Sussex is beautiful in the spring. My recent walks around Battle, Bodiam, Arlington and Ashdown have been filled with vibrant flowers bursting into life from bluebells and wood anemones to primroses, milkmaids and snowdrops. The rain that has been in such abundance in recent weeks (ever since the drought was formally announced!) has enhanced the colours and helped provide a deep green backdrop and actually, I quite enjoy walking in the rain. As John Ruskin said "Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating: there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather". Sussex proves that in my view.
There has been some sunshine between the showers however and whilst not everyone’s favourite plant, there is something about the contrast of the yellow rapeseed blooms and the blue sky that sets your imagination running – it is like the sunshine has spilled out of the sky and into the fields. That contrast was in abundance in the fields around Battle recently. The town of Battle sits in the heart of the Sussex Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is most famous for what is probably the most well known English battle – the Battle of Hastings in 1066, where William Duke of Normandy defeated King Harold II to become King William I. Battle Abbey was constructed to commemorate the 1066 Battle and was completed originally in 1095 and legend has it that the High Altar marks the spot where King Harold died.
From near the Abbey there are a variety of walks and my last visit took me along part of the 1066 Bexhill trail through woods and pastures and beside streams and ponds. One of the woods was Fore Wood, which is maintained by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as it has a diverse ecosystem. The woods were carpeted in bluebells and wood anemones and the ponds reflected the trees and sky like a mirror. At one point a friendly pig even came to say hello. Near the end of the walk are Powdermill Woods and Farthing Pond. This pond was constructed to support the gunpowder industry that flourished in Battle during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries (until a rather large explosion ended this industry in that area!) I always find something unexpected about the history of places in Sussex that is fascinating – even the places I think I know. The area is rich in heritage.
You can choose walks of any length in Sussex. The Battle walk was five miles but if you want something shorter I can recommend the walk around Arlington Reservoir. Unlike the last time I visited Bewl Water, Arlington Reservoir was looking quite full (I imagine even fuller now).
The walk around the perimeter is all on good paths and is an easy stroll with lovely views across the lake. You can even see the chalk Long Man of Wilmington on the hills behind. There is also a bird-watching hut that has pictures of all the birds you can see through the seasons – from Mallards and Sparrow Hawks to Turtle Doves and Chiffchaffs. A cracking little walk.
For me, no visit to that area of Sussex would be complete without seeing Bodiam Castle. Built in 1385, it is a dramatic example of a moated castle and whilst the inside is mainly in ruins, the outside of the castle is virtually complete and it is a very striking sight.
I have been there many times and during the summer months, there are often activities such as archery and once I even saw an enormous catapult launching melons into the moat. The ducks looked pretty surprised by this turn of events I have to say! Wandering around the castle you get a real feel for what castle-living must have been like from the battlements to the kitchens. I have visited many castles but Bodiam is one of my favourites.
I will end with sunsets as I have seen some beautiful ones in Sussex recently. The pink and orange shades make it look as though the sky is on fire and they cast a warm glow over the trees and clouds. It is beautiful walking in Sussex as the sun sets in front of you. It makes me feel lucky to live in such a beautiful county.
Written by and thanks to our Guest Blogger - Tanya Oliver aka Heelwalker
All blog posts