Three Castles and an Ironmaster’s House
The High Weald is no bleak moor guarded by grey granite hillsides that rise from the dark peat, a landscape with no trees to soften the horizon. It is a much softer countryside of rolling hills, rivers, woods and hedgerows; of ridges and valleys and a patchwork of smaller fields. Farms and oasthouses scatter the view from almost every vantage point and all are connected by ancient roads, Roman roads and sunken lanes.
This walk explores the industrial history of this Southern Weald and connects four of the most outstanding National Trust properties in the South-East. The National Trust owns and acts as guardians for Bodiam Castle, Sissinghurst Castle, Scotney Castle and Bateman’s, which are the cornerstones of Three Castles and an Ironmaster’s House.
From that most romantic Castle in all of England, rising from its moat, Three Castles sets out to admire the splendid but chequered history of Sissinghurst Castle, the fairy tale moated 14th century Scotney Castle with its tales of intrigue to the homely, sturdy Bateman’s built for the prosperous iron-master John Brittan but which later became the home of Rudyard Kipling.
Three Castles and an Ironmaster’s House is an opportunity to take the time to explore the castles and houses and towns and villages along the route. It follows man’s ingenuity and progress and the changing industry from agriculture to iron, to sheep, to the woollen trade, smuggling, hopfields and back to agriculture. There are smugglers’ tales, mechanical riots, furnace ponds and old iron workings, a vengeful dragon, hop-pickers and Napoleon’s horse. Leisurely bus journeys (if you can bear to leave the car at home) and the occasional pint in some hideaway pub – ‘so much of England is just around the corner’ said JB Priestley.
Three Castles and an Ironmaster’s House is a journey around the Weald with convenient access points at Tunbridge Wells and Hastings. The stations of South Eastern Trains cross the route in places and the ‘country bus’ serves as a reminder that almost all the walk is accessible albeit, at the behest of the ‘country bus’ timetable.
Talks: The Speaker’s List