Gravetye - 5 miles
This walk occupies one of the highest spots in the High Weald. On a clear day you will see both North and South Downs on your way. The route passes Mill Place, Gravetye Manor and St. Margaret’s Church, West Hoathly, so historic architecture is in good supply too.
|OS Grid Ref||TQ 366 326|
|Post Code||RH19 4PN|
Head gently downhill on the footpath past the exit from Finche Field car park. At the bottom of the steps, bear left and cross the road. Walk behind the barrier and follow the footpath steeply downhill. Ignore the footpath to the right and continue downhill.
At the bottom of the hill, look out for a permissive bridleway to your left. At this point it is worth taking a short detour to the foot crossing over the Bluebell Railway. On either side of the track, you can see the remains of a platform, now covered in grass, a reminder that West Hoathly Station used to stand here. Out of sight beyond the eastern platform lies a clay pit from which material was dug for the bricks used to line the tunnel. Mostly the tunnel is dark but, when the sun is in just the right place, (about mid-day), you can see all the way through.
Return to the bridleway at way point 4 and walk away from the foot crossing on a well-made track. This now winds its way through managed forest. Deciduous woodland gives way to pine then returns to a mix of oak, ash, hazel and other native trees.
After about ¾ mile from the start of the track look for a footpath on the right. The sign post is not that clear but the path is well walked. Follow the footpath through the woods until you reach a style. Cross the style and follow the path across the field. Here you will find another style opposite a substantial house at Birch Farm. Cross the style and turn left along the road downhill.
Take the next footpath on the right and when you reach another style, climb the railway bank to Birch Farm foot crossing. Looking north you can just about make out Kingscote Station which lies beyond Birchstone Bridge in the distance. Cross the track and continue down to another style which then leads you into woodland. Go through a couple of metal gates and walk across the field in the direction of an electricity pylon. It can be a bit boggy here but there is a thoughtfully placed double planked bridge here over a ditch. At the pylon you will find a footbridge on the right.
Cross the footbridge and turn left. Now the path takes you steeply uphill across the middle of a field. At the top of the hill go through the gate and turn left, now heading downhill on a track. Just after a lake on the right, turn left over an old brick bridge, crossing over a stream. Walking between the buildings at Mill Place you will see a medieval timber framed farmhouse on the left dating from 1320 and a tithe barn on the right. Here, when the shop is open, you may be able to enjoy a slice of cake and a coffee or perhaps take home a bottle of wine or cider made from the fruits of the vineyard and orchards surrounding the farm.
Proceed beneath a bridge under the Bluebell Railway and continue on this road (ignoring the footpath on the left). When you reach a narrow road crossing your path, turn right. As you walk along the road you should catch sight of the Bluebell Railway track through the trees.
After about ¼ mile, after short climb up the road, take the footpath on the left by a small layby. At the first opportunity take a footpath on your left where another footpath crosses your way. Cross a small bridge over a stream and follow the path uphill. Bear left at the top of the hill and continue along this path.
On joining another track proceed towards Home Farm in the distance. Continue past the farm until you reach a T junction. Turn left towards Gravetye Manor. At the manor gates turn right towards an outbuilding (Stable House). Then go through the gate in front of you.
Through the trees on the left you may be able to see the rear of Gravetye Manor but there will be a much better view of the building later on. The manor house was built in 1598 with the fortune made by Richard Infield from the production of iron. In those days the High Weald was a key centre for iron smelting as all the resources required were locally at hand in large quantities: ironstone, water and timber for the furnaces. As you walk through this part of the countryside there are many small pits and earthworks. These are now almost always covered by trees and undergrowth as they have no value as farmland.
Follow the path as it loops round to the left until you arrive at gate at the bottom of the hill just after a cottage. Walk through the gate, then straight on to the corner of a field. Climb the steep slope diagonally across the field. The path is not always well defined here but as you climb, views across the valley to Gravetye Manor and the lake below start to appear. Keep going to the far corner of the field.
Pass through the gap in the hedge over a rubble surface (laid to reduce the mud) or alternatively take the footpath in the very corner of the field over a double planked bridge spanning a ditch. Whichever way you go, take the next footpath on the right and proceed uphill. After climbing a couple of sandstone steps, you will emerge from the woods into a field. Continue along the footpath, keeping to the right-hand side of this field.
Follow the footpath through a gap in the hedge on the right and continue uphill. The last part of the climb is quite steep. From the top, on a clear day, you will be able to see the North Downs behind you over 10 miles away. When you reach another path, turn right and head uphill. The sunken path here can be a little muddy at times and you may need to stick to the edge.
As you reach a road, go straight across and proceed along North Lane. Walking past the Cat Inn you will immediately see St Margaret’s church, whose origins are thought to date back to the 11th century. If you have the time, take a look around the churchyard and you will find a number of iron gravestones which are further signs of the importance of the local iron masters. Now proceed on the road past the front of the Cat Inn (or emerge at a gate further down the road if you go exploring at the back of the churchyard).
As the road straightens out and goes gently uphill, look out for steps up a steep bank on the left. Climb the steps and turn right. Along this path you will see a topograph explaining the landmarks in the distance. On a clear day you can see the South Downs from here.
When you are finished at the view point, continue along the path and soon you will find yourself back at your car.
Waypoint Arrival Times – 2020 Timetable
Please check the Bluebell Railway Timetable to find which service below is running today.