Talking The Walk – Hawkhurst Local History Society

3 Castles Hawkhurst Local History GroupThis talk is an engaging account of a walk between four National Trust properties; Bodiam Castle, Sissinghurst Castle, Scotney Castle and Bateman’s, that explores the history and the industrial past of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in this part of Kent and East Sussex.

Three Castles 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 a changing industry from agriculture to iron, to sheep, to the woollen trade, smuggling, hopfields and back to agriculture.

There is a soul to the High Weald; one that reflects the passions and industry of man and also the tensions of war and rebellion. It is now a very pastoral picture with only occasional reminders of the noise, smoke and fire of the iron industry. The ironmasters and the rich woollen trade are survived by their architecture at Sissinghurst, Cranbrook and Burwash and Brightling. The derelict hoppickers cottages, next to the River Teise in Lamberhurst, provide a startling contrast to the rich and landed.

The Swan, Sandhurst, Kent

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This is the new Sandhurst village and there is a danger that the new Sandhurst can be too easily dismissed by the families in cars and the drivers of the vans and lorries travelling along the A268 on the way to Hawkhurst or Rye.

The old village surrounded St Nicholas Church, one mile south, that overlooked the Appledore Estuary even before Bodiam Castle was built. It is believed by some that the villagers moved to the new site on the Rye Road to flee the Black Death that had taken hold of the old village between 1348 and 1353. Others suggest the village moved to take advantage of the increased trade from the ridge road between Hawkhurst and Rye that was gaining in importance from the Middle Ages, and was confirmed as a major route when it became a Turnpike Road in the 18th century.

Today, the blur of the journey ignores the history, but Sandhurst is not just the main road. Those speeding motorists cross the old Roman road, on the western edge of the village with barely a glance. It may have just been a rest stop for the Romans on the way up the hill from Bodiam, and I’m sure they could have done with a drink but The Old Swan wasn’t open then.

In a village where most of the history is hidden away along side roads and back roads this unassuming brick built modern pub, stands slightly back from the main road.

The Swan does not bring to mind the usual perceptions of what a typical village pub should look like with old beams and low ceilings but, appearances can be deceptive.

There is fire in the Victorian fireplace, the oak floor, mismatched chairs and tables, a dining area offset from the bar create space for everyone, drinkers and diners and those there for the chat. The settees at the other end grouped around a fire place, lit when it is really cold, are full, noisy with regulars

Sunday lunchtime was busy, Sunday ‘lunchers’ enjoying the excellent roast pork  and people having a good time,  Stef and I included.

Just one beer on tap, well-kept Harvey’s that enjoyed a more than regular turnover and better that than a wide choice with beer left in the pipe.

Last Boxing Day after a long winter walk from Sissinghurst, Walk 9 of 1066 Harold’s Way, they made us more than welcome. Summer walks finish in the garden at the back and with the bus stop outside, there is no need for the car.

The Swan is on the route of both 1066 Harold’s Way and Three Castles and an Ironmaster’s House and it is worth taking time to stop at The Swan.

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Visited Sunday 9th November 2014