This pastoral landscape – dotted with medieval towns and villages, quirky pubs and ancient churches – is easy to navigate using buses, trains and hiking routes such as the 1066 Country Walk
Ancient oaks flash past the train windows. There are wide views across a medieval patchwork of farmland and rolling downs scattered with conical oast houses and tile-hung brick cottages. The railway line to Hastings runs straight through the High Weald, England’s fourth largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Unlike Cornwall or the Cotswolds, this pastoral landscape is sometimes overlooked. But it’s easy to reach by train and ideal walking country: picturesque timber-framed villages with cheerful pubs and cafes set among gentle wooded hills with a choice of footpaths.
From Wadhurst station, the recently renamed 1066 bus takes me down into Wadhurst village. I pick up savoury olive-studded bread and mulled apple crumble cake from Delicatus and begin to make my way cross-country towards Bewl Water, the largest lake in south-east England. This reservoir on the border with Kent, storing water from the River Medway, sprawls into numerous tree-lined creeks. Thirteen miles of trails circle its straggling shores through waterside woods and meadows. I’m following them today as far as Downash Wood, an imaginative collection of secluded cabins and treehouses close to Bewl Water. Downash is a beautiful afternoon’s hike from Wadhurst or a few minutes’ stroll from the Tinkers Lane bus stop in neighbouring Ticehurst.