I’ve been curious about Lake Wood caves near Uckfield for some time. In the end, images of mysterious and magical-looking caves were too hard to resist and I headed over to take a look. What I found was a mesmerizing little walk but also a rather melancholy insight into the past.
The lake and woods
Lake Wood has been owned by the Woodland Trust since 1993. It’s a 3-acre lake that is teeming with diverse local wildlife and the surrounding area is classified as “ancient, semi-natural woodland”. You’ll find a series of rocky sandstone cliffs, caves, steps, and a carved boathouse.
It’s a little muddy in winter but you can walk through some of the caves or sit atop the sandstone outcrops and admire the wooded lake. In fact, you half expect to find a hermit, although I didn’t. It’s also clear from some of the more exotic-looking trees, that nature has had a helping hand here, but as it appears to be a stand-alone area on the outskirts of Uckfield, that begs the question, who planted and adapted this area? And why?
Dotted around Uckfield are references to the correctly spelt “Streatfeild” family. They inherited land that included the Lake Wood area in the 18th century and in the 1830s, one Richard Streatfeild built Rocks House and landscaped some of the surrounding estate.
A quick look at the census gives an interesting insight into the eminence of this now almost forgotten estate and family. In 1841, the Streatfeilds were a family of four, namely Richard and Catherine and their then two children. They were served by 12 servants as wells as gardeners and farm labourers. Ten years on, in 1851, Catherine Streatfeild was a widow with three children and a staff of 15, including two lady’s maids, a governess and a groom. Her son, Richard, lived at the estate until his death in 1931. He was a notable and important person in Uckfield society who did much to support and assist his community.
The pleasure gardens
The area at Lake Wood was part of modifications to the Rocks Estate done in the early part of the 19th century, designed to create romantic grounds and walks, with room for a carriage to pass. At the time, Richard would have been in his 20s, so perhaps he developed the grounds with a view to wooing his future wife. And surely in later years, his two daughters walked around the lakes with their suitors or governess.
You’ll find Lake Wood just south east of Uckfield beside Rocks Road. Parking isn’t great as you have to park in a lay-by and walk along to one of the two entrances into Lake Wood, which is the other side of the wall.
The walk won’t take you very long. You don’t even need a map. But perhaps take a moment while you’re here to remember the Streatfeild family, who invested so much into their once large estate and their community and who now, are almost forgotten.
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