There is a first time for everything, and this venture into East Sussex/Kent country started from a station hitherto unplumbed by the Ramblers: Cannon Street. To build the station, the railway company pulled down the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, commemorated by this handsome statue erected on the occasion of their 400th anniversary in 2011.
A fairly modest party assembled at this fresh venue in good time, and sped off to Wadhurst where after crossing the tracks we were soon in rolling wooded countryside on a soft September morning. Abundant and autumnal nature on the way, which we took advantage of. After a hazy start, the sun came out and Ramblers with stained mouths dragged themselves deeper into the woods..Out the other side, we were ambushed by cows....chastised by Tony, who may merely have been asking the way.
A bit later things got tricky, when the walk skirted the 3,000 acres of Eridge Park, the busy home of the Marquess of Abergavenny and the subject of a fine watercolour by JMW Turner, after a visit in 1810. Our walk was rerouted by work on what is said to be the oldest deer park in Britain, though no deer were in evidence.
What was to be seen was a fine and brilliant crop of toadstools. We left them unsampled and bang on time for lunch we reached the prosperous village of Frant, with its extensive green. The first pub was too full to welcome us (which does not happen very often); it will remain nameless. But the pangs of hunger were soon alleviated by the Abergavenny Arms nearby which has been solacing travellers for centuries, though it was called The Bull until the 1830s. The food here was tasty. Here is what it looked like: In Annie’s absence, no group picture appears to have been taken, but instead here’s a round table, before a small rain began to rain and half the party abandoned the excursion to jump on the bus home. Lunch taken, the faithful completists struck out on foot for Royal Tonbridge Wells, but not before inspecting the church of St Alban’s, Frant, and its curious weathervane built into the lych gate.
The church is much-loved and much looked-after; Frant Parish News must be the handsomest in the country, thanks to the clever painter and book designer who makes it happen.
Then it was a not-too-long, not-very-wet scramble through the woods to Royal T.W. where those who had stayed the course had a slightly dispiriting non-Wealden experience of ending up in suburbia. A fine outing, but it has to be said that village stations make the happiest endings.
Words and pictures by Peter