Much of Lewes district in East Sussex is in the South Downs including beautiful downland villages such as Ditchling and Firle, and the small seaside town of Seaford, as well as the historic town of Lewes itself with its castle perched above. There are some good walks along the River Ouse, especially around the picturesque villages of Barcombe, Barcombe Cross and Barcombe Mills. Plumpton racecourse, Charleston (the home of the Bloomsbury Group of writers and painters in Sussex) and Glyndeboune (for Opera in the countryside) are all in the district.
These two walks together take in the principal sites associated with the Battle of Lewes in 1264. Conflict between King John and his Barons over issues of high taxes and justice led to the Sealing of the Magna Carta in June 1215 at Runnymede. Nearly fifty years later those issues surfaced again. The result was the Battle of Lewes and Simon de Montfort’s first true Parliament. The Battle took place mainly on the Downs above Lewes where King Henry III, his son Prince Edward (later King Edward I), his brother Richard Earl of Cornwall and loyal barons fought against Simon de Montfort, his sons and the rebel barons.
The battlefield walk takes you up on the Downs at Landport Bottom, with views over Lewes, whilst the Town Centre walks takes in visits to Lewes Castle and the Priory, where Henery’s men satyed the night before Battle.
walks originate from Charleston, the Sussex home of the Bloomsbury Group
some stiles, mainly flat
good downland pubs – Cricketers at Berwick, Ram Inn at Firle and Rose Cottage Inn at Alciston, Beanstalk Tea Gardens near Firle
accessible by bus (check the Charleston website and plan ahead!)
Charleston was the home and country meeting place of the Bloomsbury Group, the country home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. The house and garden is open to the public and there is an exhibition gallery showing a mix of contemporary and historical shows of fine and decorative art and a small tea room.
These three walks from Charleston offer far reaching views over the Sussex Weald and towards the nearby Downland ridge whilst visiting some sites associated with the Bloomsbury group.
The first walk offers a short ramble around Charleston whilst the second heads to the attractive downland village of Firle, passing Firle Place on the way. The longer third walk heads to Berwick where the church has murals painted by Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Quentin Bell.
still under development so check the Ouse Valley Cycle Network website for latest
accessible by bus and train
The Egrets Way is a new and developing network of interlinking, safe and accessible cycle and walking routes within the Ouse Valley between the County Town of Lewes and the channel port of Newhaven including the parishes of Kingston, Swanborough, Iford, Northease & Rodmell, Southease, and Piddinghoe.
The South Downs Way intersects The Egrets Way at Southease
The way is already providing some safe and accessible walking and cycling routes, and much of it will be suitable for buggies, wheelchairs, mobility scooters and child cyclists. To date, paths have been completed running from Kingston to Lewes and also from Rodmell to Southease. Now the project is continuing the process of constructing the path, which will largely run alongside the River Ouse.
For the latest information, check the The Egrets Way website by the Ouse Valley Cycle Network.
Cooksbridge, Offham and Hamsey are three villages which sit in the East Sussex parish of Hamsey. With viewpoints from the top of the Offham Chalk Pit and on the approach from the Ouse Valley, these two walks are an ideal way to explore the industrial heritage of the chalk and lime industry in and around the parish of Hamsey.
Hamsey itself can be considered a lost village, the original village, now abandoned apart from the church and a few cottages, lay on an island in the River Ouse. The church in Hamsey, St. Peter’s, was a prosperous church with a large congregation until the Black Death decreased the local population so much that by the 19th century it was decided that a new church (also St. Peter’s) should be built in the hamlet of Offham. The Hamsey church still stands (pictured above) but has a slightly eeerie feel.
Second walk: good choice of pubs and cafes in Alfriston if visited plus Cricketers’ Arms in Berwick,
accesible by the Downsman bus (not Sundays) serving Lewes, Firle, Polegate & Eastbourne
These are two terrific walks over the best of the South Downs near Lewes in East Sussex with contrasting sections through picturesque downland villages giving you a chance to see or visit some historic houses. Charleston House has important literary connections with the Bloomsbury Group and is full of artworks from the early 1900s. Firle Place is a stately home going back to early Tudor times. Up on the downs, it is a walk eastwards along the ridge with views of the sea to your right and the weald to your left, passing Firle Beacon, the highest point of the Downs between Brighton and Eastbourne.
