May 12th 2018 - A Fun Day Out On The Cuckoo Trail, East Sussex

The Cuckoo Trail in East SussexBy Ron Strutt, CC BY-SA 2.0, LinkIf the weather's good and you're in the mood for a day of activity, why not consider joining in the festivities along Wealden's Cuckoo Trail, which takes place on Saturday 12th May 2018. There's no shortage of things to do and it's a great day out for the entire family.

If you want a quick heads-up of how the day will unfold, we've also put together a quick list of what to expect.

In case you've never heard of 'The Cuckoo Trail', it's a 14-mile (23 km) stretch of mainly disused railway line which has now been converted into a footpath and cycleway that runs from Hampden Park to Heathfield, East Sussex. It passes through Polegate and Hailsham, as well as the villages of Hellingly and Horam. Whilst suitable for dog walkers and cyclists, you may also see horse riders between Ersham Road, Hailsham and Hampden Park.

This particular day out has been organised by Healthy Wealden, Beat the Streets and Heathfield Cycle Club and here's what you can take part in on the day.

2018 list of Cuckoo Trail activities

11 AM to Midday - Horam Health Walk: Starting at Old Horam Station, this 2-mile stroll can be managed by most family members and is a great way to work up an appetite before lunch! If this appeals to you, there's parking at Hillside Drive, where you can follow the signs to the Old Horam Station platform. Make sure you arrive slightly before 11am so you don't miss the start

Midday to 1 PM - Hailsham Secret Stones Hunt: If you have a disposition for treasure hunting and the like, Meet at the South Road Car Park in Hailsham where you'll set off to find the secret stones.

2 PM to 3 PM - Heathfield Family Cycle Ride: If you prefer using 2 wheels to 2 feet, then get yourself along to the Newnham Way car park just before 2pm. You'll have to have your own bike as these aren't supplied and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

2 PM to 4 PM - Get yourself along to the Newnham Way Car Park in Heathfield where you can sign up to the Beat the Streets and Cuckoo Trail Challenge.

3 PM to 4 PM - Heathfield Health Walk: This is a two-mile walk suitable for all the family. If you're taking part, the meet-up is at Newnham Way car park at around 2.50pm.

If you're feeling in a competitive mood, you can take a 'selfie' of you joining in at any of the above activities and submit it communitydevelopment@wealden.gov.uk for the chance to win a FitBit, which is a digital device that helps you monitor your physical activity. The deadline for sending your pic is at midnight on Sunday 13th May and there will be a vote on the Healthy Wealden Facebook page to determine the winner.

About The Sussex Cuckoo Trail

The Cuckoo Trail got its name from the tradition that the first cuckoo in Spring was heard at the Heathfield Fair. Essentially, the trail follows the route of a now-defunct railway line that ran from Eridge and Polegate railway stations, which created a direct route between Eastbourne and London. The railway line opened in 1880 but eventually closed in 1968 due to a programme of proposed financial cuts put forward by British Transport Commission Chairman Richard Beeching, which commonly became known as the 'Beeching Cuts'. The Cuckoo Line was deemed to be one of the underperformers, which ultimately led to its demise.

A Phoenix from ashes

The loss of the Cuckoo line to UK railway network turned out to be a gain for the local community in a different kind of way. It was bought by Wealden District Council and East Sussex County Council 1981 and, over time, was developed into a beautiful track that is now enjoyed by walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike. Around 200,000 people are said to use the Cuckoo Trail each year, including schoolkids who can make their way to school in a traffic-free and beautiful environment. It's also part of the National Cycle Network (Route 21) and was extended slightly so that it now runs right into Eastbourne.

What can you see along the route?

Even if you don't take part in the May 12th fun day, the Cuckoo Trail can be enjoyed all year round and is teeming with a smorgasbord of stunning plants and wildlife. In some places, the trees have been cut back slightly so that the sun can reach the ground. This allows an array of wildflowers to flourish, including wild orchids in early summer. In May, you're likely to see orange-tip butterflies, and if you're a birdwatcher, you might even see the odd bullfinch, lesser whitethroat or even a cuckoo or a woodpecker.

Nowadays, there aren't many places where you can find wild garlic when you go out for a stroll, but you may well find some fresh, organic garlic if you keep your eyes peeled on the Cuckoo Trail between Horam and Hellingley. If you don't see it, you'll still probably be able to detect it due to its wonderful aroma!

The Trail also has plenty of places where you can have a quick rest. Take the weight off your feet with the many benches and picnic tables that are dotted along the route. You'll also pass plenty of wood and steel sculptures on your travels and you can also take a moment to marvel at the Victorian's supreme arch bridge building skills. One of the best examples is the Heathfield Tunnel, which is only open during the summer months.

Al in all, even if you don't take part in the May 2018 activities, the Cuckoo Trail is a must-visit if you live in Sussex.

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