To Steyning via Iron Age Forts

December 10th

Reading this series of blogs about walks around Brighton you could be left with the impression that the sun always shines here.  Not so of course but with good walking on your doorstep you can afford to be picky and with the weather set fair we grabbed our chance and set off on a sunny roundabout trip to Steyning.

Getting the 1A bus out to Mile Oak at 10am, and a 2A back from Steyning at 4.30pm, with a 17 mile walk in between, our Brighton walk series - public transport only rule - was once again complied with (by the way an amazing app from Brighton and Hove bus company gives you live information on the bus timetable). The route took us along the Monarch's Way out of Brighton, joining the South Down's Way at Beeding Hill; west, following the South Downs Way, across the River Adur;  up along the side of Steyning Bowl before taking a slightly circuitous route to Cissbury Ring; north for a couple of miles to Chanctonbury Ring; and finishing, after a descent down the scarp, with a walk along a green lane to Steyning.

On top of the A27
Southwick Hill is owned by the National Trust and apparently this saved it when the A27, which passes underneath it, was built in the 1990s. It means you can walk from Portslade Village, now deep inside built up Hove, along a green way all the way onto the Downs "proper".  Understandably this is a popular piece of countryside, particularly for dog walkers.

Climbing up to and passing over Beeding Hill
The countryside immediately north of Southwick Hill is wonderful, very open, with lots of permanent pasture.  Just past Beeding Hill heading down to the River Adur there's a huge dry valley, a sister to Devil's Dyke further to the east.  Even on a cold December morning a couple of people were sitting on the grass enjoying what would make a perfect picnic spot on a summer's day.
St Bololphs Church
If you manage to get across the busy A283 and the footbridge over the River Adur you should see St Botolphs Church, a tiny Saxon building constructed in 950 when Botolphs was a port and a significant location for salt extraction.  
Nosey sheep at Steyning Bowl
After a short walk along a road you turn left and head up along a green lane back onto the Downs and along the edge of the Steyning Bowl.  On the way you pass through a free range pig farm - very happy looking pigs after all the recent rain - home to some very well endowed Saddleback boars (the pig equivalent of Belted Galloway cattle - the cattle equivalent of pandas!).  We stopped for lunch on a handily placed bench with great views across the Bowl, the Adur Valley and along the ridge to Ditchling Beacon.
Approaching Cissbury Ring
Leaving the South Downs Way we head west along the Monarch's Way until a turn-off south and follow a trail along the bottom of a dry valley.  It's a lovely feature.  You start in a tree tunnel, dark and cold, and emerge after a 100 meters or so into a gently curving valley, deep green from the light of a low winter sun.  
Cissbury Ring
Climbing to the top of Cissbury Ring the views east stretch over Brighton and along the coast.  The huge white cliffs beyond Seaford were clearly visible.  Cissbury Ring is the site of an iron age fort with "ring" describing the encircling earthworks associated with the ramparts. The ramparts enclosed an area of 60 acres making it the second largest hill fort in England and one of the largest in Europe.
Chanctonbury Ring
Not content with one hill top fort we walked a couple of miles or so north- east to bag a second, Chanctonbury Ring, and if anything this is even better positioned.  Young beech trees, replacing those destroyed in the 1987 hurricane, mark a site high on a bend in the scarp where the cliff falls away on two sides.  The views across the Weald and along the edge of the Downs in both directions are wonderful and particularly good on a late afternoon in December when low sun lit up the valley with a lovely yellow light. 
Tram permanently stopped at Great Barn Farm
Descending the scarp we were soon in the shade, in the cold and walking along a very muddy green lane.  This is good walking but perhaps best left for the summer.  Still, there is lots to see with the route taking you through part of 6,000 acre Wilton Park and past Wilton House, a 16th Century stately home and now a government (Foriegn Office) conference centre and, more intriguingly, through Great Barn Farm which, as well as a lovely barn (full of Sussex Red Cattle), has a tram.

On a Saturday the bus from Steyning to Brighton only runs once an hour but it's a busy little town where waiting isn't a hardship.

If you want to see further photographs please follow the link.  If you want to see them on Google Maps please follow this link.

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