Walk Reports from December 2019 to date

 

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Henfield – Sunday 4 October 2020

Despite the discouraging weather forecast of rain across more or less the whole country, we decided to risk the walk scheduled from Henfield on October 4th, and indeed, although the weather could not be described as nice, it rained only sparingly for some of the time, and for a couple of minutes, the sun made a half-hearted attempt to appear.

 

We started from the Old Railway Inn and walked north along the Downs link path. This follows the course of the old railway line from Guildford to Shoreham and is enclosed by pleasant woods. After about a mile, we reached the River Adur and walked along its left bank in the direction of Shoreham. This part of the river is lovely and an excellent place for wildlife-spotting. Even in the inclement blustery weather, we saw a large flock of Canada geese, several swans, a flock of goldfinches and a number of house-martins, who we were surprised had not set off for warmer climes. On his recce a few days earlier, the leader had even spotted a seal, which apparently had been in residence for most of the summer. After about two miles walking along the bank, we turned left, through more woods and a few isolated houses to reach our cars again. The walk was led by Alan.

 

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Newmarket Inn to Lewes – Wednesday 30 September 2020

Since the resumption of walks following the Covid-19 lockdown this was to be the first to use public transport to get to the start of a walk and was restricted to six participants, including the leader, in accordance with the Government’s latest restrictions. In the event there were only four of us starting off from the Newmarket pub as one couple had to drop out on the day because of a sore throat. It turned out to be a sensible decision to restrict numbers as the bus was quite busy and it would have been difficult to socially distance if there had been more of us. A long but gentle climb up to the crest of the downs and a short stretch on the South Downs Way afforded wide ranging views all round. Some of the surrounding fields had been recently ploughed, prompting one of our number to remark it was like walking in an Eric Ravilious painting (see Downs in Winter).

 

The weather forecast had predicted an unsettled day and right on cue we were subjected to a short sharp rain shower which coincided exactly with the time we would have sat down for a welcome rest and our elevenses. So, we pressed on down Breach Road, a chalk track, through Swanborough, to cross the C7 road where we stopped for our belated break in the lea of a hedge. The route back to Lewes took us across the flat fields of the Ouse flood plain and along the banks of the Cockshut stream, by which time the rain cloud had passed and we enjoyed warm sunshine. The walk was led by Wendy.

 

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Waldron – Sunday 20 September 2020

Eleven walkers, split into two groups, set off from the quintessentially English village of Waldron on a glorious September day for a roughly 5 mile walk on the High Weald. A beautifully varied walk, much of the route is accessed through conservation areas under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Through pastures with thriving hedgerows, country lanes and woodland, after passing by Dower House Farm, we dropped down to stop for a break on the edge of Kiln Wood, an area of ancient woodland. Joining a section of the Vanguard Way, the walk ended with a climb through meadowland up to the church at Waldron, conveniently situated opposite the Star Inn. The walk was led by Linda.

 

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Horsted Keynes – Sunday 6 September 2020

The Lewes Footpath walk on Sunday 6 September was a 5-mile circular walk starting at The Green Man pub in Horsted Keynes. The weather was perfect and eight of us set off at 10.00 a.m. for a circular walk north of the village. It was a lovely varied walk though woods, across fields, past lakes and fishing ponds and along the Bluebell Railway line; we even got to watch the steam engine chugging past as we sat with our coffee enjoying the view." The walk was led by Diana

 

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Piltdown – Wednesday 2 September 2020

A group of 15 of us set out on a 5 mile walk from Piltdown Pond.  Walking conditions were perfect – dry underfoot, sunny and not too warm.  The inability to share cars meant that the parking availability was only just sufficient – possibly a point to watch for future walks.

 

Piltdown is the place where Piltdown Man was discovered.  This supposedly important “missing link” was exposed as a forgery in the 1950s.  The pond was looking attractive with quite a large number of ducks, the only wildlife we saw en route.  From the pond, we first walked south along a quiet road towards Sharpsbridge for about a mile before heading NW towards Fletching Church along well-trodden paths through farmers’ fields, including shoulder high maize, crossing the A272.  Fletching itself has a number of attractive buildings around the church.  One of the entrances to Sheffield Park lies within the village.  The recreation ground conveniently provided plenty of benches for a socially distanced elevenses.  The church dates from the 12th century but is marred by more recent additions.  It is said to be the church where Simon de Montfort prayed before the Battle of Lewes.  The comedian Jimmy Edwards, who lived in the village, is reported to be buried in the churchyard, though we failed to find the grave.

