The South Downs Way via Plumpton
|Length||18km (11.2 miles), 5 hours 30 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours 30 minutes.|
|Toughness||4 out of 10.|
|OS Maps||Explorer OL11 (was 122) or Landranger 198. Hassocks, map reference TQ 304 156, is in West Sussex, 9km north of Brighton. Lewes is in East Sussex.|
This is an exhilarating walk along the South Downs Way, a ridge of South Downs chalk grassland with panoramic views inland and out to the sea by Brighton.
On the way up to the ridge, the route passes Butcher's Wood and visits a church in Clayton and a still-working Clayton Windmill. The friends of Jack and Jill windmill sometimes serve tea on weekends.
On the South Downs Way you pass medieval dew ponds and an Iron Age fort at Ditchling Beacon. After lunch, down below in Plumpton, you climb back up onto the downs, before a final walk into Lewes along the River Ouse, then up to the Norman castle and through its gateway into the ancient High Street.
This is an easier walk, with far fewer ups and downs, than Walk 25 from Winchelsea to Hastings.
Its a great picnic walk, as the pub is at the bottom of the ridge, and it would save you descending from the ridge to the pub, then climbing back up again afterwards
There are summer buses from Brighton to Ditchling Beacon. Or, from the lunch pub in Plumpton, you could catch a bus to Lewes, but the buses do not run on Sundays. See Traveline Southeast. Plumpton railway station is about 3 kilometres from the lunch pub.
You could stay on the ridge, and miss out the lunch pub, a little shorter, and much easier
Just after the windmills, if you have a map, you can can make an out-and-back diversion, south for about 1km to the Chatri - a moving memorial to Indian soldiers who died of their injuries while at the Brighton Pavillion hospital during the 2 World Wars. According to their faith, soldiers were cremated here, or buried at Woking Mosque.
The Saxon Church of St John the Baptist in Clayton has eleventh or twelfth-century wall paintings and an entrance path whose rippled effect comes from stone quarried from the fossilised bed of a sea or a river.
One of the Clayton Windmills ('Jill'), a post mill, with its 1852 'Sussex Tailpole' on wheels for changing direction, is normally open to visitors from 2pm to 5pm on most Sundays from May to September and also at certain other times; check on www.jillwindmill.org.uk.
Ditchling Beacon, once an Iron Age fort, with traces of ramparts still visible, was a site for one of the beacons that gave warning of the Spanish Armada.
Lewes Castle (tel 01273 486 290), and the Barbican House Museum nearby, are open to visitors until 5.30pm daily (last entrance 5pm); admission £6.00 (2010). The castle was built by William de Warenne, who fought alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. Its towers were added about the time of the Battle of Lewes. In this battle in 1264, the rebel earl, Simon de Montfort, with an army of Londoners and 5,000 barons, defeated Henry III, who had two horses killed under him and was forced to seek refuge in Lewes Priory. The Mise of Lewes was signed next day and led to England's first parliamentary meeting at Westminster in 1265.
The church at Lewes Priory was larger than Chichester Cathedral but was demolished during Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. Only ruins of the priory remain.
The churchyard of St John Sub Castro ('Under the Castle') has an obelisk commissioned by Tsar Alexander II to commemorate the 28 prisoners of war who were captured during the Crimean War and who died in Lewes Gaol in the 1850s.
Tom Paine (1737-1809), author of The Rights of Man, lived in Lewes, and his political debating society, the Headstrong Club, often met at the White Hart Hotel. He subsequently participated in both the American and French Revolutions.
Take the train nearest to 9.20am from Victoria to Hassocks (there are also direct trains from London Bridge). Journey time about 50 minutes. Trains back from Lewes to Victoria run twice an hour (hourly on Sundays) and take 1 hour 7 minutes. Buy a day return to Lewes.
Car drivers: Park at Hassocks Station (not free), or a little along the route (free). You'll need to change trains at Wivesfield to return to your car.
