11 April 2014 – flowers and buds springing up everywhere
A long walk taking in some lovely woods and Wadhurst deer park with its 5 different species of deer
|Length||12.8 miles (20.6km)|
|Terrain||a few short stretches of road (just over a mile in total) and the rest on bridleways and footpaths|
|Time||4 – 6 hrs|
|Suitability||Walkers, runners and joggers|
|Points of interest||Wadhurst Deer Park, site of Hawksden Furnace, farm house dating from the start of the 17th century|
|Start||Rose & Crown, Fletching Street, Mayfield (TN20 6TE); OS grid reference TQ592271; GPS co-ordinates 51° 1’18.52″N, 0°16’6.04″E|
|Public transport||Bus route 51/251/252 between Tunbridge Wells and Heathfield/Eastbourne stops in Mayfield High Street, from where you can walk east (towards Tunbridge Wells) to the end of the High Street then straight ahead for 400 yards down Fletching Street to the left bend, just after which you find the Rose & Crown. 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||Small car park on green in front of the Rose & Crown. Also parking around the sides of the small green (but not on it) and on roads nearby.|
With the Rose & Crown behind you, turn right and then left at the end of the green triangle onto East Street, following the signpost for Broad Oak and Witherenden. Continue down East Street for 300 yards to Southmead Close on your left. Turn up Southmead Close to take a footpath between nos 18 and 20, and after 30 yards turn right behind houses, down a narrow path between trees and fences, then cross a meadow to pass through a gap by the side of an old stile.
Cross a sunken cart track to a 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 for 100 yards, keeping close to edge of wood on right. At a 4 way fingerpost turn right and follow level path, which is often wet and muddy, for over 100 yards to stile. Over stile into field and bear left, keeping the hedge on your left to begin with and then cutting across slightly towards a large oak tree. Pass between the oak tree on left and bushes on right and descend to a stile. Over the stile into a small field and down 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 slightly downhill with chicken farm on right and trees on both sides for just over 100 yards to a junction of bridleways. Take the 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 an old 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 the road. In 100 yards, take the left turning onto a bridleway slightly downhill through woods for 200 yards to a tarmac drive leading to Hare Holt. 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 right by side of the stream. Ignore footpath up steps on left in 80 yards and rejoin the drive which then passes between a house and oast at Hare Holt. Keep straight ahead passing garage/sheds on left and then across the top level of a field to a gate on the far side.
Through the gate and along path between lines of trees for 100 yards, through a gap in staggered fences and straight ahead on a broad track to Pound Bridge in 250 yards. Here you turn left onto the road for 400 yards first uphill and then slightly down to a junction where a farm road (and bridleway) leads off to the left as the road turns right and goes downhill . Take the farm track and follow it for 300 yards to a junction where you take the right fork towards Bivelham Farm Forge (continuing on the bridleway). The main buildings here have a long history with the two central bays of the farm dating from c.1600 and the stone chimney added soon afterwards while the 3 bay barn dates from c 1700. Pass into the farm via a gate (pedestrian gate at side of main one) and pass barns on both sides, bearing left to come to a metal gate in front of you between house on right and drive leading to the oast on the left.
Go through the gate and onto a track through Newbridge Wood. This is another of the woods where the bluebell displays are magnificent in springtime. The track is initially wide then narrows as it bears left to skirt a field that has been cut out of the wood. The bridleway then broadens out again and continues through the wood for about 500 yards to emerge in a field.
The path continues straight ahead cutting across the corner of the field to your left – though you may find when the crops are high that you have to skirt round the left edge of the field instead. Turn left across the concrete bridge and through a metal gate. Here a footpath crosses the bridleway and you turn left to cross a field to a stile and bridge in the hedge ahead. Go straight across the next field – on the far side are a few small trees and you aim just to the left of the two trees which are next to an isolated section of hedge.
Cross another stile and small bridge made of half a dozen planks and then head across the next field to the left end of the tall trees ahead where you pass through a gate and then keep the hedge on your right through the next field down to a gap between trees and fence. This is a very muddy section for much of the year.
The path now bears left and goes through a small gate (though as at April 2014 the fence all around it had fallen down making the gate redundant). Fifty yards ahead is another gate through a hedge (ignore footpath off to right ) which you pass through and then keep to the left edge of the next field eventually coming to a rickety stile 20 yards after the bottom corner of the field. Over the stile and across the next field again keeping to the left edge. You may have to negotiate your way through tape barriers in this field which pen horses into different areas.
At the end go through a gate and turn right on a farm track, through the farm yard and left at the top over a stile next to a metal gate and out onto a drive for 400 yards to a junction where you bear right and in 300 yards come to another junction with Churchsettle Lane coming in from the right. Here you keep straight ahead and in 100 yards the road turns left (ignore footpath to right) and shortly afterwards you take a footpath to the left. Go over the stile and on the path between two houses which leads down through trees and to a tall gate into Wadhurst Deer Park.
