Sussex walk near Rodmell village
- Credit: Hazel Sillver
Follow in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf on this peaceful downland walk from Rodmell village, with Hazel Sillver
The late, great writer Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard split their time between their home in London and Monk’s House in Rodmell, which they bought in 1919.
The adorable cottage looks out onto a pretty garden, which contains Virginia’s writing hut, and provided much inspiration for her poetic prose. She composed many of her greatest books here, including To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928).
After her morning’s work, she would take a long stroll up into the downs, during which she would formulate what was to come next in the book she was working on. Perhaps describing the downs, in The Waves (1931) she writes: “The hills, curved and controlled, seemed bound back by thongs, as a limb is laced by muscles; and the woods which bristled proudly on their flanks were like the curt, clipped mane on the neck of a horse.”
Monk’s House is managed by the National Trust and opens between April and October, from Wednesday to Sunday. 01273 474760; nationaltrust.org.uk/monks-house
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The family-run vineyard at Breaky Bottom farmstead is one of the best small wine producers in Sussex. Planted in 1974, the six acres of vines grow in a secluded fold in the South Downs, whose climate is similar to that of the Loire and Champagne regions. The principal grape variety grown is Seyval Blanc, from which the vineyard produces award-winning sparkling wines. Wine writer Oz Clarke has said: “There’s no more beautiful vineyard in Britain than Breaky Bottom.”
Breaky Bottom wines are available at local branches of Waitrose, as well as Harveys in Lewes, Fourth & Church in Hove, and other local outlets. You can buy in bulk from the vineyard (visits by appointment). 01273 476427; breakybottom.co.uk.
Where to refuel
The Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell (BN7 3EZ, 01273 472416; abergavennyarms.com) offers traditional pub fare such as steaks, burgers, and scampi. There’s the odd vegetarian option and a selection of sandwiches. The pub has a garden, and dogs are welcome. Alternatively nearby Lewes has many eating places to choose from.
• Location: Rodmell, near Lewes, East Sussex
• Distance: Five miles (eight kilometres) – two/two and a half hours to walk
• Terrain: Lots of up and down, lanes, grass, and chalk paths
• Where to park: In Rodmell. If you’re going to visit Monk’s House before or after the walk, you can park in the National Trust car park at the north end of the village.
1. From the car park at the north end of Rodmell, walk south through the village, past Monk’s House.
2. Cross the main road, veering slightly left, and head into the southern half of Rodmell village. The lane leads between houses and eventually goes uphill, into the countryside.
3. At the end of the lane, at the signpost, head through the gate, and walk straight on along the edge of the field, downhill.
4. At the bottom of the hill the path leads between fields and then climbs uphill, past hawthorn trees, to a gate. Go through the gate, heading up the grassy path that leads through the middle of the field. Soon, to your right, you will see Breaky Bottom vineyard.
5. Head through the gate and follow the (sometimes hard to see) path along the edge of the field. This soon moves away from the fencing as a sheep track and passes an overgrown sheepfold. Head through the middle of the field, eventually reaching a gate.
6. Go through the gate and maintain direction towards another gate.
7. Go through the metal gate and head right along the wide grassy path. Soon you will be able to see Saltdean to your left.
8. At the post marked with arrows, head right through the metal gate. Walking on the right hand side of fencing, make your way through the field, heading downhill and staying close to the fence.
9. Head straight on through the metal gate, walking through another field alongside fencing. Eventually the path becomes a wide chalk track that leads between fields.
10. The path curves slightly and then climbs uphill, past Breaky Bottom vineyard.
11. At the top of the hill, bear slightly left, joining the hard track that leads between fields.
12. At the crossways, and the signpost, head right through the metal gate onto the South Downs Way, which leads along the edge of a field.
13. The path takes you through a metal gate and then between hedging and high fencing. Then head left onto the lane and retrace your steps back into Rodmell village, to the car.
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