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Sussex walk over the secluded downland above Alciston

PUBLISHED: 10:10 26 May 2015 | UPDATED: 10:10 26 May 2015

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Hazel Sillver strolls over the downland above Alciston and guides us on this fantastic Sussex walk

Escape the crowds - the downland above Alciston is secluded and vastEscape the crowds - the downland above Alciston is secluded and vast

Charleston

Charleston Farmhouse is close to the start of the walk. This beautiful house was a meeting place of the artists, writers and intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group, and belonged to the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who created its famous décor. In the mood of fresco painting, they took a brush to anything they could (fireplaces, doors, furniture and walls), colouring it with their unique style. During the 1920s, Bell’s sister Virginia Woolf and other Bloomsbury figures, such as John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster, Roger Fry and Lytton Strachey, were regular visitors. They were a tightly knit bunch (some were related; others married or had affairs with one another) and they got together to talk politics, art, literature, feminism and economics, taking liberal views on each. Charleston was their principal countryside meet for these discussions and today remains a centre for the local arts community. Its key event is the Charleston Festival (15-25 May), at which you can enjoy talks by leading authors. The house, garden and shop are open from Wednesday to Sunday. To find Charleston, turn left at the end of Bopeep Lane, onto the A27 and it is signed on your left after one mile. 01323 811626, charleston.org.uk, BN8 6LL

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Where to refuel

There are two pubs close-by: The Rose Cottage Inn (BN26 6UW, turn right at the end of Bopeep Lane and then right again towards Alciston) and The Barley Mow (BN26 6UE, turn left at the end of Bopeep Lane). The latter has veggie options and an outdoor area with downland views. If you’re visiting Charleston, you can have lunch or tea and cake in their Outer Studio Cafe. Children will enjoy eating further down the road at Middle Farm (BN8 6LJ).

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Good to know

• Location: Alciston, near Lewes, East Sussex

• Distance: 3¾ m (6 km) – 1½ to 2 hrs to walk.

• Terrain: grassy and stony paths; some up and down.

• Where to park: at the top of Bopeep Lane. If you’re heading west on the A27, Bopeep Lane is the turning after the road for Alciston village. Follow it all the way to the top of the Downs, where there is a free car park.

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Route

1 From the Bopeep car park, take the path headed southwest towards the coast, alongside fencing.

2 Where the way divides, head left and walk across the field. The path eventually runs alongside fencing towards a gate.

3 There are two gates. Take the left hand one and walk along the grassy path.

4 Ignore the small path on the left before the gates and go through the gate, maintaining direction.

5 The way divides and there are four different path options. Go left through the small wooden gate. A narrow path leads through shrubbery and downhill.

6 At the bottom of the slope, go through the gate. There is the option of heading right at the post, but continue straight on uphill on the wide grassy path.

7 At the hillcrest, look back to enjoy the views and ignore the grassy path that heads left. Maintain direction, walking along the wide track, which soon leads through fencing to a gate.

8 The grassy path curves around the side of a field. Ignore the signpost and follow this path west. Stand atop the large tumulus on your right and drink in views of the Weald. Then continue west, eventually coming to a gate and the Bopeep car park.

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