Begin the New Year with a walk from the world-famous town of Battle. John Harmer crosses a very unusual stile and discovers places associated with the former gunpowder industry and other historic things of interest.

1. From Battle Station exit, turn left, following the path alongside the access road (Station Approach). Before going far, turn and look at the Station building which is not a redundant church, but Victorian eccentricity when built in the 1850s.

At the main road (A2100), turn left on the footway or, if starting from here, go up Battle Hill over the railway bridge. Just past Tesco Express (opposite), cross the road with care to a track opposite St Mary’s Terrace.

A plinth on the right indicates that this is a public footpath. In a short distance, this narrows to a twitten with a board fence on the right.

In 150 yards there is what appears like a wooden barrier across the path. This is a rather unusual type of stile known as a Tumbledown Stile because, by pushing down the top bar on the left, the bars go down, making it easy to step over. On release, the counter balances at the other end cause the bars to return to their normal position.

Just past here the footpath veers slightly to the right along the top edge of a field with a wire fence on the right. On reaching a stile, go over into a wood. Continue uphill past an old stone wall on the left and over a stile to leave the wood.

Go across the field following the line of the first three telegraph poles; then veer slightly right, downhill to enter another wood, just to the right of the tallest trees ahead. Follow the path steeply down into the wood and then straight ahead to cross a stile into a field.

Go forward, steeply uphill to a telegraph pole; then veer left, continuing uphill, to a stile beside a field gate. Go over the stile and, in a few paces, to cross another.

2. Turn right along the road (Telham Lane) for about half a mile to cross a railway bridge. There are good views on the right towards Battle.

Continue for a further quarter mile; then go over a stile by a gate on the left. Veer right, aiming to the right of a farm on the opposite side of the valley, to cross another stile.

Now veer left to the bottom of the field and by the left-hand side of the first barn. Cross a rather loose stile and turn right along a twitten. Go through a hand-gate and turn right immediately past Old Peppering Eye Farmhouse onto a metalled track.

3. This was the centre of the gunpowder industry for nearly 200 years from the late 17th to the late 19th centuries. In less than 100 yards, go over a stile by a fingerpost on the left.

The footpath goes across a raised bank known as a pond bay. The low-lying field on the right was once a large pond which supplied water to provide power for milling in the days before electrical power.

At the other end, go over a stile and across a bridge over Powdermill Stream which was diverted to fill the pond; then follow the footpath up the left-hand side of the next field.

Go over a stile on the left and straight ahead across the next field, passing a house on the right, towards Millers Farm. Go through a gate on the right leading onto a farm track, veering right past more dwellings on the left, continuing for about 800 yards.

4. On coming to a road (Powdermill Lane), cross with care, entering Powdermill Wood beside a gate directly opposite. Veer right along the main track which, in a short distance, descends steeply.

The footpath then crosses a footbridge and alongside Farthing Pond on the left, which can be seen through a rather ugly metal fence. Follow the footpath as it bears around to the right; and then, in a few paces, where it divides, follow the left-hand fork uphill.

Continue direction until leaving the wood through a kissing-gate. Go across the field ahead and through another kissing-gate. Turn right on the bridleway which is part of the 1066 Country Walk (1066CW), a regional route of 31 miles from Pevensey to Rye.

In a few paces, go through a bridle-gate into a strip of woodland and then through another bridle-gate into a field. Continue direction on the footpath as it soon climbs steeply with woodland on the left, and then straight ahead across the field to a 1066CW fingerpost.

Follow the bridleway with a fence and woodland on the right. Go through a bridle-gate and follow the track ahead and through another bridle-gate.

From here Battle Abbey Gatehouse will be seen ahead. Follow the brick wall on the right, behind which is the English Heritage car park; so beware of traffic entering and leaving at the farther end.

5. On reaching the entrance to the Abbey Gatehouse, look to the left at the triangular pedestrian area known as Abbey Green. The cobble-stone circle is the traditional site of the annual Battle Bonfire with fireworks; a somewhat more peaceful use of gunpowder. Follow the footway up the left-hand side of the Gatehouse, past the Chequers Inn, going downhill. At the bottom, go over the Zebra crossing; continuing direction past a mini roundabout to the top of Station Approach.

The Essentials
Distance/time: Five miles/two-and-a-half hours.
Public transport (recommended): Trains to Battle from Hastings and Tunbridge Wells. Buses to top of Station Approach or Abbey Green from Hastings, Bexhill, Heathfield and Hawkhurst.
Car: Car parks in Battle (pay and display; rail station park is cheaper on Sundays).
Underfoot: Mostly undulating field and woodland paths and tracks, which may be quite muddy and slippery in places, when wet. Also, a minor road.
Thirsty work: Ample pubs and restaurants in Battle.
Map: OS Explorer 124 or Landranger 199.