 

From the church, we turned east.  Here we encountered the only real obstacle other than stiles, a single strand electric fence erected across the route, which will be reported.  We continued on, following an undulating route past many oak trees with acorns littering the ground, until we crossed the A272 again and headed back across the golf course to our starting point. The walk was led by Peter and Janet

 

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Clayton to Wolstonbury Hill – Sunday 23 August 2020

Ten of us set out from Clayton village and immediately clambered up the steep slope of the Downs to Jack and Jill windmills. After taking in the view, we went along the South Downs Way past New Barn Farm, before descending towards Pyecombe. A conveniently located picnic table could not be (and was not) resisted as a spot for a brief coffee stop, before completing our descent.

 

We crossed the A273 despite the heavy traffic, which kindly stopped for us, obviously taking pity on a bunch of ancient Brits! We continued on a gentler climb towards Wolstonbury Hill. This part of the Downs was still covered in a profusion of different wildflowers and the 360-degree views atop Wolstonbury Hill were spectacular. We treated ourselves to a second short break to absorb the views and then descended eastwards, first through downland, then woods and along a lane back to our cars in Clayton. The walk was led by Alan.

 

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Lewes Strolls – Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 August 2020

On 18th and 19th August Janet led a two stroll around Lewes.  The first day was dry and sunny and five of us set off up Paddock Road then through the council car park to the top of the cemetery where we admired the view over Southover to the downs.  We walked down through the cemetery then along Bell Lane and past the Swan before crossing to the pretty path which runs at the back of the Tudor estate.  There are some splendid big trees along the route including a magnificent oak which must be hundreds of years old.  After passing the Southdown Sports Club we followed the path under the A27 and then through three green fields to our coffee stop in the wooden stand at the Rugby club with plenty of well spaced seating for everyone.  We returned via Priory Park. 

 

On Wednesday rain was forecast so just two of us did a shortened version of the stroll managing to get round before the rain set in. The walk was led by Janet.

 

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Mount Caburn - Sunday 9 August 2020

Four of us met in Ringmer to walk up to Mount Caburn. The weather was extremely hot and four others, who had originally planned to join us then, declined to walk in the heat. We made our way along the permissive footpath from New Road, through the shaded wooded area to the foot of the Downs. Here, we climbed steeply up and enjoyed having the Downs to ourselves with not a soul to be seen for miles around. There was a very welcome breeze which cooled us down as we walked towards Mount Caburn.

 

Once we reached this prominent landmark, we stopped for our coffee break and enjoyed the panoramic views in every direction taking in the village of Glynde and meandering stretches of the River Ouse. Today there were no paragliders in sight but we did have to negotiate around a herd of black cattle who were, fortunately, too busy eating to take much notice of us. As we stroll around the ramparts, we stopped to look at some wild flowers and butterflies before making our way back across fields towards the farm track and New Road. Once we passed the wind turbine, we turned right down a narrow, shady path, passed a small cottage until we came out at Potato Lane. Then we walked back along the quiet lane to Gote Lane and back to our cars. The walk was led by Margaret

 

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Lewes Racecourse to Plumpton – Sunday 26 July 2020

Eleven of us, suitably socially distancing in two groups, set off from the bottom of the road up to Lewes racecourse, colloquially known as the motor road, heading for Blackcap by way of Offham Hill and Mount Harry.  A threatening black cloud managed just a few drops of rain before being blown away by the wind that became ever more noticeable as we climbed to the top.  Our original destination of The Half Moon at Plumpton has not re-opened yet so a drink in the garden being off the itinerary, we found our way to a comfortable spot overlooking Ashcombe Bottom, where we were in the sun but out of the wind, for our picnic.  Refreshed, we meandered back to the start by way of the stables at the racecourse.  It is good to be walking in a group again, not least to catch up with all the gossip.  Graham and Hilda were the two leaders.

