Sussex walk around Ditchling Beacon & Stanmer Park
PUBLISHED: 16:36 25 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:36 25 March 2015
On this month’s walk Hazel Sillver enjoys the woods and downland above Brighton
At 248 metres above sea level, this chalk hill is the highest point in East Sussex and the third highest point on the South Downs. Anyone who has cycled its very steep northern face can testify! The road from Ditchling village leading up to it is incorporated into many London to Brighton cycle races because it is famously challenging. From the top on a clear day you can enjoy wonderful views over the Weald and south to the sea. The prominent site was once used to burn a warning fire that could be seen for miles around and signalled danger, such as an invasion from the coast. It also has the remains of an Iron Age hillfort.
This park to the northeast of Brighton and adjacent to the University of Sussex is a local nature reserve. It is primarily open land and woodland (which has wonderful bluebells in April). But it also contains the small village of Stanmer, Stanmer House, a tiny church, a plant nursery, the Plumpton College horticulture school and a cafe.
Where to refuel
Stanmer Park Tea Rooms (stanmerpark-tearooms.co.uk, 01273 604041) in Stanmer Park offer cream teas, breakfasts & light lunches from 10-4/5pm. It is close to stage 7 on the walk. Four-legged walkers are welcome in both the indoor and outdoor eating areas and water is provided for them.
The Bull pub (thebullditchling.com, 01273 843147, BN6 8TA) in Ditchling village does sandwiches and lunches from midday and at the weekend you can have breakfast between 8:30-10:30am. Head left out of the car park and drive down the steep hill. At the junction, turn right into the village. Go right at the roundabout and the pub car park is on your left.
Ditchling Beacon & Stanmer Park - 4.6m (7.5k)
1 – Head east out of the car park, over the road and through the gate. Walk alongside the fence.
2 - After the section of scrub on your right, head right and go through the concealed gate. Head diagonally across the field.
3 – Go through the gate, and maintain direction downhill through the small field towards trees and scrub. The path takes you uphill to another gate.
4 – After walking alongside hawthorn trees and fencing, go through the gate on your right. Head down slope across the field.
5 – The path runs alongside fencing to a gate. After this walk along the edge of the field to a larger gate, which takes you into woodland. Head straight on along the wide track through the beech trees, ignoring the small path to the right.
6 – At the top of the slope you reach a crossways, near a pylon. Head straight on, ignoring the gate on the left and walking along the wide chalk track between fields.
7 – When you reach the clump of trees, you can either now take the path heading right (north-west) to a gate, or make a detour to the Stanmer Park Tea Rooms. If you are detouring, continue south on the path, which will lead you to farm buildings and a gate. Continue straight on along the road past houses to the tearooms. Without (or after) the detour, continue northwest through the gate, walking through a large field alongside fencing.
8 – Before the end of the field, go through the gate on the right into woodland. Where the way divides, head right.
9 - After passing beneath majestic beech trees, walk past a small gate into a clearing. Ignore the path on the left and maintain direction past another small gate and back into woodland.
10 – Here you will reach a gate, followed by a clearing and then another gate that takes you back into woodland. Ignore the narrow path that leads left immediately after the gate and continue straight on up the wide path, taking the next narrow path on the left (be careful it’s easy to miss it!). Between mid April and early May this will lead you through a sea of bluebells.
11 – The meandering path eventually brings you to a meeting of many paths with a barn to your right. Take the path that leads straight on and slightly to the right, bringing you to a wire net fence and the road. Cross over the road and go through the gate. Walk along the edge of the field and go through another gate. Then head right, walking alongside fencing.
12 - The path curves around towards a few hawthorn trees. When you reach them head right, walking up the wide stony track. This will lead you uphill and through two gates (and the farmer sometimes installs a third!)
13 – Go through the gate and turn right onto the South Downs Way and back to the car park.
Good to know
• Location: Ditchling Beacon, near Brighton
• Distance: 4.6m (7.5k) – two hours to walk
• Terrain: Stone, dirt and grass paths; a bit of up and down
• Where to park: In the car park at Ditchling Beacon on Ditchling Road. Alternatively park by the church in Stanmer Park and start the walk from stage seven
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