The suggested lunchtime pub is the Half Moon (tel 01273 890 253) in Plumpton, which welcomes walkers with a Ramblers Menu and serves food from midday to 2.45pm Monday to Friday and midday to 4.00pm Saturday and Sunday; groups of 20 or more people should phone to book.
If you feel like something before lunch, you may be able to buy ice cream from the van which is normally parked at Ditchling Beacon.
|Tea||There are a number of possible places to have tea in Lewes but the recommended one is the Garden Room Café (tel 01273 478 636) at 14 Station Street, open till 5.30pm Monday to Saturday. Other options include the White Hart Hotel (tel 01273 476 694), 55 High Street, serving teas and other food till 10pm and Ask restaurant (tel 01273 479 330), open till late.|
No major changes.
Reviser's notes : I have removed the suggestion of shortening the walk to go to Ditchling, mainly because, having sought twice, I could not locate the stile and path mentioned in the book to go down into this village but also because it is very unlikely that anyone would want to leave the walk so early on...
Use the online version of the walk, if you have an old (pre 2011) edition of the book.
|South Downs Way||
This walk is one of 9 stages of the South Downs Way - a 109 mile national long distance path - that traverses the South Downs National Park in South East England.
Help us! After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
The [numbers] refer to a sketch map which is only in the book.
-  Coming off platform 2 at Hassocks Station, go down the station approach road, your direction 105°. In 35 metres you pass The Hassocks pub on your left and take the tarmac path to your right, signposted South Downs Way.
- In 25 metres you come to the B2116 and go right, due west, towards the railway bridge but before you reach it, in 40 metres go left on a signed footpath.
- An alternative, somewhat more straightforward route is to go past this footpath and after 10 metres turn left through brick pillars on an unmarked path that continues with the railway on your right for 250 metres till you rejoin the main route at [*].
- For the main route, go ahead on the first path, your direction 190°. Ignore ways off and in 125 metres you cross a tarmac road to go on, slightly to the right, following a footpath sign, your direction due south.
- In 90 metres you come to a T-junction where you go left, your direction 205° with the railway embankment wall on your right. [*]
- In 150 metres a pleasant detour (unless muddy underfoot) is to go through a gate to your left into the Woodland Trust’s Butcher’s Wood (marked in the OS map) and then to keep on, in the same direction as your previous route. In 250 metres go through a kissing gate to rejoin the previous path. 25 metres after rejoining the route, ignore a footpath to the left.
- In a further 150 metres ignore the path on the right which goes over the railway line.
-  After 200 metres you leave the wood and can see the Downs ahead with the Clayton windmills to the left. In a further 400 metres you come to the A273 where you go left, your direction 185°. (There is an interesting turreted house to your right on the far side of the main road.) In 25 metres cross the B2112 and go through the stile opposite, heading due south towards the Church of St John the Baptist, Clayton. Turn left at the hedge and walk past the back of a building on your left for 10 metres to go through a gap in the hedge on your right on to a road, opposite the church.
- Go left on the tarmac road (or if you visit the church come out of the lychgate and turn right).
- In 120 metres turn right on a signposted bridleway through a gap with a wooden fieldgate to its right, your direction 185° on a wide track, uphill towards the windmills.
- In 150 metres go though a wooden swing gate and continue on the uphill path. When you reach the top of the ridge continue ahead till you reach the nearest, white Jill Windmill, Clayton. Its car park is on your right.
- Go past the gate giving access to the car park and onto a fenced path along the left-hand side of the windmill gardens, your direction 130°. Veer right with the path beyond the top, black Jack Windmill and cross over a farm track to an earth road T-junction with a sign post. Turn left, your direction 115°.
-  In 120 metres take the left fork, your direction still 115°. In 15 metres go through a metal fieldgate.
- In 750 metres ignore a bridleway to the right and go straight on through a wooden swing gate.
