A branchline in Kent serving the High Weald
The construction of this fascinating branch line was resisted for many years by the South Eastern Railway, but eventually it opened in 1893. Meandering through the High Weald of Kent and landscapes of quiet hilltop villages, hop gardens and deeply wooded valleys, this delightful rural backwater served the communities of Horsmonden, Goudhurst, Cranbrook and Hawkhurst for 68 years.
Farmers, hop-growers, tradesmen and locals made good use of the line, but perhaps its most famous association is with the hop-picking season when hundreds of Londoners travelled down each September to rural Kent on their annual working holiday.
Route through Horsmonden Parish
The branchline enters Horsmonden Parish just after Mousetrap Lane forming the Parish border and passing parallel to Churn Lane and south of August Pitts Farm.
There was an accommodation crossing on the drive to August Pitts Farm. In 1938 the branch freight would stop here to load hop pockets into box wagons.
Churn Lane had a level crossing and siding called Churn Siding which was used for storing wagons awaiting repair or scrap from 1940.
After passing under a bridge at Yew Tree Green Road it climbed to 1 in 66 and it is here the laden Hop Pickers Specials would sometimes struggle and slip. The track levelled on an embankment averaging over 40ft at Swigs Hole. A bridge crossed the lane to Swigs Hole Farm before reaching the cutting and a short 86 yard tunnel under Maidstone Road.
A deep cutting passed under a small bridge at Back Lane and then on to Horsmonden Station, after a 43/8 mile journey from Paddock Wood Station. The line continued over a plate girder bridge next to the station over Station Road (now Goudhurst Road) and crossed Brick Kiln Road by another plate girder bridge.
A level crossing took the line over Smallbridge Road and through hop gardens before finally leaving the Parish after crossing the River Teise. Goudhurst Station was the next stop.
The Hawkhurst branch was arguably the most charming branch line on the Southern, traversing some of the most pictureque scenery in Kent.