It was a bright sunny morning as I set off on this walk which passes through my village. People were queuing outside Heathfield’s Patisserie Valentin – no surprise as there’s usually a queue in non-covid times as their bread is delicious!
I joined the Cuckoo Trail, a 14 mile surfaced path which follows the former railway track to Shinewater Park. It’s known as the Cuckoo Line because traditionally, the first cuckoo of spring was released from a cage at Heathfield Fair. The line was axed under the Beeching cuts and closed in 1968. It’s now a safe and scenic route for cyclists, walkers and horse-riders – I feel I know every inch of it having used it in training for the marathons and half marathons I’ve done over the past 15 years.
My walk soon took me over a stile and off across a meadow and, after a few more stiles, into a delightful wood with dappled sun falling through the trees. On hearing a bird call I used my newly downloaded Chirp app for the first time which quickly identified the call as a magpie’s – how brilliant! I’ve since learned that there’s also an app that identifies plants and flowers…… goodness, how wonderful to literally have all that information at one’s fingertips. I’ll be lucky to finish the Trail by July 2021 if I stop and look up every bird and plant I see along the way!
The far edge of the wood brought me out into a recently mown meadow dotted with round hay bales. It looked so pretty in the sunshine. To my left was a corn field where the corn wasn’t quite as high as an elephant’s eye and just peeping over the top of the corn was an oast house. It was certainly an ‘oh, what a beautiful morning oh, what a beautiful day’ moment.
Just before Waldron Di Steele, who lives there, joined me with her dog Bella. As well as being a trustee of FSH, Di manages our website and designs most of our publicity materials. She also tracked several of these walks when the Trail was created five years ago. We walked through a few fields, one of which held a cluster of tents but were very peaceful until… hurtling towards us came an SUV with children standing on the running boards and hanging out of every opening laughing and shouting with glee and obviously having a great time.
Di and Bella departed at Brittenden Lane and I continued on my way until I reached The Blackboys Inn. Natalie and Jay Dunbar, have been very supportive of FSH throughout their tenure at this lovely pub, hosting annual Mega March Hospice Quizzes and raffles. I rested at one of the picnic tables on the lawn in front of the pub and watched the staff busily setting up distanced tables for what I imagined would be a busy trade for them today.
Just along the road from the Blackboys Inn is Brownings Manor, which was the setting for FSH’s Summer Concert in 2017 thanks to the generous hospitality of Andrew and Lydia Tyler. I recall many fun meetings there both in the run-up to that concert and, prior to that, for Hidden Treasures, a very successful auction event led by Benji Tyler and beautifully orchestrated by Gorringe’s at their auction rooms in Lewes.
At the top of School Lane in Blackboys I stopped and read two plaques on a bench surrounded by maple trees. The smaller plaque read: “Presented in 1983 by The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery Headquarters First Canadian Brigade Group & Canadian Defence Liaison Staff (London) to commemorate those members who presented the original seat and to the hospitality of residents of the village of Blackboys.”
Heading towards Tickerage Mill, I was hoping to get a glimpse of the splendid Queen Anne house which was once the country home of Vivien Leigh. This wasn’t possible due to high hedges all around it, so instead I took some photos of the millstream where the famous actress was known to bathe and where her ashes were finally scattered.
To my surprise and delight I saw two enormous fish cavorting in the mill race. I’m guessing they were carp…….. I’ll bet there’s a fish identifying app out there I could download.
Passing some paddocks and stables I espied a peculiar contraption which looked like a lampshade with a buoy hanging inside. I later learned that this was a horse fly trap. Gosh, I’m learning so much from this walk! Near here is Hobbs Barton, which until recently was owned by Jeremy and Valerie Clark – Valerie is an FSH Patron. Hobbs Barton played a significant role in the early days of FSH as we held our annual meetings and numerous events in the beautiful barn there.
A little further along I took a detour to pop in and say hello to Richard Munn at IDK Automotive at The Oaks Workshops in Framfield. Mungo (as he is universally known) raised money for FSH five years ago by completing a truly epic ride from John O’Groats to Lands End on his 1960 Lambretta. He did it in memory of his mum, Pauline McKenzie, who died in the care of St Wilfrid’s Hospice (Eastbourne) in 2010.
We sat and reminisced over a refreshing ice -cold Coke, took some photos on the famous Lambretta and before leaving I was presented with £100 for FSH from IDK Automotive.
On leaving it was very tempting to walk across the road to my house and have some lunch but instead I rejoined the trail at Sandy Lane and continued on into Uckfield.
I passed the beautiful Pound House which is owned by FSH volunteer Melanie Suppel and her husband Jan and continued down the lane which took me into Hempstead Wood.
A downhill path, strewn with tree roots, I know this stretch well from my days of going out with the Uckfield Runners. At the bottom of the path I crossed the railway tracks that run between Buxted and Uckfield. I always feel a bit of a thrill crossing railway tracks and this time daringly stopped and took a photo. ( I obviously need to get out more …… or possibly less?)
A little further along at a bridge over the River Uck at Hempstead Mill there is a Grade II Listed Heritage former mill house. Although now sadly falling into disrepair, its faded splendour is hauntingly beautiful. The intricate ironwork on the bridge across the now tranquil mill race is very attractive. The whole scene, framed with wild flowers and overhanging willow branches, was charming and held me transfixed for some time.
The walk then took me, via a playground and recreation field, to a very pretty wildflower meadow which ran alongside the railway line, that brought me out into the corner of the car park of Waitrose next to Uckfield Station. Until I did this walk a couple of months ago, I had no idea there was such a delightful footpath here.
This section of the Trail was sponsored by Judith and Bob Ruthven on behalf of Buxted Construction. Buxted Construction has been an incredibly generous supporter of FSH over many years, sponsoring numerous events and regularly processing our mailings and covering the not insignificant postage costs.