In walks

A long distance pathway in East Sussex is to get a new lease of life in a bid to boost tourism and rural business.

The 30-mile 1066 Country walk, which begins at Pevensey and ends at Rye having visited Battle en-route, is being transformed into a visitor attraction thanks to a grant of more than £160,000 from the Rural Payments Agency.

The successful bid for funding by Rother District Council, supported by various partners, will give the walk a major makeover including better signage, new interpretation and information boards, guide maps, and some bespoke sculptures crafted by local artist Keith Pettit.

The route guides walkers through more than 30 miles of historic landscape which once played host to William the Conqueror and the invading Norman army and is, therefore, pivotal in the history of our country. However, parts of it are currently difficult or even impossible to navigate. Expect to encounter deep mud, ground water and fallen trees in places. The final section, just outside Rye, is currently impassable due to a landslide, and walkers will need to take the parallel footpath on the other side of the railway line.

The walk was established in the 1990s and is often explored in sections or by walkers who walk the full length, normally over four days. But it needed significant investment to improve and promote it. Recognising the tourism and economic potential, Rother District Council submitted the successful bid for EU rural development funding.

The funding of almost £165,000 is from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, through the Growth Programme Rural Tourism Infrastructure theme.

Rother District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Culture and Tourism, Cllr Deirdre Earl-Williams said: “This is a hugely exciting project and I am delighted we have secured this vital funding for this hidden gem. We want to make this route a quality visitor attraction. That will attract more walkers and will be good news for local businesses on the route including those providing something to eat and somewhere to stay.”

As well as bespoke seating, interpretation boards and signage, the walk will also include some large wooden sculptures which will be designed to celebrate the history and heritage of the area. That task falls to Sussex artist Keith Pettit, who is well known for his wooden sculptures and engravings.

Led by Rother District Council, the project is being supported by the Rights of Way team at East Sussex County Council, English Heritage, 1066 Country Marketing, Wealden District Council, South Downs National Park, Ashburnham Place and other local businesses. Although a timetable is yet to be fixed for the project, planning has already started and the intention is to have the project completed by the autumn. (Edit: due to the Covid-19 outbreak this is now likely to be delayed.)

The walk includes visits to historical sites through ancient towns and villages, over hillsides and through woodland, and passing oast houses and windmills. It includes the Normans' landing point at Pevensey and the battle site, and the castles at Pevensey and Herstmonceux.  It crosses Pevensey Levels to Herstmonceux Castle and then skirts Wartling Wood to Boreham Street. It then turns eastwards and visits Catsfield and Battle before heading to Westfield, Icklesham and Winchelsea then finishing in Rye.

Cllr Earl-Williams said: “I am so looking forward to seeing this project as it develops and can’t wait to see some of the bespoke designs that will make it so special. It promises to be a fantastic addition to the wonderful tourist attractions we already have in this part of the world and I hope people will flock here to walk it. A warm welcome awaits."


Pevensey Castle
Historic Site
Pevensey Castle

A Roman fortress built in the 4th as a defence against Saxon pirates, containing a ruined Norman castle and an unusual keep.

1066 Battle Abbey and Battlefield
Abbey / Priory
Battle Abbey viewed from Abbey Green

An abbey founded by William the Conqueror on the site of the Battle of Hastings. Battlefield views and new visitor centre with film and interactive exhibition.

Herstmonceux Castle, Gardens and Grounds
Bridge, moat and gardens at Herstmonceux Castle.

You can't visit physically at the moment, but until you can, take a virtual tour of this beautiful castle and grounds.