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Marching to Battle

Summary

A lovely varied walk through Wealden woods and hills, using the London to Hastings Railway and ending at famous Battle.  It starts at Robertsbridge Station, which may seem a long way from Lewes, but if you consult Travel Line South East to get a good connection, you can be there in little more than an hour

Distance, Terrain and Time

7.4 miles/12km.  Rolling hills and a couple of moderately steep climbs.

Introduction

William the Conquerer arrived in Battle using the 1066 country way whilst King Harold arrived to oppose him on the 1066 Harolds Way.  This route takes neither of these, so perhaps might be the spectators route, used by local people to see how things worked out.

Obstacles

Like all walks in the Weald, this walk can be muddy in winter.  Numerous stiles, mostly in good condition.

Start and finish points

Start Robertsbridge Station

Finish Battle Station

Getting there

The London to Hastings railway line stops at London Charing Cross (sometimes Cannon Street instead), Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Robertsbridge (not all trains) Battle and Hastings.

Buses also run between Robertsbridge and Battle but at Robertsbridge the bus stop is a little way away from the start of the walk.

For bus and train times see Traveline South East

Date researched

19/11/2013

Ordnance Survey maps

Explorer series number 124

Refreshments

Pubs and shops in the main part of Robertsbridge, a little way away from the start of the walk.  The Ostrich pub and hotel is right by the station, but may not open lunchtimes in the week.

Shops, pubs and a very large number of tea rooms and cafes in Battle.

Song to get you in the mood or to sing on the walk

Battle Hymn of the Republic.  No doubt both sides called on God to help them on their way to the battle.

Route instructions

A)The east side of Robertsbridge Station is the site of operations for the Rother Valley Railway project. The scheme intends to re-open the stretch of railway from Robertsbridge to Bodiam. The Kent and East Sussex steam railway already runs from Bodiam to Tenterden, so this scheme would link Tenterden to the railway system again.  The project is open from 10 – 5 on Sundays

 

Notice the attractive station building.  All the station buildings on this line are handsome structures.

1)Leave Robertsbridge Station by taking the exit to the south of each platform, to meet the road which crosses the the railway.  Turn left on the road and then almost immediately right in front of the Ostrich pub.  Walk through the car park.  At the end walk through a gate and then straight ahead through another gate. There are no waymarks on this part of the path.  Keep by the hedge to your right. Another path joins you from the left.  Come to a stile on your right.  Cross this and follow the path to the road.

Turn left at the road, cross a bridge and then take a tarmac drive to your right, signposted to Glottingham Manor.  Cross under the railway.  The drive turns left.  Follow it. Almost immediately there is a stile on your left. Cross it and walk by the stream and the railway line, which are on your left. (You may be able to see another path slightly to the right.  Ignore this.)

Walk along the railway the side of the hedge and the railway for about 500 metres.  At some points you must go slightly away from the direct line to cross a bridge or round an obstacle. You pass a tranquil pond (sadly private) on your right.  Come to a stone bridge with railings.  This marks a junction of paths.

Turn right over the bridge and a stile and then turn left and continue south next to the line of trees and bushes at the edge of the field.  (The maps show a wood here, but it has long since been felled.) Go through a gate. Keep as left as you can. Just after your reach the end of a field there is a footbridge to your left, partially hidden by trees.  Go over this and walk diagonally to the right across a field. (a waymark at the end of the bridge points you in the right direction.

Enter a wood.  The path continues in the same direction and is fairly clear to follow until you come to a large tree which has collapsed on the ground.  Go round this to the right.  You will then see a path behind which turns right and runs right next to the railway.

You enter a field.  Continue next to the railway.  You come to a metal gate on the left leading to a track underneath the railway.  Go through the gate and walk under the railway.

2) Once under the railway keep ahead and pass through a gap in the hedgeline in front of you, slightly to the right.  You are now in a big field.  You need to turn diagonally right uphill at about 45% aiming just to the left of some trees which stick out into the field. You may find wheelmarks to guide you.

On reaching the trees bear slightly right to come to a stile next to a gap in a fence to enter a further field. Aim to the right of a clump of trees surrounding a pond in the middle of the field.  Pass the pond on your left and begin to climb steeply in roughly the same direction.  You come to a corner of the field where there is a gate.

Stop at the gate to get your breath and look behind you at the panoramic view.  Pass through the gate and find yourself on a track headed towards the mass of Mountfield Court. You come to the metalled drive to the court.  Turn right here and follow the drive to the road.

When you reach the road turn right and follow the road to the entrance to Mountfield Church, which you can find shortly on the left.  The church is worth looking at and there are good views from the churchyard.

B)Mountfield is an ancient community with a lot of history dating back to the bronze or iron age.  According to a pamphlet available in the church for £2 which gives the history of the church and the area, 16 people from Mountfield took part in Jack Cade’s rebellion of 1450.  In the English civil war the curate of the church was chased and arrested by the forces of Parliamentarian Colonel Morley for supporting the King.  The church is about 900 years old. There is no pub or place to get refreshment and in 2013 the parish council was fighting to save the local primary school.

 

3)Leave the churchyard by the exit at the far right hand side to return to the road.  Turn left and quickly come to the village hall.  Turn left down the track in front of the village hall and then continue straight ahead (south) into a field.  Walk along the field edge until the field boundary starts to curve to the left.  Find a stile on your right.  Cross this and walk along a narrow path.  The path opens out slightly and you will see a railway on your left.  You are walking (safely behind a fence) over the portal of Mountfield Tunnel.