 

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Wild Flower Walks – 3 and 16 July 2020

After 4 months of lockdown, we can at last get back to organising walks, albeit with a maximum of 6 people per group.  So it’s just in time to run a couple of the Wild Flower walks. These themed walks are for members who are keen to learn more about botany and the range of wild flowers in the local area.  After the very warm spring, the flora is about 3 weeks ahead of normal, so leave it much longer and most of the species would have gone over.

 

The unpredictable summer weather meant that the 1st walk had to be postponed by a few days, and also the 2nd.  The 2-week gap between the walks revealed how quickly things change, with several species noted at the start of the month no longer seen by mid-July.

 

The walk took us up Chapel Hill, the steep ascent being mitigated by the frequent stops required to examine all the specimens en route.  The verges on the upper half of Chapel Hill are rich in flora, as many as 30 species of wild flower by the time we reach the golf club.  Then onto Southerham Farm Nature Reserve, where we are soon regaled with the skylark’s song.  We find many new species as we take the track descending to Oxteddle Bottom.    Here we take a short break and check for birds at the dew pond (linnets and goldfinches on the 1st walk).

 

Then along the valley floor to reach the path that ascends to the Caburn track, the highlight here being the profusion of pyramidal orchids (in full bloom on the 1st walk; mostly gone over by the 2nd) among the carpet of wild marjoram, lady’s bedstraw and myriad other species.  We then return on the track that skirts the golf course and make our way back to Lewes.

 

It has been a very productive morning – we have identified 91 species - and that’s without attempting to get to grips with each and every dandelion-type plant we came across.  We agree that we’ve all learnt about our local patch, while enjoying being out in the glorious downland landscape.

 

The walks were led by Vivien.

 

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Firle to Charleston – Tuesday 14 July 2020

On Tuesday 14th July, five of us met at The Ram, Firle car park to set out on a four and a half mile walk to Charleston and back along the Old Coach Road. Another group of five walkers followed the same route ten minutes behind us and we retained social distancing in the groups. The sun was shining as we crossed the lovely Firle estates with Firle Place, the Grade 1 manor house, on our right. As we crossed fields of crops, we noticed a circular 3-stored Tower on our left. It was originally built by Viscount Gage in 1822 as a game-keepers cottage at the top of a small hill.

 

When we reached Charleston Farmhouse, we were given permission to sit by the farmhouse pond to have our coffee break. Charleston was once the home of artists Vanessa and Clive Bell and Duncan Grant and a meeting place for the Bloomsbury group of artists. We enjoyed the tranquillity of the pond before continuing on our way to Tilton Farm and on to the Old Coach Road which links the villages of Firle and Alfriston.  With wonderful views of the South Downs on our left, we made our way back to Firle village. Here some of us enjoyed a drink at The Ram Inn before going home. The walk was led by Margaret.

 

 

Jevington – Sunday 8 March 2020

Sunday’s Footpaths Group walk began in Jevington. From the village car park, we climbed steadily up the track leading to Bourne Hill, the views becoming ever more spectacular as we gained height, despite the moderate visibility. We turned right where the path crossed the Wealdway and after a short distance headed downhill into woodland. The loggers had been at work felling trees because of ash die-back disease and walking proved difficult.

 

We sat on some convenient logs for a short rest and coffee, and then climbed uphill again to rejoin the Wealdway. The skies cleared but the wind was fierce as we tramped across the high ground towards the Butts Brow car park and then on to the appropriately named Cold Crouch.  Bearing left, we picked up the 1066 Country Walk footpath which took us downhill out of the wind, with easy walking over pleasant grassland, to our starting point in Jevington. The walk was led by Anne, with invaluable assistance from Alan and Graham.

 

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Litlington – Sunday 23 February 2020

Twelve intrepid walkers braved the gale-force winds, driving rain and mist to join the four-mile, circular walk around Litlington. From the Plough and Harrow, we turned right until we reached the entrance to Clapham Farm. Here we continued up the track, passing some farm buildings on our way. After a mile, we entered the woods and kept to the main path ahead. At the fingerpost, we turned left towards Lullington Heath Nature Reserve - one of the largest and best-preserved chalk heaths in Britain. It is designated a Special Area of Conservation mainly because of the rich variety of orchids, chalk flowers and wildlife that can be found there.

