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Life Experience

Walk east from Ditchling Beacon, South Downs Way

The start of the walk

ABOUT
This is a walk high on the ridge of the South Downs with expansive views to the Sussex Weald to the North and across rolling countryside to Brighton and the coast in the south. You often see and hear sky larks in this area.

We walked from Ditchling Beacon to Blackcap Hill and back in early March 2021, a very cold day but a wonderful walk, a total distance of five miles. This route follows the South Downs Way until the sharp right turn turn of the South Downs Way towards Kingston just 200 or 300 yards before Blackcap hilltop. At this point we carried straight on to the summit of Blackcap Hill and and if we had chosen we could have walked on to the East Sussex market town of Lewes.

Mud? In spite of very persistent spring rains the route was remarkably dry because of the quick draining nature of the chalk Downs.

DISTANCE
As the walk is a there-and-back walk you can make it any distance you want. We walked for two and a half miles to Blackcap Hill and returned.

START/LOCATION
Start at the National Trust car park on top of Ditchling Beacon on the ridge above the village of Ditchling. This is a very popular starting point for walks along the ridge of the South Downs so at peak times you will not get into this car park. It’s best to try to go at unpopular times for walks from this point. 

ALTERNATIVE STARTING POINTS
To access the route illustrated here you could start at the very tiny car park at the bottom of the hill. There is a steep footpath from this car park to the Beacon at the top. If you use my interactive map and move it around I’m sure you would be able to find starting points in Brighton, but that could make a walk much too long for some people.

FACILITIES
The National Trust Car park is a paying car park but free to members of the National Trust.Members need to get a free ticket from the machine to display on the dashboard. The road is narrow so there is no roadside parking allowed.
Public toilet? There is no public toilet at the start of this walk. The nearest one is in the village of Ditchling about a mile and a half away.This public toilet is found beneath the Village Hall near the centre of the village on the Lewes Road. I’m not sure if it will be open when covid restrictions are in place.

National Trust could do better
I think it would be a good idea for the National Trust to provide toilet facilities at this very popular car park which must provide them with quite a substantial revenue. It would also be a good idea if the National Trust enlarged this car park to two or three times its present size.

Refreshments
There are one or two shops, a tea-room and two very good old pubs in the village of Ditchling, the Bull and the White Horse. The Bull is the more expensive of the two for dining. All found near the cross roads.

Another good pub, The Half Moon, is at the foot of the Downs at Plumpton on the B2116. Zoom in on the interactive map to see where there are footpaths down to the main road.

ROUTE FINDING
Once you have found the start of the route then finding your way could not be easier. You just cross the road from the car park and head East along the track on the ridge of the Downs. You really don’t need a map if you’re only going a a couple of miles.
However, my map is interactive so you can use it to zoom in and see where other paths connect with the route (some head towards Brighton). You can also view the route from a satellite view point if you wish.

Interactive map

TO MAKE THE MAP WORK click on “plotaroute” at the bottom right. Then you can

  • zoom in to see other paths, for example to the villages of Ditchling, Westmeston and Plumpton.
  • view full screen by clicking the four headed arrow,
  • view satellite or cyclable route etc views by clicking the down arrow next to the route type label (top right)
  • show down hill sections in green, uphill in orange and steeper uphill in red by clicking DISPLAY, then “Hilliness”
  • show current weather and for next days by clicking Menu, “Weather”
  • print the map by clicking Menu, “Print”
  • download the map by clicking Menu, “Download”

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David Roberts

Writer, publisher, music promoter

Born in 1942, I now have time to enjoy life more widely and reflect on my experience, interests, and contemporary events.

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