Barcombe Mills River Ouse Swimming Update, Water Quality
Thank you to the many people who “liked” or commented on my post on facebook on walking and swimming at Barcombe Mills near Lewes.
There were a couple of people who said they believed that the river was “full of raw sewage”.
I didn’t believe this was possible but I can understand the fear as the River Ouse is in the area of the Southern Water Authority which has just been massively fined for river pollution in Hampshire. So I’ve tried to find the truth about this.
Ouse supplies drinking water The South East Water Company website points out that 65.000 people in Mid Sussex depend on drinking water drawn from the River Ouse. Obviously the water is treated first. They monitor the quality of the water in the Ouse at 32 catchment points.
Barcombe Reservoir is alongside the Ouse in the area I suggested for swimming.
The experience of actual swimmers The general verdict is that the water quality is fine for swimming though not drinking. Feedback on the Wild Swimming website includes reports from people who have been swimming in this stretch of the Ouse for many years without coming to harm. Link to the Wild Swimming website for more info:
Barcombe Mills - Easy Walk, Picnic, Wild Swim, Go Boating - and info on other places to wild swim
Walk by the River Ouse near Barcombe Mills
north of Lewes
This is an easy two and a half mile walk by a river to a pub, the Anchor Inn which offers boating in summer. There are opportunities for picnicking on the way and wild swimming. The walk passes through peaceful, unspoilt meadows with an abundance of birdlife.
I’ve included details of books and websites that tell you more about wild swimming and wild swimming opportunities around the UK.
Start the walk at the car park. It’s a substantial car park but fills up at peak times.
There’s a map below which will allow you to zoom in for more detail to see additional paths you might use to extend the walk. You can also switch to see satellite view.
You can return by the indicated route of the dismantled railway, simply reverse your journey, or venture onto other connected routes to extend your walk.
Don’t miss the remains of the mill area with its weirs and rushing water.
Start at the car park. The weirs are close to this point so you can see them before you start your walk or save them for the end. Picnicking is possible quite close to this point.
A meadow close to the river.
The Anchor Inn on the Ouse near Barcombe Mills
Picture and information from the pub’s website, June 2021:
BOATS ARE OPEN
For hundreds of years The Anchor Inn has enjoyed boating rights over one of the most beautiful parts of the River Ouse, stretching from the Anchor Inn to the attractive Fish Ladder Falls extending below Sutton Hall.
The river scenery is quite unspoilt and is home to many wild birds including Herons, Kingfishers, Swans, Cormorants and Moorhens. The river is also home to a variety of species of fish, which can usually be seen basking on the rivers surface.
The round trip to the falls and back, made in our 5 seater paddle boats.
BOAT HIRE COST The following prices are per person per hour: £7.00 per adult £4.00 per under 14
Life jackets are available for minors.
Boats are open everyday from 10:00am until 5:30pm
Please note that we do not take bookings for boat hire.
Storks, for the second time in 600 years, are making a nest in Britain, and you can see them at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex.
The Knepp Estate is a large farm that has been “rewilded”, allowed to revert to nature with a little help – the introduction of wild deer, cattle and wild ponies and an old breed of pigs, the Tamworth. There are 16 miles of public and permissive footpaths within the Knepp Rewilding project, which cover an area of 3,500 acres, and five tree viewing-platforms. So you can wander a long way. However, your experience will not be like going for a normal country walk. There are no “views” in the usual sense of the word. You will want to stop to watch or look out for wild animals.
We last visited on Tuesday 23rd March and there were still sections of some tracks that were very wet and boggy.
However, we found the tree with the storks’ nest. You are not allowed to approach the tree so you need binoculars to see the storks.
And we found a Tamworth sow with a litter of piglets. The sow was happily destroying the field with her snout.
At one point the piglets ran a hundred yards away from their mother and rooted around on the far side of the field where they were watched by a family before running towards us.
Tamworth piglets on the Knepp Estate
You find the estate a few miles south of Horsham, just off the A24 at Dial Post. You can also enter from the village of Shipley. No entry charge. You just use the public footpaths. See my interactive map below.
The estate information includes “We have a small car park and ask for a donation of £5/day to help manage costs and to raise funds for our project. Payment can be made at the shop during opening hours (Saturday & Sunday, 10am till 3pm), alternatively in the honesty boxes at the carpark.