The park as it stands today was not created until the estate was purchased by the Rausing family, although there were earlier deer parks on the land up to 600 years ago. It is now home to five different species of deer, including the endangered Barasingha. Originally from Northern India and Nepal, there were estimated to be only 100 Barasingha alive when they were introduced to Wadhurst.
You can often see different herds of deer from the path through the park and in the autumn it is a fine site to see deer rutting. Respect for the Countryside Code and looking after animals (the deer and any dogs you have) are both good reasons for obeying the signs to keep dogs on leads and to stick to the well-marked footpaths.
The path goes through the trees, past feeding troughs and climbs to a fence where it turns right following the line of the fence. After 200 yards the fence turns left and the path with it. Ignore a path down to the right shortly after this and carry on uphill by the fence to a gate out of the deer park. Cross the tarmac drive ahead and go down the smaller drive opposite for 30 yards past a house on your right then turn left on a wide track behind the house which then continues fairly level for 300 yards to come to a T-junction with Coombe Lane
Here you turn left downhill for 600 yards until the road turns left and you continue straight downhill on a footpath, initially with buildings and garden on your left. Cross a stile and continue downhill for another 150 yards by the side of a stream (in wet weather the path and stream become one here). Through a gate (formerly a stile) you arrive at a crossing of footpaths and turn right, through a gate and into a field.
Bear slightly right and up in the field and then head for the far corner where a gate and bridge bring you into a lane between hedges. You follow this for half a mile to come to Tidebrook Road just north (on your left) of the bridge over Tide Brook. Turn right, past a telephone box and just afterwards take the bridleway which follows the drive on the left. The house on your left a house is named “The Fountain” and the drive then passes its garden on the left with other houses on the right and then continues through trees. Ignore a footpath on your right after 200 yards and pass a timbered house, Mousehall Mill.
Just after the house the drive turns left but the bridleway goes right on a wide grassy path with the brook on your left. After 100 yards go through a metal gate and follow the bridleway left to enter a wildlife conservation area – read the notice on the left of the path and then watch out for the newts, wagtails and Early Purple Orchids. The path passes through an area that can be muddy then turns right to follow a fence with ponds on the right side. After 100 yards at the end of the ponds the path turns right again and descends to a gate. After the gate turn left through the field to another gate on the far side after about 80 yards.
Straight after this gate turn left uphill. The edge of the field you are in has been left for crops which provide cover for young pheasants in season and you keep this area to your left. At the top of the field turn right and follow the hedge on your right as it continues to climb for about 100 yards to a gate on your left. Through the gate and continue uphill to meet another track coming in from the right and then pass the buildings of Highlands Farm on your left. The track now drops steeply and turns right at the bottom through woods to a gate and stile into a field.
Go up the field heading slowly towards the left hedge. After you reach the brow of the hill you will see the exit in the far left corner. Over the stile in the corner into the next field where you bear left again and keep close to the trees on your left to come to a stile at the far end. The next field climbs again and you should aim for the top about 20 yards to the left of the tall tree on the horizon. You find a stile to the left of a gate which leads onto a road.
You come out onto Lake Street just by a junction. Cross the road and then bear left down Little Trodgers Lane which you follow for 600 yards past the new development of Mayfield Grange on your left, shortly after which you turn right down a drive which climbs slightly and bears right. In 50 yards you cross a cattle grid and then bear slightly left through a metal gate to descend on a small strip of land between a hedge on your left and a wire fence on your right. Avoid the pond halfway down and in about 300 yards come to a kissing gate.
Turn immediately left after this gate and go through a large metal gate then turn right and follow the edge of the field steeply downhill to a stile in the corner. Go through the woods turning left to cross a bridge and come to a stile with dog latch beside it. Then go straight across a small field, up some steps and through a gate to arrive on Bassetts Lane. Turn left and go along this quiet road as it undulates and turns for three quarters of a mile until you come to a 50mph speed limit sign and a railway bridge. Just before the bridge is a path down on your right which leads to the old railway line which used to run from Rotherfield to Mayfield.
Turn left under the bridge along the old railway line, which is now a bridleway, for 500 yards until it becomes a tarmac road and shortly afterwards comes out onto Tunbridge Wells Road. Turn left and then in 20 yards go through the kissing gate on your right to enter the grounds of Mayfield (St. Leonards) School and pass through fields used for cross country horse riding. The path cuts across the first field to the far left corner where you turn left through a gap to enter the next field. Keep the hedge on your right and in 100 yards come to a muddy section and then a stile.
Once over the stile, turn left and through a gap in bushes then keep the new all weather sports court on your right. Turn right at the end and come to a tarmac drive. Turn left on the drive and out onto Tunbridge Wells Road again. Cross the road and go down the track opposite. In less than 100 yards come to a field and skate park on your right. Go through the gap beside the gate to enter the field and head past the skate park on your left to the tarmac path ahead. Turn left on the path and follow it on the level then downhill to a corner where a narrow path leads left between a hedge and fences then walls. Follow this path for 100 yards, turn right at the end for 20 yards and come out onto Fletching Street with the Rose & Crown and green where you started just on your right.