Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside! It’s easy to jump in the car and head to the beach, but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be gained from walking there instead. This 12km (7mi) walk from Battle to Bexhill follows the Bexhill link of the 1066 Country Walk long distance path.
We set off from Battle Abbey a bit after 10am. Washed clean by yesterday’s rain, the scenery is bright with pink willowherb and cheerful yellow ragwort. Along the track past Peppering Eye Farm, a stream is running high and fast.
Despite the wetness, our way remains relatively clear until we hit mud in the RSPB nature reserve at Fore Wood. There, we watch bees, butterflies and electric blue damselflies flitting around frothy white heads of meadowsweet. A sign in a pond warns unwary visitors about the local crocodiles, insects dance in a brilliant pool of sunlight and a jay screeches overhead. Through the woods comes the muted rumble of a train passing on its way to Hastings.
We cross a field of ripe wheat, wild chamomile underfoot, and find ourselves in Crowhurst. We detour to look at the church, the neighbouring ruins and the huge old yew tree in the churchyard. There are many possible reasons for yew trees being planted in churchyards. One explanation is that while yew is good for making bows, it can be lethal to grazing animals, so planting yew trees in churchyards meant farm animals would not be poisoned.
The walk soon enters Combe Haven, where a colourful sign describes the flora and fauna we might see. Someone has keyed a gash across the map, reflecting the vandalism ahead of us, where the open wound of the Hastings-Bexhill link road cuts through the valley. The construction team can’t be faulted in its treatment of walkers: paths and signs thread us easily through the site. But it’s hard to believe anyone could approve the destruction of such a beautiful and (until the traffic arrives) peaceful place. If you’re going to do this walk, try to do it now, while it’s still possible to stop in the warm silence beside the water and hear only birdsong. Swans glide through the reeds and a heron sweeps overhead.
Up the hill and over the line of what was once a railway, we enjoy the last piece of rural quietness before entering suburban Bexhill. I feel like a bit of a Nimby, but I hope the planning application for 1,000 new houses here is not approved. The 1066 Country Walk waymarkers peter out at Bexhill Old Town and from there it’s a pleasant stroll through the pretty Manor Barn gardens and down to the seafront.
We meet up with a friend to scoff some well-earned chips for lunch. Afterwards, we bask in the sun on the beach near the De La Warr Pavilion, listening to the waves rake the pebbles. I do like to be beside the sea!
A version of this article first appeared as "A summer's country walk to the seaside" in the Battle Observer, Friday 21 August 2015, page 59.
In which I
In which I do things and write about them
In which I tag
In which I archive