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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Nature & architecture. Bateman's, Brightling's Follies & Dallington Forest SSSI. High Weald, East Sussex. 28.06.24

Updated: Jul 9

My walk through Bateman's, Brightling and Dallington Forest started at Burwash. I reached Burwash by getting the 29A bus from Brighton to Heathfield (once an hour, 105 minute journey time) Regency 29 - Brighton - Tunbridge Wells and Heathfield | Brighton & Hove Buses and changing to the 231 bus from Heathfield to Etchingham and getting off at Burwash (once an hour; 12 minute journey time) 231-from-24-07-23.pdf ( On the return journey I caught the 231 back to Heathfield from Burwash Weald (a different village to Burwash).

This was a very long walk and took me about 8 hours to complete. But you could just do shorter section of this walk. My route is shown on the red line on the map. This route entailed walking on stretches of A and B roads and country lanes with no pavements; so caution needs to be taken.

"keep to the right-hand side of the road so you can see oncoming traffic. Keep close to the side of the road and be prepared to walk in single file. If you come across a sharp right-hand bend it may be safer to cross to the left-hand side of the road and cross back after the bend. Wearing or carrying something bright or fluorescent to help others see you. The Highway Code for walkers - Ramblers

My routes is shown in the red on this map. The location of six follies are shown with purple crosses

All italicized sections of text are quotations, with sources cited.

As an amateur naturalist, my identifications are provisional. Should you notice any errors, please feel free to inform me. For contact regarding any aspect of this blog, please email me at simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com.

The photographs and text are in the chorological order of my walk.


I hadn't visited Bateman's for many years. Whilst I liked the Jungle Book as a child, I now have a dislike of the racist and imperialist sentiments of much of Kipling's writing, so I visited Bateman's not as the home of Kipling, but as an example of stunning 17th century architecture set in a beautiful High Weald valley. Many of the interior exhibits of Bateman's are about Kipling's life and work. For details about the interior of Bateman's see: Visiting the house at Bateman's | Sussex | National Trust

Bateman’s was built, extended and renovated over a long period of time, and parts of the house are even older than the 1634 date above the front door. Rudyard and Caroline Kipling bought Bateman’s in 1902. Kipling continued the process of renovating and commissioned his cousin Ambrose Poynter to undertake work. Bateman's history| East Sussex | National Trust

Bateman's (listed grade I) lies centrally within its gardens. It is built of coursed ashlar, the sandstone coming from the quarry across the lane to the east of the house (now the Quarry Garden). Built in c 1634, probably by William Langham, the original house was a modified H shape in plan which was then, possibly, enlarged by infilling on the west side between the wings and by additions to the north wing which, with the north wing itself, were later pulled down (Head Gardener pers comm, 1998).  BATEMANS, Burwash - 1000734 | Historic England

The paving slabs in front of the house contain many bivalve fossils; there is no information about these on the NT website or the Historic England listing for Burwash. However, bivalve fossils are common, especially in the Greys Limestones Member of Jurassic-Cretaceous Purbeck Beds which outcrop around the Dudwell River, just to the south of Batemans, see Lewes. Memoir for 1:50 000 sheet 319 ( so it is likely that they are locally quarried stone

Nymphoides peltata, Fringed Waterlily in the pond

The principal garden lies on the south-east front of the house and is enclosed on all sides by clipped yew hedges planted by Kipling. ...The lawn on the south-east side of the path extends c 15m in that direction to a low, drystone retaining wall with four sets of steps built from un-dressed stone. These lead down onto a large, rectangular, lower lawn. On the north-east half, an avenue of pleached limes runs south-eastwards across the lawn to a niche in the yew hedge which contains an oak seat. The limes were planted in 1898, before Kipling purchased Bateman's (guidebook). The south-west half of the lawn contains a large, rectangular pond planted with waterlilies and, immediately to its south-east, a quartered rose garden with a central pool and fountain. ... The north-west side of the pond is screened by a length of yew hedge on top of the retaining wall. ... The pond and rose garden was designed by Kipling and his drawing for it survives at Bateman's.  BATEMANS, Burwash - 1000734 | Historic England

This Sweet Chestnut, Castanea sativa, in the garden ...

