The sun is high in the sky and it already feels like midday as we walk down through the pretty village of Northiam. We pass hawthorn hedges wearing their first blossoms and cross the River Rother at a narrow bridge, admiring the boats moored below.
Our path takes us downstream along the calm valley, through fields adrift with wildflowers - pastel blue forget-me-nots, sunny dandelion flowers and fuzzy dandelion clocks, delicate pink milkmaids (a.k.a. cuckoo flowers or lady’s smock) waving on their long stems and bold yellow wild mustard flowers echoing fields of rapeseed nearby. When we stop for lunch, we add a few foraged leaves to our sandwiches: milkmaids are a kind of peppery cress and wild mustard is also edible.
Relaxing on the sunny riverbank, the day feels long and lazy, as though the hours have slowed to a halt. The call of skylarks and the whistle of the heritage steam train on the Kent & East Sussex Railway adds to the feeling that the years have been wound back. When we finally drag ourselves away from our dozing, a herd of curious steers is gazing down at us from the track above.
But within half an hour, the sky has clouded over and a chill wind is blowing up from the marshes. At Blackwall Bridge, we re-cross the Rother and join the Sussex Border Path. Maintenance of this 150 mile long distance path has recently been taken over by the Ramblers, and new waymarkers direct us over rolling fields, down hedge-lined farm lanes and through bluebell woods.
We stop in an idyllic grove beside a reed-lined pond for our afternoon tea. Sheltered from the wind, we fall asleep, lulled by the rumble of a tractor ploughing a nearby field. We wake to a splash in the pond and a quiet rustle in the reeds - my partner says he sees a water vole, but my eyes are not so keen!
The last section takes us through Beckley and back to Northiam. We hang over a hedge to watch a delightfully furry pig at Swallowtail Hill farm, negotiate a series of increasingly treacherous stiles, admire an overgrown orchard and are followed by a friendly dog.
There are a few moments of confusion - when we miss a turning, or when the way is overgrown with rapeseed - but soon enough the path deposits us back in Northiam at journey’s end.
A gentle springtime walk around the East Sussex/Kent border near Northiam, along the River Rother and through the hills.
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