Sussex walk with views of the South Downs and Devil’s Dyke
- Credit: Archant
Enjoy wonderful views of the South Downs and the Devil’s Dyke in this circular stroll
The tiny hamlet of Saddlescombe sits on the South Downs Way and has a rich history. Documented in the Domesday Book, it has been a downland farm for the past 1,000 years.
The Knights Templar once owned Saddlescombe – the Templar order’s monks lived, farmed and worshipped here during the 13th and 14th centuries. During World War II, Canadian soldiers used the surrounding fields as a training ground. Today Saddlescombe is a quiet hamlet with a farm, a walkers’ cafe and a National Trust office. The chalk downland of Newtimber Hill, above the farm, is rich in wild flowers and is a great place to spot birds of prey, such as buzzards and red kites.
• Distance: 4m (6.4k) – 1½-2hrs to walk.
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• Terrain: Chalk and grass paths, with a few hills.
• Where to park: In the National Trust car park, beside the Devil’s Dyke pub, which can be reached via the Devil’s Dyke Road.
• Bus route: The start of the walk can be reached via the No.77 bus, from Brighton.
For a pub lunch - The Royal Oak
The Royal Oak is a two-minute drive, welcomes dogs (on leads) and does good food. To reach it, head north on Saddlescombe Road and take the first left, which turns back sharply and leads downhill into Poynings village. At the junction head left and the pub is 200 metres on your right.
1 Take the narrow path that heads south, steeply down a bank, from the car park on the southern side of the Devil’s Dyke pub. Follow it downhill, eventually going through a gate. After the gate, head left, walking down the steep grassy path into the dry valley known as the Devil’s Dyke.
2 Walk along the bottom of the Dyke. Eventually the valley curves around, taking you northwards to a gate. Maintain direction through the gate, along a path through hedgerows.
3 Take the steep narrow path uphill to the right, go over the stile and walk along the edge of a field, past ash trees. (If you pass ponds you have gone too far and missed the path!) Eventually the grassy path meets a tarmac lane. Follow this up slope, eventually coming to a metal gate.
4 Go through the gate, across the road and carry straight on under trees towards a house. Opposite the house, head left through a metal gate. The way divides – take the left hand narrow path upslope to a gate and a stile. After the stile, head left, taking a narrow path that leads alongside fencing, up a muddy bank, past a cattle trough, and gradually winds its way up the side of the hill. Look to your left for incredible views of the South Downs, running along to Chanctonbury Ring.
5 After a patch of scrub on your right, the path divides. Take the right hand way, following a path diagonally across the brow of the hill, towards two trees. After passing under the trees, two grassy paths divide – take the right hand one. The paths divide again – here take the right hand option. Eventually you will pass dewponds on your right.
6 The path leads past hawthorn, gorse and oak trees, and eventually brings you to a gate and a stile. Go over the stile into a wide, open grassy area. The way divides – follow the wider, right hand path. This leads along the edge of the hill, with woodland and views of the Devil’s Dyke to your right.
7 The path curves around the side of the hill, past another dewpond. Eventually the path narrows and leads down slope between a patch of scrub and trees. You will come out into the open again – follow the wide chalk path down the hill, past bramble and hawthorn to a gate.
8 Go through the gate and walk past houses. There is a drinking trough for animals on your left, before you reach the Hiker’s Rest cafe and the Saddlescombe farmyard, where there is a National Trust information barn.
9 Walk through the farmyard, past a dewpond and a house on your left, and re-cross the main road. Carry straight on, going back into the field, either via the gate or the stile. Head immediately left, following the narrow dirt track past a cattle trough. The path curves around sharply and heads west, across the field.
10 Go over the stile and maintain direction, eventually joining the chalky path that cuts along the side of the Devil’s Dyke.
11 Ignore the first little path that heads up left and maintain direction. The path will eventually leave the side of the Dyke and take you upslope to join the South Downs Way, which is a wide path leading through scrub.
12 After some 100 metres (before the road), head right, taking the narrow chalky path that leads back down towards the Devil’s Dyke, towards the first gate you came through, and back to the car.