.... had some beautiful lichens on its branches, including

Melanelixia glabratula Polished Camouflage Lichen

Flavoparmelia caperata. Common Greenshield Lichen

Possibly, Parmelina tiliacea

Ramalina fastigiata Dotted Ribbon Lichen

Pyrrhospora quernea

The orchard was formerly Kipling's kitchen garden. Old apple trees often offer a good substrate for abundant lichens and this Cox's Orange Pippin Apple, Malus domestics, was covered in common Ramalina spp and Physcia spp. lichens and Flavoparmelia caperata

Some of the nature scenes of the "Cordoba" leather wall covering in the Dining Room Nature motifs, especially vegetation, are a central motif of Islamic art.

Leather has been used by mankind since time immemorial, but the Arabs introduced more sophisticated artistic leather work to Spain in the 7th Century AD. The oldest form of Córdoba leather art, called Guadamecí or Omeya, was developed in the city during the Muslim Caliphate of the 10th Century. Many such ancient art forms have been lost, but thanks to a couple of Córdoba leather artist families, the Guadamecí leather art techniques and the later Cordobán leather embossment techniques, have managed to survive The classic art of cordobese leather - 1000 years in the making (

Bateman's to Brightling: through High Wood and Leggett's Wood

High Wood and Leggett's wood were ancient woodland, and they are categorised by Natire England as Ancient Replanted Woodland. Although continuously wooded, these areas have had the original tree cover replaced with newer plantings, usually within the last century and often with conifers. While woodlands of this type may have suffered a much greater level of disturbance than ASNW, they will still retain many of the plant species characteristic of ancient woodlands, even if only dormant in the seed bank in the soil. Types of ancient woodland (

The ancient woodland of England is mapped by Natural England. An interactive map of ancient woodland can be accessed at Ancient Woodland (England) | Ancient Woodland (England) | Natural England Open Data Geoportal (

Here is the map of the ancient woodland in the area that I walked. The High and Low Weald in Sussex have considerable amounts of ancient woodland.

As I walked though High Wood I saw this beautiful Calopteryx virgo, Beautiful Demoiselle

There were large areas of planted coppiced Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus

The stools of coppiced Hornbeam, like those of Sweat Chestnut, are often propitious substrates fir mosses and Cladonia lichens. Hornbeam and Sweet Chestnut are common trees of High Weald woodland

Leucobryum glaucum Pincushion Moss

and Cladonia spp. lichens

Along the edges of the woodland rides there was much Selfheal, Prunella vulgaris, which starts flowering in June

and some Hypericum tetrapterum. Square-stalked St John's-Wort, a common Hypericum sp. of forest rides in the high weald

and lots of Pulicaria dysenterica Common Fleabane, yet to flower; a very important nectar source in late summer for pollinators

And there were some Common-Spotter Orchids, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, along the rides; common across Sussex.

Leggett's wood has been planted with conifers; and thus has little ground flora, except relict ferns and bryophytes growing in its high weald ghyll, which rises from springs and flows into the River Dudwell; including many Lady Ferns, Athyrium filix-femina

and Hard Fern, Struthiopteris spicant

Theses common bryophytes were growing on the sides of the ghyll

Fissidens taxifolius, Common Pocket-Moss

Apopellia endiviifolia, Endive Pellia (a


Going higher up in Leggett's wood, these common relict plants of lowland heath poke through along the rides of the planted conifers

(So many of Sussex's precious lowland heaths have been virtually destroyed by commercial conifer planting)

Calluna vulgaris, Common Heather

Hypnum jutlandicum, Heath Plait-Moss

When Leggett's Wood meets King's Hill Road, I intended taking the path to the north of Brightling Gypsum mine, and walk though Rounden Wood to Brightling, however the path north of the mine was completely overgrown and unpassable, so I had to walk down King's Hill Road to Brightling

Here as photos of the gypsum conveyor belt through the woods from a previous visit

The mine is completely concealed from the sight be woodland; this arial photo comes from a visitors guide to brightling mine[1].pdf (

For visitors to the South Downs National Park, the Sussex High Weald - a popular area of oustanding natural beauty on the park's edge - can always be relied upon to deliver the rolling hills and pastoral tranquillity of rural legend. Far less well-known though is the long-established deep-mining operation centred on the High Weald village of Brightling; just a stone's throw from the scene of William the Conqueror's victory at Battle and now the country's largest resource of calcium sulphate or gypsum. Used primarily to make plaster, plasterboard and cement, gypsum has been excavated in East Sussex since the 1880s and the mine remains the UK's largest deposit with at least 30 years of reserves.

