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|
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.
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|
|View back to Lewes with a full River Ouse|