with an emphasis on flora and fauna and other 'natural' phenomena. To offer a contribution, please email We will be interested to receive details of what has been sighted, where and when, together with a photo if available.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Website route information changes

Our Website editor is away so here are some changes which it's been quicker to have posted here:
Currently there are two sets of information, - changes to details in route descriptions and the companion and also a warning about future rail improvement works on the Oxted to Uckfield Southern Railway Line.

Set 1
Route Descriptions

N-S Section 4, 4.3/4.4; S-N Section G, G(4.6/4.5)The links with the Wheatsheaf pub and Lingfield Station have been replaced by a new link to pubs in Dormansland and Dormans Station, fully described in the revised route instructions for these sections which are now available on the website.

N-S Section 4, 4.17d; S-N Section G, G(5.1a).  The Foresters Arms pub is now permanently closed.

N-S Section 5, 5.1 a; S-N Section F, F(5.2e).  The Foresters Arms pub is now permanently closed.  This section starts (N-S) or finishes (S-N) at the junction of B2110 Hartfield Road and Station Road.

N-S Section 7, 8.1a; S-N Section D, D(8.1) (link from Golden Cross pub).   The Golden Cross pub is now permanently closed.

N-S Section 8, 8.1; S-N Section C, C(8.1) (link to Golden Cross pub).  The Golden Cross pub is now permanently closed.

N-S Section 9, 9.9 a; S-N Section B, B(9.12e).  Alfriston Youth Hostel has closed.

Companion, Facilities List.

Marsh Green.  The Wheatsheaf pub has closed. 

Forest Row.  The Foresters Arms pub has closed.

Poundgate.  The phone number of the Crow & Gate pub is now 01892 603461.

Blackboys.  The Glade hostel has closed.

Golden Cross.  The Golden Cross Inn has closed.

Litlington.  Alfriston Youth Hostel has closed.

Set 2.
We would like to make walkers aware of issues coming up in November if they are planning to use trains.  If you scroll to the end of this post, you will find the link to the Southern Railway website.

Briefly walkers wishing to do any stage from Oxted to Uckfield during November, should note that, due to Network Rail lengthening platforms at stations along  this section and no doubt other engineering works, between Monday 2nd Nov and Friday 27th Nov, buses replace trains on most days except for the peak periods.  There are also some weekend closures from Oxted to East Grinstead during the same period.

All Mondays to Fridays between 09.20 and 16.40 the line will be closed between Hurst Green and Uckfield with rail replacement buses in operation.

In addition on Sunday 8th  there will be buses between Purley and Oxted for trains from Oxted on both Uckfeld and East Grinstead lines. On Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th the lines will be closed between Hurst Green and Uckfield and also East Grinstead.

There is also closures on the Sussex east coast line around the Lewes area which will affect any walkers using trains to do the Berwick/Newhaven sections.

Full and up-to-date information will be found on the Southern Railways website:


Thursday 27 August 2015

Mid-summer, maximum growth

Not many more 50th anniversary sectors of the Vanguard Way remain now.  For further details check back to the 6th of April post please.

At the end of July we walked from Poundgate to Blackboys. It was another glorious day of fabulous views and beautiful countryside - not to forget the good company of course.

Everything in the way of plant-life, seemed to be fully grown with seeds and fruits already in evidence.  Animal-wise we were lucky to catch sight of a young deer.  Birds were heard but not seen too much and beetles were about.

This time the photos are in a slide show for you.  If you would like direct access to the web album click on the little square below.

Poundgate to Blackboys
Those of you who still have a copy of the paper version of the Vanguard Way, 3rd edition, will recognise this view of High Hurstwood Church.

