The Queen’s Head Sedlescombe

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The epitome of a beautiful English pub, tile hung, deep red bricks add the lustre of another age. Originally 15th century, there have been additions and extensions since Queen Elizabeth I’s time but the mellow brick walls remain and possibly the fireplace although those tiles are 19th century and ‘lie over the original beams and plaster for additional weather-proofing’ (Twenty Centuries in Sedlescombe by Beryl Lucey)

A hint of William Morris, creeper covered walls, brick paving and shrubs by the front door invite you to enter. Luckily, this is no pastiche for there is an attention to detail inside this now dining pub with a bar.

Times change, that country pub devoted to beer has long gone, thankfully in the case of The Queen’s Head for a few years ago the pub was doomed, dying on its feet, dark rooms, insipid beer and what food was available was advertised on fluorescent stickers pinned to the wall behind the bar.

Now food is the driver and excellent it is too with fish and chips and prime beef burgers amidst the risottos, sea bass duck breast and the ‘Specials Board’.  The fish platter shared was very good and despite the walk from Bodiam Castle I forwent beer for a chilled white wine and a pint of soda water on this hot day sat in the garden – very un-Rambler like.

It has that comfortable air inside with little rooms, old table and odd chairs, fires in winter and this particular July Thursday afternoon, a choir rehearsing in the back room.

Service too is very good, attentive without being demanding.

Increased trade has increased the quality of the beer with Harvey’s Best, Long Man Blonde, Sharpe’s Doom and Fuller’s Oliver Island on offer on my walking day.

Remember before you leave add a few coins to the collecting box on the bar – for the village geese – and be especially careful when you drive away to avoid the noisy birds.

I was walking 1066 Harold’s Way (Bodiam Castle to Battle Abbey via Sedlescombe) inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings.

 

It is the final section of this long-distance walk, from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey, and with just three miles to go it is worth stopping for a pint.

 

The Queen’s Head, The Green, Sedlescombe, East Sussex, TN33 0QA  Tel.  01424 870228

http://www.thequeensheadsedlescombe.com

CAMRA WhatPub

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Crinkle, Crankle!

1066 Harold’s Way Walk 4

Dartford to Istead Rise

Dartford is 1066 Harold’s Way gateway to the Downs and the Weald.

Walk 4 v2a

Crossing Watling Street, now Dartford’s High Street, we can say our goodbyes to London. Away from the River Darent, 1066 Harold’s Way climbs up to give a first taste of the North Downs and the beautiful views south over the Darent Valley and west along the line of the Downs towards Surrey. There is just the hint of a hidden population amidst the rolling hills and valleys, lush fields and rows of trees, as far as the eye can see.

The landscape changes as we pass under the A2 and then the M25 and the noise of the traffic gives way to the solitude of a church built from the rubble of a Roman villa 1000 years ago. It stood as Harold passed. This is old Saxon land that we are walking and Harold would have drawn support here, and on the rest of the march, for his important battle ahead.

For Harold and his army, there were only 12½ miles to march to Rochester but our quiet meanderings, away from speeding Motorway traffic, will add another 6 miles to the journey.

It is good to walk across grassland, by paddocks and fields of crops, through woods and country parks, past the occasional farm and into villages that were once prosperous but seem to have now lost their heart, with the closure of pub, post office and shop.

Despite the changes, their character still remains, from the quarry houses of Bean to the ‘crinkle crankle’ wall at Betsham.

Southfleet is different. It is old with a long history and equally important an old pub, ‘The Ship’, to savour 1066 Harold’s Way.

Walk 4 v1

Southfleet is in stark contrast to the ‘new’ village of Istead Rise with its estates, shops and important bus links but it is without a pub to provide a toast at the end of the walk.

Watch ‘Memories of 1066 Harold’s Way on You Tube

Link: The Ship, Southfleet

1066 Harold’s Way is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles as well as good book shops and by mail order from www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

For details of how to buy: Click Here

Walks, Talks and Books

from

History Walks, 1066 Harold’s Way and The Saxon Times

Web: www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Wild and Desolate

1066 Harold’s Way Walk 3: Lesnes Abbey to Dartford

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This is a mixture of the wild and desolate and the urban and industrial, of old paths and new roads, old bridges and new bridges, meandering rivers and canals built in hope, Saxon Manors and concrete architecture. We pass the detritus of modern urban and industrial re-development and the solitude of a Church that figured in history during King John’s reign.

