Wealdway Day 6 – Hellingly to Polegate

Distance walked: 37.2 km

Steps: 55,088

I was up early from my comfy Travelodge bed and I hit the trail before 08:30am. It was tempting to simply bee line to the nearest bit of Wealdway and just get walking but I’d only be cheating myself. So I back-tracked the mile or so to Hellingly church and set off from there.

ploughing

On the way to Hellingly my opinion of Sussex farmers was confirmed. The path I had planned to take had been entirely obliterated by a field of wheat. So I was forced to trudge slowly along the overgrown verge beside the busy A267

The first place I discovered, just south of Hellingly, right beside the Wealdway path, was Horselunges Manor, a timber framed Elizabethan manor house, surrounded by formal gardens and enclosed by a high wall and a moat (Yes, a moat! How posh is that?) It even has a working drawbridge. The house was owned by Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s manager, until his death in 1995. I don’t know who lives there now but I do know she has two large dogs because she returned home whilst I was admiring the moat.

Just 500 metres further on, the Wealdway path passes through the derelict Horsebridge Mill. This place cries out for a creative photographer (not me) to spend some time here. I took some photos to whet your appetite.

Beyond Horsebridge, the trail twists and turns as it passes through a modern housing estate. I only found my way through by checking local knowledge in the form of two old ladies and a postman. But eventually the walker emerges at the A22, through a small, overgrown gap in a scratchy hedge. Crossing the busy A22 safely, at this time of the morning, takes courage, skill, determination and patience, but it can be done.

The next four kms is challenging. The waymarking is poor to non-existent, signage is damaged or rotten and the path has seen no maintenance for years. The brambles and stingers have reclaimed their territory. I got lost several times, saved only by map and compass, walking on a bearing. This section was very time-consuming.

michelham

After a tortuous ramble, I reached Michelham Priory where two ladies were exercising their horses under the watchful eyes of ‘Inky’, a fearless black guard dog.

inky

Inky, black as your hat, was pretending to be fierce, and making quite a convincing job of it but a few kind words and he was soon my friend. He let me go on, to Bede’s amazingly well-equipped sports ground.

IMG_3228

Another blooming unmanned railway crossing. This one with tracks in both directions. I’d really prefer a bridge. From the top of the second stile I can see the Long Man of Wilmington.

Throughout the day, the Long Man of Wilmington was often visible in the distance. The Wealdway passes him very close by, so at 7:00pm I was standing at his feet. The neolithic men of Wilmington village made him by cutting turf from the hillside to reveal the white chalk just below the surface.

IMG_3293

Towards the end of the day, I had to cross the road leading up to  Folkington Reservoir. My curiosity got the better of me. There was nobody about, so I jumped the gate and went up to have a look. The reservoir is set in a 5.7 hectare site with SSSE status. The view from the top was amazing.

IMG_3287

IMG_3285

I got the train home from Polegate. There’s only about 20 km left now, from Folkington Church to Eastbourne Pier. Would make a nice family day out walking.

Advertisements

Wealdway – Day 4

Stone Cross to Buxted

Distance: 32.0 km

Steps: 46,573

mcf

Manor Court Farm B&B at Stone Cross, Ashurst is a first class, spick and span, nice establishment. Comfy bed, powerful shower and hearty breakfast. Sue collects the breakfast eggs fresh each morning from their own chickens. Yes, I would recommend it to my friends.

I was back on the trail by 08:30 and headed south to cross under the railway via the bridge by Ashurst station.

 

Here, just by the bridge, I found a candlelit memorial to 25 year old soldier Toby Crundwell, who was sadly struck by a train and killed. He had returned to see his family on leave from a tour of duty in Iraq.

The Wealdway meanders here across a flood plain. I crossed many footbridges and passed Summerford Farm to reach the Forest Way Cycle Path, which runs dead straight east-west towards Hartfield. Not part of the Wealdway, in fact it is at 90 degrees to it, but I turned right in search of a shop or similar.

forest way

The Forest Way carries on west, but I left it after 2 km at Hartfield and went in search of something to put in my pack for lunch. I found a proper farm shop and stocked up with cheese and biscuits.

farm shop

Now, I could have backtracked and rejoined the Wealdway but that always seems a bit negative to me so I found a more interesting route on the map, via Withyham, across the fields of the Buckhurst Estate. By the map it looked about the same distance but I missed a turning and ended up a long way up a private farm road, definitely off course.

quadbike

I was grateful to a farmer on a quad bike with his dog, who came to my aid with local directions. In my defence, the turning I had missed was hugely overgrown and not marked in any way. Once back on track I made good time heading generally south for about 6 km through High Weald and the Ashdown Forest. I passed through the Five Hundred Acre Wood (of Winnie the Pooh fame). I never did find the Poohsticks Bridge but emerged onto heathland just after midday.

