Tag Archives: trig point

South Downs Way: Falmer to Pyecombe

25 May

South Downs Way sign

Today’s walk was unforgettable, but mostly for the wrong reasons. The start from the A27 between Falmer and Lewes in East Sussex, was inauspicious after the bus driver failed to stop at the right bus stop, apparently he thought I had pressed the button by accident. Guess not many people take the bus to the South Downs Way.

Ditchling Beacon

The walk itself was very good, the hills seemed pretty gentle although one of the hills on this walk, Ditchling Beacon (seen above), is said to be the highest point in East Sussex, but it didn’t really seem like it.

The weather was pretty good too. The sun shone and there was very little cloud, but once again things were a bit hazy. There was quite a strong breeze at the start, but that seemed to disappear later in the day.

I had really been looking forward to this part of the route, I have never walked it, there was so much to see along the route (and nearby) and of course it is close to real ancestor territory (Lewes and Hurstpierpoint to mention but two).

Trig point and Mount Harry

There were three trig points either on the route or nearby, the one pictured above is on Blackcap (with Mount Harry in the background). The views from all three were good, but because of the haze they weren’t as spectacular as they could have been.

There are two hill figures on this part of the route as well. One has been lost, known as Ditchling Cross, it was originally carved into the chalk on the hill side above Plumpton. I took a detour (just north of the path) to try and find it, having found traces of it on aerial views on Google Maps and Bing Maps. It is now marked by an indent in the hill side, the upright being more visible than the cross-piece.

The other hill figure was grown on the side of the hill, rather than cut into it. In 1887 to celebrate the Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee two rows of trees were planted in the shape of a V. From the hill top there is not much to see, and I wasn’t going to go down the hill and climb back up just to get a photo. I have several postcards of it, and it can be clearly seen on Google Maps, albeit upside down.

There were many dew ponds along this section of the route. Dew ponds are a vital source of water for livestock on the Downs, and I shall probably write a fuller description in the future due to their history and importance, especially if you come from generations of agricultural labourers like I do (although I am not sure if I have any hill farmers in my family tree). For now you will just have to make do with the photo below.

Sheep drinking at dew pond

Along with trig points, dew ponds and hill figures, there were also to two windmills (Jack and Jill) on the side of the hill above Clayton, near the end of the walk. Jack is in private ownership (and in quite bad shape by the looks of it), but Jill is open to the public on Summer Sunday afternoon. Another important part of our agricultural heritage.

The walk ended at Pyecombe in West Sussex. In theory this should have been the most convenient part of the walk for me, I could catch a bus home from Pyecombe without any problem. Unfortunately it didn’t go according to plan.

I arrived at the bus stop on the A23 with five minutes to spare, but knew that the bus would almost certainly be late because of the heavy traffic coming out of Brighton. It was late, about 20 minutes late, and to my dismay the driver didn’t see me waving franticly on the roadside and drove on past.

I couldn’t stand another hour in a lay-by with nothing but a bus stop for company and the thunder of traffic passing just a few feet away. Rather than risk another bus passing me by I decided it would be better to get away from the main road and walk about a mile up a quieter road to the next bus stop, where I could guarantee I would be seen.

Keymer Post

The finger post on the left is known as Keymer Post, and it marks the boundary between the counties of East and West Sussex. North points to the village of Keymer (where my grandparents were married), south is Brighton, west is Winchester and east is Eastbourne.

So far I have completed almost 33 miles of the South Downs Way, which is about a third of the total distance, and now I am walking in West Sussex, my home county and the landscape of many of my ancestors. The idea of walking all the way across West Sussex seems almost inconceivable, but it is not much further than I have already walked. After that there is still about 30 miles of Hampshire to go before I finally reach Winchester.

South Downs Way: Exceat to Southease

6 May

South Downs Way sign

Yesterday I walked another section of the South Downs Way (SDW). I have no walk planned for the coming weekend and the weather looks to be getting worse, so I thought I would seize the opportunity and get another section of the SDW under my belt.

This section of the SDW began at Exceat between Seaford and Eastbourne in East Sussex. There is a visitor’s centre at Exceat, with a shop selling souvenirs (including postcards!), a restaurant/tea shop, cycle hire and toilets. The SDW heads north from the centre, with a steep but short climb up to the edge of Friston Forest. The views looking south towards Cuckmere Haven (see below) are well worth the effort.

