Mansions and parks
The Buckhurst Terrier was not a small Tudor dog, but a survey of land (in Latin “terra”) in the Withyham and Hartfield area made for Lord Buckhurst in 1598. Four hundred years later much of the landscape remains unchanged and can be explored on this walk around the beautiful Medway Valley taking in the family’s castle, mansion and hunting park.
LENGTH – 2.5 miles
TIME – 1.5 hours
START – Hartfield Church, Church Street, Hartfield, TN7 4AG (NGR 479 357)
PARKING – On street parking in Hartfield.
TOILETS – No public toilets available.
REFRESHMENTS – Pubs at Hartfield and Withyham and village shop in Hartfield.
This walk contains stiles.
Step by Step Guides
Starting at Hartfield Church by Lych Gate Cottage (1), head towards the B2026, Hartfield High Street. Turn left and continue through the high street and across the village green (2).
Turn right onto the road, then turn left onto Castlefields. Continue right as the road bends and turn left onto the footpath between the houses, which will take you through a field and the remains of Hartfield Castle (3).
Carry on along the footpath, turning right at the first junction, followed by a left at the second junction. From here, continue on the footpath, keeping to the right of the boundary.
Continue through the fields, ensuring you stay on the footpath until you meet Forest Way track. Turn right on the track and walk along until you meet the next footpath junction. If you cross a footbridge, you have gone too far.
Turn right onto the footpath, keeping King’s Standing Gill on your left and continuing straight on at the footpath junction until you meet the B2110.
Turn left onto the road and cross the river at Hewkins Bridge, taking care, as this is a narrow bridge with no pavement. [If you continue along the road, you will find The Dorset Arms Pub as you come into Withyham.] Shortly after the bridge, turn onto the road signposted for Withyham Parish Church (4).
Continue along the road, keeping right as the road forks off to the left. Shortly after passing the road turning right, take the footpath through the field on the right.
Continue through the field where you will see Old Buckhurst North on the left (10). The path will then enter Bog Shaw wood.
Continue through the wood and turn right as you meet a footbridge over the track. Take the next path on the right as the track turns to the left and continue with the boundary on your right.
Keep along the path, passing Forstal Farm on your right and Pond Shaw woodland on your left. As the path forks, take the left path, going diagonally across the field and continue through a further three fields, before joining Church Street (6).
This brings you back to the start of the walk, where you will find The Anchor Inn pub, as well as the village shops.
Points of Interest
For the area by the church, the Buckhurst Terrier gives the following entry: “the heirs of John Charlwood hold by deed a parcel of ground adjoining Hartfeild Churchyard. Rent 2s 1d”. The route leaves the churchyard past this plot and through a most unusual gate formed by part of Lych Gate Cottage which dates back to 1520.
The walk now passes across the Village Green, described in 1598 as “one p’cell of wast ground called Hartfeild Grene cont by estimacon 5ac” and often still used for grazing horses today.
To the north of the village are the slight remains of a Norman castle, a motte (earth mound) and bailey (surrounding yard) structure. Placed to guard the crossing of the Medway, it seems to have quickly fallen out of use. It is a puzzle that the well-established Roman road crossing of the Medway about ½ mile to the west, had apparently been abandoned by the time the castle was built. By the time of the Terrier: “Thos Woodgate, gent, holds one piece of meadow called The Neck of Castle field 2ac, rent 16s”. However, the main castle site had remained in the hands of one of the owner’s son “Richard Sackville Esqire, holds at will, Castle Fields, 29ac(res) 0r(ods) 3p(oles) of meadow.”
Just after the Terrier was written, Queen Elizabeth presented the patronage of Withyham church to Lord Buckhurst. However he didn’t have long to enjoy it since in 1663 the church was hit by lightening. The resultant fire destroyed the building and was so fierce that the bells melted. However, the church was rebuilt with a new family vault, including a monument to Buckhurst’s son, Thomas, who died before his father in 1675, aged 13, and is shown reclining on a slab contemplating his own skull in his hand.
The Sackville family had arrived at Withyham in 1200 when Jordan de Sackville married Ela Dene, heiress of Buckhurst. The family prospered and began to acquire other estates across East Sussex, whilst maintaining Withyham as their main seat. This expansion reached its peak in the lifetime of Thomas Sackville (1536-1608), Lord Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth 1st, who she created 1st Earl of Dorset, Lord Buckhurst. He created the Terrier to keep a record of his new purchases. However, his political opponents alleged that his wealth came from appropriated money and nicknamed him “Sack-fill”. Today the home of Lord Buckhurst is a ruin with only a single tower surviving. Once it was the “scite, capital mansion and mannor house called Buckhurst being within the park called Great Parck of Buckhurst containing 1150 acres by estimacion”. The estate also had the “Little Parck of Buckhurst containing 520 acres by estimacion”, in which his son, Andrew, lived in another mansion. The route now returns to Hartfield across part of the “Great Parck”, the banks of which still stand several feet high in places.
At this point the route leaves the Great Park and returns to the tenant’s holdings in Hartfield. In a bid to be as independent as possible, each house on the High Street tended to have a long plot behind containing a vegetable garden, a pig sty, sometimes a small orchard and a barn or shed. The field contains several earthworks marking the sites of these outbuildings.
Whilst we have taken reasonable endeavours to ensure the information is up to date and correct, you will be using the information strictly at your own risk. If you come across any inaccuracies whilst you are on your walk, please contact Wealden District Council’s Community and Regeneration team.
The self-guided walk descriptions are provided to help you navigate your way, however we recommend that you plan your route prior to walking the route and that you carry an Ordnance Survey map of the area being walked and follow your position on the map as you proceed.
Please note, we cannot be responsible for the conditions of the footpaths and land and you are responsible for your own safety.