Ashburnham place is situated approximately 5 miles from Battle, in beautiful extensive grounds with lakes, woods, walled gardens and a lovely church.
Over 30 members gathered at the Christian Trust retreat for our Easter walking holiday. Set in 220 acres of rolling countryside the house is but a shadow of its former self but offers a comfortable stay with pleasant staff and the Footprints members from all over the country came together for walks and social interaction over four days.
Arrival of the majority of the group was staggered throughout the afternoon as heavy showers set in. However, Chris arranged a walk around the grounds at 5pm for those who wished to explore and despite the mud it remained dry so a number of us took up the offer.
I’m pleased to report for the rest of the break we had glorious weather. It remained dry, sometimes cloudy but with a good day of sunshine on Sunday leaving many of us turning up for our evening meal with slightly pink faces!
The Friday A walk, led by Aline and Hilary, took 24 eager walkers out from the grounds of the house and onto the 1066 trail. We were promised mud and with the rain storms of Thursday to refresh the ground it did not disappoint, add to that a blocked off bridge and on-going forestry work there was plenty to keep walkers’ interest. The countryside of woods and rolling fields were looking beautiful and the spring flowers (Wood Anemones, Bluebells, Primroses, Celandines and Wild Garlic) only increased the beauty, add to that the spring lambs and what more could we ask for? The walk which was 13.3 miles in total took us in a clockwise circular direction through Netherfield, Battle and Catsfield before returning us to the Ashburnham estate. We passed through Battle and past the Abbey entrance and the famous battlefield from 1066, but time did not allow us to spend time visiting these historic sites We did, however, find enough time to visit one of Battle’s many tea shops, which fortunately managed to accommodate all who needed sustenance.
The B party walks were approximately 9 miles each day.
Friday found us on a circular walk from our accommodation to Netherfield, extremely muddy, and call me weird, but I quite like a walk with a bit of squelchy mud. Lunch was a pub stop at the White Hart, Netherfield where Jan struck a deal with the landlord for us to buy drinks in exchange for use of the outdoor seating to eat our lunches, soak up the sunshine and enjoy the view. Towards the end of the walk we hit a problem when a sign said the 1066 way was closed due to a damaged bridge. After an investigation by Colin and Claire and confirmation from the A party, once contact with them was made, that they had crossed it that morning with no problem the obstacle was tackled by various means and we regrouped on the other side to continue on our way.
The Saturday A walk saw 12 intrepid souls meet up at Hastings station and included Greg who made a ‘one day only’ appearance and led the walk with Chris R. Setting out from the station we made our way down to the sea front with its many visitor attractions before starting the climb up East Hill. This was the first of several steep ascents and accompanying descents which characterised the first 7 miles of the walk. Once up on top of the cliffs we were afforded fine views over the English Channel and glimpses of far-off France, or perhaps not that far as my mobile phone connected to a French network! Oh, by the way, to keep the theme running there was plenty of mud on the cliff path too. Following the Saxon Coast trail took us to the village of Fairlight where the path took a diversion due to coastal erosion, but our trust in our leader’s navigation skill were well founded as we found ourselves back on the coastal path the other side of the village and kept walking on to our lunch break at Petts Level. Refreshments and seal-spotting over we continued on our way to Winchelsea via the Royal Military Canal. In Winchelsea we visited the St Thomas’s Church and the grave of comedian and Goon Spike Milligan. We then continued on our walk ending up at Rye Station after a distance of 12 miles. A very packed train then returned us to Hastings.
Saturday the B party drove to Winchelsea, a place full of history, for the start of our walk to the coast. We paid our respects to Spike Milligan who is buried here. I later found out his stone does read “I told you I was ill” but in Gaelic. It was then onto Icklesham and a stop for elevenses in the church yard, before walking on to the village of Pett and down to Pett Level beach. Lunch was eaten on the beach with a cafe providing hot drinks and cake. A lone seal was bobbing about along the shoreline, attracting attention with its antics. After lunch we returned to Winchelsea via the Military Canal.
The final A walk on Sunday was also led by Hilary and Aline and was a circular walk from Robertsbridge. Numbers were back up to 17 for this walk which took us in a clockwise direction out into the Sussex countryside with the wild flowers again in profusion and the sight of the first swallows in the air and the sound of the first cuckoo. A stop was made at Bodiam castle where cake and ice cream was partaken, before returning through vineyards and orchards to Robertsbridge via Saleshurst. Final distance was 13.7 miles.
The Sunday B party walk started with a short drive to quaint Robertsbridge to commence a walk to Bodium Castle which is in the in care of the National trust. This is a magnificent moated castle where we had an hour and a half to have lunch and explore. It was then onto Salehurst for a look around the church before returning to Robertsbridge.
Each walk saw us tackling copious amounts of mud, walking through woods and hedgerows adorned with all manner of springtime flowers including primroses, wood anemones, daffodils, violets and bluebells and of course cute lambs in almost every field. It definitely felt like spring had sprung on this break!
A huge thanks to Chris for organising the break (the accommodation was comfortable and the food good) and the evening entertainment such as a humorous caption competition using photos from previous events, map jigsaw puzzles of the Lake District and a new activity of Kurling, an indoor version of the winter sport. Thanks also to Colin for the Pictionary competition where we had some very entertaining artistic interpretations (don’t give up your day job – you know who you are!) and to Hilary’s ‘Pass the Bomb’ both of which were enjoyed by those participating.
Finally thanks should also go to the walk leaders for showing us such a diverse range of mud and to the drivers.
Bob and Claire
Maps of the walks