Five Great Pub Walks in East Sussex

East Sussex is not short on picturesque landscapes and country pubs, and now that summer is fast approaching, there is no better time to get out there. East Sussex’s gentle rolling countryside, combined with the promise of a great country pub, could inspire even the most reluctant walker to don walking boots and a cagoule.

While the High Weald AONB (that’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in case you were wondering) might be in the London commuter belt, it is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The rolling farmland is dotted with traditional oasts and cowls so, wherever you end up, be sure to keep a lookout for some delightful oast houses.

The Playden Walk

The Playden Walk is a relatively gentle ramble is a must for oast house aficionados. Beginning and ending at Rye train station (no designated driver necessary if you all fancy a tipple), this trail meanders across fields and farmland, offering views of the picturesque Tillingham Valley.

The Playden Oasts Inn photo
Image Source: The Playden Oasts Inn

The real highlight comes approximately halfway through the walk, where a small detour brings you to the Playden Oasts. This charming inn features three oast houses topped with traditional cowls. As well as two great restaurants, the inn also offers guests the chance to stay the night at the top of an authentic oast house.

The beautifully restored building was actually run as a working oast house until the 70s. Could there be a better place to enjoy a Sunday roast and a traditional pint of English ale than this?

 

Burwash Walk

This six-mile round-robin ramble sets off from the beautiful village of Burwash. The walk kicks off with some fantastic views of the Dudwell valley before weaving its way through the medieval landscape of the valley.

Burwash walk photo by © Fraser Elliott
Image Source: Discovering Britain © Fraser Elliott

The route takes walkers through ancient woods and meadows and past many traditional structures. Want to know what the area looked like 700 years ago? Well, this walk is the one to do.

After all that exercise, enjoy a well-earned drink back at the quaint Rose and Crown Pub.

 

Eridge Walk

Beginning at the nearby Eridge train station, the Eridge country walk passes Harrison Rocks – a must for rock climbers. Remember to look out for the oast house towards the end of the route!

Photo of roast dinner by The Huntsman Pub
Image Source: The Huntsman Pub

The quaint country pub The Huntsman, in the sleepy village of Eridge, certainly packs a punch with its top-notch hearty pub food and quality real ales.

 

Catsfield & The White Hart Inn

When the sun is out, the White Hart Inn’s expansive beer garden is the perfect place to catch some rays. The captivating countryside around Catsfield offers plenty of opportunities for burning some calories – before putting them back on with a long lazy lunch.

This moderate walk begins at the White Hart Inn and takes walkers on a picturesque four-mile hike through forests and rolling countryside. View further information on the Catsfield walk.

 

Marc Cross Walk

For those who enjoy a bit more of a challenge, this walk from the village of Mark Cross should suit. The area boasts oasts and cowls aplenty and walks around here should offer the opportunity to spot many an oast house.

View of the hills around the Mark Cross Inn
Image Source: The Mark Cross Inn via Rotherfield Parish Council

All that exertion and effort deserves a reward, and the Mark Cross Inn certainly delivers. Their menu is created from seasonal and locally sourced produce and is sure to satisfy even the fussiest foodie.

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5 Helpful tips for oast cowl maintenance

Here at Dude & Arnette we know looking after oast cowls is a serious crafty business. And if you don’t do much to maintain them… well, a costly one. Our expert team uses traditional building and maintaining methods (perfected over 4 generations) to weatherproof and protect your roof and ensure your roof is tip top!

To help you get an idea of what’s required to maintain your oast cowl we’ve put together 5 recommendations:

1. Get them serviced every year

It might seem obvious, but we’d suggest having your oast cowl serviced every year. This is to avoid it from collapsing due to damage caused by weather conditions. Lucky for you, with Dude & Arnette you’ll be in safe hands. Our specialist team can strip and re-tile all types of kiln roofs, including brick and wooden, round or square roofs, making sure your roof is weatherproof. We can also replace ironwork and lead work for kiln tops, and craft bespoke kiln guttering. Phew!

2. Have them down every 5 years to avoid as many repairs

Repairs can be costly, so avoid leaving it too late by having the cowls down for a check-up every five years. This will help you get an idea of the state of the cowl and avoid potentially costly problems that can develop with the wood- and iron-work due to weather conditions. Prevention is key, folks.

3. Always get the oast cowls down to refurbish

After we’ve assessed your oast cowl we bring them down using scaffolding or a crane, which is usually a fast and hassle-free process. We also cap the building securely to protect against the weather and any would-be nesting wildlife. Once the cowl is down, we sand it, remove all moisture from the wood before any paint work or repairs take place. If you want more detailed information of our step by step process, read how our cowl repairs work.

Old cowl coming off

4. Check the top of the oast roofs when the oast cowls are off

It is as important to check the cowls as it is to check the top of the oast roofs. In some cases, where the cowls have been severely damaged, it may be more cost-effective to build a new traditional wooden cowl rather than carry out all of the repairs needed. If we feel that this is best, we will always advise clients in advance and discuss the options.

