A Haunted Walk round Rye & Winchelsea
Distance: 9 miles
Ghostly Rating *************
Route: Rye - Winchelsea - Icklesham - Rye
Map: OS Explorer 125
Start/ Parking: Winchelsea village centre
Public Transport The village of Winchelsea is served by railway. Leave the railway station and turn south, walking into the village centre to start the walk.
Conditions: This walk is mostly over established footpaths or country lanes with just one section across open land. There are a couple of short, steep hills, but no difficult terrain.
Refreshments: There are numerous pubs, cafes and snackbars in Rye, with shops selling snacks in Winchelsea and in Icklesham.
This is a fairly long walk around the River Brede and the surrounding wetlands. Each of the towns and villages visited was formerly standing on an island surrounded by marshes. Although the marshes have now been drained to provide farmland, the land is still damp and can be muddy after rain.
1) Find your way to the churchyard at Winchelsea.
The town of Winchelsea is one of the ancient Cinque Ports, a medieval trade organisation of ports that traded with France. In its day this was a leading mercantile organisation which was both enormously wealthy and politically powerful. The office of Warden of the Cinque Ports is now no longer a position of much importance, but it is highly sought after as it carries with it much prestige, precedence at formal events and a rather nice official residence. It is in the gift of the monarch and is generally given in recognition of services rendered.
In 1283 Winchelsea was completely rebuilt on a bluff overlooking a new harbour on the River Brede. The size and importance of the port can be measured by the distance between the current village and the surrounding medieval walls. The harbour has long since silted up and Winchelsea is no longer a port.
The first ghost to be found in the churchyard, however, does not seem to know this. The phantom monk walks into the churchyard from the south, crosses the grass without taking any notice of the tombstones through which it glides and approaches the main church door, where it vanishes. This apparition must date back to the days when what is now the Church of St Thomas the Apostle was the central building in an extensive friary. The friary was closed by King Henry VIII in the 16th century at a time when Winchelsea was losing its prosperity. The local parishioners clubbed together to buy the friary church to be their parish church, but could not afford all of the large structure. What is seen today is merely the chancel of the original.
A second ghost can be seen lurking by the large tree that stands ??????????? This is a phantom highwayman who waited here to ambush wealthy travellers on the road from Rye to Hastings. He came to a bad end, however, being shot down by a gentleman who proved to be as well armed and courageous as he was rich.
from "Ghosthunter Walks in Kent" by Rupert Matthews.