(Royal) Tunbridge Wells into the Ashdown Forest

We leave Tunbridge Wells in two groups, through Groombridge, and finally quit Kent. Alex and Nejm are our new partners, and we meet to form a full  gang in a woodlands called Bad Brook. We move on the next day, in heavy rain, to the Ashdown Forest, where we build shelters to settle for a couple of days. Storms lash at us, which we weather stolidly, and enjoy the delights of woodland freedom. Then we say farewell to our friends, and move on.


Some get stuck in Tunbridge Wells

Some get stuck in Tunbridge Wells

We have visiting friends, Alex, our home base-man, and Nejm, an old ally. Arriving in Tunbridge Wells, they find us eagerly tapping our adventures into the available internet machine. Such is our vigour in doing this, that Ginger, Alex and Nej all leave, while Ed and Will remain to put the story out. This takes the two until dusk, when they finally break free of the electronic story-machine, and step into the air.

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Meanwhile, Ginger, Nejm and Alex have enjoyed a day of brilliant sunshine, and have made good adventure through the rocky landscape. Kent has turned into Sussex, and many stunning sights have been seen. It is a strange goodness for the group to give itself some breathing space.

Ed and Will make contact with the others, and head toward their destination as they can describe it best. Various trail markers adorn the pathway, to let the late walkers know they are on the right track, but it is becoming dark, and the pebbles on the mud are near invisible. So the route is winged, with compass and good hope, and only a mile or two is spent in (never fruitless) circular wandering.

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High Rocks is passed, a popular local climbing area, where the ancient summit of the Kentish peaks remain as a hard rock spine. This landscape is elemental, and the spirits of ancient watching stones remain to look over us all, and wait till they are needed.

the giants sleep not far away...

the giants sleep not far away...

The day takes us into East Sussex, and we sing goodbye to Kent.

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Ed and Will stop for chat and refreshment in the Crown at Groombridge, and enjoy the shadowy scenery and architecture surrounding the public house. The interior is full of obscure ironwork, about which they inquire, and learn that this area was once the key producer of iron, from mines in the Ashdown Forest. There are a thousand strange devices hung from the ceiling, and many fine pewter tankards; they are quite disappointed to have their ale served in smeary standard glasses.

The landlord even offers to sell Ed and Will the pub, for £200,000. They explain that this will take a while to save, as they are busking for all their funds. So they leave with no legal deeds, but good strong well-wishing to send them onward.

Eventually Ed and Will find the other lads, at a place called Bad Brook, at the bottom of a huge hill. They have already eaten, and are all yawning ready for bed, so Ed and Will cook themselves a swift pot of food on the glowing fire (overdoing the amount of free but salty anchovies), and assemble their tarp shelters just in time for the rain.

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Morning comes, and the rain is still falling gently. We all are refreshed to be a group again, and filter water, and cook oats before setting off.

We then walk up, and over the hill, finding Birch Polypore, of which Alex explains the medical uses. We almost wish we had a wound with which to test it.

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We also find common sorrel, that is delicious and refreshing for the mouth.

We find many a stunning sight, and enjoy walking as a big old group, feeling like a roving gang. We pass rivers who have been directed by millstones, by miniature oast-houses, and much more.

We stop to rest in the drizzle outside a closed public house, and then head into the woods to get lost.

Eventually we find a clearing, that seems far enough away from the pathways to permit an extended stay here.

We each fall to making the shelters we most hope to perfect. Ed and Alex knock up a shack with a bracken roof, using their combined tarps to ensure that part of it is fully storm-proof.


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Ginger sticks with his solo poncho shelter, Nejm pops up his one-man tent, and Will makes a solo leaf mulch tunnel shelter.

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We spend the afternoon, until night-fall, working on these new homes, and then Nejm and Will, due to the large number of mouths and stomachs, volunteer to venture into town, to hopefully find a greengrocer who will provide the bulk nourishment that walking requires.