5. Banging or squeaking? Get your oast cowl serviced ASAP

If you hear any banging or squeaking coming from your roof we recommend you contact us as soon as you can to prevent any damage or water coming in.

If you are interested in our oast cowl maintenance services please get in touch today for a no obligation visit and we’ll organise a time to meet with you and assess your roof.

Curious about what we do? Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and watch us in action.

Our Happy Customers

Martin Lovegrove | March 2019

Henden Farm fresh Oast Cowls

Dude and Arnette built and replaced two existing fibreglass cowls on the oast house on our farm at Henden. Darren Hole carried out some detailed research to ensure that cowls of original design were installed. This was lovely work. The construction and installation went well and today they are in pride of place, enhancing the house itself. Thank you, Darren and your family and team. Much appreciated.

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Filming an oast cowl construction with Channel 4

The guys from Channel 4 love a good oast cowl construction. Back in 2017 they featured us in their Village of the Year programme showcasing the history of oast cowls and Kent peg tiles. This time, they approached us to film the construction of an oast house a from start to finish. This is part of a programme that will showcase the build of different traditional buildings, each one being different and unique (a church, a windmill). With faces most definitely made for television, who were we to deny the public this experience?

They were particularly interested in watching us build the two oast house roundels (the roof) and the two oast cowls. As highly trained craftsmen and a fourth-generation family business, we know this process very well. We restore and rebuild oast houses and oast cowls from scratch and over the years, we have worked on all types of oast houses across the country, including buildings listed with local heritage departments.

Building an oast owl from scratch

We started the construction by pitching the two oast roofs known as roundels. We then used Tyvek (flash spun high-density polyethene fibres) to weather each kiln. After that, we used counter batten up each rafter, so that when we lathed the kiln it could hold the tile nails away from the Tyvek preventing holes. We then made onto the counter baton to work out where every row of tiles had to go so that they were evenly spread up the kiln and weathering one another.

oast cowl construction  Oast cowl structure being put together  oast construction filming

Going onto the makes we added the lath, which is wood that’s run out really thin and therefore gives us an opportunity to bend it and pin it around the roof. The lath also serves as a base for the tiles. We used tapered and square tiles as due to their shape they’re able to go around the roof without running downhill. Once the tiles were on with lead and fibreglass, the top was ready for the oast cowl.

Preparing tiles for oast construction  oast construction tiles . oast cowls built in the warehouse

The last step of the process is to add the oast cowl on top, which we are in the process of putting on so watch this space for the final snaps!

Whether you’re interested in oast construction, installation or kiln roof maintenance, get in touch with our specialist oast cowl build team for a clear, honest and concise quote and we will organise a visit to your oast house at a time that suits you.

Want to see how we finish this project? Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for the latest oast updates.

Our Happy Customers

Nicola Day | Feb 2019

Out with the Old in with the New!

After capping off our kiln and taking off the old cowl, we could see there was no saving it! Darren and his team did a fantastic job, capping off and then totally rebuilding our cowl, using wood and paint, which looks so much more alive than the old fibreglassed version. It is so nice to see a family business protecting a huge part of Kents heritage. Professional, quick and such a fantastically priced job. I would recommend Darren and his team to anyone.

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Our Happy Customers

Alistair Taylor | Jan 2019

Replacing oast cowls on a shared property

I am very happy to recommend Dude and Arnette. They dealt with the replacement of our oast cowls with great efficiency and expertise. The end result is magnificent. Our tenants were barely disturbed, and the price seemed very fair. Throughout they were a pleasure to deal with, and always prompt to answer queries.

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Oast cowl repairs by hand

We’ve always worked with our hands here at Dude & Arnette, some of us used to be mechanics, some started working on oasts early raising cowls up by hand using pulleys and poles. We like getting stuck in, but there are lots of other reason why investing in a true craftsman for your oast cowl repairs is important.

How often should I have my oast refurbished?

Looking after your oast is important, it can preserve the life of your oast and save replacement.  Oasts ideally should be refurbished every five to six years so any rotten or broken wood can be repaired before causing a larger problem.  If we carried out the original repair work, it may be a little longer. From start to finish, a standard cowl refurbishment typically takes around four weeks.

oast cowl repairs    finishing oast cowl repairs a before shot of oast cowl repairs

Why should I have my oast cowl repairs done by hand?

Oast refurbishment is a detailed process. We carefully strip down the oast by sanding it – removing all the paint from the boards. This allows us to see any wear or water damage. The cowl then gets placed in a special drying room to remove any moisture from the wood before we begin repair work. Depending on the cowl’s condition, this may include meticulously replacing or repairing boards, heads, mainframe or curb, our expert craftsmen know exactly how to repair any problems with minimal disruption to the structure of the original cowl.

A critical stage is the re-painting, we still paint the cowls by hand, the shape of the cowl means it’s almost impossible to get good, solid coverage by spraying. And we do five coats for optimum appearance and weatherproofing. Something we are committed to always doing by hand.

What have you changed?

We keep up to date with the very latest technology and quality when it comes to paint and wood treatment.  Using cutting edge primer, undercoats and finishes leaves you fully weatherproofed and prevents any potentially costly problems developing with the wood- and iron-work.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram or Facebook to see what we’re up to in the new year, or get in touch to chat about your oast refurbishment needs.