Cuckmere Haven from Exceat

About three miles north of Exceat is the village of Alfriston. It has been quite a while since I last visited Alfriston (probably due to the infrequent bus services), and as I was only passing through I didn’t spend long there yesterday, just long enough to get a couple of bottles of water and explore the independent bookshop Much Ado Books.

Much Ado Books It is a wonderful bookshop selling both old and new books, that had a nice selection of Sussex books on it’s shelves, including a copy of Thomas Geering’s Our Sussex Parish, it always pleases me to find a copy of that “out in the wild”. It was a shame that I didn’t have long to browse, but I did come away with a copy of Walking the Triangulation Points of Sussex by David Bathurst.

From Alfriston the SDW heads west and then north-west up to Bostal Hill, another steep climb. Sadly by this time the weather had become decidedly overcast, the sunshine had vanished behind a thick blanket cloud and there was a cold wind blowing across the hills.

I wasn’t alone on the hills, apart from a few other walkers and paragliders (jumping off the top of the hill), it was good to see flocks of sheep on the hills. Aside from the cuteness of the lambs, it was so re-assuring to see sheep on the Downs where they should be, and have been for decades, if not centuries.

What ewe looking at?

Continuing west across the top of the Downs took me across Firle Beacon, Beddingham Hill and Itford Hill, taking in two trigs points on the way. From Itford Hill the SDW descended into the river valley (River Ouse), but crossing the river will have to wait until next time, because at the foot of the hill was Southease railway station which was the end of my walk and the start of my journey home.

Lewes from Itford Hill

The view above was taken from Itford Hill and is of the town of Lewes under cloudy skies, with the River Ouse and the Lewes to Seaford railway line in the foreground. It is such a shame that it turned into such an overcast day, compared to the view at the top of this post.

North Downs Way: Otford to Wrotham

1 May

Another stretch of the North Downs Way was completed today, this was only a short section (6.7 miles according to the guide book) because we were limited by access to the railway and impending rain.

The good news was that it stayed dry until we were on the train on our way home, although it was a lot cooler and cloudier than last week. I could have done with a little more sunshine, otherwise it was pretty near ideal conditions. There were some bright moments, as the photo below illustrates.

Blue sky and cloud

The route took us along the North Downs Way from Otford to Wrotham both in the county of Kent. The walk began with a pretty steep climb almost straight out of the railway station at Otford. After that the path levelled off somewhat, and the going was quite easy.

About two miles from Wrotham the path dropped down from the hills and we followed the route of the Pilgrim’s Way along the foot of the North Downs into the village. From Wrotham we had to made a short diversion south to Borough Green to catch the train from Borough Green and Wrotham railway station.

Bluebells near Cotman's Ash

The most outstanding part of the walk were the areas of woodland that were carpeted with bluebells. I saw a few dotted about last week, but they really have opened up over the last few days.

Walking on the North Downs again

26 Sep

My good friend Chris and I completed another section of the North Downs Way today. Bit by bit, as time and weather allow, we are going to walk the whole length of it. Today’s section was from Oxted to Merstham, both in Surrey, and I have named it the motorway section (freeway for any Americans reading this) as we had to cross three stretches of motorway and the noise of traffic was an almost constant companion throughout the walk.

I think this was the first time I had been to Oxted, I have no ancestors from there so why else would I need to go? From what I saw it was a nice little town, from the railway station we had about a mile and a half to walk before we actually got to the North Downs Way, crossing the M25 in the process.

The M25 north of Oxted, Surrey

The M25 north of Oxted, Surrey

The weather was almost perfect for walking, the grass was a bit damp to start from the early morning dew, but apart from that it was bright and sunny most of the time. There was some cloud later on, but it was by no means cold, in fact the first few miles were out in the open and it was getting a bit too warm. Most of the rest of the walk was shaded, which restricted the views but made conditions much nicer for walking.

Looking South across Godstone Vineyard

Looking South across Godstone Vineyard

Although the weather was good, the visibility was not perfect, and although at one point (near Willey Park Farm) we could just make out the tall office buildings of London, it was not possible to see them clearly. It really surprised me, to be in the open countryside and still be able to see parts of London, I wish I had taken my binoculars with me.

The derelict Whitehill Tower

The derelict Whitehill Tower

As I said the views were limited, but the were a couple of features closer to the path that you couldn’t miss. One was the wonderfully Whitehill Tower (pictured above) described in my route guide as a “derelict folly”, although I have been unable to find precious little else about it.

