Sunday – Sheffield – Our annual May Bank Holiday camping get-together has been cancelled as the weather is simply too cold and unreliable. Instead we all meet at Dave and Joy’s house in Penistone. We catch a train to Sheffield. As usual these days there are no staff on the station so it is not until the conductor comes round we learn the train will terminate at Barnsley and a bus will take us on to Sheffield. This will add considerably to the journey time so we have to decide what to do. The conductor stomps off whilst we debate – hardly our fault as there was no notice at the station! We decide to go on anyway.
The bus fills rapidly and sets off. I enjoy the journey as it passes through villages I have not visited in years. There is a slightly worrying moment when we fail to move at a roundabout near Jump. “The gear box is stuck”, comments the driver before it frees itself and we continue. The closure of the railway is caused by large scale signal works around Sheffield, planned so the lack of organisation by the rail company is pretty disgraceful. There are no rail staff on the bus, so it is left to the driver to tell people at the various stations that only a few can get on to fill the seats vacated by the small number getting off. This leaves groups of frustrated travellers who act with considerable calmness! At Meadowhall there are at least eight staff standing around not doing very much. Eventually we reach Sheffield.
We head into The Old Queen’s Head by Ponds Forge. A decent range of beers but we have just the one and move on. Past the gates to the old forge with “George Senior and Co Ltd” over the arch. Apart from this gate, all signs of the works are gone to be replaced by an Olympic standard swimming pool. We pass Park Square and on to Blonk Street. At the junction of Blonk Street and Castlegate is a closed public convenience which is circular. The back of the little building hangs over a sharp turn of the River Don which then flows under Blonk Street. One wonders if the convenience one emptied straight into the river. There is also a bridge under Castlegate dated 1916. It is here that the River Sheaf joins the Don. The Sheaf has flowed under the city, including the station, through culverts. Over The Wicker and up Nursery Street which runs along the riverside. A modern footbridge crosses the river to provide access to a large modern complex of apartments. The Wicker Holy Trinity church, built in 1848 to a design by the company of Flockton, Lee and Flockton. Aizlewood’s Mill is a fine 19th century flour mill now used as a business centre. We then have another pint at The Harlequin.
Into Mowbray Street. Here there is a small footbridge. This was an early fording place across the River Don. A wooden bridge was built in the early 18th century and the little hamlet of Bridgehouses grew around it. An iron bridge was built in 1815, which was replaced in 1841 but this bridge was destroyed in the Great Flood of 1864 when Dale Dyke burst. The bridge was rebuilt and replaced again in 1921 on the old 1841 footings. Mowbray Street is lined by old works, many now housing small businesses. The area is Kelham Island, named after Kelham Homer, the town armourer who set up a workshop here in 1604. Left into Ball Street. Across Ball Street Bridge is the vast Cornish Place building. The building was formerly the factory of James Dixon & Sons, a Britannia metal, Sheffield plate and Cutlery manufacturer. The firm, dating from 1805, suffered in the 1970s from the import of cheaper cutlery from Japan and collapsed in 1982. In the late 1990s the disused building was converted into apartments. Downstream is a massive weir running down the river. Opposite are the old Brooklyn Works, constructed in the mid 19th century for the firm of of Alfred Beckett and Sons Ltd, a manufacturer of steel, saws and files. The building suffered seriously damaged in the March 1864 Great Flood. The company continued to manufacture at the Brooklyn Works until the mid-1960s using the “Matchless” trademark. Into Green Lane. On the corner is The Milestone, formerly an early 19th century pub called The Ball Inn. Green Lane Works were established in 1795 by the firm of Hoole and Company who were manufacturers of ornamental stove grates and fenders in bronze and metal. The works were rebuilt in 1860 when a superb gate believed to have been designed by Alfred Stevens was constructed. In April 1948 the works were purchased by W.A. Tyzack who produced agricultural tools and parts for farm machinery. By 2009 the works were disused and the future is uncertain. Opposite is Ebenezer Street School. Into the Kelham Island Inn, followed by another pint in the Fat Cat.
We cross the A61 and walk up Allen Street. Past Blue Boy Street school (the name apparently refers to the colour of the school uniform). The whole area is a maze of mid to late 20th century industrial units, many now derelict. Into Scotland Street, strangely named as the area had a very large Irish population, refugees from the Great Famine. More derelict buildings. An old Ward’s pub, The Queen’s Hotel, has been closed for many years. This area had a bad reputation for gangs in the mid 20th century. Opposite is the Methodist New Connexion Chapel built in 1828 and Littlewood Memorial Hall, dated 1896. We walk on into the city centre. A Cuban disco is in full flow in Leopold Square where we have a buffet at the Aagrah before deciding public transport is all too complicated and get a taxi back to Penistone.
Wednesday – Leominster – The sun rises into a brilliant blue sky. There is a real promise of summer – a small group of screaming Swifts race across the rooftops.
The River Kenwater is low and crystal clear although little can be seen through the wind-driven ripples. Orange Tip butterflies chase across the top of brambles on the bank. Blackbirds and House Sparrows are on the far side of the river. The Grange has a fair number of people enjoying the warm sunshine.
Back home, sweet peppers are planted out in the greenhouse and bamboo stakes put in to support the broad beans.