- Continue along the ridge with extensive views both to the left and towards the sea over on your right. In 500 metres pass a footpath post on your left. In a further 100 metres you pass a four-armed sign in a field on the left, pointing onwards to Eastbourne; this is the Keymer post which also points left to Keymer village. Shortly afterwards go through a wooden swing gate and continue straight on.
- In a further 200 metres, go through another wooden swing gate and past a dew pond on your left, then in 250 metres another one on your right. .
- Continues straight on and after 315 metres go through a gate. In 300 metres you pass a footpath post but ignore the path going right and continue straight on. In a further 200 metres you pass a triangulation point over to your right (marked on the OS map).
- In 150 metres you reach Ditchling Beacon, the site of an early Iron Age fort. There is a car park with a notice about the site and usually an ice cream van. Walk past the car park to the road which you cross. Pass through the gate on the far side, following the South Downs Way sign, with a dew pond on your right.
- In 400 metres ignore a bridleway down to the right and in 50 metres another bridleway to the left. In 160 metres you may be able to see Brighton and the sea beyond it to your right.
- Continue for a kilometre. Ignore a path to the left and in a further 250 metres cross a tarmac lane and go straight on.
-  In a further 330 metres you reach a fork on the left where you have a choice: you can go down to the pub in Plumpton for lunch or stay on the Downs.
- If you do not want a pub lunch you can continue to walk along the ridge and there are many places where you could stop for a picnic (one good one is just before the fork where you can go through a kissing gate to a grassy bank with great views). If not going to the pub, continue ahead for 1.5 kilometres when you reach a five-way footpath sign at a gate. Go through the gate and continue ahead for about 400 metres to the triangulation point where you are again on the main route marked [**].
- For a pub lunch and the main route, take the left fork and head downhill on an unasphalted road, your direction 75°. In 440 metres ignore a bridleway off to the left and ignore all other ways off.
- In a further 370 metres you come to the B2116 and turn left. The suggested lunch stop, 40 metres away on the other side of the road, is the Half Moon pub in Plumpton.
- If you do want to reduce the walk at this stage by taking a train from Plumpton, go on the footpath from the top corner of the pub’s garden and it will take you all the way to the station.
- For the main route, coming out of the pub after lunch, go left on the B2116. In 40 metres ignore the bridleway on which you came down before lunch. In a further 50 metres veer right to pick up the path parallel to the road.
- In 70 metres go over a stile and half right on a clear path, your direction 140°, heading towards the Downs. In a further 220 metres go over another stile and after 80 metres yet another one to enter a wood.
- In 20 metres you come to a larger path T-junction where you follow the path arrow right uphill, your direction 140°.
- After 65 metres take the left fork. In 150 metres as you go up on the edge of the wood, enjoy the view at the opening to your left and carry on up. After another 150 metres, ignore the footpath marked with a yellow arrow to your left.
- In a further 170 metres go through a metal fieldgate and on upwards. In 135 metres you cross a chalk road to go on up, your direction still 140°.
- After 80 metres you reach a bridleway and have returned to the South Downs Way. Turn left, your direction 100°.
- [**] In 130 metres you pass a triangulation point (marked on the OS map) on your left.
- Continue on but after 50m, [!] fork left on a faint grassy path towards some low trees. After 100 metres the path turns half left and begins to go uphill. At the top of the slope pass a beacon post and then a signpost with blue arrows, both on your right. Continue ahead, due east.
- In 450 metres go through a swing gate and continue ahead, your direction 130°. You can now see ahead of you the outskirts of Lewes.
- In 250 metres go under pylons and on through a swing gate, your direction 120°.
- In 110 metres you come through a belt of trees and in 20 metres you continue in the direction of a cluster of buildings ahead, your direction 155°.
- In 50 metres ignore a path to the left and continue on. Keep the edge of the wood on your left and ignore all ways off. In 220 metres go through a wooden swing gate and follow the blue arrow ahead, the wood now further away to your left and your direction 120°.