IMG_2912

A concrete road crossed my track and curiosity got the better of me. I reckoned it had to lead to something interesting, otherwise why put it there. These metal lid things, each about a metre square were set into the ground and quietly humming. When kicked they resonated with a deep ‘boing’ sound. Under the heathland here there must be a cavernous space. A discrete notice explained that this is a Reservoir Transducer Check Manual Measurement Point. It’s not on the map.

IMG_2915

It was approaching lunchtime and ahead I could see Camp Hill on the skyline. The most elevated spot for miles around, at 198 metres, this seemed like a good prospective venue for my packed lunch.

 

Camp Hill Clump has a couple of dozen trees, three benches, nice views over East Sussex and curious cattle wandering about. I had company for lunch but they moved on before I did.

Japanese_Black_Cattle-1024x772

Still heading south, I set off for the village of Fairwarp. This section of the Wealdway has intermittent waymarking and one critical waymark disc has been removed from its post. I followed a variety of tracks and roads which led me to the grand gates of Oldlands Hall near Fairwarp. I investigated the village amenities then carried on towards Buxted. The trail here takes many turns and after about 1 km enters Furnace Wood. This is a spooky, wierd, dark woods. Lots of dead trees and gnarly old roots.

IMG_2924

On the far side of the woods is Hendall Manor Farm. Then at Wood Cottage I was confronted by a dog, enthusiastically protecting his territory. He was not interested in making friends so I carried on walking. From here on it was mostly (busy) road walking to Buxted, from where I caught a train back to London and home. Proper in the country, Buxted, only a single, reversible track. And the train pulled by a burbling diesel loco 🙂

 

 

 

 

Wealdway – Wrotham Heath to Hartlake

Distance: 24.1 km

Steps: 45,672

Maps: OS Explorer 148, 136

Weather

pi

Did you know that you can save 10% on the room rate at Premier Inn, just by booking a ‘saver’ reservation on your phone whilst standing at reception. They don’t tell you this unless you ask! Declined their kind offer of hot food for breakfast and departed the Premier Inn at 09:00am. I turned immediately left towards Platt. It’s a steady gentle gradient rising 50 metres over 1 km. A good start to warm up.

Laurel hedges abound in Platt as local residents attempt to distance themselves from Wealdway Walkers

laurel_hedge1_4-600_600

Before I succumbed to the temptations of a comfy bed and a hot bath last night, my wildcamping destination had been planned to be Shipbourne Forest in Crouch. I breakfasted there today. It’s not pretty: recently coppiced hazel and beech, some birch. Bit boggy here and there. I definitely had the most comfortable option.

ch

I walked south 3 km through Shipbourne Forest/Mereworth Woods. It’s a long, dry, pot-holed road and I met only two dog walkers. No other hikers. This brought me to Gower Hill, a pretty site maintained by the National Trust with outstanding views to the west and south on a clear day (which it was). The weather brought a few fluffy clouds but an otherwise clear sky.

gh

Another 2 km brought me to West Peckham, where Blake never saw an angel but there was a lone lawnmower man lovingly tending the tiny cricket green. I enjoyed an excellent cheese ploughman’s lunch sitting outside the ‘Swan on the Green’. There was no cricket today but the pub was very busy with lunchtime trade; locals and ramblers.

 

The signage and waymarking for the Wealdway has so far been excellent. With a keen eye for the signs you could walk the trail without a map/compass. I wouldn’t because for me, the map work is part of the fun. But that’s me.

There has been just one exception to this confident statement. Barnes Street. Here the sign points south down a drive and through a farmyard. The walker is directed through a field of sheep (with dire warnings for dog owners). The path fizzles out. I found myself on the wrong side of an irrigation ditch and had to back track. I had to walk round a ploughed field to reach a gate I’d identified on the map as leading down to the River Medway. Probably my error but I would have been in trouble without a map/compass.

I walked west for 1/2 km on the south bank to East Lock.

IMG_2618

Then crossed the river at the lock, where there are a pair of WW2 pillboxes, and walked another km to the west where the path ducks under Hartlake Bridge. There once was a tragedy on Hartlake Bridge. The modern bridge is made of concrete and steel and is of sturdy construction but it wasn’t always so. In 1853 the bridge was a rickety old wooden structure, much in need of maintenance. It collapsed while a cart of hop pickers was passing over it. 30 people sadly drowned in the river below. They were aged 2 to 59 and were all Romanis from one extended family.

hbm

I made my camp in the woods 200 metres or so beyond the bridge. The overnight weather promised to be dry and there was no wind. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Link to my Facebook

Wealdway- Gravesend to Wrotham Heath

Distance: 28.7 km

Steps: 51,938

Maps: OS Explorer 162, 148

Weather

Today has been the London marathon and St. George’s day. The weather has been ‘the hottest day since …’ Nice, but hard work for runners and walkers alike.

A big thank you to Nic, Lee and Iris for putting me up last night. Great barbecue. Iris has St. George’s Day Parade today. Hope all went well 😁.

I got up bright & early for the 08:22 train.

There was a carnival atmosphere on the train with every seat taken by marathon runners, friends and families. Standing room only 😃

I was early, ahead of my schedule, so I visited the Pocahontas memorial in Gravesend,

on my way to Gravesend Town Pier.

Gravesend is a charismatic town on a Sunday morning. Wetherspoon’s is already full with family guys out for an early cuppa.

Tightened my boots at this very spot and set off. I followed Wrotham Road out to the A2, which I crossed via the rabbit bridge then on to Ifield, Nurstead and Nash. Lunch in the (very friendly) Railway Inn at Sole Street.

From here I walked beside Camer Park (translates literally from the French: ‘Park to take drugs in’). Then south to Coldrum long barrow, maintained by the National Trust since 3800BC. Kelly Sands and I had a picnic lunch here, many years ago.

But for the modern wooden fencing, the view from Coldrum must have remained unchanged since neolithic times.

As I came to St Vincents near Addington, I heard the unmistakeable sound of live music. I judged it to be in a distant pub garden. But no, as I approached a lone house, I realised that the loud rock music was coming from inside a garage. I had heard it from at least a km away, pity the neighbours. It had been a long, hot day an had the option been available, I was have seriously considered calling a taxi. But I walked on. And so I reached Wrotham Heath, and much in need of a bath, food and a rest, I opted for the Premier Inn rather than wild camping in the woods, but heigh-ho, I’ll wild camp at Tonbridge tomorrow 😜

Version 2

Link to my Facebook

96 – Newquay to Mawgan Porth 

Distance: 8km

Steps: 13,293


Jezabel kindly dropped me off to start from Newquay railway station. We spent a couple of days in Bude with Michele and Derek on the way down and picnicked at Bucks Mills. 


It was nice to walk out of Newquay this time, having previously left there twice by train!
Today has been the hottest day of the year with temperatures above 30 degrees. A bit too hot for hiking but a breeze off the sea and a wide brimmed hat made it just right 😁


I walked above Tolcarne Beach, still in the town really and came upon this interesting sign 


A canal on an incline?


The coast path follows the cliff top to Watergate Bay where I had a posh pint in the Watergate Bay Hotel (sorry Chris but I couldn’t find the Phoenix). 


Along the way I was privileged to see and hear many Corn Buntings which nest in the long grasses adjacent to the Coast Path. 

I ate a sweaty lump of Mottaret Cheddar as an afternoon snack and strode out for Mawgan Porth and met Jezabel halfway there. We camped on a down at heel campsite in Mawgan Porth. 

97 – Crantock to Newquay

TO DONATE TO PARKINSON’S UK CLICK HERE

Distance: 5 km

Recorded steps: 6,566 (plus a good number of Parkie shuffles)

home_g

Treago Farm Campsite in West Pentire was just too nice. The family that own/operate the site are super friendly and helpful, there’s a little shop that sells everything, takeaway food and best of all, hot showers. I had a comfy, soft, level, grass pitch and I set up the basher in its most palatial configuration. They do a fine cooked breakfast in the morning, which I sampled, and the time was gone 10:00am before I got underway.