C)You will see that the railway line becomes single as it enters the tunnel.  There are a lot of tunnels on this line.  The contractor building the railway cheated the railway company by not lining the them properly.  The company found out when Wadhurst tunnel collapsed. Mountfield Tunnel also caused problems.  The railway company decided that it could not afford to re-bore all the tunnels, so it just added to the lining.  But this made the tunnels smaller.  For many years special smaller trains with flat sides were specially made for the line. One of the later trains has now been preserved But when the line was electrified it was decided to single the line through the tunnels.  This makes journeys between Hastings and Tunbridge Wells very slow, although there is a good chance to look at the impressive scenery.

 

Having passed the tunnel you come to a kind of yard.  No signs are obvious.  Turn left at 90 degrees, along the railway land boundary.  At the end of the yard you may see a waymark pointing you to the left.  Turn left here and go round a gate into a further yard or garden.  Pass a corrugated iron roof building on your right and keep to the railway land boundary. Go through a small gate straight ahead of you in a large hedge and follow a path to reach  a very old sign warning you of a railway line.

This is a small branch to the Mountfield Gypsum works which is not often used.  Cross the railway and turn left into a kind of clearing.  The junction of the branch with the main line is on your left. The ongoing path is about 10 metres to the right of that, in the corner of the clearing.  In 2013 the route was partially obscured by a pile of ballast.

The path now continues for about 300 metres  in woodland between the railway and a service road to the works.  Then you come to two wooden barriers on the right hand side of the path.  It is easy to miss these as the path continues ahead.  But you need to turn right here, crossing the road and entering a path through the woods heading south-east on the other side of the road.

The path leaves the woods and enters a field.  Walk ahead, keeping the edge of the field immediately on your left.  Half way across the field you come to what can only be described as a “small disused contraption”.  There is a stile on the left just behind it.  Turn 90 degrees right here, across the middle of the field, heading south west.

At the end of the field you come to a stile and enter woodland again.  The way is now obvious, until you come to a four way junction of paths.  Turn right here and shortly find yourself at a road.

4)Take the track straight ahead of you.  Almost immediately this crosses another track.  It then starts to descend, at first gradually.  Ignore any turnings until the path starts to descend more steeply to a valley. Near the bottom there is a three way signpost.  One route turns  sharply left, but your route bears right to cross a stream and then climbs.  Come to a road junction.

Cross the road.  In front of you is what looks like the drive to a big house.  Walk along this towards the gate for about 10 metres.  You will see that there is a path to the left which goes along the edge of a field and then plunges into Ashes Wood.

All the woods you have passed through offer an opportunity to explore wildlife, but Ashes Wood is access land (shown on Explorer maps shaded in light brown) which means you do not have to keep to the footpaths, but can explore where you wish.  You may want to deviate from the route if you see something that takes your fancy. The main route leaves the forest at the south eastern corner, so you could meet it again there.

 

To follow the main route walk straight ahead, ignoring routes off to the left and right until you descend to a valley and come to a junction. On your right is a path leading to a stile.  A track leads ahead, but your route is on a wide track to the left.  When the track turns left, nearly at the edge of the wood, keep straight ahead along the side of a lake.

5)Come to a track by some buildings.  Turn left up the track but, as the track bears left, bear right on a path which enters a field.  Walk ahead with a hedge on your left.  At the end of the field walk straight ahead along a track.

At the beginning of the farm complex the track divides, with one fork going off to the right.  Notice that there is a very clear sign saying that there is no footpath straight ahead, but no sign tell you where the footpath does go.  In fact you go along neither of these tracks, but walk into the field on the left and walk along the edge of the field towards the farm buildings.  Follow the field edge as it turns left. Shortly you come to a stile to your right.  Cross this and follow the path to the left to cross a second stile, both by the large farm building.

Enter a field.  Turn right along the side of the farm buildings.  At the end of the farm buildings turn diagonally right to come to a gate in a hedge which goes into the next field.  Here you can see a cottage.  Walk just to the right of this and then to the left of a cottage, partly hidden by trees, to the right.

At the end of the field you will see a path that takes you to the farm drive.  Cross this. Opposite you will see a gate and a stile. Cross the stile and walk alongside the hedge on your left.  You walk downhill to a stile at the bottom of the valley. Cross this (There is often a very large puddle on the other side.  Be careful)

You are nearly in Battle but you must now climb a hill.  There is no marked footpath across the field ahead of you.  Continue in the same direction that you have been travelling, passing a small clump of bushes on your left.  Keep ahead towards the corner of the field. There is a gap in a hedge slightly to your left but you do not go through this.  When you come to the corner of the field you come to a lane (no gate) which bears to the left and then turns right to join a road which is part of a modern estate.

6) Turn left here and follow the road as it bends to the right.  Be careful because there is no footway.  Come to a main road.  Turn right here.  Come to a roundabout.  Bear slightly left here to walk into the main street of Battle.

D)Battle museum of local history (closed in winter) has information about the local area.  Attractive Battle High Street contains lots of browsable nick-nack shops and a considerable amount of café’s.

E) Battle Abbey is open daily in summer and weekends in winter. It includes the site of the famous battle in 1066. There is a visitor centre where hands-on exhibits and a film bring the drama of battle to life. You can also tour the abbey ruins, have an audio tour and see the place where King Harold is thought to have been killed. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the south-east, and deservedly so.

To get to the station walk down the main street.  This bears left at Battle Abbey.  Pass the church on your left.  At a junction bear right. The drive to the station is about 300 metres further on, on the left.

F)Battle station is a grade 2 listed building and is quite something, even by the high standards of this line.  It has a coal fire in the waiting room, which is reminiscent of a church.


© Copyright Chris Smith except where otherwise stated and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence