Sussex walk around Berwick
- Credit: Estates of Vanessa Bell and Angelica Garnett, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett
Hazel Sillver enjoys Bloomsbury paintings and wonderful views on this downland circular
The gorgeous church of St Michael and All Angels is nestled at the foot of the South Downs in Berwick village, between Lewes and Eastbourne. The current building dates back to the 12th century, but is believed to have been built on an ancient (pre-Christian) sacred site. The Easter Sepulchre beside the altar represents the tomb of Jesus, and would have been used during the Middle Ages to tell the tale of the resurrection: on Good Friday consecrated bread wrapped in white linen was placed there, but on Easter morning only the cloth would remain. The east window stained glass behind the altar depicts the risen Christ.
Bloomsbury at Berwick
Berwick Church is famous for its beautiful murals, painted by Bloomsbury Group artists during World War II (1941-42). They include a depiction of Christ, angels, and kneeling servicemen by Duncan Grant, who had been inspired by frescoes he had seen in Italy. There are paintings by Vanessa Bell of the Annunciation and a Nativity scene in front of nearby Mount Caburn. There are also works by their daughter, Angelica Garnett, and Vanessa’s son, Quentin Bell. Vanessa and Duncan lived together at Charleston a mile away, the interior of which they also decorated, so that the farmhouse – just like the church – comes alive via the warmth and rich colours of their paintings.
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Where to refuel
The Cricketers’ Arms in Berwick is at the start and end of the walk. This dog-friendly pub has a pretty garden seating area, and a tasty menu made with locally sourced produce. There are vegetarian options, and gluten-free bread is available. If you fancy a cup of tea and a slice of cake, and you are in the mood for more Bloomsbury Group art, head a mile west on the A27 to Charleston, where there is a good café and a house full of enchanting paintings.
• Location: Berwick, near Lewes and Eastbourne, East Sussex
• Distance: just under five miles – two and a half hours to walk
• Terrain: lots of up and down; many paths are uneven and can be muddy
• Where to park: in the parking area just south of the Cricketers’ Arms pub in Berwick village (BN26 6SP). To find it, take the turning for Berwick from the A27, and turn left after the telephone box into the parking area
1. From the parking area head right around the pond. Take the narrow path that leads past houses. Go over the stile and cross the grass towards the church. Go through the gate on the left of the churchyard. If you want to visit the church, head through the gate on the right just before reaching fields.
2. The way divides – head straight on, following the VGW yellow arrow, along the Vanguard Way, which runs through fields. Eventually the path takes you over a footbridge and through a gate. Then – at the crossways and signpost – maintain direction straight ahead.
3. The path runs uphill towards a house. Immediately after the path joins Comp Lane, head right before the house, walking along a bridleway, towards the downs.
4. The path divides into three. Take the middle way, following the blue arrow. The wide chalk track leads uphill. Ignore the path that soon leads right.
5. At the hilltop, turn right, joining the South Downs Way. The path leads along the top of the downs, alongside fencing. Ignore the path that leads right, and eventually follow the South Downs Way through a gate.
6. At the signpost head diagonally right over the grass (there is no obvious path). Once over the brow of the hill, head towards the gate. Go through the gate and along the narrow path that leads down the side of Bostal Hill.
7. Just before reaching the road, head back right and walk along the wide path through woodland.
8. Go over the stile on your left, and follow the narrow path through hedgerow. Eventually the path runs along the edge of a field.
9. Turn right onto Comp Lane, and then very soon turn left. Walk into Alciston village. Follow the road, which curves around past a farm.
10. Head right towards the church. If you don’t want to visit the church, take the path left just before entering the churchyard. Walk through the field alongside the graveyard wall. Go over the stile and head right, before immediately turning left after the hedge. Walk on the grassy path along the field edge, with hedging on your left. In the distance, you will see Berwick church spire.
11. Upon reaching the next field and the signpost, head left. Then soon turn right, and walk along the grassy ridge through fields towards Berwick.
12. The path leads past trees and along a hard track into the village. At the junction, turn left and walk along the road back to the car.
• The ultimate Sussex walking guide - With the South Downs, quaint villages and coastal trails, Sussex is a great place for a walk. Here we round up some of the best