diamond geezer

 Monday, October 29, 2012

South Downs Way: Devil's Dyke to Ditchling Beacon
6 miles [map] [route] [ten photos]

It's surprisingly easy to get to Devil's Dyke, which is somewhat surprising given it's two miles beyond the edge of Brighton in the middle of nowhere. But there is a regular bus service up to the top of the South Downs, at this time of year weekends only. The number 77 runs eight times a day, from the heart of the city and from just outside the station. If you wave your rail ticket at the driver he's supposed to offer you money off, although that's difficult if the barrier at Brighton has just eaten your ticket. But 20 minutes later you could be stepping off at the bus stop on the ridge, and blimey look at those views, and whoa isn't it windy?

Devil's Dyke is the largest dry valley in the UK. Some say it was dug by the devil himself, with a very big spade, but in truth it was carved out naturally by permafrost meltwater. Today it curves for just under a mile down to the village of Poynings, a narrow grassy chasm in places 100 metres deep. And it's very pretty. An Iron Age hillfort was built on the adjacent plateau, defended on three sides by a sheer drop, though mere traces of its ramparts are all that remain. The Victorians were so taken with Devil's Dyke that an entire entertainment industry grew up around it, including a fairground and a funicular railway. There was even a cablecar across the chasm, linking nowhere to nowhere except for the sheer hell of it, which sounds familiar. No such extravagances today, just a mobile phone mast and a pub (which is much nicer on the inside than the outside).

The lofty elevation attracts glider pilots, soaring silently across the grassland, as well as enthusiasts with model aircraft to fly. For larger craft look carefully to the north and you can just make out proper commercial traffic coming into land at Gatwick. That's miles away, but the view from the escarpment across the Lower Weald is amazing. A patchwork of towns and fields and villages stretches off into the distance, seemingly flat as a pancake, until the North Downs rise up like a low blur on the horizon. The lack of shelter means it can be utterly windswept up here, as it was on Saturday, which made the presence of an ice cream van almost inexplicable. "Chill out" said the sign above the door, which it was impossible not to do, and so the crowds of 99-buyers stayed away.

The South Downs Way departs by following Summer Down, a ridge on the Brighton side of the dry valley. Again there are fine views to the north, this time through a gap between hilltops. It was at this point that I spotted my first rainbow of the afternoon, a faint arc grounded somewhere in the vicinity of Hassocks. How pretty, I thought, unaware that I'd see ten separate rainbows by the end of the afternoon and that this was merely the precursor to a heavy shower. It was drizzling by Saddlescombe, so the detour through a muddy farmyard to see the Donkey Wheel didn't appeal. If you have better weather, turn off to the right just after the organic refreshment room with the yummy cakes.

Up to this point there had been plenty of walkers but beyond it there were none. The path rose inexorably up the lengthy slopes of West Hill, which it appears are ideal for cycling down very very fast. I was bemused to see a line of gentlemen with white flags walking slowly four abreast through the field on the right. I assumed they were scaring pheasants or preparing the way for the local hunt, but was forced to reconsider when two deer ran by and were summarily ignored. A further gentleman with an orange flag stood on the edge of the escarpment staring out across the suburbs of Brighton, beyond which the English Channel glinted in the sunlight. Alas the track downhill was a bit of a mudbath, churned up by hooves from the adjacent riding school, and made less comfortable still by a sudden hailstorm.

The path has to descend to cross the A23, the main road into Brighton, which nips through a gap in the Downs in a not entirely beautiful way. Thankfully the road beyond has been safely blocked off, a winding lane up into the heart of Pyecombe village and its 12th century Grade I listed church. The next half mile passes up the middle of a golf course, which must have one of the best views in the South East, and then past some inquisitive friendly sheep. On the edge of the ridge overlooking the village of Clayton are two famous windmills, named Jack and Jill. As I approached they were briefly silhouetted against an ever-darkening sky, which soon gushed forth in another heavy shower. The path around the front of the mills was the muddiest yet, and alas Jill is only open to the public on summer Sundays.

The last two miles of this walk are an almost straight run along the top of the ridge. Brighton's still visible across the fields to the south, but the main attraction is still the view to the north across miles of the Lower Weald. The drop's fairly precipitous, as grassy slopes go, so only a couple of footpaths break off to descend to Underhill Road below. The track is churned up at present, and a bit of a trial to plod along. But the lane opens out halfway into broad undulating uplands lined by the occasional windblown tree and dew pond. Here's where I spotted rainbows six to ten, but thankfully the journey to the summit of Ditchling Beacon stayed dry. Close to the car park the path got busy again with short-distance ramblers, but few stepped off the main track to the triangulation point. The Beacon here is four metres higher than The View From The Shard, and what it lacks in city rooftops it makes up for with wow.

The road over Ditchling Beacon is a key part of most London to Brighton bike rides. Cyclists face a masochistic mile-long ascent up a steep winding chicane before emerging by the car park and frequently collapsing. I wouldn't. He did. A footpath descends alongside, a surprisingly slippery chalk furrow through a nature reserve, leading eventually to Ditchling village (and very eventually to Hassocks station). Alternatively you can continue walking along the South Downs Way to Lewes, but that's miles, or you can wait for the bus. The number 79 runs on Sundays throughout the year, but on Saturdays only during the summer. Best come when it's dry.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs         days
our bow
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards