The Cuckoo Trail

This 14 mile surfaced path through the Sussex countryside is mostly traffic free and is a safe route for walkers and cyclists of all ages, forming part of the National Cycle Network – route 21.

The picturesque trail follows the former 'Cuckoo Line' railway track and stretches from Heathfield to Eastbourne Park. It passes through Horam, Hailsham and Polegate.

The Cuckoo Trail
The Cuckoo Trail

What you will find

A green corridor with a host of natural wildlife. Some verges are managed for wild flowers, and trees cut to allow light to reach the ground. Other areas are wooded and shady. There are good views of the surrounding countryside and plenty of rest points. There are lots of opportunities to pick up refreshments just a short distance from the route.

There are benches, picnic tables and sculptures in wood and steel, as well as other artwork to look out for. Don't miss the Victorian's engineering skills in the brick arch bridges, between Hellingly and Horam and most striking example at Heathfield Tunnel (open during the summer).

There are lots of sights, sounds and smells to experience. In May, look for butterflies such as the orange-tip. You might even see bullfinch, lesser whitethroat, cuckoos or weasels.

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.

See our leaflets:

Walking, cycling and access

Gentle gradients and a sealed surface along the whole route, makes the Cuckoo Trail usable in all weathers, by all users.

The trail forms part of the National Cycle Network in East Sussex.

There are no access restrictions for walkers, disabled users, cyclists or dogs, however consider and make room for other users. Cyclists should slow down or stop when necessary and dog owners should keep dogs under control.

You can ride horses betweeen Ersham Road, Hailsham and Hampden Park.

How to get there

  • Train: Stations at Polegate and Hampden Park
  • Bus: Eastbourne Bus Service 52. Phone: 01323 416416
  • Car parking: at Heathfield, Horam, Hellingly, Hailsham, Polegate and Hampden Park
  • Horsebox parking: Hellingly Cuckoo Trail Car Park
  • Accommodation and events: Enjoy Sussex website.

Management and history

The railway opened in 1880 and became known as the Cuckoo Line because traditionally, the first cuckoo of spring was released from a cage at Heathfield Fair. The line was axed under the Beeching cuts and eventually closed in 1968. Improvements to the path started in 1990 with the partnership of Sustrans.

The Cuckoo Trail is jointly owned and managed by Wealden District Council and East Sussex County Council.

Volunteering

The Cuckoo Trail User Group meets twice a year to discuss maintenance and improvements. New members are welcome, particularly with cycling or horseriding interest. If you are interested in getting involved please contact us on the link below.

Contact us

Contact Rights of Way & Countryside Maintenance.