Please park here: Knepp Safaris, New Barn Farm, Swallows Lane, Dial Post, RH13 8NN and nowhere else on the Estate or village roads PLEASE as it is destroying the verges and compromises road safety.”
What have you discovered at Knepp?
Let me know what you have discovered at Knepp. Please use the comment boxes. If you use facebook you can use the second comment box without further formalities. Please share.
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.
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 Fulking and Poynings.
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”
ABOUT THE WALK
This is a great walk with a feeling that you are walking on top of the world as you have wonderful views of the Sussex Weald to the north and views over farmland to the south towards Brighton and the sea. The view in front of you is of hills rolling away as far as the eye can see.
We walked on a chilly blue-sky Friday morning in early February. It was an exhilarating walk. Near the village of Fulking we saw two buzzards and heard one mewing. Further on we heard and saw skylarks. And near the barn at the end of our walk, looking south to the sea and the wind turbines out at sea there were flocks of starlings wheeling around and dozens of seagulls taking a great interest in the food being given to some cows on the far side of the field by the walk route.
Mud? There has been a very rainy start to the year here in Sussex 2021, so down at lower levels there is still quite a lot of mud about making many paths very unpleasant to walk on. However, when we did our Devils Dyke walk there had been two or three dry days and the only mud we saw was just a little near the first gateway.
One of the great benefits of walking on the Downs is that they are made of chalk and drain very readily so the route was dry and firm and a pleasure to walk on.
DISTANCE As the walk is a there-and-back walk you can make it any distance you want. We walked for two and a quarter miles and returned. The limit of our walk was the the barn and silo looking like a Byzantine church with the the aerial pylon beside it looking like a recently landed Martian spaceship. Most of the route is a section of the South Downs Way so it could be pursued West as far as Winchester.
START/LOCATION Start by The Devil’s Dyke pub at the end of Devil’s Dyke Road which heads north from Brighton. You can get onto this road from the A281 and the Google Map at the end of this article will show you how to do this.
ALTERNATIVE STARTING POINTS To access the route illustrated here you could start in the village of Poynings with a steep climb up to the car park for about 20 minutes to half an hour, or start at the village of Fulking by the Shepherd and Dog pub and take a track up onto the top of the Downs.
FACILITIES At the time of writing ( March 2021) the Devil’s Dyke pub is closed because of covid restrictions. Car park – This is owned and operated by the National Trust so it is a paying car park but free for members of the National Trust. The public toilet at the end of the pub is also closed, no doubt claiming covid as the reason for this. ( I think the National Trust could do far more with all the money collected from motorists to provide toilet facilities and maintain them.)
About half a mile west from the Devil’s Dyke pub you could take a track down to the village of Fulking where the very popular Shepherd and Dog pub serves real ale and good food. It is extremely popular in summer. (Currently closed because of covid.)
The route map I have used here was created using software I have not used before supplied by plotaroute.com. It should be interactive so I hope you have fun playing around with it. Please feel free to add comments about your experience of this walk and this area. Please also share this post. Happy walking!
Note: About walking the Dyke itself – see my post on walking east from Devils Dyke pub/car park.
This is a bridleway, part of the South Downs Way. View east.
View back from the barn, looking north east over the track just walked.
It’s the end of February 2021 and it’s been an exceptionally wet winter with an exceptional number of people desperate to get out in the countryside and enjoy some fresh air. Sadly the public footpaths are almost all now deep in mud. But there are a few exceptions!
Three Mud-free Walks in Central Sussex
I’m giving details of three mud-free (hard surface) walks that I am aware of in mid Sussex together with maps. One of them is 35 miles long from the Sussex coast and into Surrey so you can choose a section to explore. If you would like to add details of more such footpaths in Sussex or other parts of the country please use the comment box to give details.
St Leonard’s Forest south east of Horsham and mile or two to the west of the A23. Footpath and bridleway.
This walk starts at a small car park holding maybe 40 cars and begins with 1/2 mile gentle climb to point B on my sketch map. The path has a hard surface and is approximately 6 feet wide. At the top of the rise the path turns left and goes dead straight for a mile through quite dense woodland. The path remains wide and there is grassy space to each side before the trees begin.
At point C there is an interesting seat carved to display elements of a dragon. This walk does not give you great views but at least the surface won’t pull your boots off at the present time with all the mud about.
