A fishy tale about cheese
A walk between two attractive Sussex villages through the Low Weald, to recount some of the stories and legends which abound in this area, although some of these may be truer than others.
LENGTH – 8 miles
TIME – 4.5 hours
START – Cuckoo Trail car park, Station Road, Hellingly, BN27 4EU
PARKING – Cuckoo Trail car park, Station Road, Hellingly, BN27 4EU
TOILETS – No public toilets available.
REFRESHMENTS – Pubs at Chiddingly and Gun Hill and café at Muddles Green.
CAUTION – This walk includes two crossings of the A267 road. Some areas can be muddy in wet weather, take care.
This walk contains stiles.
Step by Step Guide
Turn left as you exit the car park and follow along Station Road, passing Horselunges Manor on your left (1). Carry on along the road taking care at the junction with Mill Lane. Passing St Peter and St Paul’s Church on the right (2), continue straight on Church Road until you cross a stream.
Pass through the gate on the right hand side of the road and ensure you keep to the footpath as signposted. Continue across the field and exit onto North Street, taking care crossing the A267 and head along the track opposite.
Continue along the footpath, keeping left when it branches off. When you meet a track, turn left, with the wooded area on your right.
When you reach the footpath junction at the corner of the fields, head right along the footpath and continue along the boundary until you meet Hackhurst Lane, with Perryland Farm on your right.
Turn Left onto the road and continue along it, taking the right hand track when the road forks. You will pass an Oast House and Pekes Manor on your right (3).
When you reach the junction at Thunders Hill, continue straight onto Rosemount and carry on when the road becomes Muddles Green. Here you will find Chiddingly Village Shop and Café on your left.
Continue along Muddles Green, passing Chiddingly Primary School on your right and join the footpath on the left side of the road as the road bends.
Continue on the footpath through the Hoad’s Wood. Take care as you enter the second wooded area as this can be muddy and prone to flooding.
Follow the footpath until it reaches a road, just past Chiddingly Place and turn right onto The Street. Continue along this road, where you will find The Six Bells pub.
From here, turn left onto Church Lane, where you will see Chiddingly Church (4) on your right, as well as The Secret Tunnel (5).
Turn left onto the footpath and continue across the field until you reach Scrapper’s Hill. Turn left along the road and turn right onto the track on the other side of the road, leading the Hale Farm Campsite.
Continue along this track as it turns into a footpath, passing through the campsite and crossing a footbridge before shortly entering the Fourteen Acre Shaw.
The footpath will meet Gun Hill (6), with an Oast House on the corner of the junction. You will find The Gun pub if you continue left on Gun Hill, if not, turn onto Swansbrook Lane, towards Coggers Cross. When you meet a junction, follow the footpath down the second track.
Continue past The Cart Lodge on your left and turn right as you reach Rock Harbour Farm and continue until you reach the end of the property, where you will find the footpath on the left alongside it.
As the footpath and track fork, take the right path and continue along adjacent to the fence, passing through five fields. Continue along the footpath as you go through Westenden Wood and through two more fields, passing West Lodge on your left and a small pond on your right.
Cross the track, keeping on the footpath until you reach North Street. Turn left and carry on along the road, continuing right when you reach the post box.
When you meet the A267, take care when crossing over to the footpath opposite. Continue on this footpath until you meet a footpath junction. Take the path heading in the same direction, ensuring the boundary is on your right.
The footpath will take you onto the Cuckoo Trail (7), where you will turn right and continue down it, over the Cuckmere River and passing Watermill House on your right (8), and crossing Mill Lane.
Continue down the trail until you pass under Station Road, finding the remains of Hellingly Station (9). You will then find the car park on your right.
