- From - to: Polegate (nr Eastbourne) to Heathfield
- Distance: 11 miles
- Terrain: Traffic-free. Tarmac and fine gravel surface
- Access: Polegate Train Station
- National Cycle Network: Route 21
The Cuckoo Trail is one of the most popular family cycle rides in the South East and gained its name from an old Sussex tradition of releasing a cuckoo at the Heathfield Fair. Once a railway line, this trail offers a superb, peaceful, traffic-free route ideal for cyclists and walkers of all ages. Horse riding is also permitted along some rural sections of the route. There is a gentle 122m (400ft) climb over 11 miles (17.5km) from Polegate to Heathfield.
The trail runs through a mixture of broadleaf woodland, open grassland, arable farmland, and pasture with verges often thick with seasonal wildflowers like vetch and willowherb. Listen for the laughing call of the green woodpecker and a host of other birds. There's also wild garlic at several places between Hellingly and Horam with its pungent aroma. In early summer, orchids grow near path edges and under trees.
Along the way there are dramatic sculptures and carved wooden seats which were designed and made by Steve Geliot from oaks felled by the great storm of 1987. Look out for the metal sculptures by local artist Hamish Black too.
You will ride through a number of quaint little villages – Horam, Hellingly and Hailsham (the largest) – all worth a stop. Near Hailsham you'll find Michelham Priory - a historic house and remains of and Augustinian Priory set in seven acres of beautiful gardens, surrounded by the longest water-filled medieval moat in England.
If you want to extend the ride, head to Hampden Park in Eastbourne just 3 miles beyond Polegate. Here you'll find a large park which has a lovely lake with ducks and swans, a large grassland area for picnics. In spring Hampden Park is awash with flowers including daffodils, crocuses and bluebells, and there are year-round displays beside the lake’s waterfall.
Further information is available on the East Sussex County Council website. The Cuckoo Trail Ranger can be contacted on tel 01273 481637.
The Cuckoo Trail is one of the most popular family cycle rides in the South East and gained its name from an old Sussex tradition of releasing a cuckoo at the Heathfield Fair.