The South Downs Way

Running about 100 miles from Winchester in the West to Eastbourne, the South Downs Way is said to date from the Bronze Age. To walk it comfortably, taking time to stay at B&Bs or to camp en route, you need to allow about a week. However, it is also possible to ride it by horse or bike; there is even a South Downs Way Double challenge which involves cycling both ways in under 24 hours! The record was most recently broken in May'09 by Ian Leitch who completed the 200 miles in 18 hours 3 minutes and 12 seconds - nearly two hours off the previous record!

At present, this site focuses on the eastern end of the South Downs Way; detailed sections of the famous - and essential Harveys map are available to view on other pages.

South Downs Way Walk - Friday 7th - Saturday 15th June 2013

The approximately 30 miles section which runs inland from the coast (north of Brighton) from just above Edburton in the West to Eastbourne, provides some spectacular scenery, with views across the Sussex weald north towards Surrey, and South to the English Channel. Walk it, cycle it, ride it, you can even jog it ... but however you travel, take time to stop and look. Travelling from the West, once you arrive at the famous Ditchling Beacon you can start to look out for the stunning Seven Sisters cliffs in the distance.

cows on downs Alfriston PO Southease Church

To view sections of the famous Harveys waterproof map in greater detail, from West to East, click below:

Section of Harveys map from Edburton to beyond Lewes

Section 1 - Edburton to Pyecombe

Section 2 - Pyecombe to Westmeston

Section 3 - Westmeston to Black Cap near Lewes

Section 4 - Black Cap to Lewes, Kingston and beyond

Living in Ditchling gives us easy access to the South Downs Way; within 15-20 minutes we can be at Ditchling Beacon, the highest point along the Sussex South Downs. It's a bit of a hike up from the village and there are several routes, some gentler and longer than others. Probably the most straightforward route is the one that follows immediately below the Beacon Road. To find out more about this walk from Ditchling to the Beacon

click here.

Want to walk the South Downs Way?

South Downs Way sign to Winchester

This summer we decided to spend the August Bank Holiday weekend on a 'stay-home hiking vacation', walking sections of the South Downs Way with our dog, Beau, and coming home to feed the cats each night and sleep in our own cosy bed!

We set off Friday morning and drove to Lewes where we parked the car at the back of the beautiful Victorian Railway Station. Built in 1888 in what has been described as a 'domestic Italianate' style, the yellow brick buildings and traditional platform canopies have been superbly restored and maintained, complete with garden area and a statue! (Evidence of the hand of Dr Beeching has been pleasantly camouflaged by the pebbled-over track that runs along the side of one platform.)

The first railway line between Lewes and Brighton was opened in 1846, further lines followed until Lewes became the major junction point it is today on north-south routes from London to the South Coast at Newhaven and Eastbourne, and east-west routes to and from Brighton and beyond. To our surprise, it is even possible to catch a train from Lewes (or Brighton) along the coast to Hastings, Rye and inland to Ashford International. To find out more about the history of Lewes Station read this detailed review.

The train follows a route through the exquisite countryside close to the famous Glyndebourne Opera House. The wide valleys of the Rivers Ouse and Cuckmere are bordered by the grassy slopes of the rolling South Downs; in places the green is punctuated by gashes of white where the chalk breaks through. Within about half an hour we emerged at sunny Eastbourne, only to realise that we'd left a rucksack on the now-departed train!

Opposite the station are several great sandwich bars, so we picked-up lunch to eat on the Downs. (Something about the Coronation Chicken appealed, probably as it reminded me of similar childhood days out by train to the South Coast.)

You may decide to travel to Eastbourne and stay overnight; further details on accommodation in Eastbourne follows shortly, however, if you would like to keep costs down you could consider trying the

Eastbourne Youth Hostel.

Signposting from the station to the start of the South Downs Way in Eastbourne is not brilliant and I was glad that I'd printed off a google map:

View Larger Map

If you click on 'view larger map' you will be able to see the station and the start of the South Downs Way on one map, and print it.

Directions from Eastbourne Station to the start of
the South Downs Way

From Eastbourne Station we walked up Grove Road into Meads Road and then right into Carlisle Road (you can manipulate the map above to follow our route - the station is in the top right corner). We then followed right again into Paradise Drive where the beginning of the South Downs Way could be seen across the road to our left.

As we climbed higher the wind became significantly stronger. Beau was in his element, but it certainly made the trek a little more challenging as we were walking into what was beginning to feel like a gale. That first day we saw very few people on the Downs, other than the occasional dog-walker and intrepid cyclist. Below us and beyond the town, the sea was churned-up into white frothy peaks, while dark storm clouds gathered inland...

Cloudy sky in East Sussex

It was stunningly windy. So much so that I had to tuck the toggles of my kagool inside the hood as they kept whipping across my face, nearly blinding me. The coronation chicken sandwiches were definitely flavoured with a touch of nostalgia ... pebbly-beach lunches in the 1960s fleetingly came to mind. Apparently, Coronation Chicken is so-named as it was first served to the Queen on the occasion of her Coronation in 1953; for the recipe follow this link.

Beau became a thing possessed, running furiously over the widening downland, while we huddled in the gorse bushes with our thermos of coffee.

We were on our way to the tiny East Sussex village of Jevington, just four miles from the start of the South Downs Way. Check out the google satelite map below to see where the village lies in relation to Eastbourne.

View Larger Map

Jevington doesn't look far on the map, but in the gale-force winds it felt twice the distance. Our route skirted around the Willingdon Golf Club which, as it was established in 1898, must be one of the oldest Sussex Golf Clubs.

The route from Eastbourne to Jevington and Alfriston also passes close by the Seven Sisters Country Park, which comprises 700 acres of open access countryside, with a circular park trail, cycle routes and a river with canoeing facilities. There is a Visitor Centre with a tea-shop and toilet facilities; it is also possible to hire bikes and cycle around the magical Friston Forest.

However, this is a slight digression, as to fully enjoy the delights of the Seven Sisters Country Park, you really need to allow at least a day or two. You could try camping at the small site in the Park called the Fox Hole campsite, which is open from the beginning of April until the end of October.

Dropping down into Jevington was beautiful. The wind faded and suddenly we were in this ancient village, with its old brick and flint buildings nestled in the lee of the South Downs, complete with a horse and rider enjoying the late summer sun.

South Downs Way horse rider in Jevington

It is also possible to camp at Ash Farm, near Jevington; according to reviews, the site is fairly basic but delightfully situated with wonderful views.

The village dates from about 500AD, having been settled by the Saxons. Its name is probably derived from 'Geofa ing tun', meaning 'the settlement of the Geofa family'. Now the village is also famous for one of the finest Restaurants in Sussex, The Hungry Monk, which claims to be the home of the Banoffi Pie. I live in hope of an invitation to eat here! ... Perhaps then I will be able to write a mouth-watering review!

tbc ...

Further info and links to places and sites of interest in the Sussex South Downs

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