In Berwick, The Cricketers’ Arms is an extremely attractive flint stone cottage with a lovely garden, whilst its church contains the hand-painted murals of Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who lived in nearby Charleston Farm House.
For a slighty shorter walk (missing out Alciston), opt for the Fancy Free Walk and take a path on the left shortly after Firle Beacon, and heads towards Charleston House.
A walk across fields and along quiet country lanes, following the River Ouse to Barcombe Mills, visiting the ‘three villages of Barcombe’.
The original village of Barcombe near the church was largely deserted at the time of the Black Death, when Barcombe Cross replaced it as the main centre. The settlement of Barcombe Mills grew up around the river Ouse, with flour mills being mentioned in Domesday.
Take a short detour to visit the Anchor Inn with its riverside garden and boating hire.
5.5 miles, 8.8k (2 hours) circular walk around Telscombe and Mill Hill
shorter 4 mile between Saltdean and Telscombe
two steep inclines on longer walk
The longer walk rapidly takes you into the South Downs, and then down to the isolated hamlet of Telscombe, almost hidden in the folds of the Downs, which owes its peaceful character due to the wealthy bookmaker and racehorse trainer Ambrose Gorham who left the village to a trust known as ‘Gorham’s Gift’.
Although located less than two miles (3 km) from the coast, there is no public road linking the village with the more built-up coast. The village, a small cluster of buildings around a church dedicated to St Laurence and a picturesque Youth Hostel (mind your head), is found at the end of a winding dead end road which you partly traverse as you head up again towards Mill Hill. It’s a walk across downland back to the bus stop.
The shorter walk starts in the coastal conurbation of Saltdean and takes you up to the common of Telscombe Tye and on to Telscombe.
shorter one way walk between Glynde and Lewes Stations, or vice versa, would be an option
Starting from Sussex’s least likely train station, Southease (surrounded by fields and the Downs so it’s great for walkers!), this walk takes you over a swing bridge on the River Ouse, and then along the river through Lewes Brooks and on to the village of Rodmell.
Virginia Woolf lived at Monk’s House in Rodmell, a tranquil 17th-century weatherboarded cottage inhabited by Leonard and the novelist Virginia Woolf from 1919 until Leonards death in 1969, and now owned by the National Trust. Virginia drowned herself in the River Ouse on 28 March 1941.
From Rodmell, it’s a climb up to the Downs and onto the South Downs Way with panoramic views over the Ouse valley, before a descent to Southease, a small hamlet of mainly 17th century cottages, some thatched, with a population of about 30. You’ll pass its small Saxon church, an unusual church which has one of only three round towers in Sussex, all of which are located in the Ouse Valley and all three built in the first half of the 12th century.
It’s a short walk back to isolated Southease station.
shorter one way walk between Glynde and Lewes Stations, or vice versa, would be an option
Starting at Glynde Station, this walk takes you up to the Downs with wonderful views over the Ouse Valley from the great mound and hill fort of Mount Caburn (watch out for paragliders). Heading down towards Lewes there are panoramic views to enjoy over the town and its castle. Take a detour into this attractive town if you have time. Returning from Lewes, you pass an old quarry with views of Glyndebourne Opera House, before heading past the Elizabethan Glynde Place and the Grade II listed Anglican Church of St Mary the Virgin at Glynde (pictured below) near the end of the walk. The Church was built in the 1760s by Richard Trevor, bishop of Durham, whose family seat was the adjacent Glynde Place. Its designer, Sir Thomas Robinson had visited Italy and was enthusiastic about Renaissance architecture: the church is built in Palladian style.
many stiles, generally flat, with some gentle undulation
A fine circular walk from Plumpton station passing Plumpton Racecourse as you head towards the Downs across fields and stiles. The agricultural Plumpton College is reached after a couple of miles, and shortly after you pass the Elizabethan Plumpton Place and the Half Moon pub with a large garden nestling under the Downs. Head back to Plumpton via East Chiltington, where the Jolly Sportsman, another good pub with a large garden, is a short diversion away.
The Winning Post pub near Plumpton station is no more.