A Circular Walk via Alfriston

We definitely experienced this walk at its very best. Absolutely perfect Mid-November weather,  clear blue skies, low autumn sun and amazing views.  Any walk would benefit from this, but it particularly suited the South Downs.

The walk is just under 15 miles long and took us around six hours including a stop for lunch.  Starting from the train station at Southease (located mid-way between Lewis and Newhaven with a train stopping about every hour) the route follows the South Downs Way to Alfriston.  Just after Afriston it leaves the South Downs Way and heads directly west towards the Norton farmstead just north of Seaford.  From Norton you head north until you hit the South Downs Way before heading west again back to Southease.

Climbing Itford Hill

The only climb you'll notice on the whole walk is the 150 metres up Itford Hill immediately after crossing the road from the station.  From the top you'll be able to see the Ouse Valley with Lewis, inland at one end, and Newhaven on the coast at the other.  On the opposite side of valley is the village of Rodmell where Virgina Wolf lived and of course died (filling her pockets with stones and jumping in the river).

The view down to Rodmell
The stretch from Southease Station to Alfriston is classic South Downs walking with the route sticking close to the edge of the escarpment. When we were there the low autumn sun was bouncing light off the sea to the south and the landward profile of the cliffs at Beachy Head and Seven Sisters were clearly visible.  We could see right along the Downs, both ahead and behind, with great views to north to the Weald.  More immediately we were surrounded by sheep and cattle whose ancestors had, over the centuries,  grazed on this landscape and produced the short grassy turf which makes walking here such a pleasure.

On a rare sunny November Sunday you won't be walking this stretch alone and as well as other walkers we shared the route with cyclists, horse and mountain bike riders, and paragliders preparing to leap off the cliff.

Before heading down to Alfriston you cross Firle Beacon, the highest point on the walk (217 metres) and one of the highest points on the South Downs.

Climbing up Firle Beacon

Alfriston is a lovely village nestling in a north-south gap in the Downs carved out by the River Cuckmere.  The village apparently inspired Eleanor Farjaon to write the hymn "Morning has Broken" (you need to be of a certain age to have heard the Cat Stevens version) and it's a very pretty place.  It's full of brilliant pubs and tea shops, and if the weather hadn't been so good we would have stopped there for a pint instead of eating sandwiches on the downs enjoying the view.  


My route leaves the South Downs Way just after the Deans Place Hotel in Alfriston (the second turning on the right, going south out of the village) and heads along a tree lined green lane heading west.  After a gentle climb you arrive at the edge of an interesting little curved valley the sides of which are too steep for cultivation, which for some reason hasn't been grazed, the sides of which are covered in lovely tangled old woodland and scrub.  It's a dry valley, probably the result of melt water running across the frozen soil in the last ice age.  

After climbing over the edge of the scarp the route takes across open cultivated fields before a little climb over another steep tree lined valley side and then more open fields before arriving at the little hamlet of Norton.

Approaching Norton

From Norton the route heads north past a water pumping station which I think corresponds to "Poverty Bottom" on the map.  By the time we had climbed up towards the edge of the escarpment and the South Downs Way the sun is really low and shining through the grass revealed a dense network of cobwebs which seems to cover the whole landscape - have never noticed this effect before. 
Very busy spiders
The final bit of the walk is a repeat of the first mile but this time it's downhill and the tide is in so the River Ouse is full.

View back to Lewes with a full River Ouse


  1. Very nice panoramas on a shining day. Splendid walk you had.

  2. Your post on the walk to Alfriston and back reminds me of my trip along the SDW the week before Xmas last year, in a pocket of high pressure,dry weather and sunshine.
    I enjoyed my stopover in the lovely village of Alfriston immensely.
    You are fortunate to live near such a beautiful area.
    Your previous post suggests that you had rather a good years walking in 2012.
    Best wishes for 2013!

    1. Hi John

      You definitely get about!

      We had a magic day, very special weather - it seems to have rained non-stop since.

      Busy planning my walks for next year at the moment and looks like I will be going back to Spain for a least a month early on.

      Look forward to hearing all about your adventures.

      All the best John

  3. Nice pictures! Brings back memories from our walks in south downs...