Thursday – Beacon Hill Common – Whispy clouds are high in a cobalt sky. I park in Llangunllo or Llangynllo. Carrion Crows caw incessantly and a Blackbird sings. Off along the Glyndŵr Way, still on a lane here which passes over the River Lugg which is a small crystal clear stream. Past cottages where a House Sparrow disappears under in the eaves of a dormer window. Past a small graveyard. Over a crossroads and onto a path that drops to a small bridge over Bacon Dingle (called Ferley Dingle on old maps). A pair of Bullfinches fly over. The path joins a lane to pass under the Heart of Wales railway line. A track climbs past Neuadd Fach farmhouse, where according to the 1889 map, coins from the reign of Edward III were found in 1804. A spring pours into a concrete trough. The path continues up the hill. Across a pasture of sheep and lambs, then one of cattle with a large bull emerging from a muddy area with a barn and another of sheep. A Red Kite drifts over the hill and a pair of Carrion Crows harass a Common Buzzard before returning to their nest in a bare tree. Into another field where a small bridge crosses dried up stream. The next field contains much younger lambs than earlier ones. The way is not particularly clear but a farmer/shepherd across the field shouts that I need to head to my right and sure enough the way is over a hilltop. The views of the surrounding hills is glorious. Dominant is the radio mast on Black Mixen atop the Radnor Forest.
The path runs between two fields. A Yellowhammer calls. Ahead three Whinchats and a Wheatear sit on the barbed wire fence. A Tree Pipit stands on a branch, a Robin slips through a stunted Hawthorn and the descending notes of a Willow Warbler come from ahead. The path descends to a track. Skylarks sing overhead and a female Redstart flits from post to post. The keening call of a Curlew comes from a distance. The variety of bird song is wonderful. Now we have Dunnock, Chaffinch and Garden Warbler.
The track up Lanlluest is long, stony, grey and dusty, made of shale and siltstones belonging to the Ludlow and Wenlock phases of the Silurian period. A ewe and her lamb are on the track and run ahead of me. Several times I think she will stay by a gate where there are other sheep but no, she bolts on up the track with the lamb trotting on behind. The track passes through a conifer plantation and eventually reaches a gate where the sheep has to charge past me and back down the track. Beyond the gates is moorland, Beacon Hill Common. Past Short Ditch, once thought to be an early defensive ditch, but now considered simply a boundary marker. I miss the ruins of Beacon Lodge which are hidden down a slope. The path travels westwards past Pool Hill. Meadow Pipits watch from the top of clumps of heather. On across the moor until a crossing of tracks is found. Ravens bark high on the slope of Beacon Hill. I take the track south from the Glyndŵr Way around the side of Pool Hill. I am approaching a large pool. This is a problem as my path should be to the west of this. There are numerous tracks cut through the heather so locating the public bridleway is difficult. Across the hillside to another pool, not marked on the map and a new dam had been constructed. This is a source of the River Aran which flows down Trawsgwm. Red Kites fly up from the heather. Skylarks still sing overhead. A small ditch runs down to a marshy pool, the source of the River Lugg. A tiny steam cuts into the peat runs off down the hill through a deepening valley. My path carries on southwards up Rhos-crug hill. Pond Skaters scurry across small pools in the peat. It is getting windier and cloudier. On the top of the two summits of Rhos-crug are Bronze Age barrows, a pair on the higher summit and one to the south-east. A military jet passes close by.
The track drops down to the farmhouse of Rhos-crug, a large stone-built property from around 1890. Off along the road, the B4356. Another Garden Warbler is singing loudly and nearby a Chiffchaff calls. The hamlet of Gravel has a “Particular” Baptist chapel with a founding stone dated 1877. The Strict and Particular Baptists are of a Calvinist persuasion. The chapel was also known as Temple Chapel. The hamlet also had a smithy. The leaves of Coltsfoot grows on a stony verge. Agincourt Cottage is a nice stone building but I cannot find any source of the name. Lea Hall lies on a slightly raised position on the Lugg flood plain. Built around 1800, it has been the home of a number of country gentry. The road bends near the junction to Pye Corner and crosses Greenstreet Bridge. A single carriage train passes along the hillside on the old L&NWR Central Wales Branch line. A mill race ran near the road to a corn mill in Llangunllo. Route
Friday – Eastbourne – From my hotel on Marine Parade I head west for a short distance and turn into the town at The Albion Hotel. There was a 16 room boarding house built here in the early 18th century. It was demolished and the Albion Hotel built in 1836. It became a private house for Lord Ashburnham in the 1840s before reverting to an hotel in 1882. It was the first building to be connected to the Eastbourne Electric Light Company and the first to have a telephone – No 1 It is hot as the sun beats down from a cloudless sky. Into Seaside, a street of shops and businesses, which was a toll road until 1872. Leaf Hall is a community arts centre. The building was constructed in 1863/4 by William Laidler Leaf, a wealthy silk merchant from Streatham who had a holiday home in Eastbourne. Seaside was a rough working class area with few facilities. Leaf approached the 7th Duke of Devonshire who was developing Eastbourne into a resort to provide some land. Here he built Leaf Hall, designed by R.K. Blessey, to provide a library, reading room, coffee room and the means to cook for 200 people when required. A few buildings in the area have some age, the Old Bakery could be 18th century or earlier.
