Ouse Valley Viaduct Walk from Balcombe
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The Ouse Valley Viaduct used to be a hidden gem in West Sussex, but after photos appeared of it on social media it became more popular. This viaduct is absolutely mind-blowing, so you shouldn’t be put off by the flock of Instagrammers to the area. It makes a great place to go hiking from London if you combine it with the Ardingly Reservoir walk.
History of the Ouse Valley Viaduct
It was built in 1841 to carry the London-Brighton Railway Line over the River Ouse. It has been restored many times since. The viaduct extends for 450 meters in length and has a height of 29 m. You can often hear people refer to it as the Balcombe Viaduct, since it is close to the village.
How to get to the Ouse Valley Viaduct
By train: There is a regular train service from London Victoria to Balcombe. Then you can take a 5-minute taxi ride or go on a nice countryside walk along the Ardingly Reservoir.
By car: You can park at the Ardingly Reservoir car park. It is free, but space can be limited on a nice weekend, as people who use the Activity Centre also park here. From the car park, it is a 1 km walk to the viaduct.
Some people leave the car dangerously on the main road next to the viaduct. It is annoying to the locals as it causes delays and traffic jams. It also prevents the local farmer to get on with his day, when people leave their car at his gate. There is no suitable place to park next to the road and those who do can expect their cars to be towed. So please use the Ardingly Reservoir car park.
Ouse Valley Viaduct Walk from Balcombe
We started the walk from Balcombe train station and followed a route my AllTrails app suggested, but you can also download the GPX files that I provide at the bottom of this blog post.
First, we walked through the cute village of Balcombe, which had some pretty streets with autumn colours. Then we found the path that lead us to the Ardingly Reservoir. There was a map, which showed different routes in the area. We started on the Kingfisher Nature trail. During our visit, the water level in the reservoir was quite low. Most of the trail goes inside a forest, so views are limited to the reservoir. The path is fenced off and the access to waterside is prohibited to the general public. There were many gates, but they were only meant for fishermen.
However, the path is still lovely and it was nice being outdoors on an autumn day when all the leaves were changing colour. There was even a hide, although it was right across the Activity centre, so not sure how much birdlife you can observe there when the reservoir is busy with sailors and kayakers.
As we got closer to the Activity Centre we had better views as well. This is a great place to come if you like watersports. You can rent kayaks and SUP boards. You can try windsurfing or sailing a dinghy. They even provide RYA courses. There are also toilets and a cafe on the site of the Activity Centre.
Shortly after you leave the reservoir, you will get the first glimpse of the Ouse Valley Viaduct. You can get some nice views from the top of the hill, but be aware of the bulls.
Once you walk down the hill you will cross the river and then just follow the riverside path until you reach the viaduct.
As the place got popular there are more rules to obey, like no drones. The viaduct has a great WOW factor as you come round the corner to view along its full length. It is a stunning piece of architecture giving you an optical illusion feeling.
When we arrived on a sunny autumn weekend, there were many people around and I was worried I wouldn’t get the shot I wanted. It was peak time and people were sitting at the arches having a picnic. We also did the same and luckily by the time we finished our lunch most people left and we were able to photograph it without the crowds.
Then decided to do a circular walk and started to head back to Balcombe through the beautiful British countryside.
Hike Difficulty: This circular hike is 13 km and it took us 5 hours. However we always take long taking photos, so you can probably do it under 3 hours at a comfortable pace.
These are some of the essentials, that we used on this day trip.
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