Country Rambles – To Pett, by way of the field paths

This article is from the Hastings Observer from June 1913. Original text by A.M.A.

Thank you to Sarah Upton for sourcing this article.

Few places in the neighbourhood are less easy of access than Pett. Hence we get at once an added charm.

The moment any village becomes popular by being easy to get at, it generally ends in being vulgarized. Pett lies far away from the sight and sound of the railways, and still prefers the carrier’s van to the iron horse. The question of transport has not altered for many years. The observant eye will notice in the morning a vehicle in the neighbourhood of the Memorial slowly winding its way towards the Old Town, ladies with a miscellaneous cargo, human and otherwise, whose ultimate destination is to Pett. Early in the morning Pett has given us of her best in the way of scores of gallons of rich, fresh milk and with the return of the empties the balance of the weight is adjusted by sundry and divers persons, generally ladies of varying ages, who accompanied by a number of parcels of widely differing dimensions, and sometimes a cycle or two are going to “have a day at Pett”. One can almost tell the season of the year by glancing at the countenances of the passengers. The smile of anticipatory delight seems to broaden with the varying periods, reaching its expensive maximum in the spring just about primrose time.

Without this conveyance Pett would still be an undiscovered country to many, but every village finds some worthy citizen to overcome difficulties of this nature and the name of Colegate is to Pett what Harrod or Whiteley stands for to the average Londoner. True it is that the tram now takes about a third of the distance off, but I am confident that very few of these who are conveyed direct to the village by the vehicle alluded to would ever take the journey if they had to walk from the tram route to the village and back.

But for the purposes of our walk, even the welcome conveyance direct to Pett must for the moment be discarded, for with the advent of summer and the

DELIGHTS OF FIELD AND HEDGEROWS

we want to leave the high road and take our journey by the field paths. For this purpose we will presume the rambler has, either by tram or on foot, found his way to Ore from which point we will make our start.

Leaving Christ Church, Ore and walking up the Fairlight road for some distance, we notice a sign-post on our left pointing the way to North’s Seat. Here we leave the road and take the track up to North’s Seat. If it is clear, the view from here is always worth a few minutes pause, for it is the best view spot in our immediate locality. Leaving North’s Seat and looking eastward towards Fairlight Church, our track follows in that direction for about one hundred yards, where we go through the swing gate in front of us, and straight ahead down the field passing a large clump of trees immediately on our left. If you look right in front as you come down the field, you will see the tall spire of Pett Church about 2 ½ miles ahead of you as the crow flies, but rather more than that as you will walk. It is always advisable when possible to get an early view of the point you are steering for, as it makes a walk more interesting.

At the bottom of the field we cross the road and take the little swing gate opposite and keep straight down on the field path ahead. Following down we pass The Hall, Fairlight, which is about two hundred yards on our right. At the end of two or three fields our path enters a little copse and crossing two small wooden bridges we follow a few yards across a field till our path comes out close to a large swing gate that crosses a cart-track. Here we cross the track and take the path straight ahead with the six-wire fence close to our right hand. About fifty or sixty yards along we go through a small swing gate, and another fifty yards further we go through another swing gate.

Now just pause for a moment, for at this point your attention is closely needed. You will notice that the path now turns up a little slightly to our left. We do not want to take this path. Straight in front of us as we stand at the gate are five oak trees, I am taking no account of the holly tree on their right. Steer between the two bottom oak trees, and in a few yards straight on you will notice signs of a path that shows very little use. This leads us straight ahead to a stile when our path enters a copse. It is only a few yards through the copse and we emerge into another field. Keep straight down the field with the hedgerow close to your right. At the bottom of the field get over a stile and proceed on the path straight ahead. Lower down we get over another stile, and crossing the road follow the path on the other side straight ahead with a tall hedgerow immediately on your left. Some distance further on we cross another road, and here again we take the field path directly opposite. We now see the

SPIRE OF THE CHURCH

Straight ahead. Our path leads into a wood and shortly becomes more of a cart track. It now begins to ascend as we go through the leafy and shady wood, and shortly it leads us into the main road directly opposite the blacksmith’s forge. We are now in Pett village and taking the right on emerging from the wood it is only two or three minutes walk to the Church.

Pett Church like Fairlight, is a mere infant in point of age. It stands in a pleasant position and is

SEEN FROM ALMOST ANY POINT

In the district. The present Rector is the Rev. F.C.A Young, who will be remembered by many as the Curate of St John’s at St Leonards for several years. His father, the Rev. Frederick Young, was Rector of Pett from 1857 to 1882. I remember him well. He was a man much beloved, and zealous of good works. He was followed by the Rev. John Moore Fincher, who was Rector from 1882 to 1909 when he died, in his 86th year, after having charge of the parish for twenty-seven years. The present Rector took charge four years ago, and I am sure every inhabitant of Pett will re-echo the sentiment when I express the fervent hope that he may be spared to look after the wants of his little flock for a period even greater than either of the two previous Rectors, who between them had the oversight of the parish for no less than fifty-two years. An old font, dating back to 1763, can be seen in the churchyard close to the South-East corner of the church, the present font being a gift many years ago by the father of Archdeacon Churton of Bexhill.

Pett, like most of our Sussex villages, is very straggling, being built along both sides of the main road only. Its situation is open and very pleasant, being well above the marsh land, although when viewed from Fairlight it looks as if it were right in the valley. The walker that is not afraid of a mile or two should continue on past the church, and descending Chick Hill, come out at the seashore at Cliff End, returning to Hastings by way of the path over the cliffs and hillside to Fairlight. Or one could walk up the marshes by the military canal over Pett Level, right up to Winchelsea. These are questions for individual tastes and capabilities. The walk to Pett from Christ Church, Ore, by the field path route described is about three and a half miles, and it would be about the same distance by the main road. At this time of the year the fields have more to offer us than the roadway, although many a country roadside teems with good things. A pilgrimage to Pett will be a change for many of our town dwellers, and one that will do them good.

And now we must take our leave of Pett. Here in this peaceful, but somewhat out of the way spot, Pett pursues the even tenour of her way. But it would be folly to think that life in these parts is monotonous and unchanging. Like all communities, the Pettites have their periods when they

SHAKE OFF THE SHACKLES

of routine, and wander abroad to towns and cities to see how other parts of the world wag. I well remember a season or two ago leaving London for home one night by the last train, which was due here some half hour or more after midnight. Just as I had entered a compartment, and was making myself comfortable, I heard, amid sounds of merry laughter, voices with such a true Sussex ring about them that to my South country ears they sounded something like “Auld Lang Syne” must sound to a stranded Scot in a foreign land.

On putting my head out of the window I found a number of worthy Pettites, under the charge of my friend the Rector, returning home after a long day in the city. Eager to know what time they expected to get to Pett, when the train would not arrive at Hastings until long after midnight, I was informed that a conveyance would take some home, but some of the more ardent members intended walking. I am sure that as they journeyed towards Pett in the small hours of that summer’s morning the signs of the approaching daylight must have been quite marked in the Eastern skies before they got to rest.

Probably you think an adventure like this would throw out of gear the working machinery of a small community like Pett. Nothing of the sort. Next morning true to time those scores of gallons of rich fresh milk which Pett out of her generosity daily gives us in return for certain shekels of silver arrived in due course. The empties returned from Hastings with the same unerring accuracy as if nothing whatever had happened. Certain passengers, principally ladies, accompanied by more or less uncertain parcels, took their places with the said empties in the vehicle which acts for transport purposes for one and all, and went forth to “have a day at Pett”.

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