Archive for the ‘sussex’ Category

A walk chock full of history across flat marshland and rolling cliffs

Rye to Hastings, East Sussex

Strand Gate, Winchelsea

Strand Gate, Winchelsea

This was quite a strenuous walk: over 15 miles, deceptively easy-going at first across the flatlands of Rye Harbour and the Pett Level, followed by steep climbs up over sandstone cliffs and down into deep wooded gullies. But it was well worth the effort, visiting two charming towns steeped in history, and some glorious coastal countryside rich in wildlife. Including the now-obligatory visit to two wonderful churches, I also managed to pay my respects to a comedy legend, and followed the line of an obsolete defence against Napoleonic forces. All along the route I found evidence of a coastline in constant flux and at repeated risk of invasion.

Halfway to Rye on the train, I realised I’d forgotten my camera. So the pictures in this post, taken with my phone, are a little bit blurry and indistinct, but should give an idea of the landscape encountered on this walk. Think of them as an Impressionist revival.

Start: Rye Station TQ918205

Finish: Hastings Station TQ814096

Length: 15¼ miles/8 hours

How to get there: Rye is on the Marshlink Line between Ashford and Hastings – I went from St Pancras on Southeastern’s High Speed service to Ashford International, then changed onto Southern’s service across the marshes that clings to the coast towards Brighton; Ashford can also be reached by regular (cheaper) Southeastern services from Charing Cross or Victoria. The return from Hastings is either by Southeastern back to Charing Cross via Tonbridge, or by Southern back to Victoria via Lewes


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Giving a warm but windy welcome to Britain’s newest National Park

Polegate to Southease, Sussex

On the South Downs Way

On the South Downs Way

The last time I visited the South Downs, the area was still only designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (I say ‘only’ but being an AONB is impressive in itself of course) and was yet to attain full National Park status. Although the creation of the South Downs National Park was announced in March 2009, and the Authority set up to administer affairs began interim operations in April 2010, it was only in April 2011 that the SDNPA became fully active as Planning Authority for the area. So it seemed appropriate to head back to the chalk hills and steep woodlands to celebrate the culmination of a campaign for National Park status that began in the 1920s. The stunning landscape is defined by the area’s geology: as in the North Downs but in a mirror image, the hills consist of a steep scarp slope facing north and a shallower (but still quite steep!) dip slope facing south towards the sea. In fact the South Downs are part of same geological system as the Chilterns and North Downs, the Weald-Artois anticline that also gives rise to the Weald. The dramatic topography results in steep climbs and stunning views which is why I return again and again. And, of course, for the social history: a plethora of prehistoric remains and some of the most beautiful churches to be found anywhere.

Start: Polegate Station TQ582047

Finish: Southease Station TQ430054

Length: 12¾ miles/6 hours

How to get there: Both stations are on Southern’s network. Polegate is between Lewes and Eastbourne and is around 90 minutes from London; Southease, on the Seaford branch, has an hourly service and requires a change from Lewes to return towards London.


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Amazing engineering, both man-made and biomechanical, in the Weald.

Balcombe and Ardingly, West Sussex

Springtime Sussex countryside

Springtime Sussex countryside; in the distance, a Brighton to London train speeds northwards over Ouse Valley Viaduct

A forecast for a sunny day (well, they got it half right) sees me heading down the Brighton line to West Sussex for another wander in the Weald. The purpose of this walk was largely to take a closer look at a superb structure that I have whizzed over many a time, but at 90mph, which doesn’t really allow for a full appreciation. A carefully planned circular route also took in a number of other local landmarks, together with some stunning (if a little damp) countryside. This wasn’t a massively long walk by any means, but the conditions underfoot and the topography – wave after wave of sodden hills and valleys – left me quite exhausted by the end.

Start/Finish: Balcombe Station TQ306302

Length: 12½ miles/7 hours

How to get there: Balcombe station is on the London-Brighton mainline, about 45 minutes from the capital. Strangely, although the station is managed by Southern, only First Capital Connect services stop there unless you travel on a Sunday (as I did) when only Southern serve the station. Trains on any day of the week run at roughly hourly intervals.


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This one’s all about the views.

Goring-by-Sea to Amberley, Sussex

Which way now?

Which way now?

I’m very fond of the South Downs, as you may have noticed, given that I’ve written about walks in this area before. I’d been planning this one for a while, and on a September Saturday when I found I had nothing much else to do, made a last minute decision to head south and make the most of the late summer sunshine. The beautiful weather was essential to fully appreciate this walk – the fantastic views across southern England from so many points along the route would have been far less spectacular if visibility was reduced. There were some long climbs, and I must admit I was exhausted by the time I reached my destination, but, wow, was it worth it!

