Arlington's lakeside trail

Combine this delightful walk with a little birding as you explore the banks of a reservoir by the Cuckmere River.




3 miles (4.8kms)

82ft (25m)
1hr 30min

About the walk

In 1971 Arlington’s landscape changed irrevocably when a vital new reservoir was opened, supplying water to Eastbourne, Hailsham, Polegate and Heathfield. The 120-acre (46ha) reservoir was formed by cleverly cutting off a meander in the Cuckmere River, and it’s now an established site for wintering wildfowl, as well as home to a successful trout fishery. Besides the trout, bream, perch, roach and eels make up Arlington’s underwater population. The lake draws anglers from all over Sussex.

The local nature reserve was originally planted with more than 30,000 native trees, including oak, birch, wild cherry, hazel and hawthorn. The grassland areas along the shoreline are intentionally left uncut to enable many kinds of moth and butterfly to thrive in their natural habitats. Orchids grow here too. The reservoir is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and a favourite haunt of many birds on spring and autumn migrations; up to 10,000 wildfowl spend their winters here, including large numbers of mallard and wigeon. The shoveller duck is also a frequent visitor, and most common as a bird of passage. You can identify the head of the drake by its dark, bottle-green colouring and broad bill. The breast is white and the underparts bright chestnut, while its brown and black back has a noticeable blue sheen. The female duck is mottled brown.

Great crested grebes, Canada geese and nightingales are also known to inhabit the reservoir area, making Arlington a popular destination for ornithologists. See if you can spot the blue flash of a kingfisher on the water; its colouring so distinctive it would be hard to confuse it with any other bird. It’s also known for its piercing whistles as it swoops low over the water. The reservoir and its environs are home to fallow deer and foxes, so keep a sharp look-out as you walk around the lake.

The walk begins in the main car park by the reservoir, though initially views of the lake are obscured by undergrowth and a curtain of trees. After visiting the village of Arlington, where there is a welcome pub, the return leg is directly beside the water, providing a constantly changing scenic backdrop to round off the walk.

Walk directions

From the car park walk towards the information board and map. Pass this and turn right on the circular walk by the reservoir, soon passing a small picnic area, and ignoring a fork to the right. Carry on until eventually the path reaches a driveway, with a gate to the left signed ‘No entry farm access only’; here cross over, following the footpath and bridleway signs.

Skirt the buildings of Polhill’s Farm and return to the tarmac lane. Turn right and walk along to a kissing gate on your left and a ‘circular walk’ sign. Ignore the gate and keep on the lane. Continue for about 50yds (46m) and then branch left over a stile into a field. Swing half right and look for two stiles tucked away in a fence corner. Ignore the first one you come to and cross the second, passing an overgrown pond to your left. Cross a third stile and go across a pasture to a fourth stile.

Cross the road and turn left to follow the path parallel with the road. Rejoin the road, cross the Cuckmere River and then bear left to join the Wealdway, following the sign for Arlington. Walk along the drive and when it curves to the right, by some houses, veer left over a stile. Head for the spire of Arlington church, keeping ahead when you reach the right-hand fence corner and following the waymark. Cross another stile and a wooden footbridge. Keep to the right of the church, cross another stile and walk along the lane to the Yew Tree Inn.

From the pub, retrace your steps to the church and cross over the field to the footbridge. Turn right immediately beyond it to a stile in the field corner. Cross the pasture to the prominent metal footbridge over the Cuckmere and continue to cross over a plank bridge, then head across the field towards a line of trees, following the vague outline of a path. The reservoir’s embankment is clearly defined on the left as you begin a gentle ascent.

Cross a stile by a galvanised gate and go through a kissing gate on the immediate right. Follow the path alongside the lake and pass a bird hide on the left. Keep left further on and keep to the bridleway, as it reveals glimpses of the lake through the trees. Veer left at the fork and then follow the path alongside the reservoir back to the car park.

Additional information

Field paths and trails, some brief road walking, many stiles

Level lakeside terrain and gentle farmland

Mostly on lead, as requested by signs on route

OS Explorer OL25 Eastbourne & Beachy Head

Car park at Arlington Reservoir, Station Road, off A27

At car park

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About the area

Discover East Sussex

East Sussex, along with its western counterpart, is packed with interest. This is a land of stately homes and castles, miles of breezy chalk cliffs overlooking the English Channel, pretty rivers, picturesque villages and links to our glorious past. Mention Sussex to many people and images of the South Downs immediately spring to mind – ‘vast, smooth, shaven, serene,’ as the writer Virginia Woolf described them. She and her husband lived at Monk’s House in the village of Rodmell, near Lewes, and today, her modest home is managed by the National Trust and open to the public.

There are a great many historic landmarks within Sussex, but probably the most famous is the battlefield where William, Duke of Normandy defeated Harold and his Saxon army to become William the Conqueror of England. By visiting Battle, near Hastings, you can, with a little imagination, picture the bloody events that led to his defeat. East Sussex’s pretty towns such as Lewes, Rye and Uckfield have their charms, while the city of Brighton offers museums and fascinating landmarks, the best-known and grandest feature being the Royal Pavilion. 


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