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We're heading to Ashdown Forest, an ancient heathland - and the home of Winnie-the-Pooh. Look forward to five wild miles of rolling hills, streams, woods and scattered hamlets. 

Less than 40 miles from central London is the last untamed fragment of the mighty forest that once stretched from Hampshire to Kent, and from the North to the South Downs. The 8th century monk and scholar, Venerable Bede, referred to it as, 'thick and inaccessible, a retreat for wolves and wild boars'. The animals are long gone but it is still a wild place.

The view from the car park gives you a taster of the wonders in store. The backbone of Ashdown Forest is a sandstone ridge. Our route starts along this ridge where you can enjoy tremendous views. After a visit to a restored windmill, the route goes round off the ridge to a famous traditional teashop. A short climb to a viewpoint, then an exhilarating walk along more of the ridge completes this fabulous walk.

Duddleswell Tea Rooms - a charming, traditional establishment set in the heart of the Forest - has been serving teas since the end of the 19th century. It offers an excellent selection of cakes and other teatime goodies, including a lovely selection of set teas.

You can even have a The Pooh Bear Tea - a scone with honey and clotted cream, and a slice of cake. We're sure that silly old bear would have approved of such a 'smackerel'. For lunch there is a choice of sandwiches, tasty rarebit or more hearty options, such as ham or quiche with new potatoes and salad. And if it's a nice day (fingers crossed) you can enjoy your food at the outside tables.

The Duddleswell Tea Rooms are open from the beginning of March until the end of November between 10am and 5pm every day, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Telephone: 01825 712126.

Remember to bring a drink with you for the walk as there isn't anywhere to get one until you get to the teashop. 

DISTANCE: 5 MILES

STARTING POINT

Start at the: 

Box car park (GR 460288).

HOW TO GET THERE: 

From the A22, East Grinstead to Uckfield Road, at the northern edge of Nutley, take a minor road east, Crowborough Road, signed 'Crowborough 6', for just over a mile to the second car park on the left.

ALTERNATIVE STARTING POINT:

If you wish to visit the teashop at the beginning or end of your walk, start in the car park opposite the teashop in the hamlet of Duddleswell on the B2026. You will then start the walk at point 8.

Note: Ashdown Forest is a maze of paths, freely open to walkers. Some are marked on the Ordnance Survey maps and some are more informal. Please take particular care following the directions.

The Walk

2. Just after a hedge starts on the left, bear left at a fork to walk with the hedge on the left. Bear left again at another fork to go immediately through a gate onto a track between a cottage and Nutley Windmill and follow the track to a road. Continue on a signed path opposite. Cross a track leading past a modern house called Alma Cottage.

Did you Know.. 

Nutley Windmill is the oldest working mill in Sussex. It was probably built in Crowborough about 1675 and moved to its present site in 1810. It was in use until 1908 and then lay abandoned and rotting until it was rescued by a dedicated band of enthusiasts. It is an unusual design (an open trestle post mill), one of only five survivors of this type in Britain. It has no fantail and has to be pushed round to meet the wind. It is open to the public on the last Sunday of the month between 2.30pm until 5.30pm, from June to September.

3. At the bottom of a dip turn right, passing the remains of wooden horse barrier. Some 30 yards after the barrier, the path forks into three. Take the left branch to shortly join a path coming in from the right. Follow the path across an open area then fork left on a smaller path back into woodland to shortly meet a more substantial cross path.

4. Turn right. You will soon notice a substantial track parallel with the path, which it eventually joins at a cross path. Carry on in the same direction along the track.

5. Just before the track reaches a building, bear left along a track over a cattle grid. Some 20 yards before the track reaches Misbourne Farm, turn left on an unsigned path that soon meets a cross path.

6. Turn right. Follow the path down into a valley and steeply up the other side, over a cross track and down into another valley where two streams meet. Ignore tracks to the right and left and carry on steeply out of the valley, ignoring a path on the right.

Did you know...

The water in the stream is usually a rusty colour due to the iron leached from the rock. Some 135 million years ago, this part of the earth's crust was a huge, freshwater lagoon. Rivers flowing into it carried sediments, eroded from the surrounding land, and those were deposited on the floor of the lagoon and eventually compressed into sandstone and clay.

