A very varied walk, exploring the urban and rural facets of North East Hastings, including the amazing Specked Wood, the panoramic views from North Seat, the countryside north of the Ridge, and the atmospheric ruins of the Old St Helens Church.
Trains run to Ore from Lewes Hastings and London Victoria
Ore Community Centre (when open)
shop at Ore Station
Shops and pubs at Ore Village
Cafe at Ore community Centre
This walk does not have the high drama of some of the other Hastings and St Leonards walks on this site, and there are a couple of parts of the walk whose only obvious value is to get you to the next attraction, but it does have a tremendous amount of variety. There is the well known Hastings Country Park, but there are also a lot of attractions that are hardly known to outsiders, like the lovely and threatened Speckled Wood in Ore and the fabulously atmospheric old St Helens Church. Plus it introduces you to the quietest part of St Helens Wood. With so much of our countryside now full of depressing monculture, places like St Helens Wood, with its huge diversity of wildlife, are to be treasured.
1). Leave Ore station by the only exit and turn left to walk up the pathway to the road. Turn left and left again onto the main road.
Again turn left to walk alongside the railway railings. Come to a track leading off to the left. Follow this over the railway bridge. Once over the bridge you come to a path leading off to the right, through a gap in the metal fence. Walk along this path to the right of a nursery school and through a wood. Bits of railway track and ballast tell you that this area was once railway sidings. There are a number of paths off to the left and right, but keep on the main path until it runs into an open area, with houses ahead and to the right.
You are now at a junction. Turn right on a path which descends slightly and then falls steeply into a playground. Cross the playground and turn right on the road opposite. Turn left at a junction and then left again at a main road.
Cross the road carefully. On your right you can see the beginnings of Speckled Wood. You can see an information board about the wood erected by the Friends of Speckled Wood. There is a path to the left of the board. Follow this into the wood. There are a number of side paths that you may want to explore, but the main route follows the stream, taking the obvious main path.
The path bears right and then crosses a small bridge. After the bridge you need to turn slightly left to follow a path that continues by the stream. The path finally emerges from the wood and there are some steps to the right. Walk up these to arrive at a road and turn right.
Come to the main street of Ore Village. There are a number of shops and pubs on the right, but the main route turns left. Here. Cross the main road where it is safe and convenient. There is a major junction. Do not take the road that turns left here but keep straight ahead to reach the Ore Community Centre on your right. There is a cafe here.
2). The cafe is normally closed on Sundays.
Just past the centre is a pathway to the right. Take this. Turn left at the end and pass the King John pub. Take the first right, Broadway, a street that turns first left and then right. Turn left at the end and walk up the road to Fairlight.
Take the first right. Almost immediately you will see kissing gate on your left and a footpath sign, with most of the words missing. Go through the gate and follow the path.
Where it turns left you turn right into a field, and then bear left to follow a path by the edge of the field. You pass into the next field and continue straight ahead. You enter a wood and continue to walk in the same direction.
You now come to the Shearburn camp site. Bear left here, aiming for the end of the loop on the camp site track. Keep going in the same direction, aiming for near the corner of the field to arrive at the tarmac of Barley Lane. Turn left here.
Follow Barley Lane past a path on the left and then a path on the right. Take the next path on the left. This passes between fields and then emerges on Fairlight road, next to a housing development. Turn left along Fairlight Road and then take the first turning on the right – Mill Lane. At first this is an estate road, then a tarmac track, and then an unmade track.
On your left you pass North Seat. You may want to stop here to look at the panoramic views.
You come to a point where you must turn left or right. Turn left here and then immediately right. The path descends to the main road at Bachelors Bump.
Cross the main Rye road carefully. Straight ahead is a narrow path which cuts through to the next street. Turn right here and walk down to a footpath sign on the left.
3). Turn left down the footpath. The path is obviously used and you can see where people have walked. But it can get a bit overgrown in high summer.
Emerge into a lane. Turn left and almost immediately on the right see a narrow footpath just to the right of a bungalow and a fire hydrant sign. The is a stone footpath sign on the ground. Walk down the path and soon leave the houses behind
Although you are still within the boundaries of Hastings it feels like you are miles away in remote countryside here.
Cross the Hastings to Rye Railway line on a bridge and come to a path junction. Take the path ahead which bears slightly to the left.
The path passes a house on the right and then emerges at a track. Turn left on the track and, after about 15 metres, look for a tree with a yellow band on it Turn right here to reach the road.
Turn left at the road and then walk for about 20 metres to reach a path on the left. There is a metal gate and, to the right of it, something that pretends to be a stile. It has 3 rails but no step. It is probably easier to climb over the gate.
Having climbed over this obstacle the path ahead is clear through the grass. You come to the edge of a caravan site. Walk along the edge of the site to reach a metal gate.
4). Turn right at the gate and walk slightly uphill on a lane. At the next bend you will see a path on the left. It passes between a cemetery and some industrial buildings. Although the path is tree lined the high fences erected on both sides make the path a bit start.
