The parish of Etchingham lies in the picturesque Rother valley which runs through the High Weald near the Kent border. John Harmer offers a choice of a long or short walk, both with an optional visit to gardens where the house has a medieval legend.

The essentials Distance/time: Long walk, seven miles/three and a half hours; short walk, four miles/two hours; optional visit, extra half a mile. Public transport: Trains to Etchingham (Hastings to Tunbridge Wells line). Buses 318, limited service from Uckfield (via Heathfield) and Hurst Green, alight at Etchingham Station. Timetable information from Traveline: 0871 200 2233 or Car: On-street parking in Etchingham High Street, preferably east end, near the Parish Church.

Underfoot: Mostly field and woodland paths which may be slippery in places when wet; also some minor roads. Thirsty work: Bistro at Etchingham Station; Cafe at King John’s Lodge (point 4).

Maps: OS Explorer 136; also Landranger 199. A compass would be useful for general direction.

[1] From the Station, turn left (east) at the main road. Follow the footway over two footbridges and, at a fingerpost, go over a stile and down a few steps. Bear right across the field, cross a footbridge; then bear right along by the river to cross another footbridge. Veer diagonally left to the farther left-hand corner of the field, through a gate, and forward to Fysie Lane. Turn left along the lane and, in about half a mile at a junction, turn left into Church Hill. Go downhill for 200 yards, then over a stile by a field gate on the right.

[2] Follow the footpath which soon narrows between a fence and hedge. Continue, following waymarks where the path zig-zags through woodland. On coming to a hand gate, cross a farm track to the footpath opposite which then bears around to the left.

In about 100 yards, there is a pond on the left and, where the path divides, keep left. In a further 100 yards, ignore a fingerpost indicating that the right-of-way turns left into a field; as our route turns right on a path through woodland with permissive access.

In a short distance, where the path divides, bear left. This bears left again in a westerly direction through saplings and scrub. On entering more mature woodland, go down in a dip and up again. Turn right by a sign indicating permissive access; following the path between a board fence on the left and wire fence on the right. There are a couple of seats here; also look out for the tortoise. On coming to Sheepstreet Lane, turn left.

[3] In about 250 yards there is a wide farm track on the left by a roadside footpath plinth. For the optional extra, continue along Sheepstreet Lane for another 350 yards from where there is an excellent view across the Limden valley on the right. [4] A sign indicates the entrance to King John’s Lodge; an ivy-clad Jacobean house on much older foundations. There is a legend that King John II was held hostage here in the 14th century. The garden, nursery and shop are open to the public (closed on Tuesdays); also for the National Gardens Scheme charity on Sunday 22 June. Return along Sheepstreet Lane to point 3.

Otherwise, turn along the farm track and after about 350 yards, near a shed in the field on the right, turn left by a waymark into the wood. In a few paces, turn right by another waymark, continuing on the footpath downhill.

Go over a stile and continue along the right-hand field edge, following around to the left at the bottom of the field. Then turn right, crossing two footbridges over the River Rother. Veer right across the next field to cross the railway with a stile on either side. Turn left, over another stile, turning right along the field edge. Go through a field gate on the right and turn left along the path uphill. At a fingerpost, turn left on the official diversion. In a few paces at a waymark, turn right, continuing on a track to cross the main road.

[5] For the shorter walk, turn left along the footway, through the village, returning to car, bus stop or rail station. See also last paragraph.

To continue the longer walk, go along Borders Lane for three quarters of a mile. Turn left over a hidden stile just before the driveway to Borders, house and oasts. Go down the left-hand field edge, then over a footbridge on the left.

Turn right along the field edge and through a field gate into the next field. Veer left to go through a gateway, then forward to cross a bridge over the River Dudwell; a tributary of the River Rother.

Continue up the left-hand field edge and through a field gate with a waymark on the post. Go across the field, through another field gate and turn right uphill to go through a gap into the next field.

Veer left to a field gate at the top leading straight ahead through the farmyard. Then follow the driveway out to a minor road, Fontridge Lane. [6] Turn left for half a mile to the junction with Ludpit Lane and Oxenbridge Lane. Cross over to the track leading to Squibs Farm. This is a private road, but a public footpath. In 1100 yards, at crossways, turn left towards houses; going to the right, then left along the top field edge. At the end, veer right to go through a broken gate into a wood. Continue out on a wide grass path, over a stile to the bottom right-hand corner of the field to go over another stile.

Bear left, uphill to the right of a barn, but left of a house at the top. Go over a stile beyond an oak tree, cross a track, and over another stile.

Bear right down the field, through a gateway, and towards houses. Go over a concrete bridge and then to the right of the white-painted Stores Cottage to the main road.

Cross to the play area opposite, entering by the gate to the left, where there are seats and a picnic area. A small gate leads to the Parish Church, inside which is a list of Rectors of Echyngham (old spelling) since 1362. Leave by the main gate and turn left for the rail station and bus stops.