The Black Swans of Horselunges – On the left through the trees can be glimpsed the medieval manor house of Horselunges. This is a spectacular timber-framed medieval building constructed about 1500 and partially restored in 1925. The visible elevations feature close-studding where the owner displays his wealth by including far more mature timber in the build than is actually needed to hold the house up. It is the remaining portion of what was once a four-sided house around a courtyard and surrounded by a moat. The moat is home to a group of very rare black swans, who, in turn, may have inspired the “Swansong” record label of one of its more recent owners, Peter Grant, the manager of rock group Led Zeppelin
The Celtic Circular Burial Ground – Some guide books have suggested that Hellingly is rare example of a Celtic Ciric – a circular, artificially raised burial ground pre-dating Christianity. Sadly, the limited excavations carried out when the surrounding wall was rebuilt, showed it to be a Christian churchyard on a natural rise in the ground between the two branches of the River Cuckmere. Today the ground stands up to 7 feet above the encircling houses, held in place by tall brick retaining walls and criss-crossed by brick paths, laid by unemployed labourers in 1824. However, the churchyard does feature some rare “Harmer Terracotta” gravestone ornaments, a Sussex speciality made in nearby Heathfield
The Ghost of Pekes Manor – Pekes Manor is a medieval house of about 1470 which was rebuilt in Tudor times and again in Edwardian times. Visitors are now welcome to stay as it is a hotel, but might be scared off by the clanking noise of the armour-clad ghost of Sir Richard Milward, a former owner, said to haunt the house.
The Cheese Legend – Beneath the 130 feet high spire of Chiddingly church is the Jefferay monument. This magnificent alabaster carving shows Sir John Jefferay (d 1578) casually propped on one elbow above his second wife, Alice. Frowning down on them from the sides are his daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, Edward Montague. Around the base of the monument are a series of stone drums representing giant round cheeses. You have already passed the remains of a brick, ‘E’ shaped, Elizabethan manor house in which the Jefferay family lived. It was from here that the family is said to have set out to walk on a row of cheeses to the church, which were moved along by their servants as they went, forming a row of “stepping stones”, to keep them out of the dust and mud of the common highway.
The Secret Tunnel – A variation of the story above tells of a secret tunnel linking Chiddingly Place and the church being used by the Jefferay family. The unstable clay soil makes this unlikely and excavations for mains drainage across the proposed line of the tunnel in the 1980s revealed nothing.
Danger at Gun Hill – Despite its name, Gun Hill is quite safe today and the walker can enjoy a drink and meal in the 15th century Gun Inn. The name commemorates the Wealden iron industry and particularly the nearby furnace at Stream Farm where cannons were made between about 1540 and 1700.
Cuckoos on the Railway – The “Cuckoo” line was opened in 1880 between Polegate and Eridge; trains ran from Eastbourne to Tunbridge Wells. The line was named after the tradition that the first cuckoo of spring was always heard at the Heathfield Fair. The nearby bridge is a good example of recycling – clay dug out of the cuttings was fired into bricks to make the structure. The line closed between 1965 and 1968 and has now been converted into a walkway – the Cuckoo Trail.
The Milling Monks – There has been a watermill on this site since at least 1255. We know this because it formed part of a legal dispute between the owner, the Abbot of Battle, and the owners of the next downstream mill, owned by the Prior of Michelham. Following the court case, an agreement was reached to limit the sluice height gate here to “2 feet and a half and 3 inches” to give sufficient flow to the Michelham mill. The present building dates from the mid 18th century. The mill fell out of use in 1924 but a new wheel was installed in 1984/5 and the present owner is hoping to restore the remainder of the machinery to working order.
The Asylum Tramway – The end of the walk is marked by the remains of Hellingly Station, now a private dwelling. The attractive station house was originally half timbered to resemble a country cottage, but has been tile hung to reduce water penetration. Much detail still survives – look for the ornate plasterwork, canopy fretwork and stained glass windows. However, opposite the existing, public platform was once a more sinister, chained platform where “patients” for the nearby East Sussex County Asylum were transferred to a private electric tramway to convey them to the hospital buildings about a mile away.
Whilst we have taken reasonable endeavours to ensure the information is up to date and correct, you will be using the information strictly at your own risk. If you come across any inaccuracies whilst you are on your walk, please contact Wealden District Council’s Community and Regeneration team.
The self-guided walk descriptions are provided to help you navigate your way, however we recommend that you plan your route prior to walking the route and that you carry an Ordnance Survey map of the area being walked and follow your position on the map as you proceed.
Please note, we cannot be responsible for the conditions of the footpaths and land and you are responsible for your own safety.