Into Langley Road and past the castellated Salvation Army Citadel. Children’s cries and shouts ring from a school playground beside it. The street is mainly three storey late 19th century houses, some with basements, and later 20th century infill. The area is very multicultural. On the corner of Susan’s Road is the Wesleyan Hall of 1907. Past a castellated tower of the hall and Sunday school to the main entrance of the Central Methodist Church, strangely ornate, rather like an early English church. It was built in 1907 by architect Carlos Crisford. A short way along Susan’s Road is a fine Byzantine church, All Souls, built in butter-cream brick with dark red terra cotta dressings and has a free standing campanile. It was designed by Parr, Strong and Parr, greatly influenced by churches in Ravenna, Italy and consecrated in 1882. It cost £18,500, supported by Lady Victoria Wellesley and is built of butter-coloured brick. Across Pevensey Road is an Art-Deco cinema. The Luxor Cinema was opened on 3rd April 1933, and was built for the independent Walter Bentley circuit. The entrance at the left side of the building is surmounted by a large dome, with the auditorium running parallel to the road. It was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/6Ranks organ with illuminated console, which was opened by organist John Howlett. The organ was removed in 1972. Taken over by the Union Cinemas chain in 1935, they were taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in October 1937. The building is now empty.
Opposite the end of Susans Road (the apostrophe seems optional) is Elm Buildings, a long parade of ornate Victorian houses, now all shops on the ground floor. Past a vast department store, built as Dale and Kerley’s department store selling top of the range products, being one of the four premier stores in the town in the 1920s and 1930s. Its restaurant was rather exclusive with tea dances taking place each afternoon. The store was built in 1926 when a number of small shop units were rationalised. During World War II it was used for making parachutes before being bombed. The store was rebuilt in much the same style and was acquired by Barkers in 1953. After that it became Army and Navy Stores, and now TJ Hughes. Into Trinity Street where the Holy Trinity Parish Church, was built in 1837-39 for the new resort of Southbourne by D Burton as a chapelry of St Mary and like all the others, is locked up tight. Long garden walls in the street are built of knapped flints, a typical chalkland material. A roundabout at a six way junction hosts the War Memorial by Henry Charles Fehr, was unveiled in 1920. A granite pillar with bronze plaques and an “Angel of Victory” statue. St Saviours and St Peter’s Church is another Victorian edifice of considerable size and is another with a free standing tower. It replaced an iron church opened in 1863, which was intended to reduce the overcrowded congregation of Holy Trinity. The architect of the permanent church was G E Street and it is his only complete church in Sussex. The foundation stone was laid in November 1865 and though the church was consecrated in 1867, the spire was not finished until 1872. By 1875, £16000 had been spent. Into The Eagle for my first pint of Harvey’s for too long a time, although sadly not the best kept pint.
Along South Street. A funeral directors occupies a 1899 building with a frieze of swirling leaves. A couple of buildings, including the Dew Drop Inn look older than they are. The South Street Free Church has founding stone from 1903. A building connected to the Masonic Hall is dated 1879. At the junction with Grove Road is Our Lady of Ransom Catholic church, built between 1890-1903 by F A Walters. Opposite is the magnificent Town Hall built in 1886. It was designed by W. Tadman Foulkes and built by local builder James Peerless on the site of Stocks Bank in Grove Road. Caffyns, a famous south coast car dealership, occupies Saffron Rooms, built in 1911 by H Woolnough of Eastbourne. Caffyns were in business in Eastbourne from 1865, initially as gas and hot water fitters then as electricians, installing the lights on Eastbourne pier in 1901. In 1903, inspired by a request from a motorist (a rare sight at that time) to use their premises to store his Renault, the sons of the first Mr Caffyn established a garage, Caffyn Brothers, at The Colonnade. The showroom is filled with classic cars, a 1927 Delage, 1899 Benz Velo Comfortable, 1908 Wolseley Siddeley, 1933 Rolls Royce 20/25, 1914 Morris Oxford Bullnose.
Along Saffrons Road. A large park hides behind a tall flint wall. A pair of houses have a distinct arts and crafts look, more are early 20th century houses for well off citizens but a good number have that Art-Deco touch, not too radical. Into Gildredge Park, a large, well-used space on this beautiful day. It was purchased by the council from Carew Davis-Gilbert in 1908. A breeze now cools it down a bit. Rows of Cherry trees are laden with white blossom. Out of the park and down Borough Lane. The Manor Hall sounds old but dates from 1885. Borough House is 18th century and next, Pilgrims is 14th century with an undercroft reputedly from 1134. Charles Dickens visited several times in the 1830s.
Across the road to Eastbourne Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin and it is open. I have a chat with a man who is an official of the church, churchwarden maybe. I comment on how from home I can pop into Wales and all the churches are open but in England very few are. On hearing I come from Herefordshire he tells me that the Master of Music at Hereford Cathedral was a curate here. The church is late 12th century and built of Caen stone from Normandy. It was enlarged in the 14th century and extensively restored in the 19th century. At the crossing is a fine Norman chancel arch with chevron decoration. The pillars of the chancel and nave are of Caen stone. The large , bulky tower is of greensand. In the Easter sepulchre is a brass commemorating the death of King John in 1445. A window in the north east end depicts Archangel Michael fighting the devil, a 20th century replacement for a mediaeval window destroyed by a bomb in 1943. On the south wall is a bust attributed to Sir Robert Taylor commemorating the death of Henry Lushington, eldest son of Dr Henry Lushington, the vicar from 1734 to 1779. Henry died in Patna in 1763 at the age of only 26 having already survived the Black Hole of Calcutta. There is the remains of an old village cross and a Celtic cross brought from Cornwall by Davies Gilbert in 1817.
This is old town built around the valley of the Bourne stream. The Lamb is a Harvey’s house and dates from 1180. It was formerly assembly rooms and Ballroom and renovated in 1912 when the plaster front was removed. In the back part of the pub is the old well, 59 feet deep, illuminated so that water can still be seen in the bottom.
