Armed with my trusty OS Explorer Map (136 – ‘The Weald’) I arrive at Frant Railway Station in bright sunshine. I plan to do about 10 miles today. It’s early May, so there should be lots of woodland wildflowers. It’s going to be a great walk!
Frant Station (on the Hastings to London line) is actually in a little place called Bells Yew Green. Leaving the station, I turn right up the road and, at the crossroads, turn right over the railway bridge. I’m now heading in the direction of Frant village. The name is rather intriguing and I just happen to know it means ‘a place overgrown with ferns or bracken’.
I’m not on the lane for very long before I turn left on bridleway to Barelands Farm. It’s not a very inviting name! But, with spring in full swing, the landscape is anything but bare! Once through the farm, I carry on along this bridleway, climbing steadily uphill through Grigg’s Wood and Henley Wood.
I’m not much of a birdwatcher, but I do know a few songs and among the many bird noises in the woods, I can hear a chiffchaff. It’s a very repetitive song and I can’t help wondering if it drives the other birds a bit mad! (I’m surprised that there isn’t another bird that has evolved alongside the chiffchaff; its call being “SHUTUP! SHUTUP!”)
It’s now starting to feel really remote here in the woods. But I am used to being able to walk all day in the High Weald without seeing anyone for hours! After the woods, I soon see the next settlement – Glebe Farm. I walk down the drive and am once again reminded – by the cars passing by on the B2099 – that I’m actually in the twenty first century, though it often doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the High Weald.
I walk about ¾ mile along the road, then turn right into Partridges Lane. I follow this lane until I come to a footpath sign on the right. The sign is pointing up a lovely tree-fringed sunken track. I’m delighted! Sunken tracks are very typical of the High Weald and one of my favourite features. Read the story of how these tracks came to be so deeply sunken here.
I follow the sunken track around the woodland edge. It’s like being in a shady tree tunnel! I then take the path through Furnace Wood. Here, I’m treated to the best display of early purple orchids I have ever seen! These flowers are a sure sign that this is ancient woodland. But then, most of the woodland in the High Weald is ancient! It’s what makes these woods so rich in wildlife.
I reach the stream and follow the bank to a footbridge. Looking down into the stream, I can see a lot of black stones. I fish one out and it’s not a stone at all but a lump of iron-smelting, or ‘bloomery’ slag! From its twisted, complicated shapes, you can clearly see that the material has been molten at some point. Is it Roman or Medieval, I wonder? I feel like an Archaeologist! Read the story of iron in the High Weald here.
I continue on the woodland path to reach a gate. I’m rather sorry to be leaving Furnace Wood, with all its delights, but I can hear sheep and lambs ahead. I walk around the field edge and, sure enough, after passing a small barn there are lots of them –enjoying the spring sunshine! I used to be a sheep farmer, so I’m always interested to see what breeds are being kept in the High Weald. These ewes are mostly ‘Mules’ – a cross between the Bluefaced Leicester and Swaledale breeds. They are bred on the hills up north and are then bought by farmers in more lowland areas to rear their lambs on the better pastures here. The hilly High Weald is much more suitable for livestock farming than for arable farming.
I continue around the field edge and then a sunken track to reach a surfaced driveway. I follow the drive for a short distance, turning left as signposted beside the main entrance gates to Lightlands. According to my walk guide, Lightlands was built in 1544, to replace King John’s Hunting Lodge, which was burnt down.
I follow the main drive for a short distance, before bearing right to follow the path down into the valley and across the stream. I climb the path up through the woodland and cross the field to Earlye Farm. Phew! This is certainly an ‘undulating’ walk – but it’s certainly a great way to keep fit!
Isolated farms like this are very typical of the High Weald. I go through the farm yard and pass the Oast House. This is another nice surprise as there are not so many oast houses in Sussex as there are in Kent. It’s a reminder that the High Weald was once a major hop-growing area and many farms would have had their own oast for drying their annual crop of hops. I continue along the field edge; then go through a small area of woodland to reach Partridges Lane.
Turning right along the lane, I follow it for a short distance before turning left onto a footpath. I cross a footbridge and follow the path uphill. Phew again! I turn right into the field at the top of the steps and follow the footpath along the edges of several fields to reach Buckhurst Lane.
Here, I turn left to follow the lane for a short distance. The lane’s steep, almost vertical banks are covered with pretty wildflowers. Many are woodland species – they probably get enough shade growing here on this sunken lane.
I turn right onto a footpath opposite Buckhurst Manor and follow the field edge path downhill. Crossing a stile into the woodland, I follow the path to a footbridge and after it, turn left along the field edge. I continue on this path to cross a pretty stream with wooded banks – another very typical High Weald feature (I am tempted to paddle!) – and on to reach Ravensdale Farm. I turn left onto the driveway and walk along it to Faircrouch Lane.
I now take Tapsells Lane, opposite, turning left onto the footpath leading to Tapsells Farm. I find the path to the left of the barn, and then walk through woodland and across a field to reach the railway. After crossing the railway line, I follow the fenced footpath to Station Road.
Turning left to follow Station Road for a short distance, I then turn right into Three Oaks Lane. I walk along the lane, passing a path on the right, before turning left onto the next bridleway. This bridleway is easy to follow – going through Four Acre Wood and then Luck’s Wood, before reaching Whitegates Lane.
I turn left and follow this beautiful section of sunken lane, ignoring one footpath junction to the right and then crossing a stream. I follow the road up hill and then turn right onto the long driveway of Great Shoesmiths Farm. What an intriguing name! (I must Google it when I get back!)
I walk through the farmyard and take the path on the left. This eventually passes through Little Shoesmiths and emerges on the lane at Higham Farm. I turn right along the lane for a short distance to reach the B2169 and cross it into another lane. I carry on to a T junction and here, turn left to shortly arrive in Bells Yew Green. At the familiar crossroads, I now turn right to reach the station, where I started the walk. I’m now very eager to get back home and look at all my photos on my PC – reminders of my lovely High Weald wildflower walk. I also spotted this elephant!
You can follow my walk on OS Explorer Map 136 ‘The Weald’.