In glorious sunshine I strolled down into Crantock, exchanged ribald banter with the builders up on the scaffolding and paused a while in the shade of a bus shelter to change over maps.

3

I took good local advice from a gardening gentleman wth a Type 25 VW campervan and followed his directions down towards Crantock beach (NT). Here I picked up the coast path again as directed by ‘Chris’ (also NT and supremely helpful). The path follows the south bank of the Gannel estuary for about 1 km to a tidal footbridge.

By luck (I’d like to say ‘good planning’ but that would be a fib), the tide was out, so I crossed the wooden bridge and made my way up a steep tarmac path between modern houses to emerge on the main road atop Fistral Beach.

The gardening gentleman pulled in to the kerb in his VW campervan, excited to see me. “Well, I could have given you a lift, I only live just over here, but that would have been cheating!” said he. How we laughed

I walked beside the golf course and down to Newquay bus station to enquire about a bus back to London. The man at the bus station indicated bus stop number 7 but advised me I’d need to go to Newell’s Travel in town to obtain a ticket.

newells-travel-newquay-300x200

The lady in Newell’s could not have been more helpful. She checked all the timetables to find me the best deal but the bus I needed was due to depart in 13 minutes. It would take me all that to get back to bus stop 7 and if I dilly dallied, the driver was unlikely to wait. I decided to get the train instead, which had the added advantage of allowing time for lunch.

And glad that I did too. For on the Newquay to Par diesel shuttle I met Geoff and Vicki embarking on an adventure of their own. They are making a crowd-funded video visiting every single station in Great Britain (there are 2,563 of them). What fun! Please visit their website at allthestations.co.uk or youtube.com/c/allthestations

So here I am, three pairs of boots, more than 2,000,000 steps, almost 1,000 miles and 97 days from the Dartford Bridge, on a GWR train bound for Paddington (£10 cheaper than the bus incidentally, and a lot more comfortable).

Is this the end? somehow I think not…

96 – Perranporth to Crantock

Distance: 13 km

Steps recorded: 17,078

I’ve found out why the pedometer thingy no longer counts properly. It’s because part of the time nowadays I degenerate to a shuffle rather than striding out boldly. It can’t count the shuffles, only proper steps!

617093706

There are some substantial concrete bunkers left over from WWII on Perranporth Airfield and I camped last night in the lee of one of them. They must have housed some mighty guns in their day.

The sun rose at 6:00am and so did I. By 7:00am I was on the trail, preceded I have to say by a lone mountain biker. He whizzed past my bivvy and I followed his tyre tracks the next couple of miles.  There’s an assortment of abandoned architecture around Cligga Head and hereabouts.

I reached the YHA soon after 9:00am. It is the most westerly building in town and clings to the cliff top at the very end of the road.


Just beyond the hostel I was treated to a panoramic view of Perranporth and Penhale Sands. The biggest beach I have ever seen.


The route of the SW Coast Path runs due north up the centre of the beach so I walked the next 4 km on sand. Here it is from the northern end.


I lunched at Holywell then stayed the night at Treago Farm Campsite (nice hot showers), West Pentire, Crantock.

95 – Porthtowan to Perranporth Airfield

Distance: 8km

Steps: 15,530

 

Jezabel kindly drove me to Barnehurst station 


for the first leg of my journey today, so as to avoid anxiety about the rail replacement bus service. 


I got the Paddington train as far as Plymouth, then a smaller local diesel train on to Truro. This latter train must be the busiest service I have ever used. Every seat was occupied yet there were more people standing than sitting. There was a rugby team, a group of a dozen boozing lads clearly off on a sailing jolly, parents and kids with buckets & spades for the beach, a baby crying and two dogs barking at each other. And everyone was talking. All very chummy indeed. 


Our route was matched by the ‘cross-country solid fuel’ service. A rather uninspiring railway jargon name for the magnificent Great Britain steam locomotive, hitched in tandem with another of the same class, pulling a train of Pullman restaurant carriages. 

I alighted at Truro and caught the 304 bus to Porthtowan where I had left off last month. I’ve used the 304 before and I have to praise the friendliness of the drivers and passengers on this route. We discussed haloumi cheese. 


