Thursday, 30 October 2014

Sussex Border Path Section 18 Cowden and Hammerwood Park

Cowden Church

 Several more months have ticked away without me being able to do more of this walk and I was anxious to do more.  Now I am the other side of East Grinstead it is getting a little harder to find a long enough time slot to walk the route but on this Sunday morning I was disciplined enough to get up very early and take myself off to Cowden village.  I parked up by Cowden Church and as I admired the steeple and took in the ambience of the early autumnal morning I jumped out of my skin when I was greeted by the lady vicar who had come up behind me on her way to get ready for the morning services.  I politely told her I wasn’t lost before heading on my way.
Dahlia Show

I crossed the nearby allotment site, still showing plenty of colour in the shape of the last sweet peas of the season and dahlias in full bloom.  Even the raspberry bushes still had plenty of fruit on them.  My feet though got extremely wet very quickly due to the heavy dew on the grass as I walked along the path between plots.
Holtye Common

I soon came upon the local golf course – yet another one.  This part of Sussex has more golf courses than almost anywhere else I know.  Initially the going was good but I soon got a bit lost as I lost the signs for the path about halfway across and went around in circles a bit before finally finding my way out and onto the nearby road.  I went downhill a little way, passing a hapless squirrel that had recently been squashed by the looks of things and was under surveillance from a nearby crow.  I am guessing he thought I was competition for this delectable meal…

Roger's Town
My onward route then passed through Holtye Common, a delightful stretch of birch woodland that soon became another path alongside another golf course.  This one seemed quite a challenge as the guys who were playing the hole near me were really struggling with the significant slope of the valley they were trying to get their ball over.  I passed quickly, feeling rather amused by their frustration.
Abandoned Phone Box

After passing through more woods I crossed a road to find a very old looking telephone box that was slowly receding into nature.  Obviously when I looked inside there was no telephone but there was one of the notices that BT provide to encourage the local community to take the box on as a community asset and thereby safeguard its future.  The funny thing was though that the consultation period was 42 days from the date of the poster.  That was in 2009!  A little overdue methinks…
Bright Berries

Some road walking followed and this seemed to be an unusually busy lane.  I suspect that part of the issue was that there were some lost drivers all looking for a fishing lake which was obviously not easily found with their Satnav devices.  I was asked for directions by a couple of them but despite having a map I wasn’t a lot of help for there are so many small ponds and lakes in this part of the county.
Hammerwood Country

Eventually I left the road and encountered my first overgrown path of the day which wasn’t fun to negotiate.  By the time I got out into the open fields beyond I had been scratched plenty by the brambles and I was wet through with dew from grass and other vegetation.  Luckily the day was warming up by now and despite my wetness it wasn’t too uncomfortable.  The walking wasn’t the most interesting for a while though – endless field after endless field it seemed for a while until eventually I came out on a field that overlooked Hammerwood Park and my work didn’t feel like it was in vain.

Hammerwood Park
I had deliberately constructed the route to get a look at Hammerwood Park.  This old house has had quite the history, acting as Special Operations base during World War II.  It was later owned by Led Zepellin who bought it to house some of their family and group members.  By the time they sold it in 1982 the old house was in serious need of repair and luckily it was bought by David Pinnegar who restored it back to its former glory.  The house opens during the summer months and hosts classical music concerts and is probably one of the hidden gems of East Sussex.  Sadly although I could see the house very well much of the view was obscured by some rather unfortunately placed electricity pylons.
Even the Kitchen Sink

I passed through Owletts Farm and then an enclosed path with huge berry filled hedges either side of me.  This section of path was a joy to walk along as the autumn sun picked out some of the vibrant colours of the berries and last flush of flowers.  Soon the hedge turned into woodland and I was rather surprised to see a number of abandoned sink units left in the trees.  I wondered whether this was an abandoned campsite?
Tired Sign

At the far end of the wood I crossed back across the main road I had encountered earlier and headed towards the path I had chosen through the woods on the other side.  This was a complete nightmare – the path was so overgrown it was almost impassable and although I persevered I really wished I hadn’t.  It was a complete nightmare trying to get through to the other side and the road beyond. In fact what I hadn’t realised was that the path was in fact a dead end and as I tried to blunder through the last few yards to the road beyond I got my foot stuck in a muddy bog and went round and round in circles trying to find a way out.  In the end I probably trespassed my way through the grounds of the very opulent houses in my way but by then I didn’t much care for the prospect of going back through the thicket was far too much to bear.  My advice would be don’t come this way!

Eventually I found the safety of the road beyond and was happy to walk some tarmac for a bit.  The early sunny weather had by now given way to gloomy greyness and this did not much help my mood.  It was however the sort of cloud that I thought could easily shift at any moment so I ploughed on, largely forgetting the camera for quite a while.  The scenery was pleasant rather than memorable and I was pleased when I reunited with a section of the SBP I had walked last time out.  Much had changed since then – blossom had given way to berries and the landscape looked tired rather than fresh and vibrant.

Friendly Horses
As I left the overlapped section and followed the official SBP back towards Cowden.  As I did so I encountered a running race of some sort for the next mile or so I saw what seemed to be an endless stream of runners in various states of fitness jogging in the opposite direction that I was heading.  Most had race faces on and ignored me bu there were a few friendly ones who gave me a nod and a smile.  I seemed to lose them altogether by the time I got to Jules Wood and from here on the path was devoid of people.  On the whole I found this section rather dull and it wasn’t helped by the rather grey and gloomy weather that has come across.  The autumn colours had yet to fully develop either and so the whole walk rather felt less than satisfying.  The only things of note that I passed by were the rather wonderful Waystrode Manor, a half timbered grade II listed building and a couple of murky looking dewponds.
Waystrode Manor
On the whole this was a disappointing walk not helped by the unexpected gloomy weather which closed in.  The non SBP part of the route was also very difficult due to the largely overgrown state of the paths.  It might be a while before I venture out on the next section of the SBP.

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