Because members of The Vanguards Rambling Club are aiming to walk the entire length of the Vanguard Way this year, Inevitably some people have missed various sections and 'catch-up' walks are taking place.  Gill has provided us with some notes on her recent completion of the very first section from East Croydon to Oxted.  Here are excerpts:
We had chosen a day that was forecast to be fine with some sunshine but we had gentle rain on and off and, as it was quite humid, the rain was refreshing.
We are in mid-summer; the trees are in full, heavy leaf cover, fruits are forming and in the air there is an autumn expectation.  Summer has been achieved.  I hear, “See, this is what you have been waiting for, there are no more surprises, now be prepared for the autumn”.
We had our just desserts, having started from home early (ish) and walked through Croydon’s suburbs, minding the trams as we crossed their tracks arriving at Coombe Wood CafĂ© and what a delight that was.  The flower beds were colourful and obviously well-looked after, the pond full of fish. 
Then it was onward, upwards and into the woods.  Later we would be achieving the dizzy height of 260 metres, which is the highest point on the VGW.  Our minds still on food we noticed two fruiting apple trees, neither with fruit ready for scrumping yet.  The ash trees were full of bunches of seeds ready for wind distribution and the berries on the rowan trees were turning red.  Below hazel trees were unripe hazel cobs, probably torn off by impatient squirrels of which we saw many scampering among the branches.  The ground beneath the sweet chestnut was strewn with the dangly bracts.  I am just going to encroach on Another’s column here, beer can be made from sweet chestnuts and is still produced in Corsica.  China and Korea supply 55% of the chestnuts that we eat in the autumn and winter, perhaps roasting or as a stuffing.
In the hedges, elderberries are formed but not yet ripe and black; old man’s beard has clambered over all the shrubs and is just opening its flower.  These hedges will be white with it when they are fully open. Blackberries have quite a long season; there will be some ready to pick right now (pick those above waist height) but there are still pretty pink flowers waiting for pollination.  Once October comes, though, the devil is in the berries so should not be picked!  Blackthorn trees are ripening their sloes and will be ready to be picked in the autumn for the making of sloe gin.  My experience from taking part in a sloe gin competition back in January, tells me to buy the best gin that I can afford which will give a smooth velvety liqueur.  Rose hips are forming; I have no experience of making a syrup with these.
We saw plenty of rabbits and heard buzzards but could not see them in the air.  Along one footpath we flushed out a brood of young pheasants which fought to get through a fence to escape from us.
In the short grass on the long path towards the microwave relay station, we raised moths and butterflies, perhaps the chalkhill blue being one.  Amongst the grass were vetch, wild thyme and red clover and obviously attractive to butterflies.  Dainty pink and white striped bindweed threaded its way through the grass, but was not appreciated by the gardeners among us.  This is horse country and as we descended from Nore Hill we could clearly hear a riding lesson being given.  Yellow-wort stood tall (100-140mm) in the short grass of these fields.  The yellow flowers open eight petals which is unique in the Gentian family flowering in Britain, four or five being the norm.  Their pointed green-grey leaves are joined by their bases to form a collar around the stem.  The cows were taking it easy lying down in this beautiful valley, they must have known that rain was on its way.  Twice along the way we came across large Roman snails.  Their shell is light brown with dark spiral bands and their shell is about 50mm diameter.  They were introduced to southern England and are now established in a few woodlands mainly on chalk.  You certainly don’t want this guzzler in your garden!
You may search the skies for a landmark as you reach Nore Hill Chalk Pinnacle but you would be looking in the wrong direction.  Look for a fenced depression in the ground towards the top of the hill and having read the helpful information, look for a small pinnacle below ground level now very much covered in foliage.  This is the last of the natural pinnacles that were to be found submerged on this Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS).
The corn has been harvested in the fields on the North Downs and the straw has been baled into huge cylindrical shapes.  In land set aside I saw poppies, oxeye daisies and thistles.  Now we could see journey’s end, Oxted and a refreshing drink awaiting us just beyond the M25.

Many thanks Gill.

Another group set off from Haxted Mill to Poundgate last weekend too.  They weren't so fortunate with the weather!.

The photos below are in the Haxted Area.  First is of new bullrush flowers at Gabriel's Fishery.  2nd is of a vetch I haven't identified yet and 3rd of a pill box in the 1st field south of Haxted Mill.
(Please excuse the font size and spacing issues with this post)  

Friday 3 July 2015

Lands of make-believe and history

How time flies!  The next opportunity to walk the Vanguard Way with the Vanguards in their 50th anniversary year is on Saturday 25th July.  Just 9 miles between Poundgate and Blackboys.  For further details please see the April 6th post, just keep scrolling down.

