long man's walking guide to Sussex

A Compendium of Sussex Walks

Page 4 of 9

Bodiam Walks

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Station to Northiam Station and Bodiam Circular (Kent & East Sussex Railway)

  • Two walk choices – 4.75 miles, 7.6k, 2.5 hours, linear route from Bodiam to Northiam (use Kent & East Sussex Railway to return to Bodiam) and 6 miles (9.7k) circular.
  • Several pubs along the way – Castle Inn oppsosite the Castle at Bodiam,  White Dog at Ewhurst Green (walk one), Salehurst Halt  at Salehurst (walk two, closed Mondays, attractive garden with views). Refreshments at Bodiam and Northiam stations.
  • Two historic attractions – Bodiam Castle and Great Dixter House & Gardens.
  • Field paths and bridleways.

cup of teabushistoric attraction

These walks are two of  6 Railtrails by the Kent & East Sussex Railway, a small rural light steam railway. The line gently wends its way from Tenterden in Kent for ten and a half miles, through the unspoilt countryside of the Rother Valley, passing through several stations including Northiam, to terminate in the shadow of the magnificent and perfectly moated National Trust castle at Bodiam.

Both walks begin in Bodiam. The first passes the 15th-century timber-framed manor house of Great Dixter set in one of the most beautiful gardens in England, created in 1910 by English architect Edwin Lutyens and renowned for the use of bold planting and strong colours by the late gardener and gardener writer Christopher Lloyd. The walk ends in Northiam where you can catch the train back to Bodiam or the start of the line in Tenterden.

The second walk includes a good section of waterside walking along the River Rother, passing the site of the Cistercian Robertsbridge Abbey, founded in 1176. Nothing survives of the abbey church, but substantial parts of the monastic buildings are incorporated into the private Abbot’s House which now occupies the site.  The Salehurst Halt is a good stopping point for refreshment before returning to Bodiam across field paths.

West Wittering Beach & East Head

West Wittering Walk (Chichester Harbour Conservancy, PDF)

East Head West Wittering

  • 4 miles, 6k, flat
  • Old House at Home pub in West Wittering, cafe (check opening times) at the beach.
  • buses from Chichester

cup of teabus

A 6km walk along the wonderfully sandy beach of West Wittering and around the sand dunes of East Head with far-reaching views across Chichester Harbour to the Isle of Wight. East Head is the sand dune spit situated at the eastern side of the entrance to Chichester Harbour. It is a stunning example of a natural and dynamic coastal feature which is of great interest to environmentalists and ecologists because of its fragile nature.

East Head is on tidal sands. The walk is most enjoyable at low tide when large expanses of sand are revealed. When the tide is 4.6m or higher it is possible to walk through the dunes instead.

Although this walk is good at anytime of the year,  be warned that the beach can be extremely busy on good summer days, as can the traffic to and from the beach, including West Wittering village itself .

Heritage Walks around Hamsey

Cooksbridge and Offham Circular Walks (South Downs Walks, PDF)

Hamsey Church

cup of teabus

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.

Firle, Alciston & the South Downs

Glynde Place Firle

Glynde Place, Firle

Firle & The South Downs (Fancy Free Walks, PDF)

Cricketers’ Arms and Firle to Alfriston Circular Walk (Guardian)

  • 10 miles, 16k (Fancy Free walk), 9.3 miles (Guardian Walk)
  • Two good pubs on first walk – The Ram Inn at Firle and the Rose Cottage Inn at Alciston. Tea room at Firle Place with limited open hours (open when house is open).
  • Second walk: good choice of pubs and cafes in Alfriston if visited plus Cricketers’ Arms in Berwick,
  • moderate walking
  • accesible by the Downsman bus (not Sundays) serving Lewes, Firle, Polegate & Eastbourne

cup of teabushistoric attraction

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.

Fulking Walk from the Shepherd and Dog

View from Devils Dyke

View from Devil’s Dyke towards the Fulking escarpment

Fulking Walk (National Trust)

  • 2 miles
  • Short steep ascent at the beginning and in the middle.
  • Shepherd & Dog at Fulking
  • Accessible by bus if you walk down the hill from Devil’s Dyke (slightly longer walk); this also makes for a good extension to the walk

buscup of tea

This short 2 mile circular walk starts from The Shepherd & Dog at Fulking, a wonderfully situated pub right under the Downs near Devil’s Dyke.

The pub has a very attractive garden with a stream running through it. The stream’s source is a downland spring. Just beside the pub, look out for the public tap and horsetrough with a tiled inscription from a psalm in honour of the leading Victorian art critic and patron, John Ruskin.

The path up to the Downs starts from a path adjacent to the garden. At the top, take in the spectacular views across the Downs.

To extend the walk, see  Devil’s Dyke: Walks to do before you Die.

Bluebells & Blackbrook Wood

Blackbrook Wood Sussex

Mid Sussex Golf Club,  Sussex Border Path & Blackbrook Wood  (PDF, Plumpton Village Action Plan Walk 10)

The Plantation, Blackbrook Wood and St Helena Farm (PDF, Plumpton Village Action Plan Walk 11)

  • 4.7 miles (walk 10), 6 miles (walk 11)
  • Fountain Inn in Plumpton Green, plus The Plough (just off the Walk 11 route, to the North of Plumpton Green)
  • many stiles, generally flat, with some gentle undulation, can get muddy after wet weather

trainbuscup of tea

Sussex is full of bluebell woods and there are good trails at Arlington and Heaven Farm which charge an entrance fee, but Blackbrook Wood is just as stunning at the height of the bluebell season, whilst this walk also offers good woodland walking at any time of the year, with a profusion of bluebells, wood anemones and primroses in spring.

These two walks offer varied walking to the west of Plumpton Green, starting and finishing at Plumpton Station. The first passes via Mid Sussex Golf Club and along the Sussex Border Path, it reaches Ditchling Common before returning through lovely woodland. It is mostly on level ground and includes numerous stiles. The second walk is more to the North West taking in St Helena Farm. Both take you through Blackbrook Wood.

The Winning Post pub referred to in the leaflets didn’t win and is no more, whilst the beautifully situated Half Moon is further away to the south, nestling under the downs.

For other bluebell walks, try Butcher’s Wood near Hassocks, Patching, near Worthing, and Stanmer Park (Great Wood), near Brighton.

Balcombe & Ardingly Reservoir

Balcombe Viaduct

Balcombe & Ardingly Reservoir (Walking Britain)

  • easy to moderate walking, a number of stiles
  • 8.5m, 13.8k
  • starts at Balcombe train station  on Brighton-London line
  • Half Moon Inn at Balcombe (mid Sussex Times Pub of the Year 2014) and Balcombe Tea Rooms
  • cafe at Ardingly Reservoir Activity Centre with small range of snacks

traincup of tea

This is a classic but mixed rural Sussex countryside walk taking in views across the Sussex Weald, the impressive Balcombe Ouse Valley Viaduct and the wide expanse of water at Ardingly Reservoir.

Built in 1841, the Ouse Valley Viaduct (also called Balcombe Viaduct) over the River Ouse on the London-Brighton Railway Line  is 1,475 feet (450 m) long. The viaduct was opened in July 1841. The 11 million bricks needed for its construction travelled up the Ouse River from the Netherlands.

The more adventurous can also enjoy some watersports at the Ardingly Activity Centre.

For more details about walking at the Reservoir , see the Ardingly Reservoir Walk and the Kingfisher Trail.


Ardingly Reservoir Walk

Kingfisher Trail (PDF) (PDF, SE Water),  Ardingly Reservoir (PDF, West Sussex County Council Easy Access Trails)

Ardingly Reservoir

  • short easy access walk (Ardingly Reservoir walk), free from gates and stiles and suitable for buggies, wheelchairs and the less mobile, and longer less accessible walk
  • smooth wide path with plenty of benches
  • 1.5m, 2.5k, about one hour walking time for accessible walk,  full Kingfisher Trail extends further and is 4k but furthest parts are not suitable for wheelchairs.
  • small cafe serving limited range of snacks, drinks and ice creams at the Activity Centre

disabled access signcup of tea

A walk with views across the water for the length of the route. The reservoir and surrounding area provide an important habitat for a variety of wildlife. A good walk for those with buggies, wheelchairs and kids over a wide compacted path.

The more adventurous can also enjoy some watersports at the Ardingly Activity Centre.

For a longer walk taking in the Reservoir and the stunning Balcombe viaduct, see Balcombe & Ardingly Reservoir walk.

Barcombe Walk

Barcombe Walk (PDF, East Sussex County Council)
Anchor Inn Barcombe

  • 5.3 miles, 8.6km
  • easy walking, some stiles
  • Anchor Inn by the River Ouse and Royal Oak in Barcombe Cross

cup of tea

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.

Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber Hill Walks

Saddlescombe Farm

Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber Hill

Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber Hill and Newtimber Hill Butterfly Walk (both National Trust)

  • choice of short 1.5 mile walk (1 hour) or longer Butterfly Walk, 3 miles
  • Start and end of walk can be muddy in winter.
  • Short, steep ascent to begin but then gently undulating, grassy terrain
  • Hikers Rest at Saddlescombe Farm
  • Royal Oak in Poynings (short detour on Butterfly Walk)
  • accessible by bus

buscup of tea

These walks can both start from Saddlescombe Farm, an almost hidden hamlet sitting at the base of the Downs which is owned by the National Trust along with the surrounding countryside. Listed as a working farm since the Domesday Book and having belonged to the Knights Templar for around 100 years  – there are plenty of historic buildings to explore.

Both walks give you a chance to walk up to Newtimber Hill and explore the downs above the farm, which is some of the best for butterflies and flowers on the South Downs, with Adonis and chalkhill blues, dark-green fritillary and silver-spotted skipper. It’s also good for orchids.


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