The path continues to the north-east but I have not explored this extension. A few weeks ago I was wearing wellington boots and I ventured onto the alternative route back and that was boggy in the extreme. I would not recommend it. To get onto this alternative route you double back to the right at the dragon seat and simply follow the wide track heading roughly South. You will come out very close to point B.
The Downs link former train track: footpath and bridleway
This runs for over thirty miles from Shoreham-by-Sea, with the coastal link, north into Surrey. The route runs through pleasant countryside but nothing spectacular and at times you will find yourself walking in a gully with views of bushes or trees to either side and not much more. Nevertheless you are out in the fresh air and getting some exercise.
Henfield walking north and walking south
There is a small car park next to a pub at Henfield. At a guess I would say it holds only about 8 cars but there are streets nearby where you can park.
The path south from Henfield
View towards South Downs from Downslink path, south of Henfield.
Downslink paths north and south from the old West Grinstead railway station just by the A272 near Cowfold
The car park here holds maybe two dozen cars. I think the route south from here towards Partridge Green is particularly pleasant.
Other sections of the Downs link path I haven’t walked any of the rest of this long track but I’m sure any section of it will afford decent walking, cycling and riding conditions with little or almost no mud.
Use the hand icon to move the map up and down the length of the Downslink. Click on the green square to see the aerial view.
Buchan Country Park
This is situated to the south west of Crawley and consists of 170 acres of mainly wooded countryside. To begin with, signs of careful management of the environment in the tracks that lead away from the car park take away a sense of being in the wild. However, you are soon in more natural woodland. This area is for walking only.
This wooded area is a continuation of St Leonard’s Forest to the south.
The official website states, “This is a Green Flag Award winning Country Park. Owned and managed by West Sussex County Council, it is a haven for quiet recreation and a variety of wildlife. The waters at Buchan are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the variety of dragonfly species. The park is an ideal place for walking, wildlife watching or enjoying a picnic. We have a permanent orienteering course, 2 way-marked trails and sculpture dotted around the park. The Rangers and the Friends of Buchan Country Park run a variety of events throughout the year. Lose yourself amongst the birch trees, wander around the heath and linger in the meadow.”
Many of the paths here have a hard surface but there are tracks through the woodlands which are left in their natural state.
Currently the park is experiencing high numbers of visitors so you should not travel to Buchan Country Park from outside of the local area (in line with current government guidance, February 2021).
This is an extremely popular walking area so at weekends and weekday afternoons you may be disappointed, parking spaces may not always be available.
Opening hours Monday to Sunday 8.00am – 6.00pm The car park, and toilets (access currently limited to one in, one out), are open seven days a week, including Christmas day and bank holidays. There is no need to book a visit.
Ordnance Survey Map
The OS map that covers St Leonard’s Forest, Buchan Country Park and the Downslink disused railway track from West Grinstead to Cranleigh in Surrey is the Crawley and Horsham Explorer Map OL34 (previously 134). It’s available from Amazon. To find it quickly just click this link
Your experiences of mud-free walks
Where would you recommend? Please use the comment box to share your experiences.
Devils Dyke is a extraordinary short valley cut into The Downs ten thousand years ago by the last ice age. It’s five miles north of Brighton. The hill top was an iron age fort.
Most people walk west from the National Trust car park (found just to the north of the Devils Dyke pub) along the ridge of the Downs. There are attractive views from this ridge. You can see the sea to the south, the North Downs to the north (on a clear day) and as far as Chanctonbury Ring (a landmark clump of trees) near Washington in the West.
This view was taken from the car park looking west on Friday 5th February 2021 and is a fairly unusual sight with cloud spilling over ridge and down to the plain and the village of Fulking. The temperature was 5 degrees and when the mist rolled away, which it did in a few minutes, there was brilliant sunshine. The dyke itself is just to the south east of this viewpoint.
Paragliding and hang-gliding are popular here.
There’s a google map at the end of this article and it’s interesting to click on the little dark green rectangle in the bottom left corner to see an aerial view of the “dyke” and the surrounding area. Devils Dyke is just north of Devils Dyke Road which is the road running past the marked Dyke Golf Club.