Start: Goring-by-Sea Station TQ105032

Finish: Amberley Station TQ026118

Length: 12 miles/5 hours

How to get there: Travelling with Southern again, Goring-by-Sea is on the West Coastway line that runs along the south coast between Brighton and Portsmouth/Southampton, and is also served by direct services from London Victoria, taking about 90 minutes. Amberley is on the delightful Arun Valley line that runs south from Horsham to join the West Coastway near Littlehampton & Bognor Regis; again, there are direct services from London. NB: There is another Goring station, in Oxfordshire, which is of no use if you wish to follow this walk, but it is in a beautiful part of the Thames Valley and the Chilterns so ending up there wouldn’t be completely disastrous. In fact, it’s an area I’m planning to visit soon enough.


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A short walk along cliff tops and beaches on the south coast.

Seaford Head, Sussex

View from Seaford Head

Looking east from Seaford Head over the town to, in the distance, Newhaven

Several times recently, urged on by the desire to escape the noise of London, I’ve jumped on the train to the pleasant unassuming seaside town of Seaford, somewhere of which I’m becoming quite fond. It’s a bustling, flourishing town and although it lacks the grandeur and flamboyance of it’s better-known south coast neighbours, Brighton to the west and Eastbourne to the east, it is equally lacking in the sense of decline and tackiness of so many towns around the British coastline. Seaford was the starting point for a walk to Eastbourne across the Seven Sisters, the spectacular cliffs formed where the hills of the South Downs meet the English Channel; I came here back in April to explore the abandoned village of Tide Mills, along the coast to the west, and returned to Seaford soon after to head east for the first time along the route described in this post. A fine sunny July day seemed a great excuse for a return visit.

Start/Finish: Seaford Station TV481991

Length: 6½ miles/3 hours

How to get there: Seaford is at the end of a branch line, served by half hourly Southern services from Brighton via Lewes and occasional direct services from London


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A fascinating slice of Sussex social history

Seaford to Newhaven, Sussex

Just a quick post this one, because this wasn’t really a planned walk, just an afternoon wander at the seaside that led me to a really interesting site, ideal for those (like me) fascinated by dereliction.

Start: Seaford Station TV481991

Finish: Newhaven Harbour Station TQ449009

Length: 2 miles/1½ hours, but allow plenty of time for exploring

How to get there: Both stations are on the Seaford branch, served by Southern services from Brighton and London via Lewes.

Tide Mills location map

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A lesson in landscape history

Ashurst to Eridge, Kent/Sussex border

I love the Weald, this being the area of sandstone hills between the chalk of the North Downs and the South Downs exposed by erosion of the overlying chalk and greensand layers. Here’s a quick geology lesson, pay attention at the back:

Got that? Good. There’s a history lesson later too, as there are three landscape features in particular that crop up regularly on this walk, each of which helps to tell the history of this part of southern England.

Beautiful woodlands, stunning views from rolling hills that drop into steep-sided sandstone ravines, only an hour from the centre of London, yet you can walk for miles without seeing another person. Not entirely sure why this should be, given that this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, possibly because the two ridges either side have National Trails running along them that attract the tourists?

Start: Ashurst (Kent) Station TQ507387

Finish: Eridge Station TQ542345

Length: 5 miles/2½-3 hours

How to get there: Dr Beeching made this area quite difficult to access by railway, but there are still direct services from London, and a number of heritage steam railways locally too. Both stations are on the Uckfield line, served by an hourly Southern service from London Bridge via East Croydon. Alternatively, travel from London Victoria on the service to East Grinstead and change at Hurst Green or Oxted. NB: There’s an Ashurst station in the New Forest. Don’t go there. At least, not if you want to do this walk.


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Did I mention the rain? Actually, I exaggerate. It didn’t rain all day. Not quite.

Pulborough to Amberley, West Sussex.

A walk along the Arun Valley, taking in centuries of history and spectacular countryside and wildlife. And rain.

Start: Pulborough Station TQ043186

Finish: Amberley Station TQ026118

How to get there: Both stations are on the Arun Valley line, served by Southern services from London Victoria to Bognor Regis/Littlehampton/Portsmouth Harbour/Southampton Central via Horsham, taking about an hour and 20 minutes from Victoria to Pulborough. Many trains divide at Horsham – make sure you’re travelling in the correct part of the train. At the time of writing, Southern are offering a number of internet-only, advance-booking fares for £3 single, so £6 return if you book the outward journey to Pulborough and the return from Amberley. Bargain!


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