Incredible Engineering & a Stunning Piece of Art

I’m referring to the Ouse Valley Viaduct, also known as the Balcombe Viaduct, carrying the London-Brighton line in West Sussex.  In order to carry the line across the dip of the valley between Haywards Heath and Balcombe, the London & Brighton Railway company spent £38,500 building what has become a much loved and photographed feature of the valley.  Cheap at half the price.

A few facts, but I won’t whittle on, this article’s really just an excuse to bring you some stunning visual images.

Built between 1838-1842 and designed by David Mocatta (1806-1882), architect, and John Urpeth Rastrick (1780-1856), engineer. The viaduct took 11 million bricks and its 37 spans cover a total length of 450m (1,480 feet).

It’s now a Grade II* listed structure which means it will continue to be maintained for future generations.  Its last major renovation took over three years and was completed in 1999.

It also has areas of smooth limestone which adds a beautiful contrast to its appearance.

To reach the viaduct, it’s best to park at the Ardingly Reservoir Car Park and walk about 1km through some beautiful countryside.  If it’s a nice day, take a picnic as there are plenty of places to stop, eat and admire the views, or plan to lunch in the pretty village of Cuckfield.

Although most of the trains using the viaduct these days are modern, it’s not difficult to imagine it carrying steam engines.

As befitting it’s beauty, the viaduct has been immortalised in celluloid.  Most notably, look out for it making a guest appearance in Bridget Jones’ Diary.

The photographer, providing perspective in lieu of a 10p


All photographs copyright Ann Ritchie


  • Ann Ritchie

    Ann was born and raised in Sussex. She spent some years living in Cornwall where she drove a vintage tractor as a hobby, and did rather well in local ploughing contests, before moving to France where she was fully involved in all aspects of their house renovations. Having moved back to Sussex in 2013, Ann has recently retired from the NHS. A keen walker, with an excellent knowledge of nature, Unknown Kent and Sussex readers can enjoy the stunning photos Ann takes on her hikes throughout our counties.

  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

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