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Balcombe To East Grinstead

19 October, 2022 @ 9:00 am - 6:00 pm


This walking tour (approximately 10 miles) with Catherine Ames starts in the old village of Balcombe, passes Balcombe House, and then goes through the woods and by the lake of Balcombe Estate, up to a farm to reach the National Trust gardens and Tudor mansion at Wakehurst Place around mid-morning. Wakehurst has a manor house and large landscaped gardens. From there, the route passes through further woods to the Priest House Museum, Norman church and West Hoathly, the second highest point in Sussex. We will have lunch at The Cat Inn in West Hoathley. The Cat Inn once had a tunnel under it, which a past murderer is said to have used to reach the pub for refuge. There is a well under one of the rooms, which can be seen through a circular glass panel in the floor.

After lunch, the route is through Giffards Wood then past the Stone Farm climbing rocks (sandstone rocks formed from the bodies of plants and invertebrates, and used as shelters in mesolithic and neolithic times), leading to the shoreline of the Weir Wood Reservoir and nature reserve (home to the great crested grebe, heron and osprey) finally reaching the station via a walk along a stream and fields that mark the outer edges of East Grinstead. The poet Shelley lived for a time in Balcombe’s Highley Manor. The present queen was a bridesmaid at a wedding in Balcombe Church before the war. Balcombe House, privately owned, was part-gutted by fire in 1995.

Wakehurst Place dates from Norman times, but the Tudor manor house with its sandstone walls was built in 1590 by Sir Edward Culpeper, a distant relative of Nicholas Culpeper who published the famous herbal compendium in 1651. Wakehurst is leased from the National Trust by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The gardens are divided into geographical themes, such as Himalayan, Chinese and North American. Wakehurst is the World’s largest seed conservation project and by 2010 it had conserved seeds from 10% of the World’s known plant species.

The timber-framed Priest House Museum in West Hoathly is managed by the Sussex Archaeological Trust. St Margaret’s Church in West Hoathly has a magnificent coffin-shaped chest, probably thirteenth-century, which was used to collect money for the crusades; it also has a brass memorial to Ann Tree, the last woman to be burned at the stake in England. There are fine views from the terraced churchyard which is worth visiting.

Travel details and pub menu will be provided to participants closer to date; registrants should plan on an all-day event, meeting at 9:00am or so at London Bridge train station, and returning to London around 6:00pm or so.

Train ticket and lunch tab not included in event ticket cost.

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