This year alone, Brightling miners will use modern drill and blast techniques to recover at least 100,000 tonnes of the mineral rock from seams several feet thick; making the UK not only largely self-sufficient, but able to export gypsum-based products to more than 50 countries overseas. South Downs gypsum mining unearths fortune in heart of 1066 country | Mining | The Guardian


Like the content of Bateman's (Kipling's writings), the architecture of Mad Jack's Follies is intrinsically linked with racism. These follies were built with the profits of slavery.

The King's Hill Road to Brightling takes you directly to the Obelisk and Observation Tower; the first of Mad Jack Fuller's Follies.

John "Mad Jack" Fuller

John 'Mad Jack' Fuller, MP and heir to the Jamaica fortune of his uncle Rose Fuller MP (1708-1777). John Fuller owned the Knollis estate in St Thomas-in-the-Vale and Grange Pen in St Catherine, the compensation for which was paid to Augustus Elliott Fuller (q.v.) (the son of John Fuller's cousin John Trayton Fuller and partner with Rose Fuller (1748-1821)) after John Fuller's death in 1834. John Fuller's primary heir was his nephew Sir Peregrine Palmer Fuller Palmer Acland, the son of his sister Elizabeth. Son of Rev. Henry Fuller and his cousin Frances Fuller; nephew of Rose Fuller MP (1708-1777) and Stephen Fuller (1716-1799), the agent for Jamaica. MP for Southampton 1780-84 and Sussex 1801-12. Builder of follies, and in the ODNB as 'politician and eccentric.' The family fortune had twin sources, slave-ownership and a gunfoundry business in Sussex. Summary of Individual | Legacies of British Slavery (

Fuller was better known as ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller, although he himself preferred the title ‘Honest John’ Fuller. Today ‘Mad Jack’ is remembered for a series of follies he commissioned in Brightling, East Sussex, including his own pyramid-shaped mausoleum, and for his support of the slave trade.

... Jack Fuller won [a] by-election .. His parliamentary career saw Fuller as an MP for Southampton between 1780 – 1784, and subsequently as MP for Sussex between 1801 – 1812. His time in parliament – December 19, 1783 to March 14, 1801 and again May 10, 1804 to January 23 1806 – coincided with the office of William Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister.

Pitt was 25 when he became PM and remains the youngest to attain the office.

There is an anecdote that Fuller rejected a peerage offered by Pitt, allegedly throwing his message onto the fire whilst stating to friends ‘I was born Jack Fuller, and Jack Fuller I will die!’ It may have been the case that Pitt wanted Fuller in the House of Lords to get him out of the way as he could be difficult.

Fuller was very well connected socially and had links to notable figures of the day, including scientist Michael Faraday, to who he was a mentor and sponsor. Fuller was a patron of the Royal Institution in London, gifting the Institute £1000 – about £100,000 in today’s money – and later founding the Society’s Fullerian Professorship of Chemistry and Professorship of Physiology. Fuller also commissioned and purchased many paintings from the artist J M W Turner. He purchased the first Eastbourne Lifeboat and also Bodiam Castle for 3000 guineas at auction, to save it from destruction.

Fuller was also a known drunk and in 1810 he drunkenly abused the Speaker of the House of Commons and had to be physically removed.

With his West Indian plantation ownership he was an outspoken supporter of slavery. Today, the Royal Institute is looking at how it might dissociate itself from its Fullerian brand of scholarships.

Six follies can be found around Brightling, including the Sugar Loaf, said to be constructed following a wager placed by Fuller whilst in London, claiming that he could see the spire of St. Giles Church, from his Estate. On returning and finding this was not the case, he had the ‘Sugar Loaf’ constructed overnight!

