We live in Haywards Heath. Originally because I worked across the whole of Sussex and we needed a house right in the centre chosen for us in Gatesmead off Birchen Lane. After a spell working in Horsted Keynes we needed to find our own house without moving too far from friends. So it was through Anne’s intrepid searching that we landed in the Bentswood suburb of Haywards Heath on the other side of town from where we lived 2001-9. It's great to be near shops at last, to have moved from two spells on the periphery to live close to the hub of our vibrant town.
Haywards Heath is a Mid Sussex town with population 33,845 (2011 census) 36 miles south of London and 14 miles north of Brighton. I first saw it flashing by over 60 years ago on that remarkable speeded up London to Brighton train journey. Its primarily a commuter town – there are relatively few jobs in the town – and many of our residents commute daily via road or rail to London, Brighton, Crawley or Gatwick for work. Anne and I have lived here – or in its ‘suburb’ Horsted Keynes – for 17 years with easy access to family in Burgess Hill, Brighton and London.
We live in Marylands off New England Road which is a continuation of America Lane in Haywards Heath. The America estate traces back to the 1820s when Quaker philanthropist William Allen set up a colony of distressed agricultural workers from Lindfield providing an acre of land apiece to encourage their self-sufficiency. No one’s sure why the colony became known as the America estate. In ‘The Story of Haywards Heath’ (1998) Wyn Ford suggests the paupers received there were said to have been ‘sent to America’ as if sent overseas! 200 years on the America estate is home from home for us, an increasingly upbeat community which is no longer on the periphery.
Village politics affected the development of Haywards Heath from its very start. Neither Lindfield or Cuckfield cared for the disturbance a railway represents so the route to Brighton through Balcombe and Haywards Heath was the compromise sealed by Act of Parliament on 15 July 1837. In the 1841 census the 100 or so railway labourers, mainly Sussex men but with quite a few Irish, were the largest single element in the population. There were two police constables for this small group suggesting Haywards Heath began life as a rather troublesome community!
As Haywards Heath residents we value the Orchards shopping precinct which is partly weather proofed and has five pay and display car parks around it as well as some places you can park for free if you stay for a short period. Its a community hub. Having lived in or near the town for 17 years Anne and I usually meet someone we know when we’re out shopping. That’s also the case with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose near the station. At holiday time there’s often some entertainment laid on for families which helps make our town centre even more of a hub.
Where would we be in Haywards Heath without the Dolphin? I’ve been a member of our municipally supported Leisure Centre Gym – formerly called Olympos – as long as its existed from around 2002. Besides the Gym – reasonably priced – there’s a Teaching Pool, Sports Hall, Studios, Indoor Cycling Studio, Squash Courts, Café, Crèche and Treatment rooms. The Health suite feels especially lavish as it replaced the old diving pool and has a very high ceiling. This makes for spacious reflection in the small pool, jacuzzi, steam room or sauna frequently assisted by the philosophising of the locals!
Besides the circular buses we use to get from our home in Bentswood to the station Haywards Heath is served by buses to Brighton, Burgess Hill, Crawley, East Grinstead, Hurstpierpoint and Uckfield. These are a great service to walkers. It's great to bus it to Scaynes Hill and walk back through the woods, or to Ardingly returning via the reservoir and golf course. I like walking through Victoria Park then through the woods alongside the railway to Burgess Hill taking a bus back or to Crawley Down, walking on the old railway track to East Grinstead or Forest Row then taking a bus home.
Haywards Heath is an ideal base for visiting London, Sussex and the south coast. I’ve recently posted 100 half day tours of Free London sights from Victoria station 45 min up the railway line following 12 routes radially from Victoria station https://freelondonfromvictoria.blogspot.com/ I’ve also posted online 20 walks along the South Downs Way from stations easily accessed from Haywards Heath station 3 miles to 19 miles long, leaving 7 mid-Sussex stations and ending at 12 Sussex stations. Try https://southdownsrailtrails.blogspot.com/?m=1