If you walk east from the National Trust car park by the Devils Dyke pub and onto the hill top you have views north east and south. Recently half a dozen Dartmoor ponies were released in this area. We didn’t see them but you can see a video by Richard Boyd at the end of this post who captured the ponies running in the snow on 7th February 2021. The view in the picture above is east towards the hamlet of Saddlescombe.
After only about 200 yards walking due east you have choices. You can walk around the hilltop on the the north or south side of the small plateau. We walked on and down this path which curves north. Ahead you can see Newtimber Hill which is to the north of Saddlescombe.
Even though there had been a long period of heavy rain in preceding weeks this path was dry and easily walked.
If we had continued along it we would have come, eventually, to the village of Poynings with its pub, the Royal Oak. The food is good here and they serve Harvey’s beer. (Currently closed because of Covid lockdown.)
About 100 yards down this path we did a u-turn to our right to descend to the floor of the Devils Dyke valley. This path was very muddy.
The path comes out at the bottom of the hill at the east end of the actual “dyke”, by a style and gate which is just below the centre of this picture. It can be seen better in the close-up in the next pictures.
By this time we were heading south and continuing round to the west, and heading gently up hill. This track is on the south side of the “dyke”. At the western end, the top of the valley, you get to the minor road that leads to the pub. A hundred yards along the road and you are back to the starting point in the car park.
An alternative route from the style is to stay in the valley bottom and then at the end of the valley take the steep climb out of it and up to the pub.
Climbing out of the valley and looking west. The pub is just behind the trees on the ridge, right of centre.
The whole walk, which is quite short, probably less than 2 miles, at a very leisurely pace took nearly 2 hours.
National Trust Pay car park by pub, free to NT members. Avoid trying to come here at what you may guess will be a peak time. Arrive early, arrive late. Enjoy the experience in hostile weather. 10 a.m. on a beautiful Friday in February the car park was less than half full.
There is a toilet next to the pub which is not owned or operated by the National Trust. It is currently CLOSED.
Opinion Toilets: This is a major tourist attraction. I think The National Trust, which receives a lot of money from charging the thousands of visitors for car parking, should provide public toilet facilities here, maintain them and keep them open at all times.
Car park: The National Trust should also prioritise resurfacing the car park extension to get it back into use. (February 2021.)
Distance a little over 5 miles, or, if you start at the main car park in Arundel, a little over 6 miles.
This circular walk starts by Swanbourne Lake and Tea Rooms and progresses gently up an ever rising and beautiful valley. It then descends to the River Arun and returns along the banks of this river passing the little Hamlet of South Stoke with its unique and petite old church and, later, the very popular Black Rabbit Inn.
There is parking by the roadside opposite Swanbourne Lake. At peak times this parking area may be full. Alternative parking can be found along Mill Road and in the large (paying) car park not far from the bridge in Arundel at the south end of Mill Road. It is a pleasant walk up a tree-lined road from this main car park to Swanbourne Lake.
These notes accompany the sketch map below. The map can be saved to your computer and printed by right-clicking the map (a jpeg file).
It can be helpful to supplement my sketch map with an Ordnance Survey map, Ordnance Survey Explorer series number 121, Arundel and Pulborough.
A Start by the tea rooms at the beginning of Swanbourne Lake which is popular for boating. In the first 200 yards of this walk you may encounter quite a number of other walkers but you quickly find yourself in a deserted and beautiful area which most people never seem to want to explore.
B At point B you can take the left fork which involves a steep initial climb or take the right fork which involves a more gentle initial climb. When we were there at the end of August 2020 to take the right fork you had to climb a padlocked gate. The locking of the gate may suggest a prohibited way, but this is not the case. Arundel Park belongs to the Duke of Norfolk and he has given permission for everyone to walk wherever they like in the park so long as they do not go there with a dog!
D At point D start a short walk by the side of the wood.
E At point E you have views in all directions. Here begins a quite steep descent towards the river.
F At point F The path turns left and for a short distance goes along by the side of a wall.
G At point G go through a gate in the wall and and turn right through woodlands along a path which is quite close to the river. It is an up-and-down path for about a mile.
H At H enter the tiny hamlet of South Stoke with its bijoux church. From the bridge there you have views up and down the river. Just past South Stoke the riverbank is a pleasant place to have a picnic, but beyond here, depending on the time of year, tall reeds crowd in on the bank obscuring your view of the river.