It is a walk that reflects the dreams of men and often their failure, from the monks of Lesnes Abbey who fought to hold back the Thames to the navigators and entrepreneurs of Dartford, building a ship canal that could not cope with the pressure of the tide.

Erith belies its history and its royal connections. Once it shaped England with a Council between King John and the Barons to avoid further civil war and a French invasion. Later, it was to build ‘the greatest ship ever known’, the ship that took Henry VIIIth to France, to ‘the Field of the Cloth of Gold’. Now it is a modern town with little of the past on show. Its closeness to the Thames has left it with factories and depots obscuring the river but Erith leads to the wilderness of the Cray Marshes with the QE2 Bridge soaring above the landscape. Even with power stations, breakers yards and flood defences there is still a beauty about this salt marsh.

The land has been farmed for centuries and at a curve in the River Darent, a path leads to Howbury Manor, less than half a mile away and mentioned in the Domesday Book. It would have stood at the time of Harold and with the Roman road only 1½ miles to the south – perhaps Harold dropped in for a ‘beer or a wine’ with the owner.

Follow the Darent to Dartford with its industrial heritage of paper production and engineering. Although the factories and paper mills have gone under the breakers ball there is now space for new dreams to be fulfilled and the herald of a new age for Dartford.

1066 Harold’s Way is a 100mile long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey, East Sussex, inspired by King Harold II’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The guidebook is available from good bookshops, Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and by mail order from History Walks.

http://www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Walk of the Month – February

The Walking Year – 1066 Harold’s Way

Inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings, 1066 – Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey

Greenwich to Lesnes Abbey

 

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From the magnificence of Greenwich to the iconic steel hoods of the Thames Barrier shining in the sunlight, a broad walkway allows you to stroll next to a much wider river than before. Working wharves line the riverside giving an industrial air to the area and the occasional decaying pier or warehouse only serves as a reminder that London was once the busiest port in the world.

Imagine the scene with ships moored all along The Thames up to London Bridge, all the hustle and bustle of cargos from all around the world being unloaded, helping an older London expand to meet new needs. The wharves now lie mostly idle, larger ships need deeper water and the Port has moved to Tilbury, further down the river, but there is still the feeling of a history to follow in every step you take along the Thames Path.

The second part of this walk is away from the river, walking through parks and ancient woodland that have survived for a thousand years, a world distant from the streets of London. So beautiful are the trees and trails, and the solitude and inspiration they provide, that it is hard to imagine how close you are to the City.

  • Start: Greenwich (Southeastern & DLR)
  • Finish: Lesnes Abbey – Abbey Park Station (Southeastern)
  • Travel: www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk
  • Distance: 9.75 miles
  • Time: 3 ½ hours
  • Maps: OS Explorer 162
  • Guide: 1066 Harold’s Way

Walk

This section relies heavily first on the Thames Path, from London Bridge to the Thames Barrier and secondly, the Green Chain Walk to Lesnes Abbey that continues towards Erith and Dartford. Both are well signposted but occasionally the instructions and waymarks are less clear, especially along the Thames Path. At the finish, it is a short walk from Lesnes Abbey to Abbey Wood Station with time for a pint in the Abbey Arms just across the road.

It would appear that The Abbey Arms has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last two years, reintroducing draft beer and food and from the reviews is worth stopping for that rewarding and satisfying pint. My last visit was in 2013 and I am looking forward to my next visit on a 1066 Harold’s Way re-walk sometime soon.

Food

There are plenty of places to buy food and drink at the start of the walk in Greenwich, whether to eat in or to take away for lunch, but be warned, there is nowhere to buy food until the Thames Barrier, no shops until you reach Plumstead and the only public toilets are at the Barrier Café, Marryon Park and Lesnes Abbey.

The King’s Progress to Senlac 1066

Domesday Map 1 with title

Following the old Roman roads in 1066 would provide King Harold and his army with a reliable route through the great Forest of the Andreasweald.

It was the most likely route to be taken for the Andreasweald was almost impenetrable and it would another 700 years before a reliable road building programme would begin. 

King Harold’s progress would have led him through his lands in Kent and Wessex, along roads punctuated with Anglo-Saxon settlements ‘eager’ to provide sustenance to the King and recruits for the Fyrd.

By the time of Domesday, and the vagaries of the Norman Conquest, many of these settlements were much reduced in size and wealth but still important enough to deserve an entry in the great book and a mark on this map to celebrate the King’s Progress to the Battle of Hastings.

Walking 1066 Harold’s Way is a walk through history.