Thursday, 14 May 2009

Stage 4 - Eridge Old Park to Cousley Wood (6.5 miles)

I left work a little early to allow us to start this walk around 4.30pm from outside the entrance to Eridge Deer Park on the A267. It was an overcast but reasonably warm afternoon.

Heading across the fields after Pococksgate

We crossed the road and made for a track with a sign Pococksgate, following it to and between the farm buildings, before heading westward across several fields and an old orchard. When Steve and I walked this path several years ago the orchard was still in existence, but now all the trees had sadly been cut down and just their stumps remained.

Orchard graveyard

At the end of this field we turned right and followed the field boundary round to the left. As we entered the next field Anne spotted a herd of deer grazing further down the hill. Both dogs set off in pursuit. Zuka responded quite quickly to Anne’s calls, but I’m embarrassed to say that Poppy completely ignored me and disappeared out of sight. She was wearing a spray collar, but this had absolutely no effect whatsoever! Fortunately the field was fenced and once the deer had escaped, Poppy returned looking very pleased with herself. Bad Boxer!
Poppy returning from her deer hunt
Reaching the private road to Lighlands
Continuing, we walked through one more meadow, before reaching a gate onto the private road to Lighlands. Here we turned right and briefly followed an enclosed footpath adjacent to the drive, before emerging into fields once more. We descended to the valley bottom where we entered a thin strip of woodland and crossed a stream.
Heading south into the valley
Strip of woodland and stream in valley bottom
Immediately the path climbed the other side of the valley, with some steep stone steps to negotiate. Anne reported that these can be very slippery when wet, but today it was OK, and there was a smart new handrail. It’s probably worse coming down.
Steep steps
Cows guard the way to Earlye Farm

Once through the wood we climbed up a field towards the buildings of Earlye Farm. There were cows with calves grazing, so we were a little on our guard. They did get a little defensive and we were forced to use maps to shoo them away as we approached the gateway to the farm.
Phew! Safely through the gate.
Oast houses on the track leaving Earlye Farm
We followed the track through the farm buildings to the left of a high-roofed barn, and continued past two oasts before turning right & left into a field. Heading downhill once more, we continued into a wood and down to a lane.
Heading downhill through the wood
Approaching the footbridge after the lane (strong smell of garlic!)
Turning right we followed the lane for a few hundred meters and then took the first footpath on the left, over a stile. Going downhill into a wood, we immediately turned left over a footbridge before ascending again though fields. It this point we met a woman walking her Scottie and chocolate Labrador. As you can see from the photo, the Lab took quite a liking to Zuka!
Er.........X-rated stuff! Poor Zuka!
Reflected in the mirror
After crossing a number of fields, we finally reached a lane and turned left. Opposite Buckhurst Manor we crossed a stile on the right, and followed the edge of the field downhill, turning right into a wood. Crossing a footbridge we emerged into a meadow which we crossed to enter a strip of woodland, and then turned right by a stream.
Buckhurst Manor
Lovely meadow
We crossed the stream where sandstone slabs have been exposed by the water, and were quite slippery. The bridge here must be farily new as our guide book specifically said there wasn't one. The path climbed along a field edge, before reaching the drive by Ravensdale Farm. We turned left here and followed the drive uphill to a road by Ravensdale Cottage.
Sandstone slabs leading to the stream
Pond near Ravensdale Farm
It was along this section of drive that we spotted some more deer. Fortunately I was alerted to Poppy’s increased interest in the surroundings and had just put her on the lead before several deer ran across the drive in front of us. Zuka was very good as usual and did not chase them.
Just after the deer crossed the drive
Entering the woodland after Tapsells Lane Farm
We crossed the road and continued along a lane for a few hundred meters, before forking left up a track to Tapsells Lane Farm. Taking a path to the left of the farm buildings we continued through woodland into a field. We soon crossed a railway line and walked uphill to the B2099, just south of Wadhurst station. There was no pavement or verge as we emerged from the path and it was a little dodgy crossing the road as there was still a bit of rush hour traffic about.
Approaching the railway
Footpath leading away from the road
Safely across the road we walked up a driveway and path to reach a house called Spike Island. It was a bit unusual, and we were a little hesitant here, as the footpath (actually a bridleway) went right through their garden, very close to the house!
The path passes just to the left of the house!
As we leave the garden I check the onward route
We continued along a metalled drive to a lane and turned right. Just past the private drive to Tappington Farm we took a path on the left and followed it into a wood. Continuing between fields and through another bluebell wood we soon reached another lane.
Bluebell Wood
Turn left at the lane
Turning left, we continued along the lane for about ½ km, passing an attractive house set on a hill above the road. We then turned right up the drive to Great Shoesmith Farm, and followed it almost to the farm buildings, before tackling a tricky stile/electric fencing combination to get the dogs into a field.
Fine house set high above the road
Great Shoesmith Farm
Descending, we passed a pond and crossed a stream, before bearing right gently uphill across a field to a gap in the hedge, and then across another field.
Unusual root ball by the stream

The path becomes a grassy track
The path then followed the edge of several fields, before becoming a grassy track. Poppy had her head up by this stage and was air scenting. I hastily put her on the lead, which was just as well, as it turned out that there were sheep ahead.
"Sheep ahead!"
Wych Oast (one of a number of fine dwellings on private road)
The grassy track bent round to the right to join a private road by a house. We turned left and went uphill past a couple of oast houses to the lane at Wood’s Green, more of a hamlet than a village. Here we turned left and then right at the first junction. We soon reached a track on our left which was our route, but first we had a peek at the rather splendid Gate House, which was just past the turning.
Wood's Green
The splendid Gate House
The path took us between Gate House and the adjacent property, and became a grassy track leading uphill to a field. Our passage was resented by the canine occupants of both houses, who surveyed or barked at us from their respective gardens.
Guard dogs on duty
We crossed a couple of meadows...
Continuing to climb gently, we crossed a couple of meadows before reaching a grassy track between young fenced woodland. We came across a small paddock containing some pet sheep and a Shetland pony. They were very curious and came over to greet Poppy, who was beside herself with excitement!
The path between young woodland
Poppy makes some new friends
When I was able to drag Pops away from her new chums, we continued the short distance to the B2100 at Pell Green (just south-west of Cousley Wood), and to my waiting car. The weather had not been as good as the previous evening walks, with grey skies, but it had been warm enough and dry. Both the dogs had made some new friends (deer & pet sheep in Poppy's case, a rather amorous chocolate Labrador in Zuka's!) All in all, another very pleasant walk.

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