Emerge on the Ridge, a main road across the north of Hastings with occasional panoramic views.
Turn right into the cemetery and then turn left along the cemetery edge until you come to the crematorium. Turn left here and go out of the cemetery
If you are not fond of cemeteries or the cemetery is closed then you can continue along the Ridge to reach waypoint
5). If you followed the main route out of the cemetery cross the Ridge and walk ahead down Elphinstone Road (If you followed the alternative turn left).
Take the first right and then the first left and then turn right into what looks like a gateway of a drive, with a plaque commemorating Pierre Tailard de Chardin. The track leads you to the original St Helens Church. When you have finished looking at the church return to point 5 the way you came.
Turn left along the ridge and come to the “new” St Helens Church, which is occasionally open. Immediately before the church there is a lane, advertised as leading to a Vet’s practice. Go down this lane but do not turn right to see the Vet. Instead go almost to the end of the lane, by Friary Gardens garden centre.
Just before the entrance to the centre take a path into the woods which descends through trees and then emerges into an open area. (Do not take a path to the left which stays in the woods. There is a seat to your right and you may want to set and enjoy the views over Hastings and towards Beachy Head. This would make an excellent picnic spot. You are now in St Helens Wood.
The path is fairly clear in the grass. It bears to the left and then to the right to descend to the a track Turn left along the track.
Come to a junction. Bear right. Another track comes in from the left. Keep ahead to come to the road. At a junction bear right down St Helens Park Road.
As you descend you come to Watermans Close on your left. Immediately after this look out for a footpath on your left.
6). Turn left down the footpath. It is just a town footpath down the backs of gardens, but it is satisfying to note that the path would have been here before the houses and the plans to build them would have been forced to work around the right of way.
Cross a road and continue on the footpath.
Finally emerge at Blacklands Rise. Turn left and then turn right on Elphinstone Road. Take the second left (Beaconsfield Road) At the end of Beaconsfield Road turn right and then left along Hughenden Road to reach the entrance to Ore Railway Station.
Points of interest:
A) Speckled Wood
It is amazing that Hastings council has not secured this wood for conservation. It is a huge recreational and educational resource in the heart of Ore. But as this walk was designed the council had already given planning permission build houses on one part of it part of the site and the rest is not secure. It is defended by two organisations, the Friends of Speckled Wood and the Ore Community Land Trust. It has been a long battle and the groups have some disagreements on tactics, but lets hope they manage to secure the wood.
B) Hastings Cemetery As Hastings grew in the mid 19th Century there was soon no room in the church graveyards for all the dead. So this municipal cemetery was opened in the 1850s. A lot of the history of the town is here.The Friends of the cemetery have produced a walking trail and also information on their web site about some of the people who are buried there.
C) Old St Helens Church
One of the oldest buildings in Hastings, possibly dating from the 8th Century. By the 1860s it was in poor repair and it was decided to use most of the church as material for a replacement church (which you will meet later on the walk), leaving a “picturesque ruin”. This seems to have fallen even further into a state of decay, but more recently it has been restored. It is quite an amazing place to spend half an hour. Despite the horrible modern estate built round it, the church is tranquil and an exploration of the churchyard will reveal some interesting graves.
The 1066 Geneology web site has useful information about the graves, and a pre-restoration photo.
As part of the restoration an archeological survey was undertaken. You can find information about this here
The church was once right next to the large house of Ore Place, in the grounds of which the new housing estate has been built.
This is a garden centre run by the Parchment Trust which provides training for people with learing disabilities. It is open 10-4 Monday to Friday with occasional weekend openings.
E) St Helens Wood and Grey Owl, owned by the St Helens Wood Preservation Society this 100 acre plus site nestling between the slopes of a valley with views across the rooftops of Hastings to the sea. Situated at the foot of the High Weald and sheltered by ancient gill woodland.
The site consists of wooded areas, meadows and freshwater ponds, all providing a home for a varied selection of wildlife. Over 40 different species of nesting birds can be seen in the wooded areas including Tawny Owls, Woodpeckers, Treecreepers, Long Tailed Tits, Nuthatch and Jay. Large numbers of Chiffchaff visit the hedgerows in summer.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the society has not provided a lot by way of interpretive material. You will find what is probably the best map and description at 1066 on line You could easily spend a whole day here.
One who often did was Archie Belaney- Grey Owl. He was brought up by two maiden aunts and his grandmother in Hastings and became fascinated by wildlife. His fascination seems to have stemmed largely from his visits to this area. He was also fascinated by North American Indians. At 17 he emigrated to Canada where he assumed the identity of an Ojibwe Indian, telling a fictional story of his origins. At first he was a trapper, but then became a fervent and famous conservationist.
He was appalling to the women in his life, neglecting the women who had brought him up and fathering children with a number of women who he then abandoned. Richard Attenborough made a film of his life under the title “Grey Owl”.