The area has been occupied since the Neolithic at least. Flint mines and artifacts have been found locally. A Roman bath and bills lie near the pier. An Anglo-Saxon charter recorded a landing stage on the Bourne. After the Conquest, the hundred was held by Robert, Count of Mortain. The Manor house was home to the Burton family in the 16th century who owned much of the local area. A number of Martello towers were built at the end of the 18th century and a Redoubt was constructed in 1805-07. Most of the land was shared by two families by the mid-19th century, the Davies-Gilberts and William Cavendish, Earl of Burlington. In 1849 the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway arrived and the town grew rapidly. In 1859 Cavendish, now The Duke of Devonshire, hired Henry Currey to plan a new town. The development continues and the population grew from fewer than 4000 in 1851 to 35000 in 1891.
After a couple of pints I head back towards the town centre. Past the entrance to Eastbourne Manor and a number of very large houses of the early to mid 20th century. The street is called The Goffs and was originally a small group of cottages built on the site of an old dairy. The Goffs is a large wisteria clad house looking very run down. Goffs House opposite is a confusion of styles. On down The Goffs past various massive piles. Notably is 11 The Goffs, an Art and Crafts house designed by local architect Peter D Stonham for a local solicitor F H Stapley. The building is dated 1910 on the rainwater heads and diamond-shaped panels between the floors of the bay windows on the rear elevation. The house was originally going to be named Harrington but in the end was called Hunningtons. Past the Sorting Office and Stafford House. The library is modern.
The station was built in 1886 by F D Bannister, engineer to the LB&SCR in yellow brick with red brick dressings and slate roofs in a combined Feneland Italina style. It is topped by a semi domed French pavilion roof with fish-scale tiles and iron cresting. The shopping street from the station is a classic town centre of these days, a lot of empty shops, charity shops and a few chains hanging on. An old crossroads, now an alley called Junction Road, a pedestrian precinct and the main road curving round, has three magnificent bank buildings on three corners, all still banks. Into the pedestrian precinct, Terminus Road, where shops are beneath, on one side imposing houses and on the other by shops with a long portico of balistrades with large houses set back. Superdrug has a barrel shaped roof with a large circular glass window. In Langley Street, the Curzon cinema has a large slate domed roof, pretty much hidden from the road. Built as The Picturedrome, it opened on 21st December 1920 with Victor McLaglen in “The Call of the Road”, which was accompanied by Meny’s Celebrated Orchestra. Seating was provided in the auditorium for 1,100 in stalls and circle levels. It became part of the small local circuit operated by Randolph Richards. The Picturedrome was damaged by German bombs in 1940, but quickly re-opened. It was sold to the Classic Cinemas chain in 1966 and was re-named Curzon Cinema. Debenhams is in a large building with a shield inscribed B Co 1911. Bobby & Co. was a provincial department store group based mainly in seaside towns on the south coast of England. The business operated from 1887 until 1972.
Saturday – Eastbourne – It is much cooler this morning. Leaden clouds fill the sky with a broad shaft of sunlight over the sea to the south-east. A large flock of feral pigeons fly off from the pier girders. Along Marine Parade past the vast Gothic Victorian hotels. The pier was built in 1865, designed by Eugenius Birch and built by the Eastbourne Pier Company for £15,000. It has been altered and repaired several times. Originally a landing stage for steamers, it also enabled the gentry to “walk on water”. Beyond the pier is an hotel so large it has fifty arched windows on the ground floor. The Burlington and Claremont hotel were built between 1851 and 1855 as a terrace of 19 houses. The bandstand was built in 1935 in an Art Deco style at a cost of £29,000. It has a turquoise tiled flat dome roof and a tiled frontage. Purple canvas chairs are set out for a concert. It established a fine tradition of Military band music over the years. The wall along the sea front is lined with palm trees and shrubs. Everywhere is still genteel and well-ordered, so different to Brighton which is downright shabby.
The Wish Tower stands in a ring of brick walls atop a mound. It is one of the 43 remaining Martello towers. It was erected in 1806 as a defence a threatened invasion by Napoleon. Lansdowne Terrace is another vast hotel, combining four hotels into one at various stages during the 20th century. There is then the Gothic Grand Hotel constructed in 1875 by local resident William Earp with a 400-foot frontage at a cost of £50,000. The Grand Hotel is famous for its long association with music. Debussy completed his symphony “La Mer” in Suite 200 in 1905. The Grand Hotel Orchestra broadcasted live on BBC from the Great Hall every Sunday night from 1924 to 1939 on the programme “Grand Hotel”. The parade ends as the road starts to rise into the downs towards Beachy Head. Western Lawns contains a statue of Spencer Compton, 8th Duke of Devonshire.
Up Jevington Gardens and along Compton Street. Past the Winter Garden, (the Floral Hall) and Pavilion Hall is so uniquely Victorian. Built in 1874-1876 by Henry Currey architect to the Devonshire Estate with internal alterations and additions around 1910 by J W Woolnough. Beside it is the Buccaneer pub another Victorian confection of 1898 with copper domes. Devonshire Park theatre is covered in scaffolding. It looks a bit of a monstrosity – not all Victoriana in Eastbourne is pleasing. A passing gull kindly splatters me in guano. Into Chiswick Place where modern blocks of flats do nothing to enhance the area. Some large, solid house houses are followed by a long terrace. St Andrews United Reform church stands in Blackwater Road. Red brick. Pearl Court is several large Art Deco blocks of apartments. The road ends at the War Memorial. The experience hospital in Hartington Place has a large dome crowned with a cross. Back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast.
