This walk is about 12km/7.5mi long and is an easy-moderate grade with a few hills. You can download a GPX file of the walk on the right. This article first appeared in the Battle Observer, Friday 8 October 2015, p72.
One year ago, I wrote my first walking piece for the Battle Observer: a walk from Battle to Robertsbridge. For my anniversary (and my last piece for the near future as I'm back in full-time work), I thought I'd walk the distance in reverse, on a slightly different route, and end at home.
There's a footpath marked on the map, but the gate is padlocked. Fortunately, a woman appears with a friendly history lesson and alternate directions. “It stops just there,” she explains. “The workers used to come this way from their cottages. An ostler lived here right up until the 1960s! You need to go through the new estate, now, instead.“
That first obstacle overcome, it’s an easy walk out of Robertsbridge, under the rail line. In the morning sunshine, we head up a long driveway to the site of the twelfth century Glottenham Castle. Robins, tits and warblers flit about, singing among the leaves. A few pheasants burst alarmingly from the long grass. Any remains of the castle have long since disappeared under the trees, but the moat is still visible - albeit through a chickenwire fence. Deep red hawthorn berries and scarlet rosehips adorn the hedgerows. A small wind turbine spins lazily in the breeze.
Mountfield Lane is quiet as we follow it to All Saints Church. We stop for a thermos of tea and I pop inside to see the font (apparently one of the biggest in England). I notice that new wooden pegs have been used to repair the ancient, weatherbeaten timbers of the porch.
South of Mountfield, near the plume of steam that marks the gypsum processing plant, we miss the path and spend a while wandering up roads and poking our noses down the sides of gardens before rediscovering our whereabouts.
The path takes us through stands of beech and chestnut. Mushrooms of all kinds nestle under the fallen leaves. There are more mushrooms at a nearby farm, but they’re rather outdone by three inquisitive alpacas that follow us at a circumspect distance through their field.
We resist the lure of the pubs at Netherfield - we have a lunch date in Battle - and instead take an old coach road downhill, through the woods. After slip-sliding our way across a muddy section churned up by forestry machinery, we emerge at a small lake. This is labelled “pond bay” on our map, so it was probably once the site of a blast furnace for extracting iron ore.
A group of archers is practicing at Beech Farm, bullseye targets lined up along the field. Their arrows ask a quiet, whistling question as they fly: phweet? The thok when they hit their targets is the answer. The archers don’t speak, and I don’t like to break their concentration. Phweet? Thok. Phweet? Thok. There are other targets in the field: statues of sheep and deer . . . and a tiny stegosaurus. If East Sussex goes all Jurassic Park on us, these archers may be our best line defence.
We’re almost home - just one final hill to climb - and my belly is rumbling. It’s been a glorious morning, but now the clouds are massing overhead. We make it to Battle just in time to catch our friends at Bluebells. I'm ready for a well-earned lunch and a lazy afternoon.
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