Inns, inning and the ghost port
This walk graphically illustrates the battle between man and nature over a thousand years for an area which was once an indented coastline of salt marsh between spurs of higher land. Old sea walls, drainage channels, saltworks and the ghost of a port remain to mark this struggle. Meanwhile a different kind of port was amongst the goods being smuggled up to the inns of the area.
LENGTH – 4.5 miles
TIME – 3 hours
START – Hooe Church, Church Lane, Hooe, TN33 9HE
PARKING – Hooe Church car park, Church Lane, Ninfield, Battle, TN33 9JE
TOILETS – No public toilets available.
REFRESHMENTS –Pubs on A259 and at Pevensey Sluice (½ mile off route)
CAUTION – Portions of the route cross wetland and may be flooded following wet weather. There are two crossings of the A259.
This walk contains stiles.
Step by Step Guides
Starting at St Oswald’s Church, Hooe (1), head along the path away from Church Lane, through the car park. Enter the field and continue along the left hand path with the boundary to your left.
Continue through the field until you reach a track alongside Glebe Cottage. As the track joins Kiln Lane, turn left onto the B2095 and continue along this road until it meets a junction, turn down Horsewalk road and continue down, passing Lord’s House on your right.
Continue along the road until you reach a stream running alongside it, turn left onto the track at the Pumping station (2). Pass the pumping station and turn left again to come back on yourself, cross over the boundary and turn right onto the footpath, heading away from the road.
Follow the footpath as you meet Waterlot Stream and continue with it on your left, and a smaller stream on your right, until you meet the B2095. Here you will find The Lamb Inn Pub (3).
Continue past the pub on Top Road as you meet the A259. Take care as you cross the road and head on the path next to the bridge. Continue through the fields, keeping Waterlot Stream on your right.
As you walk through the fields, you will pass the Saltworks on your right (4). Shortly after this, you will meet a footpath junction, turn right, keeping the stream on your right and through a boundary.
As the path starts to come away from Waterlot Stream, you will walk across the field and take the first left to walk along the path with the boundary on your right. Make sure you are on the correct side of the boundary.
Walk through three fields until you join East Stream. Here you will see interest point (5). Continue right, along the path, with the stream on your left, cross over the bridge at the Northeye Channel (6), and carry on along the track away from East stream.
Stay on the track as it continues between two boundaries and shortly after passing Old Road Farm on your right, you will join a road that wraps round Sovereign View Caravan Park. Continue right along the road and continue until it joins Barnhorn Road.
Take care when crossing Barnhorn road and join the footpath to the right of the driveway of Hill Farm (you will cross over a stile). Continue through the field alongside the farm and join the track, which wraps around the farm.
Continue on the track and turn left shortly after crossing a stream, at the footpath junction.
After passing the historic boundary (7), continue straight on along the track until it takes a sharp right with the stream. Here you need to head away from the stream and join the track with the boundary to your left.
Continue through two fields, passing a pond to your right in the second field and turn left on the path as you meet a T junction. Here you will pass a large pond. Continue anti-clockwise around the pond and take the first right to continue along the track.
Walk along the path as it joins the road at Rosemary Cottage Bed & Breakfast and continue along Kiln Lane when you reach a road junction.
After passing the houses on Kiln Lane, you will find a footpath on the right hand side of the road, continue through the first field and walk along to the left of the boundary in the second field, turning left as you reach the end of it. Continue straight along through a third field before re-entering St Oswald’s Church, where you will find the car park.
The Doomsday Book of 1086 shows Hooe to be the largest single settlement around the Pevensey Levels with a mill, a small church, a population of around 320 and a value of £21 7s. It had possibly been even higher before William the Conqueror’s army marched through 20 years earlier, burning and looting and dropping the value of the village from £25 to £6. However, standing by Hooe Church today, there is little sign of a village. The answer lies partly in a village now composed of isolated farms rather than a nucleated settlement and partly in the gradual switch from sea transport to land transport through the ages, with the present village centre sited about a mile north at a crossroads on the old common. Perhaps this isolation helped to preserve the contents of the church. Unusually, both the Saxon font and document chest (made from a hollowed out tree trunk) date from the original church and are older than the present building which contains them.
Between about 1100 and 1350, the pressure of an increasing population forced the pace in reclaiming land from the sea. “Inning” produced a series of piecemeal banks enclosing one small field at a time and gradually pushing the sea back. However, the population collapse after the Black Death, followed by higher tides and storms, especially the “Great Storm” of 1287, undid most of this work, leading to the re-flooding the greater part of the area. After 1400 man began again to drain the marshes, but with greater coordination than before. In this area all the land was drained into Wallers Haven which once flowed right across the marsh to an outlet forming the port of Pevensey. A new artifical outlet to the sea was constructed at Codyngeshaven in 1402, thus speeding up the flow of water from the marshes but leaving the port of Pevensey (the old haven) without enough water. Even this was not enough. Shingle choked Codyngshaven and another new channel called the Mark Dyke, was constructed further east in 1455, which remains in use today.
One advantage to locals of the new drainage system was the ability to use the channels to land smuggled goods by small boats. Isolated inns such as The Lamb situated next to such channels were obviously in an ideal position to benefit from smuggling. The casks themselves could be hidden underwater to avoid detection by customs. Increasing efforts to combat this smuggling culminated in a pitched battle between customs men and smugglers at Pevensey Sluice (where Mark Dyke enters the sea) in 1833.
On crossing the A259, the walk reaches the old shoreline at the western end of the peninsula on which Hooe lies. The Doomsday entry for Hooe includes “30 salthouses value 33s” and in this part of the walk, occasional small mounds can be seen in the fields. These mark the site of the Doomsday and later saltworks. Salt was a vitally important part of the medieval economy, as the only viable way of preserving meat, hence the expression “worth his salt”. At high tide, sea water was trapped in shallow basins and allowed to evaporate when conditions allowed or boiled in large vats; to drive off the water and leave the valuable salt behind. The salt was then removed and the other solids piled up in waste heaps, which are the main visible evidence of the industry today. As the sea was pushed back the salt industry had to move with it, leaving these debris mounds isolated inland today.
The original position of the coastline is illustrated by the Saxon place names. Names ending in “Ey” such as Rickney and Pevensey are former islands. Another such island is the ghost port of Northeye. Now visible as a mound in flat fields at a junction of six footpaths, the route passes through the humps and bumps in the ground that mark the remains of houses, inns and shops. In medieval times, ships could sail up the channel to the east of the mound to reach the port. It seemingly reached its peak in the 1200s with a foundation charter for a church here dated 1262 and the port being mentioned as a subsidiary to the Cinque Port of Hastings in a charter of 1229. It thus supplied ships for the wars with France in return for tax breaks and privileges for its inhabitants. However, the reclamation of the marshes proved its undoing as the sea was pushed back and the channel silted up. The port fell out of use about 1450. The ruins of the church lingered until about 1850 but today even those are gone.
On leaving the mound, the route crosses the former port channel, now little more than a ditch. The route then begins to rise slightly back onto “dry land”. It seems possible that the footpath was originally a causeway to the island, passable at low tide and thus similar to modern day St Michaels Mount or Lindisfarne.
The route now crosses another inlet of the sea separating the former peninsulas of Hooe and Barnhorne. The stream at the bottom marks the site of the boundary between these two Saxon estates as laid down in a charter of 772. This importance has endured and today it still marks the boundary between two modern district council areas
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.