Walk 1 Battle Abbey to Rushalake Green
The Battle of Senlac Hill had taken place along the ridge behind the Abbey Walls and the magnificent gatehouse that was built to defend against the marauding French at the end of the 100 Years War.
950 years ago, a small cart and a few riders, led by Lady Gwytha, would have made the journey from Hastings. Seven miles along a well-used track for this was the only way north out of the Hastings peninsular. It was just two days after the battle and there would have been time for one last homage to the fallen before setting out on the long journey to Bosham.
They had left Hastings without ceremony, for that would have drawn attention. The ministrations by Lady Gwytha to Duke William had finally won him over to the idea that the remains of the last Saxon King should be buried by the sea at Bosham. There would be no burial at Hastings for the fallen King that could energise a beleaguered nation. Allowing the body to ‘disappear into the night’ so to speak would also defeat the dreams of the monks from Waltham Abbey who wished to bury him in the Abbey itself. The last thing that Duke William wanted was a shrine to King Harold on the outskirts of London.
There was no ceremony to this cortege, the remains of the body wrapped in tight bindings, perhaps in a hastily constructed coffin, unmarked so as not to betray the passage of a king to Norman sympathisers. Away from the vigilance of Duke William, anything could happen along the long road to Bosham.
Saxon villages that would soon be named in the Domesday Book would form the route across Sussex. There was no village at Senlac or on the Caldbec hills and they would have to wait until Netherfield before meeting a friendly face.
The walk to Rushlake Green is a true Wealden walk across an undulating landscape of woodland and arable farmland. The streams that flow into the valleys once provided the power for the famous local furnaces before the industrial revolution of the late 18th century moved production to the Midlands.
It is now a much quieter rural economy with meadows providing grazing for cattle and sheep. Occasionally, the oak woods provide rich pickings for pigs, reminiscent of the farming 1000 years ago when the pigs were moved up into the Forest for summer pasture, creating Wealden ‘denes’. More often than not these denes became isolated village communities hidden in the Andreasweald.
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