CUCKOO TRAIL – 6 miles (10 minutes by car) Open everyday
The Cuckoo Trail is an 14-mile (23 km) footpath and cycleway which runs from HampdenPark in Eastbourne to Heathfield in East Sussex. It passes through the towns of Polegate and Hailsham, as well as the villages of Hellingly and Horam.
The Trail largely follows the route of a disused railway line, the Cuckoo Line, which opened in 1880 and ran between Eridge and Polegate railway stations, creating a direct route between Eastbourne and London. It obtained its name from the tradition that the first cuckoo in Spring was heard at the Heathfield Fair. The line closed in 1968 under the programme of closures put forward by Forest Row resident and British Transport Commission Chairman Richard Beeching.
In 1981 the route of the old railway line to the south of Heathfield was purchased by Wealden District Council and East Sussex County Council. From 1990 Sustrans developed the route along with District Council and the County Council into a shared track for walkers and cyclists, with horses also allowed on some sections. An extension was constructed to the south into Eastbourne and the trail became part of National Cycle Network Route 21. The Trail is currently used by around 200,000 people per year and serves as a traffic-free route between several local schools. It is jointly managed by the latter in conjunction with East Sussex County Council.
Along the route of the Trail are six original sculptures which act as mileposts. In May 1993 a dozen wooden benches were installed which had been handcarved by a local artist out of trees felled during the Great Storm of 1987. In 2003 a five-year £65,000 package of grants for improvements to the Cuckoo Trail was awarded as part of the Woodland Grant Scheme. Part of these funds went towards the resurfacing of the Trail as far as Heathfield in October 2006.