Eastbourne-Pevensey – After breakfast I set off along Seaside, following yesterday’s route. Instead of turning off into town I keep heading east. A building with an ornate shield dated 1902 on the gable is hidden behind a row of shops. The Old Bank, now an antiques shop, stands at the end of Alexandra Buildings dated 1904. Opposite are Carter Barracks, home of 4 Platoon, B Company, 3rd Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. At the other end of Alexandra Buildings is the Old Library with a glass block corner. A funeral director’s is surmounted but twin towers with domes - almost certainly an old cinema. Next is the flint faced Christ Church which was consecrated by the Bishop of Chichester on 29th July 1859. It was built to serve the needs of the people in the growing area to the east of the town, which had expanded greatly following the arrival of the railway to Eastbourne ten years earlier. Money to build the church was raised by Miss Julia Brodie (1814-1872) and was built on land donated by the Hon Mrs Anne Gilbert. It was was designed by the architect Benjamin Ferrey, a pupil and biographer of A.W.Pugin. The building was originally designed to consist of a Nave, Chancel, Side Aisles and Tower. Due to lack of funds at the time, however, only the Nave was constructed and the church took on the appearance of a huge barn. The structure was poorly built, the pillars being smaller and weaker than those designed by the architect. The roof creaked to such an extent in rough weather that the Clergyman’s voice was inaudible. A hall was built next to the church called The Brodie Hall. The South Aisle and Tower were added in 1870, but a violent storm in 1877 threatened to blow the church down, which was entirely unsupported on its north side. Work to rectify this was completed in 1879, together with a new Vestry and apsidal Chancel, resulting in the church as we see it today. Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Alice, Prince Philip’s great grandmother worshipped here when in Eastbourne as did Lewis Carroll.
The King’s Arms, built around 1900, possibly designed by A. Dixon, is another fine piece of Victoriana with a verdigris coloured roof on a veranda and a copper topped turret room. Pleasant Cottages are dated 1892. More shops. Wellington Court is a 1930s block of apartments. A strange small building with a large chimney stands on the corner of Wartling Road. Past Archery Recreation Ground. St Andrews church has a founding some laid in 1911 by Mrs Davies-Gilbert. It is known at St Andrews, Norway from the fact that the church was originally built on the North Way or Nor’Way out of Eastbourne. St Andrews was originally a daughter parish of Christ Church, Eastbourne, and it was in the early 1880s that the Reverend Edward Ebenezer Crake was appointed as the first curate in charge at Norway Hamlet.The services at that time were held in one of the Norway Cottages. In 1885, the Ceylon Baptists vacated the Iron Tabernacle which became the Iron Church at Norway. St Andrews replaced this church.
The housing now looks 20th century. A house down the bottom of a side street is dated 1905. Across Seaside roundabout and onwards along Seaside. Over a steam running off West Langney Level. Queen Alexandra’s Cottage Homes are dated 1906. This area is St Anthony’s Hill. At Langney roundabout I take the Hailsham road. West Langney Level lays to the west with extensive reed beds, drainage ditches and sheep. A Magpie and a Jackdaw have a brief but quite vicious fight. A House Sparrow sits on a bramble and chirrups. Langney Sewer is a fair sized stream passing under the road via a bridge dated 1827. A Dunnock sings from a small bush. The green Downs stretch away in the distance with a white scars from an old quarry. The road now passes through Langney, a large 20th century community.
There is a market at the Langney shopping centre. A quick look reveals it is the same as the country over, not that there is anything wrong with that. Over a footbridge to the Pevensey road called Hide Hollow. A short row of cottages is dated 1900. Past Langney cemetery. The road crosses Mountney Level. A Whitethroat sings from the roadside, a Sedge Warbler is singing from one of the numerous drainage ditches. Mountney Bridge is a small sluice. An industrial estate follows. The gates are closed at the level crossing at Pevensey and Westham station. The train speeds through, not stopping. Over the cruising is the Drill Hall, once home to the 6th Sussex Battery 2nd Home Counties Brigade, now a business centre. A minute later the gates close again as the stopping train arrives, destination London Victoria. Into the village of Westham past a long terrace, the central house being dated 1881. The old Dial House is 15th century, the Oak House is dated circa 1500.
The church of St Mary the Virgin was probably once the church of the Hospital of St Cross outside the west gate of Pevensey. The arcade of the nave, north aisle, north porch and tower are of stone and flints in chequer pattern, from around 1300. The chancel was rebuilt around 1420. The nave has a fine timbered roof with crownposts at the west end and queenposts to the main portion. During the 1870s restorations were carried out, including one by the Lancaster architects Paley and Austin in 1876–77. Two 13th tombstones with floreated crosses are set into the chancle floor. One was adapted as the tombstone of Philippa Hodson (died 1602) and the crude but fuller inscription shows that the other was re-used in 1694 as the tombstone of Abraham Kenchley. On the edge of the village is the Butcher’s Field where cattle were kept prior to slaughter. On the other side is the road is a cannon barrel, for some reason.
