The Medway in Sussex

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The Oast, Summerford Farm © Oast House Archive
The River Medway © Jean Barrow
The Wealdway © David Anstiss

From Ashurst on the Sussex-Kent border, this walk explores a quiet stretch of the River Medway, near its source and little more than a stream. The route keeps to the river bank where rights of way permit and also uses a new section of riverside path opened up for public access under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

The River Medway is very much a Kentish river but it rises in Sussex not far from East Grinstead and meanders eastwards for 13 miles or so, interrupted by the Weir Wood Reservoir, before crossing the Kent-Sussex border at Ashurst where our walk begins and ends. Public access to the river in these upper reaches is generally poor but a footpath diversion and the opening up of a new permissive path have improved the situation and the link paths used to complete the circuit, across the higher ground on both sides of the valley, are attractive enough in their own right and offer excellent views. The walk samples part of two long-distance paths which converge in the area. The Wealdway, 80 miles in length, links Gravesend with Beachy Head while the Sussex Border Path follows the northern Sussex border for 150 miles from Emsworth to Rye.

1. Return to the A264 and turn left. A few yards past the start of an access road to houses on your left, you should turn left along a narrow fenced path which squeezes between gardens, passes under the railway and then crosses the River Medway just upstream from a weir and a large pool. On the other side of the river turn left to follow a path, rather overgrown in places, along the river bank.

2. After almost 1/2 mile, just beyond a stile beside a gate, you should part company with the Medway and veer half right across the middle of a large field where a path is normally marked out through any growing crop. On the other side of the field go through a wide gap in a hedge and turn left to follow the left edge of the next field as it curves right, soon with a deep ditch on your left. Where this headland path veers right towards the buildings at Blackham Court, you should turn left across the ditch, using a rather dilapidated footbridge, Go straight across the next field to a stile and climb gently out of the valley along the left edge of two fields. On reaching a concrete drive, turn right and follow it out to a lane.

3. Turn left, soon dropping down between high shady banks back into the Medway valley. At the bottom of the hill, turn left over a stile, signposted to Ham Farm and also part of the Wealdway. Follow the left edge of a meadow, with the Medway to the right on the other side of the field. River and path converge for a while and then diverge again as the Wealdway continues along the meadow parallel to a steep scrub-covered bank on the left. On approaching the field corner, bear left over a footbridge to a stile and walk through a small area of scrub.

4. On emerging from the thicket where there is a Countryside Stewardship notice, turn right to follow the river bank, using a permissive path along a wide headland which is being preserved to encourage wild life including a possible return of the otter has been driven almost to extinction in Sussex but is now being sighted again in one or two places. Where the permissive path ends, double back to the right over a concrete bridge across the Medway and follow a wide unfenced track.

5. Immediately beyond another concrete bridge over a tributary of the Medway, where there is a substantial wooden post indicating the meeting point of the Wealdway and the Sussex Border Path, turn left to follow a well trodden strip across a field. Go over another footbridge, erected by volunteers in memory of a local rambler, and continue on a clear path to a white gate and a bridge under the railway.

6. Go forward for about 200 yards to reach another wooden waypost where you should turn left, parting company with the Wealdway but still on the Sussex Border Path. A grassy track climbs gently, soon with good views across the Medway valley towards the distant heights of Ashdown Forest. After about 2/3 mile, turn left along another track which descends between grassy banks. Just short of a red brick cottage (Jessup's Farm) turn right and follow an access track back to Ashurst Station.

Location

Ashurst is on the A264 Tunbridge Wells-to-East Grinstead road about 5 miles west of Tunbridge Wells. There is an hourly weekday train service to Ashurst on the Uckfield-to-Oxted line (also a very infrequent Sunday service). Parking is available at Ashurst Station or at the start of the station approach road.

Comments

Rob Stanley, Walk and Cycle
Thu 30 Sep 2010, 04:20

Thanks very much for the update and it's sad to hear another country pub has had to close. The trail starts and ends at Ashurst station so the route description is still valid but I've removed reference to the pub.

Anonymous
Wed 29 Sep 2010, 23:21

Update: note the Bald Faced Stag PH has been closed for over five years (today is 2010)

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