Monday, 9 August 2010

1066 Country Walk Section 2 Boreham Street - Battle

Boreham Street
After a false start on this walk a couple of weeks earlier (we forgot the map, so had to retrace the first section in reverse!) my wife and I managed to find another spare day without children (both were at school) to undertake the eight miles between Boreham Street and Battle.  As with the last section of the walk public transport would be a bit convoluted so we parked at Bexhill station and took the bus over to Boreham Street.  Being a Tuesday the village was deserted when we got off the bus, the only sign of life being the cars travelling through at great speed.  If I’m honest the road rather spoils the appearance of the village, which would otherwise be a very pleasant and peaceful place.
Which Way?

We wandered along the road to the eastern edge of the village and were quite pleased when we crossed the fence and entered open countryside at last.  Since our last trip on this walk the countryside was beginning to have an end of summer look about it.  Greens were giving way to golds and late summer flowers were coming into season.  The countryside ahead looked rather different from the Pevensey Levels behind us.  Now we would be crossing an undulating landscape of ancient woodland and fields of barley and wheat rather than the fields full of livestock that characterise the marsh country.  Everything seemed less anxious than earlier in the summer, the bumble bees seemed bumblier and the butterflies lingered over each flower.  In a sense the ordinariness of the countryside made us more aware of our immediate surroundings rather than be wowed by the views.
Little Red Tractor

It was a sticky sort of day with a lot of cloud that stubbornly refused to move.  This made progress harder work than it should have been, for any extended effort quickly brought about a raging thirst and sweatiness, part of the reason why I dislike summer walking in the daytime.  We passed by a farm that had diversified by converting outbuildings into holiday lets (and yet kept a building full of redundant machinery – to be turned into a museum?) before meeting a road.  We were to follow this road for some time, from Wilson’s Cross through the hamlet of Bray’s Hill to the wonderfully named Brownbread Street.  The road wasn’t particularly pleasant walking although it was thankfully pretty quiet and we didn’t have to contend with too much traffic.  A postman out on his rounds passed us a couple of times and we mused about how pleasant his job must be, bombing around the country lanes and delivering letters and parcels to the fairly scattered community in this part of The Weald.
Lunch Stop

When we reached Brownbread Street I was surprised to see a windmill though the trees by the side of the road.  I wasn’t able to get a good look at it as it was shielded from the road, but it wasn’t marked on the map which I found a little strange (later I discovered that this windmill is actually a fake and serves only to decorate a pony sanctuary).  Just along from the windmill there was an old fashioned barn with what looked like the children’s TV character, The Little Red Tractor’ poking its nose out of the open doors.  It was left chugging, but there was no-one in evidence ready to take it out for a spin.  By now it was approaching mid-day and the pub next door looked very enticing, especially since the next available stop wouldn’t be until Catsfield, a good hour and a half away.  We had some doubts that the Catsfield pub would be open since I had read a news report earlier in the day that the place had been robbed overnight ( 
Iron Stream

However, the wait at the Ash Tree Inn was worth it.  We had a lovely lunch, proper home cooked fare and a pint of real ale to wash it down.  This is a recommended refreshment stop en route!  Initially we had the garden to ourselves but soon the pub began to fill up with customers and turned out to be quite busy by the time we left at 1pm.  Surprising for a Tuesday lunchtime, but it obviously has a local reputation for good food.

One Tree or Many?

Bellies full, we gingerly continued on our way along the road for about half a mile more before crossing a field.  Any thoughts of leaving roads behind us were short lived though as we resumed the road walking on the other side of the field for almost another mile.  We headed downhill initially, passing an old watermill in the trees and an entrance to Ashburnham Park which looked like a grand landscaped estate.  There followed a short climb, which proved quite difficult with full tummies before crossing a number of fields down to another fast flowing stream.  This was stained red with iron oxide, possibly as a result of former industrial uses.  After crossing the small footbridge we climbed up the appropriately named Tent Hill (it did resemble the shape of a tent).  The summit proved to be a false one, for we kept climbing for some time beyond the supposed crest of the hill.  Away in the distance we could see the almost hidden village of Penhurst among the trees.  For a modestly sized hill it had a surprisingly good view, with Ashburnham Place also quite evident to the southwest of our position.

As we continued climbing we passed what at first looked like a copse but on closer inspection we soon realised that it was an enormous horse chestnut tree.  Inside its crown was cavernous and would probably afford some pretty good shelter in a rainstorm (so longer as lightning isn’t a factor!).  We continued across what was billed as a deer park on the map, but no deer were in evidence today.  Eventually we reached the hamlet of Steven’s Crouch and a rather nasty road crossing.  On the other side of the road the character of the walk changed once again as we headed through large tracts of woodland for the next couple of miles to Catsfield. 
Catsfield Pond

When we reached Catsfield our thoughts turned towards the horrible ordeal that the landlord of the pub must have suffered the night before.  We availed ourselves of the village shop since the pub was inevitably closed.  As we continued through the village we were very struck by the picture postcardness of some of the individual houses.  As a village though, it too suffers from heavy traffic passing through.
Chocolate Box Cottage

We left the village via a field that enabled us to cut off a road corner before crossing it and heading into open countryside once more.  Within a couple of minutes we were heading through a forest of Christmas trees and weren’t sure whether or not this was a farm.  The remaining part of the walk was along farm tracks and as we got closer towards Battle we speculated about how the scene must have looked when the most famous of all British battles took place in 1066.  Stragglers from the battle would probably have continued skirmishing far beyond the primary battlefield.  We also met the link path coming from Bexhill just before reaching Battle itself, which suddenly snuck up on us.  The path came out just by the entrance to Battle Abbey, said to have been built on the very spot that the hapless King Harold was struck in the eye by the arrow.
Battle Abbey

Even on a midweek day outside the school holidays Battle was rammed with tourists and all the eating and drinking establishments outside the Abbey were full of people refreshing themselves after the exertions of sightseeing.  For us we still had a little way to go as Battle station is not at all convenient for the town and we faced another half mile or so walk out past the church and down to the south east corner of Battle to find the train back to Bexhill.  No direct connection is now possible thanks to Dr Beeching, who closed the direct line to Bexhill West.  By connecting at St Leonards Warrior Square, we were still back in Bexhill a little more than twenty minutes later (courtesy of a very tight connection).
Battle Church

This part of the 1066 Country Walk is not as interesting as the first section, but with the pub lunch stop, it made for a pleasant outing.  Battle serves as a good place to stop and has much to recommend it as a place to look around.  For this reason I would recommend splitting what would be a long first day (15 miles) into two shorter sections so that you still have enough energy to give Battle the attention it deserves.  Boreham Street is probably the most convenient break point if you do decide to split the first section, as we did.

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