At the end of June we walked from Forest Row to Poundgate with a contingent preferring to walk to Forest Row from East Grinstead along the cycle way which follows a dis-used railway track.  As this Saturday was at the beginning of our heatwave, it was pleasant to walk along the shady tree lined cycle route following embankments and cuttings.  This link starts in East Grinstead and passes up through the old town centre. Preparations were well advanced for East Grinstead in bloom and Armed Forces Day.  Our first 'flora and fauna' involved bedding plants and softly sculpted race horse heads.

View into the cool depths of the cutting beside the embankment.

Once the breakaway group reached Forest Row we were joined by a significantly larger group who had arrived on the bus from East Grinstead.  It was a special occasions for the Vanguards as we had been joined by our rambling 'cousins', Geoff's Jaunters.  Together we headed up into Ashdown Forest for fabulous views and lunch at the Hatch Inn.  Some people think this is the 'best' section of the Vanguard Way, certainly the conditions and company on this outing did not disappoint!

As ever 'fauna' of the wild variety was not easy to spot but a deer was seen by some.  After lunch we ascended to Gill's Lap, a favourite viewpoint on Ashdown forest.  There is a new (to me) grazing area below Gill's Lap where some little black sheep are busy clearing the land for us.

Onwards and upwards we arrived at Gill's Lap via the Hefalump Trap.
Of course no Hefalumps to be seen but you never know up in Winnie the Pooh Land.  (See the notice board at Gills Lap car park if you want to visit other Winnie the Pooh places of interest).

From this area of the Ashdown Forest, in good visibility, you can see back to the Oxted Chalk Pit and so the Oxted Downs we have already walked down.  Once you've arrived at the Kings Standing Clump area you can see the South Downs - our destination after another 2+ days of walking.

2015 has been an extraordinarily good year for roses so far and the wild roses in the hedgerows are super too.
When we arrived at Kings Standing car park we were pleased to find the ice cream van as we had been out in the sun for some time by then.  This car park has the most reliable ice cream van we know of and it can usually be found there even in colder and wetter times of year.

Ashdown Forest is a Forest in the Norman sense - for hunting - as explained by Tony Robinson in his 'Walking through History' series.  Co-incidentally his 'Walking the Tudor Way' programme (channel 4, Wildfire tv) was screened the same weekend.  He walked the Vanguard Way from the Hatch Inn to Kings Standing Clump and described the medieval conflict where the profitable iron ore smelting  business was trying to expand into the Ashdown Forest which was a Royal hunting area surrounded by a ditch, mound and pallisade fence renewed by Henry 8th at the time.  The iron-ore smelting had to be kept 'beyond the pale'.  Kings Standing may have been the site of a hunting lodge or a viewing stand of some sort. If you can find this programme again to watch, do!  He makes his way onto Blackboys (for beer) which is our next destination.

There are more photos taken on our walk in the associated Picasa Web Album.  Captions should explain more items of interest.  Click through to Picasa and run the slide show.  
Forest Row to Poundgate

Lurking at the end of the web album are photos taken this morning in Limpsfield Common Woods a mere few yards from the Vanguard Way.  A new community of 'dwellings' has sprung up in the woods behind Ridlands Lane Car park and the nearest on is Peter Rabbit's Post Office across the field to the west of point 2.15 on the Vanguard Way.  More Beatrix Potter than A A  Milne... Check it out on the map in case you would like a diversion!

If you'd like to find out more about Tony Robinson's walk here's a link:

Thursday 14 May 2015

Merry Month of May

Look back to April 6th post, Our Golden Spring, for the programme of the remaining 50th Anniversary walks with the Vanguards.

The next section of our Golden Vanguard Way walks was from Edenbridge to Forest Row - we have photos taken with a 2 1/2 week interval.  It is still the 'Merry Month of May' and the May (Hawthorn) flowers are now well out.

On the link from Edenbridge buttercups are  providing a colourful carpet.
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Alien species are on show - Rhododendrons of varying hues in particular.  They look exotic and brighten up many a spring garden but they are difficult to control once they've 'escaped' into the wild.