Other follies include a Rotunda Temple; Tower; Observatory; Needle (the 2nd highest point in Sussex, possibly constructed to mark Wellington’s 1815 victory at Waterloo and to provide local employment) and the Pyramid Mausoleum, commissioned some 24 years before Fuller’s death on 11 April 1834, aged 77. Legend had it that Fuller was interred sitting at an iron table, with a full meal and a bottle of claret, dressed for dinner and wearing a top hat but this has since been disproved. 'Mad Jack' Fuller was a controversial character of Southampton | Daily Echo

The Follies

Whilst the Follies are all in the Brightling area; there are spread out and it takes a good two hours to walk around the follies. If you wanted to visit Brightling alone, the Wealdlink 225 bus operates 2 days per week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays, excluding Bank holidays) and links Brightling to Heathfield with a twice a day. Route 225 (Battle Bus) - Wealdlink Community Transport

The Observatory. It was equipped when built with a camera and telescope so, it is not completely without practical purpose. It was also designed by Sir Robert Smirke and completed in 1818. It’s now a private house and although you can see it from a distance, they have a large hedge that prevents any close-ups.

The Needle (aka the Obelisk). "his stands proud in a field known as Brightling Down and is 20 metres high. Again, it’s on private land so you can’t get very close and there are various accounts of why it was built which include as a lookout in the event of an invasion by Napoleon, to commemorate Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1805, or to celebrate Wellington’s victory over Napoleon in 1815. We’ll never know.

Vascular plants on Brightling Down between the Obelisk and the Village, where the Pyramid is located in the churchyard of St Thomas a Becket. The word down for a rolling hill is used in this part of the weald, where the geology is not chalk (there is Brightling Down, Earl's Down, Black Down) as well as referring to the chalk downs of the South Downs and North Downs

Agrimonia eupatoria Common Agrimony

Lathyrus nissolia Grass Vetchling

Vicia cracca Tufted Vetch

Filipendula ulmaria Meadowsweet

Convolvulus arvensis Field Bindweed

Chamaenerion angustifolium Rosebay Willowherb

Lotus corniculatus Common Bird's-foot Trefoil

The Pyramid. Fuller’s pyramid mausoleum was built in 1811, twenty-three years before his death, and local legend had it that Fuller was entombed in the pyramid in full dress and top hat seated at a table set with a roast chicken and a bottle of wine. This was discovered to be untrue during renovations in 1982. My theory is that Fuller might have read about the mythological preservative powers of pyramids

The Tower. If ever there was a setting for Sleeping Beauty, this is surely it: a tower, hidden away in dense growth, as if it has been asleep for 100 years. It is thought that this folly was erected in the 1820’s. It was badly damaged in the 1987 storm when it lost about one fifth of its height, but repairs were carried out to make it safe. It is now about 35 feet high and 12 feet diameter. This folly is on a public footpath so you can get close to it. Access is no longer permitted inside as the stairs are in a dangerous stage, but at one time it was thought Mr. Fuller used to climb to the top to watch the repairs being carried out on his, then recent, purchase of Bodiam Castle. Fact or Fiction? Who knows .

The Rotunda Temple. The Rotunda Temple, as it is sometimes called, is a really good example of a Folly built to decorate the landscape: it also comes with a list of famous connections. No definite record of when it was built can be found, but it is thought to be around 1810, although a painting by J.M.W. Turner carried out from where the Sugar Loaf now stands, looking down to Rosehill, does not include it. Sir Humphry Repton, the famous Georgian landscaper, proposed it as part of a much larger scheme which was never adopted. J.M.W. Turner included it in two of his (later) paintings. Then, there was the designer himself, Sir Robert Smirk, perhaps better known for his design of The British Museum. As with all the follies, rumours have built up over time describing scenes of debauchery, but space inside is too restricted for such disportment. Perhaps there were small parties taking place at that time, as there is a hollow in the floor of the Temple which, it is supposed, was for keeping food and wine cool. However, the real romance is in viewing the Temple from a distance, surrounded by the Sussex countryside.