 

We found a sheltered area for our coffee break.  There was even a fallen tree to sit on.  Once we reached the top of the rise on Lullington Heath we would have been afforded magnificent views in all directions on a fine day but we did stop to admire the beautiful Winchester Pond, an ideal picnic stop on a better day. We then made our way downhill to Littlington with the full force of the wind in our faces, passing the Long Man Brewery on Church Farm and back to our cars. Some people had a drink at the pub. Everyone enjoyed this invigorating walk which was led by Jeannette.

 

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Kingston to Lewes – Wednesday 19 February 2020

Another walk that had to be moved.  This time from the boggy lowlands of the Ouse Valley between Iford and Lewes to the higher, drier land between Kingston and Lewes.  Seven of us clambered onto the 123 bus to Newhaven.  It was 9 o’clock in the morning and we were the only passengers.  We alighted in Kingston and walked up The Street to the church, passed through the churchyard, crossed over the playing field and found our way onto Kingston Ridge.  The houses along this road are set back from the road to a greater or lesser extent and most have large gardens in keeping with the times that these houses were built when there was no pressure to cram as many housing units into a plot of land as possible.  Of course, these houses were not built as an estate but over the course of many years, starting in the late Victorian times, I guess, and continuing on to present times.  Large and impressive Victorian and Edwardian houses are followed by pointy roofed Scandinavian style houses.  A few of them are quite ghastly. 

 

Climbing up Jugg’s Road and past the mock-windmill the whole of the lower Ouse valley is spread out below.  It seemed to be windless but the plume of whatever it is that comes out of the Newhaven incinerator was pointing horizontally east.  Skylarks performed magnificently overhead before we continued on, following Jugg’s Road over the by-pass and into Lewes.  The walk ended in Fuego Lounge with coffee and various cakes to taste.  Hilda and Graham led the way.

 

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Falmer to Lewes – Tuesday 4 February 2020

The sun shone and the wind blew on the seven walkers who set off from Falmer train station to walk to Lewes across the top of the Downs.  We began by skirting the impressive and oppressive walls of the Amex stadium before finding our way to Falmer village where the path beside the road to Woodingdean is an easy ascent onto the Downs.  Half way up we were able to escape the noise from the road by heading east along a bridleway with broad views back towards Lewes.  A short climb took us up to Juggs Road which was our route to Lewes, arriving in town by the Swan Inn in Southover.  The skylarks were to be heard twittering away above us.  Why they were not blown away in the gale force wind must be down to the powerful effect of evolution.  Only the fittest survive.  Hilda and Graham led this bracing outing.

 

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Falmer to Plumpton – Tuesday 26 January 2020

Apart from the unplanned encounter with some horses and a lot of very squelchy mud, the walk on Sunday went more or less as planned.   Thirteen walkers set of from Falmer and climbed steadily up Ridge Road onto The Downs north of the village.  The wide-ranging views to the coast were limited by the general haze and low clouds which foretold the rain that had been forecast for the afternoon.  Continuing on we joined the South Downs Way where three of the group elected to walk directly back to Lewes, a marginally shorter walk than the planned route. 

 

The rest of us continued on to the Half Moon Inn by way of a narrow and somewhat precipitous path down to the road.  At East Chiltington Church it became apparent that we were a little pressed for time if we were going to catch the train at Plumpton Station so the leader decided to take a previously un-walked path directly to the station.  This was a mistake because half way along the path goes straight through a series of horse paddocks each with a ladder style across dividing fences, or gates where the horses had churned up the ground into a lovely gloopy unavoidable mess.  The short cut had turned into a bit of a nightmare.  Previously pristine boots were now covered in mud. 

 

The final quarter of a mile along the road was covered in record time and we arrived with minutes to spare.  A not entirely welcome memorable end to an otherwise very pleasant walk.  Graham was the responsible leader.  And the rain that had been forecast for the afternoon arrived on time.