Spanish bluebells don't seem to be threatening our area too much but we did find this clump near Starborough Castle.  Again, they are big and bright in gardens but a threat to  our native species as they cross breed.  The native bluebells look more delicate and the flower stem bends over because there are no flower heads up one side of the stem.  The Spanish ones have flowers all round the stem and the flower is upright.

Otherwise bluebells are still evident but the flowers are going to seed and other vegetation is growing up around them.  In particular stinging nettles are making a lot of growth.  Not the best of news for ramblers but many butterfly species' caterpillars depend on them as food plants so they're not all bad.  We spotted a hairy caterpillar which may be that of a small tortoiseshell butterfly - these caterpillars feed on stinging nettles.

There was also a shrub/tree with several caterpillar 'nests'.  This time the caterpillars were smooth and much smaller.  They look like the caterpillars that frequently infest my cabbage plants but are on the wrong 'foodplant'.
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I forgot to mention that we spotted a buzzard on the previous walk between Oxted and Edenbridge.  This time we saw a green woodpecker - though they always look more yellow than green and are often seen searching for food in grassland rather than pecking in woods.  Robins were very busy with beaks full of small creatures and blackbirds noisy with their alarm calls.

As the Vanguard Way gets further from urban areas, a walker can catch many glimpses of lovely buildings.
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The next opportunity to 'Walk the Vanguard Way with the Vanguards in their 50th anniversary year is on Saturday, 27th June.  For details see the 6th of April Post - 'Our Golden Spring'.
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From the lane look left over the fields to see the Ashdown Forest appearing as a faint blue line on the far horizon.  We will be there on the next leg of the walk!

If you would like to view these photos and others taken on this route section, please click on the album below. Clicking through to Picasa will enable you to run a slide show with captions to the photos.  Look out for the orchid and other items of intrigue.
Spring - May Edenbridge to Forest Row

Wednesday 6 May 2015

May Day Bank Holiday expedition

For details of the next opportunities to 'Walk the Vanguard Way with the Vanguards' please refer to the programme posted on April 6th, 'Our Golden Spring'.

On Monday we walked from Oxted via Limpsfield Chart, Crockham Hill and Haxted Mill to Edenbridge. 

Spring in East Surrey and West Kent has advanced a pace since our Good Friday outing.  Bluebells are in full bloom and most trees are now in leaf, if not in flower.  The Hawthorn bushes have leaves and flower buds but aren't quite 'out' so they're a bit late as the common name for Hawthorn flowers is 'May'.

As our Good Friday walk missed the Vanguard Way Plaque at the point where the Vanguard Way and the North Downs Way cross the Greenwich Meridian,  our May Day walk included a photo-call for Vanguards at the Vanguard Way Plaque.

Blue and bright green were the colours of the day - bluebells and new beech tree leaves were waiting for us as we walked up to Limpsfield Chart.

Although yellows were more dominant as we passed  the Moorhouse Bank sandpits.

There was even a glimpse of yellow archangel, or yellow deadnettle, in amongst the lush spring growth.

I was surprised to get a close up of an ash tree flower - normally they are way above head level.
Elm trees were also in flower, unusual in this post Dutch Elm Disease time.  Hopefully some will be immune.

Once we were down near Crockham Hill, spring lambs were up to mischief - though the guarding alpacas didn't seem bothered.  The calves in the same field were much more placid.

Then we went down to the woods to find more stunning bluebell vistas and also some goldilocks buttercups.  No porridge nor broken chairs though.

We soon arrived at Haxted Mill where the restaurant has re-opened as a 'Pop-up' Tea Room and Gallery.  They hope to appeal to the walking and cycling public as well as car drivers.  It is planned that it will open Wednesdays to Sundays for coffee, light lunches and afternoon teas.  The patio seating area behind the restaurant is in a lovely setting next to the Mill Pond - just like being on holiday!  The Gallery showcases the owner's stunning photographs - worth a visit on its own!