J At J is the Black Rabbit pub, right by the riverside with a large number of spaced out tables for dining and drinks. We have dined there on several occasions over the years but at 2.30 pm on Bank Holiday Monday there were queues outside. So we gave it a miss. We reminded ourselves in future not to go traveling or visiting popular areas on Bank Holidays.
Black Rabbit phone number, 01903 882638
From J just follow the path back to the start.
31 August 2020 davidrobertsblog.com Please share with walker friends.
Swanbourne Lake Arundel
Looking back down the Arundel Park valley from
near point B
Looking down into the valley from near point B
Towards the top of the valley, looking north
Near the top of the valley looking towards the wood at point D
View east from near point E
Entering South Stoke. The route passes left in front of these houses before turning towards the church and the river.
Three beautiful and varied walks with some gentle climbs on the Downs north of Arundel. All can be started at the car park near Whiteways roundabout on the A 29, but alternative walks might be started by parking in the villages of West Burton or Bury.
In general terms the land slopes upwards towards the West from the Arun river at more or less sea level. Whiteways is about 100 metres above sea level. The highest points in the walks are at C, which is at approximately 165 metres, and between D and E on the South Downs Way which is also at approximately 165 metres.
The first walk is described in more detail in an earlier post.
To understand the notes please see my sketch map below. The map can be saved to your computer and printed by right-clicking the map (a jpeg file).
It can be helpful to supplement my sketch map with an Ordnance Survey map, Ordnance Survey Explorer series number 121, Arundel and Pulborough.
Walks on the Sussex Downs near Arundel
Walk One – about 4½ miles
Never a house to be seen, no road noise at the western end, a sense of timeless quiet (once you have left the A 29 behind).
Park in Whiteways car park by the roundabout at the junction of the A29 and the B2139. The entrance is on the north side of the roundabout on the west side. Start walk at point A then follow the route: B, C (there is a finger post at C. Don’t turn right too soon), D, E, F, A.
Seen as you emerge from Houghton Forest into the little valley, heading north towards the end of the small copse
Walk Two – about 6½ miles visiting West Burton
Start as Walk One but at D head north, so the route is:
Park in Whiteways car park. Start walk at point A then follow the route: B, C (there is a finger post at C. Don’t turn right too soon), D, G, H, L, E, F, A.
Walk Three – about 8 ½ miles visiting West Burton, Bury and the river Arun.
Start as Walk One but at D head north, so the route is:
Park in Whiteways car park. Start walk at point A then follow the route: B, C (there is a finger post at C. Don’t turn right too soon), D, G, H, I, J, K, E, F, A.
In Bury is the former home of the Nobel Prize winning novelist, John Galsworthy. He lived here for the last 7 years of his life. He died in 1933. The house is now divided into private apartments so can only be viewed from the outside.
I am writing this in the middle of the second covid national lockdown. In normal times there are three pubs open near these walking routes, The Riverside Tea Rooms by the bridge over the Arun on the B 2139, and the take-away food kiosk in Whiteways car park.
The Bridge Inn near the river and Amberley station at the foot of the hill. Address: Houghton Bridge, Amberley, Arundel BN18 9LR Phone: 01798 831619
Further West along the B2139 is the very old (part 13th C) George and Dragon at Houghton. Address: Houghton Bridge, Amberley, Arundel BN18 9LW Phone: 01798 831559.
Near Bury Is the Squire and Horse pub close to the A29. Address: Bury Hill, Bury RH20 1NS Phone: 01798 831343
On a bright chilly day in mid-October, with a strong wind blowing, we enjoyed a four and a half mile walk on the Downs near Arundel.
There is a large car park just off the Whiteways roundabout at the top of the hill north of Arundel on the A29. This is where we started and finished the walk.
At 10:30 in the morning the car park was almost full but we noticed there is an overflow area. This is a very popular stop for bikers. To the south of the car parks there are a few picnic benches and a grassy area on the edge of the forest. There is a fast food kiosk here.
Because of covid the toilets are closed. Obviously this is a big problem for such a popular stopping place. The area is operated by the West Sussex County Council and it really should fix this problem.
For nearly half of the walk we were well sheltered from the wind by the forest.
A sketch map of the walk route follows the pictures and there is also a Google map of the area.
The third and fourth pictures show the view as you come out of the forest heading north across the stubble field and up to the little copse on the ridge.
