Introduction: Not strictly a nature reserve, but this fascinating architectural oddity can be visited when exploring the rights of way network around West Hoathly. It has been lovingly restored by the local community in recent years and is open most days as a walkers' shelter.
Location: Highbrook is situated in the western end of the High Weald AONB near West Hoathly. It is 123m above sea level, on a sandstone ridge 1.5 miles south of the Medway/Ouse watershed.
What can I do? Visit the Smokery, which is believed to date from around 1780 and sits in the heart of the village, next to All Saints Church. The Smokery now functions as a walkers' rest stop. Also visit All Saints Church with its interesting history. The public footpath that runs between the Smokery and the Church connects the Sussex Border Path (1.6 km to the East) and the High Weald Landscape Trail (1 km to the West).
What can I see? The restored Smokery. Breathtaking views across the High Weald. The legacy of many of the industries carried out in the High Weald.
What can I hear? Distant trains on the Bluebell Railway. A variety of woodland birds in the nearby woods.
Information available: An Interpretation Board has been installed at the Smokery.
Grid reference: TQ361300 (OS Map)
OS map: 135 (Explorer, 1:25,000)
Opening times: All year
Dogs allowed: Yes
Terrain: The Smokery has full all-ability access. Both the Sussex Border Path and the High Weald Landscape Trail can get very muddy during the winter and after rain.
Nearest train station: Haywards Heath (mainline) 4.7 miles.
Horsted Keynes (Bluebell Steam Railway) 1.2 miles. Visit Bluebell Railway for more information.
Nearest NCN Route: Route 21 is 6 miles
Where can I park? Adjacent to the Smokery is informal parking for the Church, which can be used by visitors to Highbrook.
Where can I get further information?
Site Enhancements 2009-2012
Unused and becoming derelict in the late 20th century, the Smokery was gifted to the village of Highbrook and became managed by the Highbrook Village Hall Management Committee. Vernacular buildings, such as the Smokery at Highbrook, are an essential component of the High Weald and the Committee fundraised to renovate the building and open it up to public access. This long, community-led process was completed in late 2009, when public access to the inside of the building was also granted.
Works to the Smokery included a new, wooden shingle roof; replacement oak window and door; a new tiled floor; extensive internal repairs including a new ceiling and lime plastering to the walls; plus a bespoke curved seat to provide a welcome rest place for weary walkers.
The Smokery was formally opened in spring 2010: in the presence of councillors and representatives from the renovation's funders - the Heritage Lottery Fund, Mid Sussex District Council, West Sussex County Council, West Hoathly Parish Council, the High Weald Joint Advisory Committee, and the residents of Highbrook.