Still on a yellow theme, dandelions were evident throughout but the water meadows alongside the River Eden into Edenbridge had the largest collection of dandelion 'clocks' that I think I have ever seen.  Also still proudly on display are last year's bullrush flowers.

Lost and Found:
Are these your boots?  You'll find them opposite Haxted Mill.
You can look at the whole web album for this post by clicking on the photo below - take the opportunity to click through to Picasa web albums then clicking on slideshow from there will do just that with each photo captioned (Google + won't show you the captions):

May Day Oxted to Edenbridge

Monday 6 April 2015

Our Golden Spring

2015 marks the 50th Anniversary year of the Vanguards Rambling Club!  As part of our celebrations we have organised a 'crossing' from north to south in 7 stages, the first of which was on Good Friday, 3rd April 2015. 

The Vanguards are extending an invitation to other ramblers to join in on any of these walks - you will need to contact the organiser in advance as arrangements might change - details as per the following poster:

Special Golden Jubilee Vanguard Way certificate for all completers.

The Vanguards have organised a series of walks along the Vanguard Way in seven stages to celebrate our Golden Jubilee, details below.  Everyone is welcome but please let the organiser, Colin Saunders, know if you would like to come along in case of late changes. Email or phone 020 8886 8285.

Good Friday 3 April
Vanguard Way part one (Completed)
Meet at East Croydon Station for a 12.4 mile walk to Oxted. Lunch at Coach House pub, Chelsham Common (6.8 miles). 
Monday 4 May (Mayday bank holiday)
Vanguard Way part two
Meet at Oxted Station for 11.6 mile walk to Edenbridge Town Station.  Lunch at Carpenter’s Arms, Limpsfield Chart (5.2 miles). 
Monday 25 May (Late Spring bank holiday)
Vanguard Way part three
Meet at Edenbridge Town Station for 12.1 mile walk to Forest Row.  Lunch at Dormansland (3 pubs) (5.5 miles). Bus back to East Grinstead Station.  
Saturday 27 June
Vanguard Way part four
Meet at East Grinstead Station then bus to Forest Row for 8 mile walk to Poundgate.  Lunch at Hatch Inn (3.5 miles). Bus to Eridge or Tunbridge Wells.  Optional 3.5 mile extension starting at East Grinstead by an earlier train.
Saturday 25 July
Vanguard Way part five
Meet at Eridge Station then bus to Poundgate for 9 mile walk to Blackboys.  Lunch at Buxted Inn (4.7 miles). Bus or taxis from Blackboys to Uckfield Station.
Monday 31 August (bank holiday)
Vanguard Way part six
Meet at Uckfield Station then bus or taxis to Blackboys for 11.8 mile walk to Berwick Station.  Lunch at Six  Bells, Chiddingly (5.8 miles).
Friday 25 September
Vanguard Way part seven
Meet at Berwick Station for 12.5 mile walk to Newhaven Harbour Station.  Lunch at Cuckmere Inn (6.5 miles).

Even if you are unable to join us on any of these walks, if you complete the Vanguard Way during 2015, you may apply for a special golden certificate.

Yesterday 12 Vanguards walked from East Croydon station to Oxted station, thus completing the first stage. 

This year the winter, though not excessively severe, is taking a while to move onto spring.  Earlier there was a good showing of snow drops but the earliest daffodils suffered some damage from strong winds.  We were lucky with the weather yesterday and signs of spring were bursting forth, particularly while we were still in the Greater London area where overall temperatures are always a degree or so warmer.  For me, the most noticeable thing was the amount of bird-song and often the loudest songs were coming from the smallest of birds.  We also saw and heard a sky lark which was ascending from the Woldingham Wolds.

As ever, finding sight, sound or sign of other 'fauna' was tricky, especially when walking along as part of a group.  Some caught sight of a young fox crossing a woodland path and there were some deer tracks evident in mud. In Woldingham there were some beautiful horned cattle with calves being raised outside which suggests they are a tough heritage breed. Would you believe it if we told you we had seen a mythical creature?

I have a collection of photos for you, starting earlier in the year with photos of snowdrops in Titsey and daffodils in Crockham Hill. The second set were taken on Good Friday.