03 April 2016 – new section of wood chippings laid to avoid a very wet portion and a gap at the side of a stile has been re-fenced
A relatively flat route out on one side of the river and back on the other
|Length||8km (5 miles)|
|Terrain||Footpaths and bridleways|
|Time||90 – 180 minutes|
|Suitability||walkers only (& small dogs if you are willing and able to carry them over some stiles)|
|Points of interest||Merrieweathers & Mill House, Hawksden Forge, Hareholt Farm, Hampden Lodge & Oast|
|Start||South Street car park, Mayfield (TN20 6DF) ; grid reference TQ586268 ; GPS co-ordinates 51° 1’11.14″N, 0°15’42.34″E|
|Public transport||Bus route 51/251/252 between Tunbridge Wells and Heathfield/Eastbourne stops in Mayfield High Street, from where you can walk west (away from Tunbridge Wells) for 50 yards and then turn down Star Lane, a small passage between Stone House and “Rosina Fabrics”. At the bottom turn left and arrive at the car park in 50 yards. There is also a community bus to & from Wadhurst twice a day. For detailed bus timetables go to the Mayfield and Five Ashes website|
|Parking||Car park for 50 cars in South Street, which can be full at peak times.|
View Hawksden Park Wood loop in a larger map
Leave car park by the steps and turn left into South Street. After 50 yards turn right up Star Lane to the High Street. Turn right past the Middle House Hotel, and as the High Street bears left carry straight on down Fletching Street past Yeomans at the top on the right and then the Carpenter’s Arms halfway down on the left. Where the road bears left, keep straight on in the direction of Broad Oak with the small green on your left and the Rose & Crown behind it.
Continue down East Street to Southmead Close. Turn left up Southmead Close to footpath between nos 18 and 20, and after 30 yards turn right behind houses, down path between hedge and fences, then cross meadow to gap by side of old stile. Cross sunken cart track to stile. Ignore footpath to left and 2nd stile to right, proceed straight on down meadow with hedge on right to Hole Wood at bottom of field. Enter wood, with uneven winding path continuing downhill, keeping open field on right. At 4 way fingerpost turn right and follow level path, which is often wet and muddy, to stile. Over stile into field, keeping hedge on left towards large oak tree. Pass between oak tree on left and bushes on right, descend to stile. Over stile into small field, and cross to gate. Through gate and turn right on farm road for 20 yards.
Turn left on road leading to Merrieweathers and Mill House. Note avenue of Spanish Chestnut trees. At main gate of Merrieweathers turn right for 30 yards to meet bridleway. Turn left downhill with chicken farm on right and trees on both sides, for approx. 125 yards to junction of bridleways. Take right fork and continue along bridleway constructed of concrete railway sleepers with meadows and brook on left, and trees on right. Proceed uphill with high banks on both sides, and down to junction with tarmac road to Rolf’s Farm.
Turn right up road for about 100 yards then turn left by fingerpost indicating a “LICENSED BRIDLEWAY”. This bridleway continues through Hawksden Park Wood where in spring there are fine displays of bluebells. After 200 yards you pass through an area that has just been coppiced (March 2014). Coppicing has been happening in this area since at least the 15th century when the trees were used to supply the local iron industry with charcoal. Look to your right at the end of the coppiced area and you may be able to make out a sunken square area – the remains of a hunting lodge which was surrounded by a moat.
Soon after at the junction with an unmade road to Hampden Lodge, bear right and continue up road. In 100 yards, take first left on bridleway downhill through woods to a tarmac drive leading to Hareholt Farm. Turn left down drive and come to Hawksden Forge on your right, a half timbered cottage dated 1574. Opposite the cottage turn left over stone bridge, which used to be the site of Hawksden Furnace then immediately left up a footpath. This length of path is short, but can be overgrown. Over a stile and keeping the wood on right, cross meadow and enter White’s Wood. Follow path up through wood (another place for beautiful bluebell displays) to metal gate. Through gate turn left past Hampden Lodge on right, to stile. The spire of St Dunstan’s Church, Mayfield, can be seen on the skyline.
Once over the stile continue straight ahead on a concrete-sleeper track. Go straight on at the 3 way fingerpost with a pond on your right.
In 20 yards, turn left down a short hill and then right along a path through meadows which are close to river level and often partially flooded (Update April 2016: there is now a section with wood chippings to make this section more easily passable after rain – see photo on left). At the end there is a metal gate with a wicket gate to its right. Cross the road which leads to Rolf’s Farm and go past the left side of garages opposite. Straight ahead for 20 yards to next stile, which is to the right of a metal gate, and then into a field with the brook on your left. Cross the field, pass through a small band of trees and continue for another 200 yards, noticing the nesting boxes for owls (?) up in the tree on your right, until you come to a stile (new fencing noticed in March 2016 allows space for a small dog to squeeze underneath).
Then turn left and cross the footbridge over Furnace Brook and in 20 yards bear right at the junction of the bridleways. Go right up bridleway – this is part of the route you used in the first half of the walk but on the way back you continue past the path you came in on and after about 600 yards come out on a drive. Turn right and follow this gently uphill to reach East Street between Stonycroft on your left and Five Gables on your right.
Turn right, along the path at side of Five Gables, and over a stile into a field. Follow the path which bears left slightly downhill then flattens out and bears right. After passing through an opening in a hedge it rises for 50 yards to a stile. Cross this stile then turn immediately left over another stile and you are back on the route on which you started. Cross the sunken cart track to come out in a meadow. The path crosses the meadow then goes between fences on the left and a hedge on the right. At the end turn left and in 20 yards reach Southmead Close. Turn right on Southmead Close, then right at the end onto East Street. At the small green bear left up Fletching Street, then opposite the Carpenters Arms turn left into The Avenue. After 200 yards bear right onto South Street and in 100 yards come back to the car park where you started.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Merrieweathers – Built originally in 1296, enlarged and improved over the centuries. Author of Looking Back, Fred Lester, lived here from 1874. Sculptor Sir
Thomas Brock, designer of Queen Victoria’s memorial lived here until 1922. He is buried in St. Dunstan’s Churchyard with a fine chest tomb. The house was purchased in 1939 by the Indian Prince, Maharajah Jam Sahib of Nawanagger, who used it as a base to visit his son who was at Skippers Hill School.
Mill House – Used to be connected to Merrieweathers by an enclosed passageway. The pond and millstone still exist.
Hawksden Forge – late 16th century timber-framed house, leased to Thomas Sands, hammersmith, 1665-1658
Hareholt Farm – Original building 16th to 17th C. Rebuilt early 18th C. Probable home of Mayfield Ironworks iron master.
Hampden Lodge and Oast – 17th C. farmhouse with adjacent 18th or 19th C. timber framed oast house with cowl in roof In 1887 there were 614 acres of hop gardens in the Parish.