Down a lane to Pevensey Castle. Swallows are feeding over the moat. In 290CE the Romans built a fort here called Anderida. At the time the area was on a spit of land with a harbour. A settlement remained after the Romans withdrew. It is likely the fort was abandoned after the Saxons slaughtered the population as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In 1066, after Duke William landed in Pevensey Bay, he erected a wooden fortification within the Old Roman walls. He marched out and defeated Harold Godwinson, taking the crown. He still needed good communications with Normandy and the harbour here offered safe anchorage so he handed the land to his half-brother, Robert, Count of Mortain. It was almost certainly Robert who refortified the Roman walls and created two baileys within. In 1088, attempts were made to place Robert on the throne instead of William Rufus. Robert was in Normandy and Rufus besieged Pevensey and took it by starving the defenders out. Henry I handed the Rape and castle of Pevensey to Gilbert Laigle. The Laigle family lost the possessions during Stephen’s reign. The land now passed to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke. Gilbert rebelled and again the defenders were starved out, the castle having proved resistant to every attack. The castle returned to the ownership of the crown. The major stone castle was built during the reign of Richard I. It is believed that the castle was slighted when King John lost Normandy and the French King’s son, Louis invaded. The castle passed through a number of Royal favourites in the 13th century finally ending with Peter of Savoy, who undertook considerable work on the buildings. After Simon de Montfort defeated the forces of Henry III at the Battle of Lewes, the royalist constable of Pevensey refused to surrender the castle and yet again the castle was besieged but this time it held. It was returned eventually to Peter of Savoy after the Battle of Evesham. After his death in 1268 the castle became the property of Henry’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In 1372, the castle passed to John of Gaunt. Sir John Pelham was appointed Constable who supported Henry Bolingbroke against Richard II. The castle was besieged in 1399 for the fourth and final time. After this, the castle fell into disrepair. Gun emplacements were installed with the threat of the Spanish Armada, though of course never used and again in 1940, with the threat of a Nazi invasion.
Into The Royal Oak and Castle for lunch, which is three crackers, two slivers of cheese, a tiny pot of chutney, three small pieces of celery and four frozen grapes for a fiver. Still the beer was good. Opposite the pub is The Old Mint House. It is said there was a Norman mint on this site from 1076. The building dates from 1342 but the main construction is 16th century. It was in the possession of Andrew Borde, Court Physician to Henry VIII and Edward VI stayed here. It is reputed to be haunted. It is now empty have recently been an antiques business.
There was a church in the castle grounds, now just an outline of bricks. It is likely it was there since Saxon times. However, as Pevensey village grew it was probably inconvenient to have to enter the castle for worship so the church of St Nicholas was built between 1205 and 1216. The western chancel was built first with chamfered, pointed arches opening into north and south chapels near its western end. Pevsner suggested they formed a central space with the chancel arch to the west, with the chapels perhaps resembling pre-Conquest porticus. The church fared badly in the post-Reformation period. The north and south chapels were removed and the eastern chancel was partitioned off by the lay rector and used for various purposes, latterly as a cowshed and coal-store. According to local tradition it had earlier housed smuggled goods. It was restored between 1877 and 1879 by George Gilbert Scott. An alabaster effigy in the north aisle is of John Wheatley who died in 1616 who contributed £40 (a considerable amount at the time) towards the levy for the defence of England against the Spanish Armada.
I call Kay and whilst chatting I am deposited on again by a bird. Now this is supposed to be lucky! Into The Smugglers which is a Shepherd Neame pub and a decent enough pint of Master Brew. A bus returns to Eastbourne on a convoluted route through acres of housing estates. Back to the hotel to drop off my rucksack then along to the Redoubt.
Eastbourne – Past the Curling Drinking Fountain which was erected in 1865, unveiled on the 14th September 1865 and was commissioned by Mrs Elizabeth Curling of Kent Lodge, Seaside Road, in response to an outbreak of Scarlet Fever in 1863. The fountain was originally located in the middle of the road in Seaside, near the junction, near the junction of Leaf Hall Road. The Redoubt is a Napoleonic era fortress, one of three which accompanied the 103 Martello Towers. It was built in 1804 but had no longer any military use by 1859 so fell into disrepair. It has 24 rooms which are known as Casemates, and these housed up to 200 men, although in an emergency up to 350 could be accommodated. During the First World War, the Redoubt was used as an Army Provost Corps (Military Police) headquarters and town guardroom. In 1926 it was bought by Eastbourne Council who planned a leisure facility. During the Second World War, the building was requisitioned again and was used briefly as an air raid shelter for a local school, for storage and was said to have housed Canadian troops before D-Day. It is now a museum and café. I walk around the old battlements where there are various cannon. Down Redoubt Street and past Warrior Square, a small area behind Christ Church which I passed this morning in Seaside. The houses date from 1860-1865. After a pint in the Victoria Hotel, a splendid Victorian Harvey’s house, and some food in town, I wander along the pier. Most of the outlets are closed but generally the pier looks in good shape apart from the landing platforms at the end which are badly eroded. The sun has come out making it pleasant if windy evening.
Friday – Wenlock Edge – I pick up the Edge at the furthest point I reached on
11th December last year, at the top of Roman Bank. The sky is overcast. A Blackbird sings and Wood Pigeons coo. The track passes cottages where Lilac and apples blossom. Various dogs loudly note my passing. The track enters Roman Bank woods. Garlic Mustard and Blue Alkanet flowers. Another Blackbird sings along with Wrens. A patch of flowering Wild Garlic is white in the green of fresh leaves and the rich lapis lazuli of Bluebells. An occasional Yellow Archangel flowers creamy yellow. Yellow Archangel is also known as Artillery plant or Aluminium plant. Slightly further on are white Greater Stitchwort and Hedge Bedstraw and pink Herb Robert. The hamlet of Upper Stanway lays across the field, dominated by a large red brick house originally built in the 17th century. Into Coats Wood. A Blackcap and Chiffchaff sing. A venerable Yew stands by the path. I pass from one Chiffchaff territory to another, then another and so on. Brown Clee looms across the valley. A Peregrine calls from a field edge tree. The woodland is largely Hazel with older Oaks. It thins down to a hedgerow between a field of cattle and one of grain. A Willow Warbler sings.