 

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Downs behind Peacehaven – Sunday 12 January 2020

Prior reconnaissance revealed that the rain-generated mud round Fletching would have rendered the planned walk too unpleasant to contemplate, so the walk was relocated to Peacehaven.  Twenty-three of us began the walk at the always impressive Meridian Monument on top of the cliffs overlooking a very grey and stormy sea.  The fierce gale-force west wind blew us along as we headed east but we soon turned inland and found our way through The Big Park, past the mostly hidden sewage works before a gentle climb through the outskirts of Peacehaven to the footpath that runs to Telscombe where a smattering of mud was encountered. 

 

The mandatory coffee break was taken amongst the gravestones by the church and this fortified the group for the climb out of the village onto Telscombe Tye where the full force of the wind reasserted itself.  This last part of the walk follows the route of the Greenwich Meridian Trail, finishing as it does back at the monument to King George V.  Graham and Hilda were the leaders of an enjoyable and cobweb- clearing outing.

 

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Winter Solstice Sunrise Stroll – Saturday 21 December 2019

The purpose of the Winter Solstice Sunrise Stroll was to watch the sun rise on the shortest day of the year.  Pedants pointed out the shortest day was actually on the Sunday but getting up so early on a Sunday just seemed to be too uncivilised so at a quarter past seven, whilst it was still quite dark, five of us convened on Cliffe Bridge.  The overnight rain had come to an end and the clouds were breaking up, so, with high hopes of seeing the sun, we set off up Chapel Hill.  On the way to the top we were passed by several cars on their way to the golf club.  Surely the bar was not open that early in the day?  Through the car park and onto the footpath towards Caburn.  The clouds were closing in and one large black example rained all over us.  A faint redness in the east and generally lightening skies convinced us that the sun was up and that we could return to town and find somewhere to eat breakfast.  Above us two silhouettes were playing golf.  That is dedication for you.  At Bill’s we were asked if we had booked, which surprised us as the place was only a quarter full, if that.  By the time we had finished our food the place was full of breakfasters. Just another aspect of Lewesian life that we discovered that day.  Not only do the locals eat out for breakfast, they book in advance.  How decadent is that?  Hilda and Graham admit responsibility for the outing.

 

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On Cliffe Bridge – the sky gets lighter.

 

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On the Downs – See the sun?

 

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Blackboys – Sunday 15 December 2019

Braving a weather forecast promising heavy showers, eight walkers set out from Blackboys along a muddy track through Kiln Wood. Turning into Hollow Lane, we followed the road for about half a mile before turning off onto the Vanguard Way along a very squelchy track, which brought us out to the road again. A trudge across a muddy field and a rather slippery scramble brought us to Oak Tree Farm and back to the road, where we stopped briefly for coffee and a snack. Crossing the busy B2192 we joined the Wealdway traversing another broad field, where the rain caught up with us, slanting in on a bitter wind. The shower passed quickly and the sun was shining by the time we walked through New Place Farm, encountering runners being cheered home after a cross-country competition. After a steady uphill climb we reached the main road back to Blackboys. The walk was led by Anne.

 

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Clayton – Sunday 1 December 2019

Eight stalwart members, undaunted by the advance warnings of the prospect of a mud bath, set off from the Clayton Mills car park on a cold but clear day. After record-breaking Autumn rainfall, it was a relief to find the long-range weather forecast for a dry day was correct and we even enjoyed some sunny spells. We set off in a southerly direction on a short stretch of the South Downs Way before diverting off onto another path that took us to Lower Standean Farm. We passed through North Bottom, where we had a short refreshment stop making use of some trees whose bent trunks made a convenient seating area, before climbing back up towards Ditchling Beacon Nature Reserve. Here we re-joined the South Downs Way to head westward back to the car park with the winter sun highlighting the dips and folds of the downland panorama spread out before us.

 

The anticipated mud was less severe than expected, having dried out a little in the preceding week, and one of our number even boasted his boots were cleaner at the end of the walk than when we started (draw your own conclusions about how clean he usually keeps his boots!).

The walk was led by Wendy.

 

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