Monday, 25 April 2016

Burwash and Bateman's

The village of Burwash is perhaps one of the most scenic in all of East Sussex and it was inevitable that one of the walks from the Pathfinder Guide "East Sussex and the South Downs" (volume 67 walk 8).  It also appears in volume 24 "Surrey and Sussex" (walk 8).  After a pretty long dry spell of weather we felt safe doing this walk despite a warning of muddy conditions.  It was a dry and slightly chill spring day with no clouds but a slight haze in the air and it was a pleasure being out in a different part of Sussex than we are normally used to visiting.

We parked in the village car park in Burwash, which was rather quiet for such a nice day.  I guess the next door pub wasn't open yet so perhaps we got here before the rush?  We started our walk along the High Street, an inviting looking place with clapboard and tile hung houses and shops lining the main road.  The village sign showing a forge reminded us of the iron heritage of this part of Sussex.  We didn't linger on the High Street for long as our path took us down a side street and past the very attractive looking Rose and Crown pub.  The earlier volume talks about a fire station down here too but that is long gone.

Oast House
Soon the lane gave way to a track that weaved its way through fields with some purpose.  On our left hand side some views of the Weald opened up and the fields had some sheep and lambs although they were rather a long way off.  Soon we were to leave the comfort of this track and head off across the fields and into a wood where we encountered our first mud.  It didn't bode well for later on the walk but for now it was relatively easy to pick our way through.  We headed for a stream and upon meeting it followed it for a short while and then crossed via a small wooden footbridge.  As we climbed away from the stream we headed up towards a largish oast house.  This has become the most fabulous looking house - must be fantastic to live somewhere with so much character!

Dead Orchard?
The oast house was actually part of a small hamlet when we got closer and each one of the houses looked splendid.  The gardens were well tended and resplendent with their daffodils on show.  Just as it looked like we would cross the garden of one of the houses the path took a detour out through what almost be described as a tradesman's entrance!  We entered what at first looked like a dead orchard but on closer inspection we decided that it was alive.  The trees didn't look in great shape though - perhaps they needed some extra tlc to get them going once again?

Franchise Manor Drive
At the other end of the orchard we entered rather a grand looking track that was tree and daffodil lined.  Almost immediately we also came upon the war grave of Reginald Rimmer, a young pilot who was shot down here by a German during the Battle of Britain and crashed here.  He was just 21 years old.  A brief history and his picture can be found at here.  It was rather sobering stuff and a reminder of how widespread the fighting was during the desperate struggle of 1940.  I certainly never realised that dogfights took place over the Sussex countryside as well as in Kent.

Reginald Rimmer Memorial
We walked up the driveway I am guessing away from the place it leads to for eventually we found ourselves at a white gatehouse (which didn't look too shabby itself!).  I later learned that the house the drive led to was called Franchise Manor, but it was out of sight for us.  The dalliance with the road didn't last long as we were soon on Holton Lane, one that looked rather like it could have become part of the highway network but which the authorities never quite got around to surfacing.  The going became sticky for a while and there were patches that were pretty difficult.  Just as we thought we had got through the worst of it we realised how mistaken we were for the mud became impassable about three quarters of the way along.  We managed to scramble our way through using some fairly tenuous looking routes clinging on to banks, tree trunks and even barbed wire fences as we did so.  Beware a winter walk here - it won't be fun!

Woods Along Holden Lane
Eventually we got through the worst of it and crossed a main road.  The last half mile had taken nearly half an hour to walk and had sapped our energy considerably.  The road was a welcome relief in terms of surface but it is also very busy and a great deal of care had to be exercised in walking the sort length to the onward path.  We managed to escape from its clutches feeling very relieved as there is virtually no room to be here.  

On the other side of the road we followed another drive down to another oast house.  This time we didn't just have daffodils lining the route but cyclamen too - rather an unusual sight for the countryside but a welcome burst of colour nonetheless.  Upon reaching the house we crossed into a horses field which was churned up but mostly dry at least.  From here the route took a very pleasant course across fields and through a few small tracts of woodland down to the back of the Bateman's estate.  Along the way we got views of the church in Burwash - a landmark for some miles around by the look of things.  Our first glimpse of Bateman's came at the start of the millstream that fed the estate watermill and which still functions.

Burwash View
Bateman's is famous as being the home of Rudyard Kipling, author of the Jungle Book and one of the most popular writers of his generation.  He certainly was not a penniless writer as the large house demonstrates.  We had intended visiting as part of this walk but in our current state this was out of the question as two of our party had sodden feet and we were all covered in mud.  I don't think the National Trust would have particularly welcomed our visit!  We contended ourselves with a brief look at the water mill and a view of the house from the outside before heading on to finish our walk in Burwash.  We had visited the house a couple of years previously and it was certainly worth a trip then - maybe we will come again soon?

Bateman's Watermill
The onward walk from Bateman's was largely uphill.  The house is not visible from the village despite its proximity.  I imagine this was part of Mr Kipling's thoughts when he was here.  The walk was pleasant but a little bit of a sting in the tail at the end.  At five miles total length though you shouldn't feel too tired at this point, although we did feel like we had walked a lot further courtesy of the muddy conditions!  If you try this walk - do yourself a favour and come in the summer or autumn...


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