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1 - From the public car park behind the Woolpack Inn, go past the toilet block to the main road (A271) and cross at the crossing to the primary school. Turn left and in a few paces, at the junction, turn right along a tarmac footpath.
This leads alongside the recreation ground on the right and on to a kissing-gate. Go through into a field and straight ahead towards the houses seen on the farther side once over the brow of the hill. (Ignore the path and stiles into the football field on the left.)
A wooden kissing-gate to the right leads along a twitten between fences to Chapel Row. Turn left along the road and on the opposite side see the chapel (Herstmonceux Free Church) which gives the hamlet its name.
In a few paces, see the now closed Welcome Stranger pub. A board on the wall shows that it was also known locally as the Kicking Donkey.
Immediately beyond the building, go across the car park and through a small metal gate into a field.
Follow the footpath uphill, using as a guide the top of the windmill which can be seen over the hill. Go through several small metal gates and after the last, at the top of the hill, turn left to go over a stile to the right of large metal gates and turn right along the roadside footpath.
2 - After about a quarter of a mile, on ascending a hill, see the windmill across the road. This early 19th centurypost mill, derelict for years, was restored this century.
Continue on the road for 200 yards to the Horseshoe Inn and turn right in front of the green. Turn right again between houses (the old School House on the right) along a metalled bridleway.
3 - After about a quarter of a mile, see on the left Comphurst, part of which dates from the 16th century. Notice a window which has been bricked up, possibly to avoid window tax imposed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
On reaching Little Comphurst, on the right, continue straight ahead on the unmade bridleway. On coming to the top of a hill go through gates and straight ahead where another path crosses. At the next dip, go straight ahead where the track bears right.
Follow the bridleway uphill and through a gate into the wood. On passing a finger post where a footpath crosses, bear left and in a short distance go over a stile and get a glimpse of Herstmonceux castle ahead.
Follow the field path to the right, cross a driveway and continue along the path between fences, then over a stile. Squirrels abound in and around the trees here.
4 - This is the best point to view the castle, which is fairly new as castles go: brick-built in the 15th century with a moat. Then continue straight ahead across the next field towards an old gnarled tree.
Here turn right on the 1066 Country Walk (a long-distance route in East Sussex from Pevensey to Rye) through a bridle gate into woodland. Go through another gate and between buildings, which used to be part of the old Royal Greenwich Observatory, to a farm lane and then turn right, leaving the 1066 Country Way.
5 - In a few paces the parish church will be seen on the left. This is mentioned in the Domesday Book and is, therefore, older than the castle, although various additions were made during the succeeding centuries. If it’s open, it’s worth a look inside.
Continue north along the road. On coming to a junction, ignore the road on the left and continue ahead past the signpost pointing towards Herstmonceux.
6 - After a further 500 yards, at Flowers Green, look for a public footpath plinth at ground level on the left at Little Butlers. Go along the driveway and veer off left of a barn and over a stile on the left.
Bear right to cross the field and through a gateway on the farther side. Turn right along the right-hand edge of the field towards a white house (Butlers Farmhouse). Go over the stile by the gate into the lane and turn right. In a few paces go over another stile on the left and follow the fence around to the left, then down-hill to go over a footbridge.
Bear right up across the field and into the next field, then bear left to come to a track. Turn right and, in a very short distance, where the track swings around to the right, turn left. In a few paces go over a stile on the right, heading in a northerly direction. Follow the path through fields, pausing occasionally to view the South Downs across the Low Weald, and then to the right of a barn to go through a gate. Bear left across the next field to a kissing-gate on the left.
Return to the village along the footpath, by the playing field, which you used on the outward route. There is a little Information Centre along the road in the direction of Bexhill (east) on the right.
- Distance/Time: Four and three quarter miles/two hours
- By Car: Use public car park (with toilets) behind The Woolpack Inn (off A271).
- By Public Transport: The 98 bus from Eastbourne to Hastings via Hailsham and Bexhill passes through Herstmonceux (hourly). Timetable information from Traveline: call 0871 2002233 or visit www.traveline.info.
- What’s underfoot: Expect field and woodland paths to be muddy so it is advisable to wear waterproof walking boots or wellies.
- Thirsty Work: The Woolpack Inn (start/finish) or The Horseshoe Inn at Windmill Hill.
- So you don’t get lost: OS Explorer 123 or 124. A compass would be useful for general direction.