Wednesday, 18 February 2009

High Weald Landscape Trail Day 4 Groombridge - Pembury

Groombridge Station
Unusually for the year so far I managed to pick a day that was a bit overcast, although given the weather that had been experienced so far during the summer it was actually pretty good. I originally had planned to walk as far as Matfield but a lack of time meant that I had to curtail today’s walk at Pembury, three miles short of my original destination. That was actually ok since this would be the last planned day on the Trail this year (it was now August), since I wanted to walk the next couple of stretches in the spring when the apple blossom would be in full swing.

Rolling Stock Line Up
I parked at Groombridge Village Hall and before getting going I decided to have a nose at the old Groombridge station. This was once a substantial junction, finally closed as a mainline station in 1985. It lives on as a private residence and rails even run through the old station as part of the Spa Valley Railway. The preservationists have built themselves a new station the other side of the road bridge that crosses at this point. There wasn’t a great deal to see since it was too early for the first train so I continued onwards, stopping first at the charming bakery to get some lunch.

Eridge Rocks
I retraced my steps through the village to find the point where I had left off last month. Almost immediately I re-crossed the railway where the junction between the East Grinstead branch and Uckfield branches diverged. This is now the storage sidings for the preserved railway but most of the stock was in pretty bad shape.

Eridge Park Chapel
From here I headed round to Harrisons Rocks, a mecca for rock-climbers from across the south east. As I arrived there were minibuses of youngster also arriving for their day’s activities. By now it was school holidays so the mood of the children was different to the slightly more disciplined atmosphere I had encountered last month at Weir Wood. The path skirted around the bottom of the rocks, with most of the climbing faces still empty and hidden in the trees. As I left the rocks I had an encounter with a fox, which didn’t hang around too long when it finally spotted me.

Eridge Park
I looped around past an old mill cottage and across lots of fields, by now ready to be harvested. Eventually I reached another rocky outcrop just north of Eridge. There were no climbers here and I enjoyed them all the more as a result. I crossed the A26 and entered Eridge Park, the next landscaped park attached to a stately home that are features of this part of the Weald. This park was not quite as well tended as some others I had visited but the feature lake was most attractive and by now the sun had made an appearance, bringing new life to the landscape. By now, being August, the landscape was changing colour to beiges and browns as grasses set seed and crops came towards harvest time.

Angry Sky
Eridge Park was also notable for the numbers of deer fences that had been put up. I recently read that deer numbers were at record levels in this country and since they can do a lot of damage to vegetation in large numbers this was obviously an attempt to protect the more vulnerable parts of the park.

Eridge Lake
Eventually I reached Frant village, high up on the Weald and commanding an excellent view south and west across to Crowborough and giving me a view right across the last couple of days walk. Frant is a charming village, which I have passed through many times but not previously explored. Curiously in the middle of the village green still keeping guard was a World War II pillbox. I stopped here for some time and devoured my lunch. The pasty I had bought at Groombridge was excellent and I vowed to remember the place if ever I am in these parts again.

Frant Church
After eating lunch I continued through the village and through the churchyard. At the other end of the churchyard I was disgorged into open countryside again and ahead I could see the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells. Today’s walk is effectively a by-pass of the town around its southern perimeter, so for the next hour or so the path negotiated the various lanes and roads that head south east of the town. By now the weather was on the change again with big black clouds threatening the sunshine which I had enjoyed for the last couple of hours.

Frant View
The section around Tunbridge Wells had rather patchy signage and some of the sections were a little overgrown. It was an uncomfortable section as I got rained on and stung regularly, but eventually I reached a road that would be my companion for most of the last of the day. Although tarmacked for most of its length it only led to a farm, which I found a little strange. Having reached the farm the line of the road continued but the tarmac ran out and the last part was a bit tricky to negotiate.

Tunbridge Wells View

Eventually I reached the A21 and crossed over the bridge into Pembury village. It was a short wait for a bus back into Tunbridge Wells and the connection with the bus to Groombridge was equally and mercifully short, although a ride on the train would have been more fun (it wasn’t running today alas).

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