This description has suggested activites to keep young children amused shown in italics
March 2021 – the ground is drying up but the path under trees on the way down to Vicarage Wood is still very muddy and there is a large area of mud when you reach the field beyond. You can avoid most of the mud on the path by the river by treading carefully.
|A two mile route on footpaths with a long descent out and long ascent back|
|Length||3.2km (2 miles)|
|Terrain||Paths, long uphill, muddy after rain, uneven in woods|
|Time||30 – 60 minutes|
|Suitability||Walkers, walkers with dogs
Notes: dogs must be on leads during parts of the walk since sheep can be in the fields
|Start||Mayfield Memorial Hall car park, Mayfield (TN20 6PJ); grid reference TQ587272; GPS co-ordinates 51° 1’17.52″N, 0°15’47.15″E|
|Public transport||Bus route 51/251/252 between Tunbridge Wells and Heathfield/Eastbourne stops in Mayfield High Street|
|Parking||Car park for 40 cars in Memorial Hall car park which can be busy when there are events in the hall and particularly at school pick up time|
View 2 mile loop round Vicarage and Banky Woods in a larger map
Take the concrete path which leaves the left (north-east) corner of the car park in front of the Memorial Hall and goes downhill. Tell children to look out for a small round button which says Survey Point – it is difficult to spot but is embedded in the path after about 10 yards. Where the path bears right just after the basketball court, keep straight down over the grass and behind the football posts to the steps in the far corner.
Go down the steps and cross over the track and the stile opposite. Follow the path as it keeps to the right of the field and in 100 yards come to another stile which leads to another field and in a further 50 yards to a crossing of footpaths with a signpost on your right hand side.
Take the path which leads directly and steeply downhill in front of you and in 100 yards cross a stile to come onto a narrow, steep and sometimes muddy path between trees. At the bottom cross another stile and then another very muddy part. Keep to the right of the field and in less than 100 yards enter Vicarage Wood via a stile. The path quickly becomes uneven – the original path is a sunken track but this is difficult to follow with a couple of small fallen trees to navigate and it is easier to keep to the right hand side or scramble down over the trees if your children can manage this safely. Where the sunken section ends bear slightly right downhill and follow one of two routes downhill, ignoring a footpath which leaves to your right, to reach a concrete bridge and a footpath junction on the other side. On the way down to the bridge you can see if the children remember how many stiles they have crossed so far.
After the bridge you turn left to follow the side of the river for 350 yards, mostly in woods but at the end coming out into a cleared area. An alternative for children is to explore and find the “secret” not very obvious path off to the right after about 50 yards which turns hard right and climbs; where it levels, turn left past a coppiced area onto an obvious permissive path through the trees high up in the wood and descend at the end in 400 yards. On the main route next to the stream you come to another footpath junction. On your right is a board describing the area and the Gun Foundry. Your path is left at the junction to cross the river once again. Look along the river to your left to the site of the 16th century Mayfield Gun Foundry which nearly 500 years ago a large dam provided the power for the manufacture of cannons and other guns.
Here, as elsewhere, you can challenge children to find the next signpost or marker – tell them the next turn is on the left. In 50 yards, just before the gate and the end of the wood, turn left on the path into the wood, which drops to a bridge of planks crossing a stream and then climbs on a muddy path of bricks and earth to come out into a field.
Keep in the same direction to climb sharply for 50 yards to the top hedge (possibility of a race to the top for older fitter children) where you bear right and follow beside the edge of the field for 200 yards to gap beside a stile. Children can watch out for the cat and owls which are in fact on the weathervanes of the oast that you pass . Into the next field where the path curves gently left to reach a kissing gate (formerly a stile) under some trees. Through the gate and sharp right on a shaded path to another stile after only 20 yards. You now come out into another field where you climb with a fence on your left for 100 yards to a signpost where footpaths cross. As you come up to this point see if children remember the spot and know which way to go to return to the start.
Now retrace the first part of the walk by taking the footpath on your right, cross a stile in 50 yards and keep to the left of the next field to another stile which leads onto a track. Cross the track and up 7 wooden steps to arrive in Court Meadow with a football pitch ahead. Bear right with the goal posts on your left and head from the concrete path that climbs up to the top by the Memorial Hall and brings you back into the car park.