Into town they tread, and get thoroughly lost almost immediately. The Ashdown Forest paths are more complex than even the Ordinance Survey maps will tell. They leave trail markers, and as they step out of the woods, and the light starts to fall, the rain accelerates its tumble, until they are trudging through serious downpour. Luckily they are both clad in waterproofing, but still the fury of the storm takes them both by some surprise. After an hour of stamping, they at last find Crowborough, where no local shops remain open, but a Somerfield does. Biting the bullet, they enter and take the iffy produce offered.

Nejm then requests that a pot of ale be taken as a strengthener prior to return, and Will needs little persuading. The wine bar they find at first gives them nothing but uncertain/hostile looks, as everyone inside is puffed up with well-dressed linen and Next couture, but soon enough Will has worked some of the old project magic, and told of the walking to Wales. It is an intriguing story, whoever hears it, and the website is shown to various people, as everyone in this bar seems to have a laptop with them.

Then return, and the two get hideously lost in the forest storm for two hours, as all their trail markers have blown away in the wind. They see deer eyes flashing in their torchlight, and hear rumbling thunder that sounds like boars, as well as oak boughs that come crashing down close by. They keep walking.

At least a few times, as the rain batters them, they consider the wisdom of continuing to seek the others, and think about settling under a holly bush to wait until morning. But no, they walk on, and eventually recognize their way from the feeling of the rocks under their feet. Tantalizingly close, they then take another half-hour of heavy rain darkness before they call out ARRAKREERO, and hear a distant reply. They follow the sound, and find the others tucked up in their shelters, Ed had stayed awake like a worried mother. It is a joyous reunion, the whole little journey having taken some 4 hours.

Food is passed about, and then we all dive into our shelters.

Come morning, we stretch and enjoy the sunshine that follows, the inevitable post-storm calm.

We all spend the day exploring our environs, and improving our shelters. We rove the afternoon through, wrestle, make spoons and catapults, filter water and relax in the woods.

Ed grabs a huge bundle of nettles, with which we make a delightful and empowering stew. We tell stories all night, and Ginger even pulls out his secret hip-flask to keep our guts warm. A fine night.

In the morning, Alex and Nejm are due to meet Martin, and take their lift home. We pack up most of our bits, and rove down to the Half Moon pub, where coffee and sandwiches await.

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An hour or two are spent in chatter, and we even get away with a jolly song for the landlady, who tells us we’re going to do very well.

Then it is farewell Alex, and cheerio Nejm, and goodbye to Martin and his brother Tim, and the three are alone once more.

4 Responses to “(Royal) Tunbridge Wells into the Ashdown Forest”

  1. Rhioebe says:

    Oh guys you lot are so inspirational and make me want to fullfill my dreams. I love you all.
    Ps. ginger is hot

  2. tessa dog says:

    Hi Guys,
    Hope all’s going well,
    Everyone at the three chimneys are still talking about your evening there.
    Keep in touch and let us know how the walk is going.

  3. julia says:

    Hi guys,
    alls well at plawhatch farm, missing you though! Hope the journey is going well, Spring has arrived and the days are longer. Gorgeous days ahead.
    Everyone sends love.
    Julia and the others xxxxxxxxx

    • Branching Arts says:

      Hello Julia, Tom, and all…

      We’re all missing the unpasteurized hospitality of Plaw Hatch, and its healthsome wholiness.

      Please send our love to everyone, and we’ll soon enough be caught up with our story-telling, and be where we were there, as it were.

      Good luck with the donkey and home milk delivery scheme, and likewise with the veg box thing. The more i think about it, the greater an idea it seems. We know a man selling a donk in Cornwall, with a cart. This donk has walked from Cornwall to Scotland three times, and is perfect for the job in hand – if you want a contact number, we can get it to you – but you’ll have to walk him back to Plaw Hatch.

      All the very best, and we look forward.

      Love, Will Ed and Ginger.

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