Thursday, 14 May 2009

High Weald Landscape Trail Day 7 Tenterden - Rye

There is something satisfying and yet sad about completing a walk. So it proved today when I bade farewell to the High Weald Landscape Trail. Amazingly, although completely unplanned it was a year to the day since I started the walk! The weather conditions were remarkably similar to the first day in that it had been a damp day the day before and the weather was still recovering a bit from the rain. The morning was quite steamy and resolutely overcast, although the forecast was for warm sun later.

Tilder Gill
I had a remarkably early start and got to Rye approximately 8.15am, in plenty of time to find somewhere to park (not easy in this tourist honeypot) and catch the first bus of the day to Tenterden at 8.40am. I had really hoped to make this bus for there are only a few each way on a Saturday and the next wouldn’t be for two long hours. I did have a problem though in that I only had a little change and a £20 note. I would not be popular with the bus driver! However, We managed a little ‘deal’ when I got on and for a few stops I was the only passenger. In fact the journey only got busy when we arrived in Smallhythe and a dishevelled bunch of teenagers got on, looking like death warmed up and I suspect having been to an all night party at somebody’s house.
Hammer Pond

Anyhow I got to Tenterden at a respectable starting time of 9.15am and took advantage of a very attractive looking bakery before I started walking. I felt sorted straight away! All I had to worry about now was getting myself the twelve miles back to Rye.

Almost immediately the path left the built up area of Tenterden. I was really surprised how quickly the path took me out into the countryside, although I found the path slightly curious as it was tarmacked for some distance. It was only when I reached the B2082 Rye Road that I realised why. This was the main walking route from the town to the cricket ground and I imagine that someone had decided this was too important a route to have an unmade surface.

Sitting on the Job
A little further on past the cricket ground and yet another pond, I entered the strangely mysterious world of Tilder Gill. To be honest I smelled what was coming long before I reached the wood. This magical place was not what I expected at all. The path led down a narrow stream valley through thick woodland carpeted with wild garlic and the remnants of this year’s bluebells. The woods were alive with the sounds of all manner of birdsongs including a few distinctive ones like the cuckoo (the first I had heard this year) and the green woodpecker (which sounds like it’s cackling!). This was easily the best part of the path of the whole day and I could have spent a few happy hours there just listening to my surroundings and sniffing wild garlic! Further down the valley and the sound of birdsong was joined by the sound of mating frogs from yet another hammer pond. This little section of countryside was very reminiscent of the first day of the hike, even though the rest of this part of Sussex is very different to the area around Horsham.

Smallhythe Place
I passed a farm known as Dumbourne, which seemed to be owned by people who liked collecting old machinery and vehicles around them. The view ahead was across what was once an inlet of the sea and across to the Isle of Oxney. I had been this way once before when I completed the Saxon Shore Way some years ago, although I was now at the other end of the old channel and island. I reunited with the Rye road approximately where the youngsters had got on the bus. The way ahead was along what could have been quite a busy road for about half a mile although luckily still being fairly early on a Saturday, few people were about. It gave me the opportunity to take a good look at the hamlet of Smallhythe. The main points of interest were a small chapel built in a Dutch style and a couple of half timbered houses, one of which was a National Trust owned property (Smallhythe Place), where the famous Victorian actress Ellen Terry once lived.

Reading Sewer
I crossed the Reading Sewer and then across some drained marshland before climbing up through a couple of fields of loudmouthed sheep to the top of the Isle of Oxney. As I looked back across the valley I tried to imagine what it once looked like when it was a sea inlet, with coastal boats bringing cargo to the port at Smallhythe (for Tenterden). At the top I joined a farm track and enjoyed the extensive views across towards the North Downs some way distant. By now the sun was starting to make some headway with the clouds and I could feel some warmth creeping into the day. This helped bring out the smells of the flowers and the verge of the track was a riot of colours. What really caught my attention were some purple flowers that stood out from the crowd. Upon closer inspection I could see that these were common spotted orchids, a slightly surprising find for me as I thought these were restricted to limy soils.