Just past the copse, on the northern edge of it, we found these pale blue/violet poppies which we had never seen before. Julie collect some of the fine seeds and we’ll see if we can grow some of these unusual plants.
Then there is a view across to the further ridge and the South Downs Way, marked by a hedge, which for us, heads east, going to the right of the picture, and then there is a picture of starting up this section o the South Downs Way, a gentle slope for a bit over a mile ending with extensive views, right out to sea.
The cliff-top walk from Birling Gap to Cuckmere Haven is one of the best clifftop walks in Britain. It is the walk along the white chalk cliffs of a section of the “Seven Sisters” (seven white cliffs linked together) on the south coast of England, just west of Eastbourne. The full route would be Eastbourne to Seaford.
There-and-back, two miles each way with some steep slopes.
These cliffs feature in some of the most photographed scenes that “represent England”.
The popular starting point is the National Trust car park (free to members) at the tiny hamlet of Birling Gap, just over a mile seaward of the village of East Dean. Avoid peak times as the car park and facilities can be overwhelmed.
There is a visitor centre here, a National Trust cafe, and well maintained toilets.
A short row of terraced cottages remains close to the cliff edge, but since we were last there another cottage has fallen into the sea as the result of erosion.
We walked along the clifftop with wonderful views of the sea, the countryside, the sky, and the clouds. The turf here is naturally short and comfortable to walk on and walkers are not confined by fences which constrain their journey. You can walk freely, more or less choosing your own path.
As an alternative to keeping to the coast all the way you can use the paths inland towards East Dean, for example, which allow you to make a triangular walk if the idea of a there-and-back walk does not appeal to you. After rain the steep slopes become slippery.
Risking the water’s edge route
If there is an outgoing tide, and only if there is an outgoing tide, it can be safe to walk along the water’s edge from Birling Gap to Cuckmere Haven, a distance of about 2 miles. It is important to check the tide tables which are on display at the head of the steps down to the beach at Birling Gap, or check here: https://www.tideschart.com/United-Kingdom/England/East-Sussex/Cuckmere-Haven-Beach/ The official recommendation is to allow three hours for this walk.
This walk should not be undertaken after heavy rains as these often precipitate rock falls which are an ever-present danger when walking under cliffs.
Nearby choices include The National Trust cafe Birling Gap, The Hikers’ Rest (next to the Tiger pub) in East Dean, or the ancient Tiger pub itself in East Dean, situated on the village green. We chose the last of these. This is a genuine old pub with a log fire in winter and low beams. They serve real ales and good pub food.
There is a cafe and pub at Exceat on the A 259.
Walkers’ Map – Ordnance Survey, Explorer Series, No 123, scale: two and a half inches to one mile.
National Trust Birling Gap website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/birling-gap-and-the-seven-sisters/
Extending the walk
1. One we have done was to start at Exceat which is close to the Cuckmere river and just off the A259 west of Eastbourne. There is a paying car park, toilets, a cafe and a visitor centre. From here you can walk west through Friston Forest to the village of East Dean then south to Birling Gap, then along the cliff top to Cuckmere Haven. Having descended to the floor of the valley head north along the surfaced path roughly parallel to the river to Exceat. Roughly nine miles.
2. An alternative is to head west from Birling Gap, cross the river Cuckmere and walk along cliff tops to Seaford Head above the small town of Seaford.
Possibility A: cross at Exceat Bridge ( 2 mile detour).
Possibility B: at low tide paddle across the mouth of the river with no detour. Conditions vary. You may be able to cross without getting your feet wet or the river may be fast flowing and deep and unsafe to cross. You have to make a judgement but you can find tide times in advance. Check here https://www.tideschart.com/United-Kingdom/England/East-Sussex/Cuckmere-Haven-Beach/
Beachy Head walks
Beachy Head itself is just a mile and a half out of Eastbourne and two miles along the cliff top from Birling Gap. You can walk from Eastbourne to Beachy Head, to Birling Gap, to Cuckmere Haven or to Seaford.
There are several car parks close to Beachy Head on the B2103. These are extremely busy at peak times.
David Roberts, 20 July 2020
My books (books I have edited) are primarily books of war poetry (mainly the First World War) and remembrance poems.
I also run a very popular war poetry website www.warpoetry.uk