I strode out from Porthtowan full of energy and optimism. The light rain was was persistent but not unpleasant. Derelict tin mines abound on this stretch of coast. 


On the way to St Agnes Head I spied two dolphins from the clifftop but I was too slow to get a photograph. I descended into Chapel Porth, where I got good camping advice, a waterproof map, excellent ginger cake and a ££s donation from the lovely people at the Chapel Porth Cafe. 


The rain had petered out and the sun was breaking through as I approached the Driftwood Spars Hotel, where there was a wedding reception in progress. I walked up through the ornamental garden and over the top to Blue Tin Valley beginning to seek somewhere to camp for the night. 


A brave fellow traveler had already set up his tent on the beach so I carried on and made my camp amongst the gorse on the outskirts of Perranporth Aerodrome. 


93 – St Ives to Reskajeage

Distance: 13km

Steps: 13,634


“Certifiably bonkers” Duncan would say.

I sit here updating my blog, snug in my basha in the woods east of Coombe. It’s pouring heavens hard with rain and whilst a lot of my kit did get drenched, my sleeping bag, bivi and clean clothes all stayed dry in their roll-top sacks.

My biggest enemy is going to be boredom. It’s 5:00pm now. Once my blog is up to date, what’s to keep me occupied until 6:00am tomorrow? I don’t really see me sleeping for 12 hours. Should have brought my knitting 😜

I stayed last night in the Cohort Hostel in St Ives, a really cool place run by really nice people.


Here also l met Ben, my walking buddy for today. Yesterday was his birthday.

Ben and l got the 10:25am service from St Ives,  changing at St Erth on our 15 minute journey to Hayle. Thereby saving a 5km detour to cross the River Hayle estuary. It can allegedly be waded at low tide but nobody knew exactly where and l didn’t see any locals paddling.

The path follows along a dismantled railway for 400 metres then crosses some water via a never-to-work-again swing bridge. We walked up a sandy road between buildings to reach The Towans, a nicely presented community of chalets and bungalows. Reaching the end of these we have in prospect 5km of dunes with signage relevant to the fencing contractor, not helpful to walkers. We navigated mainly using the electricity pylons as a handrail.

The weather was beginning to look a bit murky so Ben and I said our farewells. Ben returned to Hayle via the footpath beside the Beachside Leisure Park. I set off back into the dunes. I lost the trail and emerged at Loggans from where I headed to Gwithian, as directed by friendly tractor driver.

I feasted on peanuts and crisps at the Red River Inn (kitchen closed) then swiftly moved on. The storm broke, so in lashing wind and rain I reached Hell’s Mouth Cove.


The cafe was open and I sheltered there a while, telling my tale to the owner Steve Morris, formerly of St Albans (AVNM).


For a few minutes the wind dropped so I pressed on. But the weather returned with a vengeance and by Deadman’s Cove I’d had enough so I turned inland to seek shelter.

92 – Pendeen to St Ives

Distance walked: 12km

Steps: 11,264

Note. I reckon the pedometer thingy is up the spout. The distance above is correct but the footsteps are way out👣

A good night’s sleep in a proper bed. Ee luxury. I left the North Inn before 9:00am, reprovisioned at the village store and headed for Pendeen lighthouse.

I noticed a dog-walking couple just ahead of me. They went off across a field and I followed the coast path. I lost a lot of height then had to slog up a steep traverse. From the top I could see the couple again, way ahead now. I guess they knew a more direct route.

There’s a most picturesque series of waterfalls at Pendeen Cliffs, crossed by a wooden bridge. Not on the map.

I’m not sure if the streams are being used for footpaths or if the wet weather has turned the footpaths into streams. Either way I hopped from boulder to boulder in a sea of mud for the next 2 km. I looked for an escape route. Further on the path neared the B3306. I jumped ship and walked on tarmac for a while.


The Gurnard’s Head is an arty-farty gastro pub. Nice beer but the grub wasn’t really my cup of tea. I strode out across the fields to Zennor, arriving at the same time as the St Ives bus. So I hopped on and reached St Ives by 4:00pm.

I checked in at the Cohort hostel, where I met surf dude Matt (Marina’s son), Danny (his hostel), Caroline (who knows Finland/huskies) and Ben (who also can mush a team of huskies). Ben and I sat up late and talked philosophical stuff.


The remarkably versatile basha, £20 on Ebay 😁