Windmill, wildland and an abandoned station: 32km MTB route
Updated: May 13, 2020
On this route you'll ride through one of the UK's most successful re-wilding projects, see Sussex's largest windmill and visit an abandoned train station. It's a gentle 32km mountain biking route from Partridge Green along lanes, farmlands and woods toward Horsham, and back along the Downs Link. It's mostly flat, so perfect if your legs need a day away from the hills.
The first half of the ride is definitely more varied and far quieter - but the return on the Downs Link takes no navigation and you can crank up a good pace to get home.
Distance: c. 32km
Mode: Mountain bike
Three things you'll see
1. Shipley Windmill
You might recognise this windmill as the fictional home of Jonathan Creek! Apparently, it's also the largest and youngest windmill in Sussex. Unfortunately you can't go in as it's a private property, but the bridleway runs right alongside giving you a great view as you come into the small village of Shipley.
2. Knepp Wildland
The giant bridle gates are your first sign that you're entering Knepp Wildland. The 3,500 acres of land had been intensively (and unprofitably) farmed until 2001, when the re-wilding project began. It's now lauded as one of the most successful re-wilding projects in Europe, with rare species flourishing. As well as butterflies and abundant birdlife, they have herds of Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs and deer roaming free.
There are observation towers dotted around, built up into the trees next to the footpath. We'll definitely be going back for a walk here, armed with a pair of binoculars!
3. West Grinstead Station
The Downs Link follows two disused railway lines from the Surrey Hills to Shoreham by Sea. The last trains travelled along here in the 60's and since then it's become a popular and accessible route. For the most part, you wouldn't know you were on an old railway line - but West Grinstead Station doesn't let you forget.
The old train carriage, which looks like it's careering into the undergrowth, now serves as an information center (closed currently due to social distancing measures). The bridleway takes you along the tracks between the in-tact platform, still with benches and signage. You exit the station through a tunnel back into nature. It's slightly surreal, but adds welcome interest to the Downs Link, sections of which can feel a little mundane.