Wittersham Church
I crossed the Rye Road for the last time and then headed across more fields, all the time by-passing the village of Wittersham. In the very distance I could hear the sound of one of the steam trains from the Kent and East Sussex Railway and was reminded that Wittersham had a station, albeit two miles from the village! I can’t imagine this was very useful for the villagers at all.

Wittersham Village
By now my stomach was rumbling and the roll I had bought earlier was starting to call my name out very loudly! I sat upon a stile and consumed it with relish. The view from my lunch spot was typically Kentish although I was by now almost at the next county border with East Sussex. Just after lunch I met the first walker I had seen today and we engaged in conversation. He was a veteran of the walk, having completed it a couple of times and was now heading in the opposite direction to complete that way. Ironically he was from Arundel and had completed many of the same walks as me.

Wittersham Oast
I soon approached another valley, this time for the River Rother and as I crossed the river I also made my way into my home county of East Sussex (being from Lewes originally). I also met with the Sussex Border Path, which I followed for a short way up to Decoy Wood. In the woodland the paths diverged and I headed down towards yet another hammer pond, this one having a new lease of life as a private fishing ground.
Decoy Wood

For the next half mile or so I passed through a couple more woods and the bluebells were still in full bloom, making for that wonderful bluish haze through the woodland floor that is unique to these few short weeks of the year. As I passed through the wood I met another chap who stopped to chat. He was the owner of the wood and was taking advantage of the glorious spring weather to look out for the abundant wildlife living here. He explained to me how he had coppiced his wood over winter to open up some areas to sunlight and increase the biodiversity. His wife was looking for more man-made treasures with her metal detector a little further on. She asked whether I had any treasure that I wanted finding!

Orchard Blossom
It was quite a shock to leave the wood and find myself on the main A268 road to Rye at Peasmarsh. Although the traffic wasn’t pleasant I did admire the rhododendrons that adorned the gardens along the road. Luckily I was able to disappear around the back of the village quite quickly and headed out behind a very large village shop called Jempson’s, which I later learned is the largest independent supermarket in Britain (see I climbed out of Peasmarsh via Peasmarsh Park and headed out on the last leg of the walk into Rye through some orchards and eventually onto a track through Clayton Farm. As I wandered down past the farm I met a very old fashioned looking farmer, complete with trousers done up with string and the kind of person that you don’t think exists in this modern world of ours. I passed the time of day with him and shortly after I was greeted with my first view of Rye. The town is dominated by the church at the pinnacle of the island like hill that the town sits on. It makes for a very distinctive view, quite unlike any other that I know in Britain.
River Tillingham

I descended into the small valley of the River Tillingham and although the edge of Rye was tantalisingly close I had to follow the meander of the river around to a bridge quite close to the Railway Station where the trail officially ended. By now the weather was very warm and I could see that the crowds had finally come out to enjoy the sunshine. I spent some time admiring the windmill at the end of the trail, which you can stay in if you are so inclined (book at Could be a memorable place to stay at the end of the walk! Disappointingly the end of the trail was only marked by a shabby looking marker post but it felt good to be in Rye once again. Of course I have been through here before for hike trips, on the Saxon Shore Way, but there are two other trails that come this way, the 1066 Country Trail and the Sussex Border Path. I feel for sure that both of these will be on my radar one day soon.
Rye Mill

The High Weald Landscape Trail is an interesting walk, better to be done in the Spring after the mud has dried up for it would be susceptible to some muddy tracks. Spring will allow you to enjoy the woodland flowers at their best, although autumn might also be a good time for colours in the woods also. It isn’t especially challenging and public transport links are good although a lot of forward planning is required because of the poor frequencies of some of the services.


  1. What a charming windmill and place. Like the name a lot :)

  2. Tee hee - I'll bet! Maybe you should book yourself in for a night's stay?

  3. How exciting to find a record of our wood and my metal detector on this blog! I hope you enjoyed your walk. Anyone wanting to see more about our woodland on the High Weald Trail, can look at our blog

    and yes, I have found cool things with the metal detector, a 1933 canon shell from a spitfire is the best!

  4. Thank you Tracy! Glad you found it - I really enjoyed meeting you and your husband that day. It was a little paradise that's for sure. Now I'm off to find your blog!