Lodge Farm walk at Harewoods Estate
This ancient path winds through countryside and farms that have changed little over centuries. Stroll through sunlit woodlands and past golden wheat fields, with buzzards up above and woodpeckers among the trees. In autumn forage for blackberries and sloes in the hedgerows.
NT Hornecourt car park on Gayhouse Lane. RH1 5PP
Start from the NT Hornecourt Hill car park in Gayhouse Lane by Hornecourt Cottage. Follow the hardcore bridlepath past the information board through oak woodland. You’ll come to a cross roads of paths by a small pond on your right hand side.
Take the bridle path to the left and go through the gate and take the left hand path at the fork. You’ll be walking alongside farmers' fields. You’ll pass a small copse on your left hand side and two fields to your right. At the end of the second field the path turns right and then left. At the end of the field the path again turns right and then left up towards Lodge Farm. About two-thirds up the track when the farm building come into sight, take a path to the right through the hedge. This bends round to the left alongside a field and comes to a stile at the end by a track.
Heritage wheat at Lodge Farm
Lodge Farm became part of the Harewoods estate in 1869. Today the tenant farmer focuses on wheat and sheep specialising in heritage wheat - traditional wheat species. These are more productive on the heavy Wealden clay soil and require less disruption to the soil, maintaining the soil structure and natural fertility. Some of the wheat is milled at Bateman’s water mill in Sussex and is sold to artisan bakers. See the website heritagewheat.co.uk.
Cross straight over the track and follow the bridlepath fingerpost, going past a field of crops to your right. The path bends to the left. Take the first bridlepath to your right, which is a narrow bridleway through the grass with a hedge to your right. In spring time, this path is edged with blackthorn blossom and in winter you can forage for sloes and blackberries.
Keep an eye out for the common butterflies - brimstone, small copper, red admiral, peacock, gatekeeper and ringlet. You may have to hunt further for rarer species - dingy skipper, grizzled skipper, silver-washed fritillary, brown hairstreak, green hairstreak and white admiral.
The path goes north, and then comes out beside a crop field. Turn right and follow the field edge along two sides, and at the end you will come to a gate which leads to a track through woodland, which narrows to reveal fields on either on either side - either crop fields or pasture. Carry on up the slight hill until you emerge to stand by a field.
This type of narrow copse is called a shaw. A shaw is typically between 5 and 15 metres wide and usually form boundaries between fields or line a road. The name comes from Old English meaning wood or the ‘the farthest edge of cultivated land’ and is related to the Old Norse for ‘beard’. The path you’re walking along is a very old road which may have formed the boundary between farms or estates.
The path here turns to the right along the field edge and then again you enter a larger area of woodland. The path bends to the left, goes uphill, widens and then bends to the right. You are following the edge of the woodland and you can see banks on both sides of the path indicating ancient boundaries. Come out of the wood at the top onto a concrete track.
This woodland has some pines but also a lot of coppiced hornbeam and sweet chestnut trees. Coppicing means the trees are cut to ground level every few years to harvest the wood for use as poles, fencing, wooden blocks. The coppiced trees will regrow rapidly. This indicates that this was a managed woodland in the past.
Turn sharp right to go down the concrete path but do take the opportunity to look at the view to the south over the countryside towards the South Downs. On both sides of the path there is lots of blossom in springtime followed by blackberries in autumn. Follow the path down, passing a large pond to your left, as the path bends to the right and the proceeds in a straight line going slightly uphill.
The secret train
At the top, listen carefully - you may hear a train! You are now very near the Bletchingley Tunnel on the Tonbridge to Redhill railway line. This train track was sanctioned by Parliament in 1836 as the first train route between London and Dover and the tunnel is about half a mile long.
You will come through some trees and the path bends to the left and narrows between two hedges, before widening out again on a concrete track as it bends to the right. You walk uphill to South Park Farm, past the tennis court and garden pond, following the blue bridlepath arrows on the posts. The path comes out at a road with a fingerpost.
Turn right along the road and then almost immediately left following a fingerpost for a public footpath. At the end of the grass turn right over a small footbridge and then left through some high hedges alongside a small stream. You'll pass a large pond on your left hand side. At the end you will come to a small open glade ideal for a picnic.
Proceed through the gap onto the road and walk straight ahead down the road. At the end you will come to the entrance for Fiddler’s Grove Farm and Keeper’s Cottage. Bear to the right and go through an entrance by a yellow footpath marker. The path follows a hedge to your left and then opens out into a field. Continue with the tall hedge on your left. At the corner of the field follow the fingerpost into the woodland. Cross over the track and continue through the copse. The path eventually dinks to the left and you come out onto the edge of a field.
Follow the edge of the field and then take the path straight ahead through the next field towards a wood. Walk through the wood to come out by a stile to the edge of field. Turn left and come round the edge of the field. Ahead of you is the roof of an old farm building. Follow the path around the edge of the field with the hedge on your left. You will reach the garden of the building - the Tithe Barn. The path goes over a stile and then around the edge of the garden and into more woodland.
After a short while you will come to a cross-roads of paths. Turn right and follow the bridleway back to the Hornecourt Hill car park.
Family fun area
If your family still have any energy left then there's plenty of space here for climbing trees, building dens or hunting for bugs!
NT Hornecourt car park on Gayhouse Lane. RH1 5PP
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