Oast House Restoration

It’s that time of year when those of us lucky enough to live in a period property are warming our feet by a large open fire. But period properties are hard work. Fact. They require tender, loving care, and a fair measure of expertise. It takes bravery and commitment to take on an oast house restoration and we’re always inspired by the clients we work with.

This month we spoke to Ecclesiastical and World Heritage Magazine about Richard and Jane Horobin’s project, two great examples of the bravery we admire. They transformed the Grade II listed Lydens Farmhouse, near Hever in Kent into a family home. And what a spot to work – with views over the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Committed to Kent’s history

What we liked about the Horobin’s was their commitment to preserving the historical features of the property. Which, luckily for us meant working with only the finest oast house experts in Kent! They meticulously used local joiners, bricklayers and other tradesmen when they could. For example, they used locally sourced oak to replace the original rotten timbers. And Tudor Roof Tiles (traditional clay Kent Peg tiles) that give an authentic, natural finish than modern tiles.

The historical building had no record or clues of how it used to look. That’s where our generations of experience came in. From the diameter of the roundel base, we knew exactly the height and style of oast cowl to build to be true to Kent’s history.

A year of oast house restoration

As the year draws to a close we’re so proud of our team and the oast house projects we’ve worked on across Kent, Herefordshire and Sussex. Thank you from us all for being amazing customers and we’re excited to working with you all in 2019.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram or Facebook to see what we’re up to in the new year, or get in touch to chat about your oast restoration needs.

 

 

Kent’s Oast history

Designed for the drying of hops, an oast (or oast house) is an essential part of Kent history. Kent was famed for its hop-growing, and the demand for somewhere safe to dry (kiln) the hops for the thirsty brewers was high.

How did an oast house work?

Green hops were picked in the hop gardens (for a set price per bushel), however when freshly picked they had a moisture content of 80% – this needed to be reduced all the way down to 6% to be any use for the all-important brewing.

Traditional Kent oast houses were two or three storeys high with diagonally slatted floors (stowage). Hops were strewn out across these thin drying floors and heated from below – the slats allowed the heat to gently rise through them decreasing the moisture content.

Topped by anywhere between one and eight circular kilns, the oast cowls that we so lovingly construct and restore provided ventilation for the hot air from the wood or charcoal fires below to escape. They were cleverly designed to swing away from the prevailing wind and therefore create a vacuum that kept hot air being drawn through the slatted floors above.

The hops were then left to cool before being bagged up into large jute sacks called ‘pockets’ with a hop press. Each pocket contained about 150 bushels of green hops! Most importantly, the pocket had to be marked with the grower’s details. The brewers at the market would want to know for certain, where their hops were coming from, as they were used in their breweries to add distinct flavour and character to the Kent beers we know and love.

A history respected

Starting our business in 1937 it’s no wonder we know these oast and oast cowls inside out. We are really proud of our part in maintaining this important part of Kent life. If you want to see a traditional oast house in Kent, one of the best preserved is The Hop Farm Country Park at Beltring. Famous for having the world’s largest collection of Victorian Oast Houses it has been our honour to work on this project.

If you have any questions about oast houses in Kent then get in touch.

Toasting a busy summer

We’ve had a wonderful summer here at Dude & Arnette, from press interviews celebrating craftsmanship to maintaining our much-loved oast cowl project Hop Farm and constructing brand new kiln roofs and oasts in Sussex. We couldn’t have done any of it without our hard-working team.

Kent Life Magazine

Our very own Dude was also interviewed for Kent Life Magazine’s piece – 4 Kent Craftspeople: from blacksmith to woodcarver. It was an honour to feature alongside fellow traditional businesses including bespoke woodcarving, spinning, and a blacksmith. What we all have in common is a passion for bespoke work, attention to detail and respect for traditional tools and techniques. So thanks to Kent Life Magazine for showcasing true craftspeople like ourselves.

Dude and Arnette Kent life Magazine
photo: Manu Palomeque

Traditional oast cowl construction

We’ve been on the ground on many sites doing not just restoration but complete oast cowl construction. We wanted to give you a look at the care, commitment and dedication to the craft you only get with a company with over 70 years of experience. You can follow us on Instagram or Facebook to watch us in action. See below some of the painstaking tasks of completing a new kiln roof, timber work, and the blacking phase. We’ve been lucky with the weather and have been enjoying some great views across the Sussex countryside.

 

Ecclesiastical and Heritage World Magazine

We were also featured in Ecclesiastical and Heritage World Magazine last month. The oast cowl styles standing proudly atop traditional oast houses can be spotted across the Sussex, Kent and Hereford & Worcestershire countryside. Each county has a unique style that is stuck to and we love how these styles tell a story about our countryside’s history and are very much a part of our heritage, so we were delighted to be featured.

Autumn shows no signs of slowing down, but we work year-round and now’s the perfect time to prepare your roof and oast cowl for winter, so get in touch to chat about your needs.