by Barbara Isitt
Maresfield Parish lies approximately midway between the chalk hills of the North and South Downs, close to the A22 (London-Eastbourne road) and 3 miles north of Uckfield, 12 miles south of East Grinstead and 12 miles south east of Tunbridge Wells. It comprises the villages of Maresfield, Nutley and Fairwarp and the settlement of Duddleswell. The area is the Weald of East Sussex. The countryside is wooded and includes part of the ancient Ashdown Forest. The whole area was once an important iron working industry and this has been verified by the finding of the remains of several Roman ironworks. Names like Furnace Bank, Boring Wheel Lake and Millbrook all conjure up pictures of the past. Today, all three villages in the parish are mainly residential (population in 1994 was 3150). There is no large employer of labour and many residents are either retired, work out of the area in nearby towns or are engaged self- employed artisans. Farming is still an important industry but many smaller farmers are having to diversify to survive. Efforts are being made to encourage high-tech industries into the parish, notably on a parcel of county-owned land off the A272 which, somewhat optimistically, was named The Ashdown Business Park when the venture was first floated some eight years ago.
The parish buzzes with a wide range of activities. It is well-served for sports amenities, each of the three villages having a Recreation Ground which is used not only by the general public but also by football, cricket and stoolball clubs (a description of this ancient Sussex game would require a separate chapter). Nutley and Maresfield villages both have thriving tennis clubs and the former also has a squash court. Maresfield village boasts of an Indoor Bowls Club, two outdoor greens and a popular junior gymnastics club. There are three village halls in the parish which are the venues for a variety of interests including badminton, pre-school playgroups, parents' and toddlers' groups, Senior Citizens' Club, jumble sales and much more. The big community events in all three villages are the Summer Fetes which raise money for a variety of parish good causes.
Each of the three villages has a Womens' Institute and Nutley has a highly successful Dramatic Group. Nutley and Maresfield both have Historical Societies; the latter also has a vigilant Conservation Group with over 420 members! Nutley is in the process of forming a Group.
Maresfield village, the heart of which is a designated Conservation Area, has a newsagent/general store and a small reproduction furniture shop. In recent years all three villages have attracted property developers. Everybody, it seems, wants to live 'in the country' and there are few more attractive places in which to 'settle down' than East Sussex especially in those villages within striking distance of the Ashdown Forest to the north and the sea to the south. In that respect, Maresfield parish, much of which is 'on the Forest', is ideally placed. Maresfield and Nutley are the main targets for potential developers and in the last few years several small estates have been built in these two villages. Many of the older properties still remain and all three villages have their roots in the past. The Chequers Hotel, for instance, in Maresfield village, formerly a popular coaching inn, was built in 1743 but today is a thriving 'up-market' residential hotel.
Another interesting feature on the Ashdown Forest which, incidentally, is a veritable haven of flora and fauna, is a restored and working postmill which is open to the public in the summer months. The area is well-served for spacious car parks from which the visit can enjoy magnificent views of the Forest and of the North and South Downs. Horse riding is another popular pastime on the Forest where there are 80 miles of well-defined rides. The Wealdway, an 82 mile long footpath linking Gravesend and Eastbourne, is close by. A short walk from the car park opposite the postmill, brings the walker to a memorial garden, the grave of the crew of a bomber aircraft which crashed on the spot in 1943. A memorial service is held here each year on Remembrance Sunday. Nearby, walkers can refresh themselves either in the Duddleswell Tearooms or in Fairwarp's Foresters Arms, a haven of rest and good company. Nutley's only inn is the William IV, just south of the village High Street and near enough to the Forest to attract the weary walker.
The parish is laced with innumerable public footpaths through some of the loveliest countryside to be seen anywhere in the country. Keeping these paths in good condition is the Parish Council's responsibility and to encourage 'locals' and visitors alike to walk them as often as possible, it has produced an attractive, free leaflet entitled "Showing the Way" which illustrates all the public rights of way in the parish. The Clerk will be pleased to send you a copy if you call him on 01825 765355. Public transport in the area is limited, Maresfield and Nutley are reasonably well-served but Fairwarp has only two buses a week. However, this is supplemented by a community bus organised by a small group of enterprising residents and this serves not only Fairwarp but also those people in neighbouring villages who are without their own transport.
The parish church, St Bartholomew's is in Maresfield village and although it was enlarged and restored in 1878-79, it retains much of its 13th century fabric. The Fairwarp church was built in 1881 and then enlarged in 1930. The church at Nutley dates from the 19th century and its main feature is its unusually steeply pitched roof. Nutley and Maresfield both have Church of England Primary Schools.
The Parish of Maresfield, although a rural area, is within easy reach of Gatwick Airport and a large number of popular and important centres such as Tunbridge Wells, Lewes, Eastbourne, Brighton and the port at Newhaven. On nearby M25 Motorway, London and all areas north are easily accessible. A list of available accommodation in the area, bed and breakfast and full board together with details of all the tourist attractions in East Sussex is available from the Wealden District Tourist Board on 01892 653311.