Rother is the easternmost district of East Sussex, very rural in character, with just a few small towns including Bexhill-on-sea and the historic towns of Battle and Rye. The borough of Hastings, encompassing a relatively large seaside town, lies surrounded by Rother. The district is a mixture of High Weald landscape, including sandstone cliffs where the Weald meets the sea, but also flatter coastal areas including the Pevensey Levels and Romney Marshes.
In this self-styled 1066 country, the principal sight is Battle Abbey, marking the spot where the Battle of Hastings took place. There are many castles to explore including Hastings and Herstmonceux, but best of the bunch is the fairytale Bodiam Castle. Other sights include Great Dixter House and Gardens; and Rudyard Kipling’s house, Batemans.
Five walks – from 3.5 miles to 8 miles, including The Royal Military Canal and Fairlight Cove
Two cycle rides of 5 and 12 miles, the former a short circular ride between Winchelsea and historic Rye
Many good pubs and tea rooms along the way on most walks
Historic attraction featured in one walk – Camber Castle with many historic sites in Winchelsea and Rye
This excellent guide contains seven walking and bike routes for you to explore around historic Winchelsea in the far East of Sussex.
Created by Edward I in 1288 as a replacement for Old Winchelsea, which washed away during heavy storms, the town of Winchelsea sits atop Iham Hill, overlooking The Channel and the Brede Valley. A harbour was built and Winchelsea grew swiftly on timber exports and wine imports in the 14th century, as well as on fishing, smuggling and piracy. Butt less than a century after the harbour was built, the sea began to retreat. The harbour and fortunes of the town fell into decline as merchants moved away. French and Spanish raids further depleted the populace despite the fortified gates and ramparts, and Winchelsea never fully recovered.
The threat of invasion remained during the Napoleonic war, when the Royal Military Canal was built, walk one in the booklet.
Today, Winchelsea is a quiet place but its colourful history still resonates from its ancient buildings, church and stone town gates.
Inkerman Arms, William the Conqueror and Bisun’s Bite Cafe at Rye Harbour
toilets at Rye Harbour
accessible by bus
a private tarmac road runs through the southern part of the reserve and the four bird-watching hides here are suitable for most wheelchairs. The northern part of the nature reserve, Castle Farm, is served by shingle and grassy paths.
These walks offer wide skies, lonely seas and lagoons. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is large coastal nature reserve with shingle beaches, sandy shores at low tide, grassland, saltmarsh and reedbeds bordering lakes and pools hosting a vast array of wildlife. It is excellent for birdwatching with a number of birdwatching hides.
Camber Castle is within the Nature Reserve and was built in 1539 by Henry VIII to defend the threat of being invaded by France and Spain, and is one of a series of forts along the south coast. The castle, once on the edge of the sea, is now two miles from the coast. It has taken around 500 years for the land to fill up with silt, and this has helped form the land that make up the nature reserve. Camber Castle is open to the public on the first Saturday of the month from July to September at 2pm for a guided tour (check website first)
Disabled and Buggy Access: The northern route is possible with more robust wheelchairs and all-terrain buggies but is challenging. It is not a hard surface. The southern section, including the route from Rye Harbour to the sea and along the coast, is on a good tarmac surface. Several of the birdwatching hides are accessible.
moderate walking – long twisting trails where you need to be watchful, nettles in summer.
visit Bateman’s, Jacobean house and former home of Rudyard Kipling with attractive garden
Swan Inn at Woods Corner (start/finish), The Wheel in Burwash Weald, tea room at Bateman’s
accessible by bus
This walk is a great adventure in the High Weald with long woodland trails, sudden views and unexpected encounters. See much celebrated follies, including an observatory, temple and pyramid, built by eccentric landowner “Mad Jack” Fuller.
Mad Jack (1757-1834) was a Brightling squire addicted to building follies.
This walk provides a short optional excursion to a famous country house, Bateman’s, former home of Rudyard Kipling. Bateman’s is a 17th-century house located in Burwash, East Sussex, England. Author Rudyard Kipling lived in Bateman’s from 1902 to his death in 1936, and his wife left the house to the National Trust on her death in 1939.
Two walk choices – 4.75 miles, 7.6k, 2.5 hours, linear route from Bodiam to Northiam (use Kent & East Sussex Railway to return to Bodiam) and 6 miles (9.7k) circular.
Several pubs along the way – Castle Inn oppsosite the Castle at Bodiam, White Dog at Ewhurst Green (walk one), Salehurst Halt at Salehurst (walk two, closed Mondays, attractive garden with views). Refreshments at Bodiam and Northiam stations.
These walks are two of 6 Railtrails by the Kent & East Sussex Railway, a small rural light steam railway. The line gently wends its way from Tenterden in Kent for ten and a half miles, through the unspoilt countryside of the Rother Valley, passing through several stations including Northiam, to terminate in the shadow of the magnificent and perfectly moated National Trust castle at Bodiam.
Both walks begin in Bodiam. The first passes the 15th-century timber-framed manor house of Great Dixter set in one of the most beautiful gardens in England, created in 1910 by English architect Edwin Lutyens and renowned for the use of bold planting and strong colours by the late gardener and gardener writer Christopher Lloyd. The walk ends in Northiam where you can catch the train back to Bodiam or the start of the line in Tenterden.
The second walk includes a good section of waterside walking along the River Rother, passing the site of the Cistercian Robertsbridge Abbey, founded in 1176. Nothing survives of the abbey church, but substantial parts of the monastic buildings are incorporated into the private Abbot’s House which now occupies the site. The Salehurst Halt is a good stopping point for refreshment before returning to Bodiam across field paths.
The Coastal Culture Trail joins De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, Jerwood Gallery in Hastings and Towner in Eastbourne. The three award-winning galleries share a stunning 20 mile stretch of East Sussex coastline.
There’s a website full of ideas for walking and cycling the trail with details of East Sussex attractions, accommodation, and eateries to create three bespoke trails to suit a variety of tastes and interest:
accessible by bus and train – extra walk to/from station
This short circular walk from the edge of Rye passes Camber Castle and Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, and starts out by following the route of an old railway line. Camber Castle was built in 1539 by Henry VIII to defend the threat of being invaded by France and Spain, and is one of a series of forts along the south coast. The castle, once on the edge of the sea, is now two miles from the coast. It has taken around 500 years for the land to fill up with silt, and this has helped form the land that make up the nature reserve. Camber Castle is open to the public on the first Saturday of the month from July to September at 2pm for a guided tour. Admission £3 adults.
Disabled and Buggy Access: This route is possible with more robust wheelchairs and all-terrain buggies but is challenging. It is not a hard surface.