Sussex walk - Herstmonceux Castle
PUBLISHED: 11:47 25 November 2014 | UPDATED: 11:47 25 November 2014
On this month’s walk, Hazel Sillver does a circuit around Herstmonceux Castle, over fields and through woodland
The fabulous Tudor castle at Herstmonceux was built in 1441 and is the oldest grand brick building in England. It was built for style and comfort, rather than defence, by Roger Fiennes, who was Henry VI’s treasurer and a descendent of the Monceux family. A lady living at Herst manor house married a Norman nobleman called Ingelram de Monceux, around the end of the 12th century, which is how the village got its name.
The interior of the castle was dismantled in 1777 and its exterior walls stood as a ruin until 1933, when architect Walter Godfrey began the restoration. In 1946 the castle was bought by the Admiralty (the authority that was in command of the Royal Navy) and in 1947 the new Royal Greenwich Observatory buildings were built in its grounds. The decision was made to move the Observatory out of London because of the capital’s light and smoke pollution and remained in Herstmonceux until 1989, when its operations moved to Cambridge.
Today the Observatory buildings house a museum with exhibits and operate as a Science Centre, teaching astronomy and meteorology. The castle itself is now an International Study Centre. For further information, go to herstmonceux-castle.com and the-observatory.org
• Location: Herstmonceux, near Bexhill, East Sussex
• Distance: 2m (3.2k) – one hour to walk
• Terrain: Some very gentle up and down. Grass and dirt tracks.
• Where to park: In the lay-by beside the entrance to Herstmonceux Castle. From the A271 head south on Wartling Road. After about a mile, you will reach a sign for the castle and then the lay-by, which is on the right under a chestnut tree.
1 From the lay-by, go through the metal gate under the chestnut tree and follow the grassy path diagonally across the field, towards the domes of the Observatory Science Centre.
2 The path leads you over a stile and into a wood (which has bluebells in the spring). Ignore paths right. Walk over the footbridge.
3 At the signpost, head left and walk past ponds. Walk between hedgerows and eventually look to your right into the field to marvel at an ancient avenue of chestnut trees. If you follow its course, you will see that this avenue continues to the left of the path, through woods in the direction of the castle.
4 Go through the metal gate and then immediately left through another metal gate beside an oak tree. Follow the narrow path across the field, towards the 18th century mansion of Herstmonceux Place.
5 Go through the metal gate and turn left past the oak tree. Take the second way left, which is a narrow path that heads diagonally upslope.
6 Go through the metal gate and into the wood. The way divides – take the right hand path.
7 You will come to a signpost and then a very small Christmas tree on your right. Somebody once planted their redundant Christmas tree here and locals used to decorate it with baubles and tinsel every year. Sadly it died and this baby tree is its replacement.
If you like old churches, you might want to do a detour here to visit the lovely little Herstmonceux church. If so maintain direction and upon reaching the lane head left. Otherwise, head left just after the signpost, at the Christmas tree. Go through the wooden kissing gate and into the field. Walk diagonally downslope, enjoying views over Herstmonceux Castle.
8 At the other side of the field, go through a kissing gate and across the road. Head straight on along the path between fencing, passing a pond on your right. Go through another kissing gate and walk across the field, past the castle.
9 Eventually head left, cross the stream and go through two metal gates. The path leads upslope between hedgerows.
10 Pass pine trees and go through a gate. Maintain direction, walking straight on through woodland. When you reach the road, head left back to the car.