The track meets a lane at the entrance to Wilderhope Manor Youth Hostel and re-enters the wood at Longville Coppice. The route leaves the wood again and runs alongside a field of sheep and lambs then one of cows and calves. On the edge of the next field is something that looks like a concrete bunker or pill-box without observation slits. According to the map, it is a reservoir. Over two stiles and back into the woods. Fortunately, I decide to check the map, this path descends the Edge to Longville in the Dale. My path continues asking the side of a field before re-entering the wood. A patch of old St George’s Mushrooms lies by the path. Early Purple Orchids rise above the green groundcover is splendid isolation. Nearby a large patch of Common Chickweed has flowers with a pink tinge. A farm, The Fegg lies across the valley. Through another short patch of woodland then the track drops steeply down the Edge, crosses a fairly busy road (for the area), and enters Northway Wood. The track continues down until it meets the abandoned railway line. The Wenlock, Craven Arms and Lightmoor Extension railway was part of a complex of railway companies operating in the 1860s. They were acquired by the GWR by the end of the century and closed in the early 1960s. Birds sing; it is hard to imagine the local train puffing along here all those years ago. Various tank and pannier tank engines operated the line and finally a single unit railcar for a couple of years before closure. There is still rain in the air but so far it has remained dry.
Two white horses and riders pass followed by a heavily panting collie. Over a substantial plate iron and brick road bridge. Purple plant. Jays squabble and squawk overhead. A slope drops away from the line and is covered in Ransoms, their pungent scent filling the air. The track reaches another lane that dives down under it. I take this lane which climbs steeply, crosses the main road and descends to Easthope. The Shropshire Way turns off and I follow it leaving the hamlet for another day.
Past a couple of houses then across a rough pasture. Round Hall Farm, where I think the footpath has been diverted and is badly signed. Onto a rough lane that was once much more refined, it has a stone kerb. Behind a hedge is Lutwyche Hall. The hall can barely be seen through the thick hedge. It was a brick house built in 1587 to an “E” design but the two spaces between the wings were filled by a mid-Victorian hall by S. Pountney Smith. This was the Loteis of Domesday, a manor of one hide, held by Rainald the Sheriff, and under him by Richard. Rainald’s lands passed to the Fitzalans, under whom this manor was held by the Lords of Brocton, whose tenants were a family called Lutwyche, who lived here until 1786. William de Lutwich occurs in 1203. In 1260-70 William Lord of Lotwyns held the manor under Thomas de Brocton; he was a Regarder of the Royal Forests. The building was erected by Judge Edward Lutwyche in 1587. John Lutwyche was bailiff of Wenlock in 1603. The Herald’s visitation of 1623 was signed by Edward Lutwyche. The track travels on in a straight line. Rabbits scuttle off across the field. Jackdaws chack in a field of cows with heavy udders. A Mistle Thrush rasps as it flies over.
Past Pilgrim Cottage and a dog-leg takes me to another track that passes The Fegg farm. A large pond lies in the valley. On past Wilderhope Manor, an Elizabethan period manor house, built of local limestone and dating from 1585. The house was built for Francis Smallman, a lawyer who acquired Kinnersley Castle. He served as High Sheriff of Herefordshire for 1614-15. In 1621, Smallman was elected Member of Parliament for Leominster. He was elected MP for Wenlock in 1626. In 1936 the property was purchased by the WA Cadbury Trust who donated it to the National Trust on condition that it was used as youth hostel. Two cows are in the apple orchard. Calves lay under a blossom laden tree. A Common Buzzard flies out of the lane-side hedge. The long drive leads out to the land and back onto Wenlock Edge again. Back through the woods to Roman Bank. Chiffchaffs are the only singers now. Route
Monday – Bodenham Lake – Small patches of blue peep through a generally cloudy sky. Bird song is less intense now as many are concentrating on feeding chicks rather than singing. However, several Blackcaps are in good voice along with a Wren and Robin. There is a glimpse of grey and white as a Bullfinch slips away into the hedgerow. Ground Ivy is prolific beside the track. A few whorls of bright green spears of Teasel have appeared. The meadow has been washed in yellow as Field Buttercups flower in their thousands. A Rabbit makes a dash for the bramble thickets. A Cuckoo calls from near the River Lugg the south of the lake. A Common Buzzard soars out of Westfield Wood. Nearby is the tinkling decent of a Willow Warbler song. Another Cuckoo is to the west around Dinmore. The repeated phrases of a Song Thrush are loud in the lakeside Willows. A dark-winged damselfly, Agrion virgo, the Beautiful Demoiselle lands on a Willow twig. I then notice my camera is missing. I thought I had returned it to my bag but must have missed the pocket and dropped it. I return to the spot I last had it but nothing. Then a voice asks, “Have you lost this?” A woman has picked it up and guessed it was mine and was looking for me. Her dog is delighted to see me as much as I am pleased to get my camera back! A pair of Great Crested Grebes are swimming around a reedy clump at the end of the reed beds by the hide, preparing to nest maybe? The lambs in the orchard are almost as big as their mothers, although a lot less woolly. Back at the car park, a Chiffchaff is making a half-hearted attempt at his song. House Sparrows chirp around the barn.
Friday – Dorstone – A narrow lane heads south out of Dorstone, a small village in the Golden Valley. A cockerel announces his presence. It is overcast but bright and fairly warm. The surrounding fields of bright red soil have been ploughed into ridges and furrows, presumably for potatoes, although nothing is showing. Woodlands farm is a compact site of a stone farmhouse and barns. It was formally a corn mill. Mill Wood looms up ahead. A stumpy Wren is sitting on a telephone wire, its little tail erect to the sky, singing its heart out. A Chiffchaff calls from a blossom filled orchard. A Red Kite soars overhead. Up a path into Mill Wood, a lovely mixture of Oaks, Ashes, Rowans and Silver Birches. Blackbirds, a Song Thrush and Blackcap sing. A Grey Squirrel chatters in the trees. Through a gate into the main wood, however the path is heading the wrong direction, so I return and go across the hill a short distance where a stile takes me back into the wood, but hopefully on the right route now. Over another stile and out of the wood across a field of buttercups. On across fields with strips of woodland. Sheep lay beneath an old Hawthorn. Cattle are further up the hill. A stile wobbles precariously under me as I clamber over. Down a small slope where vast thin slabs of red sandstone provide a safety barrier. The path joins a road near the delightful Top Cottage.
The road runs from Dorstone, called Pitt Road nearer the village but has forked some way back. The road rises past a modern house, a large barn and stockyard which is on the site of an old quarry and then Little Penlan Farm with an early 18th century stone farmhouse. A valley, Common Bach Dingle lies to the south of the road. A Raven barks. Red Campion, Herb Robert, Field Buttercups, Cow Parsley and Stitchwort all flower on the roadside. A boost Nuthatch flies out of a Hazel hedge up into the great green some of an Oak. More Chiffchaffs call. Past a cottage, Brampton, although it is called Branton on the old maps and on up the road which at least is climbing less steeply now. A large radio mast dominates Vagar Hill to the south-west, yet I barely have any signal on my phone. The road turns and heads straight for the mast across the Bonny Lands. These are open hedgerow lined fields. Yellowhammers and Willow Warblers sing. Skylarks are high overhead. The road turns westwards but a lane heads on up to the mast. The lane is called The Tower, which I suspect is modern in referring to the radio mast. Redstarts dash around the high hedgerow. Up to the top of the hill past fields of sheep and lambs. The mast belongs to BT. Just beyond is a triangulation point at 431 metres above sea level. It is getting greyer and the surrounding hills are disappearing into mist. On down the other side of the hill to a lane, Old Road.
Pools of brackish water make the tracks muddy. A Linnet stands app a Hawthorn with his blood soaked breast and forehead bright. Small iridescent beetles scurry across the mud and into the sedges and grass. Across the valley is Cefn Hill and beyond the great back of the Black Mountains and Hay Bluff. A Cuckoo calls from the valley. Black, brown and white piebald ponies graze the moorland on Cefn Hill. The green lane is treacherous as horses have left deep hoof-sized holes in the drying mud. A Dunnock is busy preening her wings when she is leapt upon by a male which is then chased off by another. One of the water-filled tyre gouges is alive with tadpoles. A Speckled Wood butterfly flies by. An azure haze of Bluebells lies in the middle of a shady thicket. The coconut scent drifts from great yellow clumps of Gorse. An area of woodland has been cleared. Delicate lilac Cuckoo Flowers rise from the mud. At Wern Agavenny is a breeze block house, hardly the most sympathetic design for the area. A standing stone is beside the track. It is a mediaeval boundary marker defining the border between of the land of Craswell Priory, which lies to the south, a Grandmontian establishment and Michaelchurch Escely. Suddenly sheep across the valley start baaing noisily as a quad bike arrives with a collie racing ahead.
The track reaches a road at the edge of Cefn Common. Cefn means “a ridge”. The common is managed by the Cefn Hill and Vagar Hill Commoners. Evidence has been found of Mesolithic people on Cefn Hill from flint shards. A Common Buzzard flies past. The road passes conifer plantations, edged with Beech. These are called Mynydd Brîth which means “Speckled Mountain”. A road leads off, one that eventually joins up again with the road at Bonny Lands. Across the fields is a motte on a small hill. The motte is larger in volume than the volume of the ditches and may, therefore, be an enlargement of a pre-existing earthwork, such as a barrow. It is possible there is a ploughed out bailey to the north. The road drops fairly steeply, painful on my knees. Strangely, I have a 4g internet signal on my phone but to telephone network. Another turning and a road beside a stream, Nant-y-Bar. The roadside bank is dotted with Sweet Violets and one of the Speedwells. The road zigzags around Nant-y-Bar farm. Swallows are investigating a barn for a nest site. Goldfinches flit down the hedgerows. Beyond the farm the road rises again then drops down to Mynydd Brîth.
In Domesday Mynydd Brîth was known as Ruuenore, which in the Herefordshire Domesday Survey is annotated Fagemeneda. Ruuenore means “at the rough ridge” and Fagemeneda is an English/Welsh hybrid of this name meaning “variegated mountain”. Domesday records: “1 hide. Drogo has 4 ploughs in lordship; 7 villagers and 2 smallholders with 3 ploughs. 4 slaves and a mill at 2s. A priest and a smith.” Past a fine early 19th century farmhouse of Fowsine Farm. Opposite is a valley through which Pont-y-Weston Brook flows. A little further is the motte and bailey of Mynydd Brîth castle. The castle seems quite early Norman and probably was built by William fitz Osbern or one of his followers in the 11th century. It probably remained in use until the 12th century and was most likely superseded by the castles at Dorstone. Some pieces of masonry can be discerned on top of the motte. On down to the road that leads back to Dorstone. Pont-y-Weston Brook bubbles alongside the lane. The sun emerges, dappled through the trees. Vetches are emerging in the hedgerows. Herb Bennet flowers. A Garden Warbler is in a bush where it frequently jumps into the air after an insect before resuming its fluid song. A clump of trees ahead down the valley marks the motte of Dorstone castle and the village. Route