17th January 2015

Ponds and wetlands are in serious decline in the UK. Back at mum’s in Catsfield, I did a favourite village walk that reminds me how recently this rural area of Sussex has been a quiet environment. Several ponds and this wetland were created for and by an extremely noisy rural industry- the making of gunpowder! The first Gunpowder Mill was built here on the land of Battle Abbey in 1676. In 1722 Daniel Defoe writes, of this site of the Battle of Hastings and the town of Battle:

One of the waterfalls created from specially dug ponds to power the rural industry of Gunpowder-making

One of the waterfalls created from specially dug ponds to power the rural industry of Gunpowder-making

Wetland, a by-product of 17th and 18th century rural industry of Gunpowder-making

Wetland, a by-product of 17th and 18th century rural industry of Gunpowder-making

The stream between several ponds created for the gunpowder industry.

The stream between several ponds created for the gunpowder industry.

‘famous for very little now, but for making the finest gunpowder, and the best perhaps in Europe’. After many accidents, including one in 1798 when more than 15 tonnes of gunpowder was left too long in the oven and exploded, the licence was not renewed in 1847. Now one of the ponds, the weir that generated power and the wetlands created through excavation etc are a nature reserve where I saw my first and only family of absolutely delightful water shrews many years ago (no photo unfortunately). Today, I heard my first Great Spotted Woodpeckers of the year hammering in these woods. Conditions: Heavy frost overnight, sun and rain/sleet. Temperature: Max 4- Min 1.

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