- 200 metres beyond the gate, ignore a blue arrow on a post pointing into the wood. Continue for a further 200 metres, keeping to the edge of the wood on your left-hand side to a T-junction. Go left into the wood, following the blue arrow, your direction 30°. In 40 metres, you turn right on to the main path, your direction 80°.
- In 150 metres go through a wooden swing gate and ahead. In 50 metres, ignore a footpath leading to a stile on your right. 60 metres further on, go through a wooden swing gate on your right to continue along a chalky road in the same direction as before, 30°.
- Carry on for 450 metres until you reach the A275. Here turn left. In 50 metres cross the road and turn right on The Drove road. In 15 metres you pass the entrance to St Peter’s Church, Hamsey (the church is usually locked).
- In a further 35 metres take the signed footpath ahead, going due south. In 180 metres go under pylons. In 25 metres ignore a path to the left. In a further 320 metres go left through a kissing gate (a wooden fieldgate to its left) and across a waterway, your direction 95°, with a waterway on your right.
- In 280 metres go through a wooden swing gate (with a metal fieldgate to its left). In 20 metres go under a railway line and after 20 metres go through another swing gate.
- In 15 metres turn right to go through a pair of swing gates. Continue on along the bank of the River Ouse which is on your left. You can now see Lewes Castle ahead of you.
- In 150 metres go through a V-stile and continue along the riverside raised path. After 200 metres you pass Old Malling Farm (marked on the OS map) on the opposite bank.
- In a further 470 metres you glimpse the seventeenth century St Michael’s Church on the other bank. In another 120 metres, go through a V-stile.
- After 230 metres ignore the footbridge crossing the river to your left. Instead, go right, with a wall on your left.
- In 80 metres you begin to pass a body of water on your right. In a further 80 metres you pass the entrance to Pells Open Air Pool and a children’s park on your left. At the end of the park, cross the tarmac road (Pelham Terrace) and continue up the road in front. In 80 metres turn left past the entrance to St John Sub Castro Church. Go right on Abinger Place, towards the Elephant and Castle pub visible ahead.
- In 100 metres, with this pub on your right, cross the main road and continue straight on up along a tarmac lane (Castle Banks), your direction 220°, with scaffolding pole railings on your left.
- In 80 metres you come to the top of this lane and at the T-junction with The Maltings opposite, turn right, your direction 255°. In 15 metres you pass a notice away on your right about the Battle of Lewes and then, under a beech tree, a plaque commemorating Tom Paine. Follow the tarmac lane going around to the left towards the castle, your direction 195°.
- In 80 metres you pass the entrance to an ancient Bowling Green, formerly the Castle Tilting Ground on your left. In 25 metres you pass through the Barbican Gate and then go past the entrance to Lewes Castle on your right and Barbican House Museum on your left.
- 10 metres beyond these you come to the High Street. (Turning right here leads in 110 metres to the fifteenth century Bull House where Tom Paine lived and beyond it on the right the Casbah café). But on the main route, turn left.
- In 130 metres you come to the White Hart Hotel on the right-hand side of the road. A little further up, on the left side, is Ask restaurant.
- At the traffic lights turn right on Station Street. In 110 metres you reach the Garden Room Café, the suggested tea place. From there, the road leads straight on to Lewes Station, visible ahead (platform 2 for trains to London).
- But if you have half an hour to spend before the train goes, you might care to visit Lewes Priory. Coming out of the Garden Room Café, instead of going straight ahead to the station, turn right on Southover Road. Pass Garden Street on the left and immediately go left into Grange Gardens and wander through these (parallel to Southover Road) to emerge again on Southover Road at the far end. Then turn left into Southover High Street. At the T-junction turn right, soon passing St John’s Church on your left. Then turn left on Cockshut Road, go under the railway line and turn left towards the priory ruins. Pass to their right. Leave the site through a gap in the wall on the right and then follow a wall on your left. After passing a mound on your left turn left into a path. Then go left over the railway and right to the station.