During this process of deposition, a series of chemical processes caused the iron to become concentrated. The iron-rich rock was mined and smelted since the Iron Age: the 16th and 17th centuries were the boom times when the Weald was providing much of Britain's iron. A source of carbon is an essential ingredient of the smelting process. Traditionally this was charcoal and the demand for this was one of the main reasons for the deforestation of Ashdown Forest.

Charcoal supplies became difficult and eventually charcoal was replaced by coke, made from coal. The industry collapsed in the early 19th century in the face of competition from Scotland and the north of England. There is still a legacy in place names in the Forest, such as Boring Wheel Mill, Furnace Farm and Old Forge Lane.

7. At the top of the hill on a cross path. (If you reach a track that leads to barns on the right, you have gone 80 yards too far.) Follow this to a surfaced track leading from a house on the left. Press on in the same direction.

When the track bends sharp right continue ahead on a path passing a house called Little Gassions. When this forks, bear right to walk with a wood on the left gently, uphill to a T-junction with a broad cross path. Turn left to a surfaced drive. Turn right to a road then left to the teashop on the right.

did you know..

Not all the people in the forest's past were respectable farmers and ironworkers. Its wild remoteness meant it was the ideal territory for poachers, horse thieves and smugglers. Duddleswell was a notorious haunt of smugglers, whose trains of packhorses came up by night from the coast along remote tracks, safe from the excisemen. It is said that during the 16th century they even smuggled cannon made from local iron out of England to the country's enemies.

8. From the teashop take a track adjacent to the building for 60 yards then turn left on a grassy path leading to a track. Turn left for 15 yards then right on a narrow, unsigned path to a surfaced drive. Walk in front of a house then continue ahead on an unsigned path as far as the end of a fence on the right.

9. Go ahead for 35 yards, ignoring two immediate paths on the right opposite a field gate, to find a path on the right. Do not  take this but continue for a further 15 yards to a way-marked path that forks right. Take this one, gently downhill. Cross a larger path after 90 yards and carry on down to a plank footbridge over a stream. Press on up the other side. The path becomes rather obscure for a while as it twists through the trees. It leads to a small gate into a field. Through the gate, head slightly right to a stile onto a surfaced drive. Go straight over the drive to continue on the path. Cross a small stream after 25 yards then bear left uphill to a track.

10.This is the Weald Way. Turn left along the track for 100 yards then bear left on a waymarked path to rejoin the track after 80 yards, cutting off a corner. Continue along the track for a further 50 yards to a waymark post on the right.

11. Turn left to a stile marked with the WW waymark and follow the path to a second stile onto a track. Turn right along the track to a house on the right and a pronounced right-hand bend in the track.

12. Immediately after the house turn left to continue on the Weald Way along a grassy path and follow this to a road.

The Weald Way cuts across the southeast corner of England from Gravesend to Eastbourne, a distance of 82 miles.

13. Turn left to a main road (there is a path starting over a stile on the left that allows you to cut out a few yards of road walking if you wish). Cross the main road to a small gate then follow the path uphill to Camp Hill, crowned with a clump of pines.

There are several seats here to admire the magnificent view. Pass to the left of the clump, then turn left on a broad crossing track. Follow this gently downhill, passing between attractive ponds. Do not go into the car park ahead. At the end of the pond on the right, bear round to the right and continue ahead to a second car park where this walk started.

The walk is courtesy of  Sussex Teashop Walks, a book by Jean Patefield

And Finally..

The fence on the right where you join the road surrounds a former Diplomatic Wireless Service Station where messages to and from embassies all over the world were transmitted and received. The station was opened in 1942 to broadcast anti-Nazi propaganda and remained in use until 1985. In 1988 it was reported in the local press that a large bunker was being constructed behind the fence to act as a seat of local government in the event of a nuclear attack.

Camp Hill gets its name from a huge army encampment set up here during the Napoleonic War in 1793. Detachments of 12 regiments were stationed here. A series of mounds north of Camp Hill long puzzled archaeologists who named them 'Mystery Mounds'. It has now been established that they are nothing more exciting than the remains of the camp kitchens.  

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