Going on a favourite walk is like catching up with an old friend: I look forward to it; it’s comfortable, fun and familiar. This is one of those walks. We return to it a few times each year, so anticipating and marking the seasonal changes is like sharing news or gossiping and hatching plans.
The scent of summer flowers follows us as we crunch the gravel out of Icklesham and into the fields. We keep an eye out for the stone circle a little way off the path. It’s been there only a few years, tricking passers-by into thinking they’ve found an ancient relic.
Near Hogg Hill Mill, butterflies dance in tall drifts of grass, swallows speed low across the field and baby rabbits blink at us, fearless with youth. Apparently, Sir Paul McCartney has a recording studio in the mill. We’ve never seen him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking out the windows of the roundhouse enjoying the vista over Pett Level and the sea.
Further on, we enter National Trust land. The trust owns Wickham Manor Farm, once home of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. We admire New Gate, built in the 14th century as part of the ancient wall around Winchelsea, now arching over Wickham Rock Lane. A cuckoo calls nearby.
Winchelsea is drenched in the sweet smell of roses and honeysuckle. We stop at the impressive church to watch a flock of swifts perform their daredevil flights through the tall ruined arches. Behind us, three people have made a pilgrimage to Spike Milligan’s grave. “Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite” it reads - “I told you I was ill.”
Out of town we go, to the site of St Leonard's Windmill, repaired in 1935 and again in 1955, only to be totally destroyed by the storm in 1987. The mill stone remains to mark the spot. The wonderful view here is as close to Tuscany as you’re likely to get in East Sussex, with rolling, golden fields and a smattering of poplars. We trace the line of our walk thus far across the hills, then map the second half along the River Brede below.
Down in the valley, we find poppies bobbing along the path and swans gliding between water lily pads. We cross and re-cross the train track before heading uphill to the Queens Head for a well-earned lunch.
It's been a very pleasant day. As we relax in the sunny garden I think, “We mustn’t leave it so long next time.” It really is like catching up with an old friend.
This article first appeared, somewhat awkwardly named, as "The good feeling of walking with memories" in the Battle Observer, Friday 10 July 2015, p76.
In which I
In which I do things and write about them
In which I tag
In which I archive