Yeoman and capons
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 concentrating on the individual farmers’ holdings and their strange rents.
LENGTH – 4 miles
TIME – 2.5 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 in Hartfield and Withyham, village shop at 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 (2). Turn right along the road and join the footpath on the left between the Village Hall and the tennis courts.
Continue along the path, through the Recreation Ground and two further fields. When you meet the Forest Way track, continue on the footpath straight over. Cross the River Medway and continue along the left hand path as it forks.
Continue through four more fields, sticking to the footpath when it crosses another track, before entering Little Millpens Wood. After you exit the wood, turn left, and continue on the footpath, where it will join the River Medway (3).
Walk along the footpath, keeping the river on your left. Here you will pass a pond on your right, be sure to stick to the main footpath as you reach this pond.
The footpath will lead into another wooded area, with the river running along the edge of it on the left. When you exit the wooded area, you will approach Lower Parrock house (4), turn right here and continue on the footpath, with the boundary on your left.
Continue on this path until it joins a track. Turn right and walk along the track, before joining a footpath on the left to walk across the field. This is where you will pass through Clays (5).
Turn right at the boundary and continue to join a track around a large pond. As the track turns, join the footpath leading away from the pond, through the field.
At the end of the field, you will reach a road. Turn left on the road and follow it along, until you find a driveway to a farm on the left. Shortly after this, you will see a track on the right. Turn onto the track and continue through the wooded area, passing through Little Millpens.
As the track ends, walk through the car park and cross another track, joining the footpath through the wooded area, with Chartners Farm on the left (6). You will also pass a large pond on your left and Chartners Farm Cottages on your right as you walk through the wood.
When you exit the wood, you will cross over the River Medway and turn left at the junction. Follow the track to the right of the boundary and continue straight when you meet Forest Way.
The footpath with join a road alongside Groombridge and Hartfield Medical Centre on the left and the Recreational Ground on the right, which will take you back to the High Street, opposite the village green (7).
Turn right as you get to the high street and this will bring you back to the start of the walk, where you will find The Anchor Inn pub, as well as the village shop.
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.
“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing” wrote A A Milne the author of the “Winnie the Pooh” books. He lived at nearby Cotchford Farm, south of the village and close to a shorter walk from Hartfield leading to “Pooh Sticks” bridge. The same house was later the scene of the mysterious death of its new owner, Brain Jones of the Rolling Stones.
On the opposite side of the river is Hodore Farm where “Simon Wright alias Bowyer holds by deed lands called Howdore 150 acres”. The Terrier does not explain why he needed an alias. The same Simon had held Cotchford Farm in 1598, long before Milne and Jones.
Lower Parrock was the site of an ironworks and remains of the bank which dammed the Medway to form a hammer pond can still be seen. The works were opened in 1491, possibly operated by immigrant French workers bringing new skills to the industry (even though the cannon produced were used in wars against France). In 1547 a dispute broke out between the owner and the widow of the leaseholder which reached court. The widow claimed that the owner’s men had arrived to break the pond dam and let out all the water and that they did “pluck up iii bellowes being blowing in the orafyces and brake up the frame wherein they stode and carried them away”. They also “struck Christopher Trindall with a sword, and wounded John Walters and cut off one of the one fingers of Henry Heyward”. In contrast, the owner maintained that he came “in a peaceable manner”, but she had encouraged her son and nine men to attack him and that she “cryed out with a lowd voice downe wyth Greybearde, shoote, sley hym, sley hym”. Even just before the works closed in 1595, the Crown was refusing to pay the owner for guns supplied in another dispute about the alleged poor standard of the iron.
At the top of the hill the route passes through an area called Clays which was part of an estate owned by Thomas Turnor, yeoman, who owned 192 acres including “Claies Field, two Claies Crofts and Claies Wood”. His rent was £25 and “2 fat capons (castrated cocks) alive 1st August”. Apart from the considerable rent, the survival of the medieval custom of payment of chickens in kind is rare by this late a date.
On the left is the half-timbered Chartners Farm. In 1598 this was a major estate. “Edmund Herds, yeoman, holds messuage (house) and lands called Chartnes als Charknes and all that site and demeane (manor farmed) lands of the manor of Colbins. Rent £46 18s and 8 fat capons (castrated cocks) alive 1st October”. Due to the large number of capons received in rents from all the tenants throughout the year, the Terrier specifies different dates for payment to prevent the estate office being overrun with poultry.
The walk returns to Hartfield opposite the Village Green, described in 1598 as “one p’cell of wast ground called Hartfeild Grene cont by estimacon 5ac” but now a pleasant place to rest at the end of the walk.
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.