Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Arlington and Abbotts Wood

Puffy Clouds
After all the tropical posts I imagine that a few followers will be surprised to see a blog entry from the UK once again but we headed back for a lengthy summer trip after our first year at our new school.  As you can imagine we were very keen to do a few walks while we were back and used our base in Alfriston to explore a few places in East Sussex between family and friends visits.  This particular walk linked together a couple of old haunts and is walk number 23 from Pathfinder Guide 67 East Sussex and the South Downs.

Arlington Reservoir used to be a popular winter walk for us as it is relatively short and suited the legs of small children but also it was relatively clean throughout the perimeter path even in the depths of winter when other places are afflicted by mud.  A trick we learned from our many visits is to park in the layby outside the reservoir  and not the official car park.  There are usually plenty of spaces and you will save yourself the parking fee (useful for refreshment money later!).  Upon entering the reservoir area we took a left turn and initially headed along the shore of the artificial lake that was created in 1971 to provide drinking water for Eastbourne.  Nearly 50 years on from its creation it now seems at home in its surroundings and the edges have softened sufficiently to look like it might be natural.  The view across the reservoir is great with Windover Hill and the chalk figure of the Long Man  of Wilmington as the backdrop.
Our loop of the reservoir this time didn't last long as the path soon led off to our left and across fields with ripening wheat and almost ripe barley.  There was a slight breeze that helped the individual stalks wave almost mesmerically and for a few brief moments I was transfixed by the movement.  All in the hedgerow alongside were dozens of bees going about their business and quite a few butterflies.  It was pleasing to see the butterflies as we had heard that numbers seemed to have been decreasing in recent years.  We noticed a lot of painted ladies in particular - apparently it was a year where their numbers had swelled.

The path led us across fields to Upper Dicker passing by an old moat apparently.  I did look for it without success as it was buried somewhere in the trees alongside the field.  Sometimes I wonder about these kind of features in the landscape - do OS people really see them or have they been included on earlier iterations of the map but are now lost to undergrowth and nature?  We passed by a few fragments of woodland, a reminder that this area would once have been covered in an impenetrable forest back in prehistoric times and even up to the Saxon age.

The Plough
We passed by a lady with a young dog as we approached the village.  The dog immediately dropped on to its back for its belly to be rubbed - my girls obliged much to its excitement.  It was certainly a great welcome to the village although strangely she was the only person we saw outside.  The only other person we saw was the landlady of The Plough where we stopped for a lemonade.  It seemed like a lovely village pub - I hope that it manages to stay afloat when so many others are going out of business.  Feeling refreshed we walked along the street and past the rather opulent looking Bedes School which has produced a number of locally famous sportsmen including the footballer Dan Harding and the cricketer Luke Wells.  We soon crossed their cricket pitches and the latest crop of pupils were being put through their paces in the cricket nets on the far side.  I wonder if any will make it into the county cricket scene?

Bede's School
We were soon back in farmland although the pasture here looked pretty rough - just a few miserable looking cows populated this area.  We had hoped that we would get a good view of Michelham Priory, a pretty well preserved priory dating from the 13th Century.  Unfortunately in the height of summer the surrounding trees completely obscured it except for the briefest of glimpses of one of the towers.  We also had a moment where we struggled to find the onward path here - we eventually found the ramshackle stile that led us into a nearby wood.  Woods would be the order of the day for the next stretch of the walk - we passed through and then went around the perimeter of Bramble Grove which was a surprisingly dark stretch.  At the far end we came upon a road just outside Arlington Speedway track, the home of Eastbourne Eagles.  Luckily all was quiet today - I imagine they make quite a din when they are in session.

Fully Clothed
Across the road and we passed briefly down the side of Abbotts Wood before heading into the forest itself.  This was a firm favourite when I was a kid - I loved walking to the lake in the middle and was pleased that this walk included the same.  If it hadn't I probably would have made sure to include it.  The lake isn't particularly spectacular and in fact every time I see it I am sure it is a bit smaller - maybe that is because of the increasing amounts of vegetation I see there.  We lingered on the bridge for a short time before pushing on completing the loop through the forest to the car park.  This is a walk I must have completed dozens of times and yet it always looks different.  In my minds eye I have a memory of this walk as a child and no matter how many times I do it as an adult it never seems to match my memory.  I cannot honestly think of any other place where this is true...

Abbott's Wood Lake
The car park was as quiet as you might expect on a work and school day; on a similar sort of day at the weekend it would be rammed as this is a seriously popular beauty spot.  However once we had crossed the fields and arrived at The Yew Tree pub in Arlington we came upon quite a crowd of pensioners in the beer garden having their lunch.  Maybe they had already had their constitutional walk at the woods earlier on and we had missed them?  Seriously though we quickly understood why it was so popular - we had a great lunch and a pint of local real ale to wash it down.

The Yew Tree
From our pub stop it was a short trip down past the church to the reservoir beyond.  The clouds that had built up on the way round now dissipated once again and the church looked resplendent in the sunshine newly emerged.  We wandered around the reservoir for the final part of our walk and ended up walking almost a complete loop.  On the return leg we got to see a lot more birdlife and especially a group of great crested grebes swimming and diving in the water.  They always seem to be too far away for me to get a decent picture more's the pity.

Arlington Church
This was an enjoyable family walk as it gave us plenty of time for chatter and wasn't too taxing.  The two pubs on the way around seem in good health and hopefully that will remain the case for future walkers.  I was vaguely disappointed with it though - perhaps it would be a better one to do in spring or autumn.  During the summer months the amount of foliage meant that the woodland sections were just dark and devoid of flowers or colour.  I was also most disappointed not to get a view of Michelham Priory - maybe you could with no foliage on the trees?

Back to the Reservoir

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