The Sugarloaf. This folly, built in the early 1820’s acquired its name from the conical form in which sugar was sold at that time. When maintenance was required some years ago, no one came forward so East Sussex County Council took responsibility. One of their tasks was to put up an explanatory sign on the side of the folly

As you can see, the rumour surrounding this particular folly is that Mr. Fuller made a wager with someone in London that he could see the spire of St. Giles Church, Dallington, from his Estate. When he returned, he realised that he could not, so he instructed workmen to build this cone to mimic the shape of the steeple at St. Giles. It was apparently built in a great hurry (some say overnight) and its construction, described as “stones held together with mud”, certainly indicates speed. However, he did win the bet, even if by foul means. Your imagination may be a little stretched when you know that at one time it was used as a two-storey dwelling, but certainly as early as the 1841 Census, it listed two adults and five children living there. Habitation continued until it no longer appeared in the 1871 census."

Some Xanthoria parientina. Common Orange Lichen, on the Sugarloaf

Dallington Forest and Sugarloaf Wood

Most of Dallington Forest and Sugarloaf Wood are Ancient Replanted Woodland, however a slither of land either side of the Wallingford Stream (a High Weald ghyll) forms the Dallington Forest SSSI and has some Semi-Natural Ancient Woodland; and parts if Sugarloaf are Semi-Natural Ancient Woodland; the dirrences between the conifers of the Replanted Woodland and the parcels of Birch, Fagus sylvatica; Pedunculate Oak, Quercus robur; Holly Ilex aquifolium; Hazel, Corylus avellan; Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus, Silver birch, Betula pendula, is very noticeable

Ancient semi-natural woods: woods that have developed naturally. Most have been used by humans – often managed for timber and other industries over the centuries – but they have had woodland cover for over 400 years. Ancient Woodland - British Habitats - Woodland Trust

This site is an area of ancient woodland which lies on fine grained silts, sandstones, shales and mudstones of the Ashdown beds. The main feature of the site is the ghyll woodland which contains a number of plants with an Atlantic distribution. This habitat type and its associated flora occur only in The Weald and in the west of Britain. The steep sided ghyll has been created by the vigorous down cutting of Willingford Stream through the geological strata leaving a range of soil types and occasional outcrops of sandstone. The warm, moist microclimate of the ghyll has allowed the retention of a rich Atlantic flora. A small plateau woodland is present in the north of the site and there is a small meadow adjacent to it. Three woodland types dominate the ghyll area. In the north beech Fagus sylvatica and pedunculate oak Quercus robur occur with holly Ilex aquifolium, hazel Corylus avellana, hornbeam Carpinus betulus, birch Betula pendula and the occasional yew Taxus baccata above a heathy ground flora of bracken Pteridium aquilinum and ling Calluna vulgaris. In the south beech is largely absent and oak, birch and hazel dominate above a ground flora of honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum and bramble Rubus fruticosus. In the bottom of the valley there are stands of alder Alnus glutinosa above a rich ground flora of remote sedge Carex remota, yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon, gipsywort Lycopus europaeus and Sphagnum mosses. The following AtlanticÕplants have been recorded from the ghyll area: wood fescue grass Festuca altissima, Cornish moneywort Sibthorpia europaea, hay scented fern Dryopteris aemula, ivy leaved bellflower, Wahlenbergia hederacea and the bryophytes (liverworts and mosses) Hyocomium flagellare, Hookeria lucens and Saccogyna viticulosa. The meadow in the north of the site contains plants such as ragged robin Lychnis flos cuculi and meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria. The woodland behind it consists of oak, hazel, birch and hornbeam above a ground flora of wood sage Teucrium scorodonia. 1002152.pdf (

Wallingford Stream

By the time I got to Wallingford stream I only had 90 minutes to walk to Burwash Weald to catch the last bus back to Heightfield, so I didn't have time to look at the bryophytes of the ghyll; but that means I have a good reason to go back!

Sharp-flowered Rush, Juncus acutiflorus

Wood-sedge, Carex sylvatica

Pendulous Sedge, Carex pendula

Male Fern, Dryopteris filix-mas

Pertusa pertusaria, Pepper-Pot Lichen, on Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus,

A  Graphidaceae family lichen, probably Graphis scripta



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