Another trig point for my collection

Another trig point for my collection

No walk along the North Downs would be complete without spotting a trig point, and today was no exception. This beauty was just before we started our descent towards Merstham.

The M23 cutting through the landscape

The M23 cutting through the landscape

The descent to Merstham and the train home involved crossing two motorways the M23 and back over the M25 again. Fortunately an underpass was provided for the first and a bridge for the second. All in all this was quite an easy section, about 10 miles in all (including getting out of Oxted), although most of the route was undulating their were only really one or two challenging climbs, and they were mercifully short.

Another day spent walking

28 Jun

This Saturday I spent most of the day walking again, but this time there were no genealogical connections. Also for a change it was Surrey not Sussex where I was walking, it wasn’t a route of my choice and I wasn’t on my own.

My good friend Chris had picked the route and was my walking partner for the day. The weather was perhaps a little too warm, although there was some cloud, but it stayed dry, which it has been more or less for several weeks.

The walk began at Dorking railway station, we followed the A24 north for short while before heading east out onto the hills. Before climbing Box Hill we had to cross the river, there is a footbridge but I never miss the opportunity to cross the river by the stepping stones. It occurred to me that these were the only stepping stones in Sussex or Surrey that I was aware of, but I am sure there must be other examples.

Stepping stones at the foot of Box Hill

Stepping stones at the foot of Box Hill, Surrey

The climb up Box Hill is quite a challenge, it is not as high as Wolstonbury Hill which I climbed nearly two weeks ago, but the ascent is a lot steeper. Most of the path up the hill consists of steps, otherwise it would seem almost impossible to reach the top.

The views from the top of Box Hill are quite spectacular, and well worth the effort. Unfortunately there was still some mist in the distance, but closer to the hill places like Dorking were clearly visible.

Dorking from Box Hill, with trig point as well

Dorking from Box Hill, with a trig point as well

From Box Hill the walk continued eastwards and eventually southwards down off the North Downs, towards the village of Brockham. From here we walked east again, to Betchworth (where we stopped at the pub from a drink and a bite to eat).

I was quite impressed by the church at Betchworth, such a beautiful building, I hope I can find an excuse to come back and spend some more time here.

St. Michael's Church, Betchworth, Surrey

St. Michael's Church, Betchworth, Surrey

From Betchworth we continued east again, across the tip of Reigate Heath and the golf course (past the windmill) and onto a seemingly tiny place called Skimmington (with a busy pub).

The windmill on Reigate Heath

The windmill on Reigate Heath

From here we continued, yes you guessed it, eastwards again. Up onto Reigate Park and then down through the streets (of Reigate I guess) towards Earlswood railway station, where we spent a rather dull hour waiting, having just missed the train. To keep myself amused I ending up taking photos of the clouds overhead.

Clouds over Earlswood

Clouds over Earlswood

All in all it was a very satisfying walk. From Dorking to Earlswood was about 11½ miles, the majority of which was flat after coming down off the hills. Perhaps the best part for me however was the fact that it was all pretty much new territory to me (after coming down of the hills) so I actually had to use my map reading skills on occasion!

Sussex Day 2009: Part 9 – Hurstpierpoint Cemetery to Wolstonbury Hill

25 Jun

When I left Hurstpierpoint Cemetery I didn’t really where I was heading. I knew that I was ultimately going to end up at Hassocks railway station, so I could get home, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get there.

The shortest and quickest route would have been to head east out of Hurstpierpoint on the main road, but I wanted to be out in the countryside, so I decided to follow a path just north of the cemetery. Besides it was still early afternoon, far too early to be heading home!

When the path got clear of the houses to the south the views opened up to the South Downs and there looming up in front of me was Wolstonbury Hill, just begging to be climbed.

The walk so far had been pretty flat, Hurstpierpoint Cemetery was really the last genealogical connection, so now it was time to put the family history to one side and to personally challenge myself with a climb up the hill.

It was a nice gentle route to the foot of the Downs, past the magnificent Danny House (currently a retirement home). All the time Wolstonbury Hill getting closer and seeming more and more unclimbable. I reached New Way Lane and approached the foot of the hill, there was no turning back now.

No turning back maybe, but no way forward either! The footpath was blocked, closed to allow repair work, for six months, how could the West Sussex County Council do this to me? Here I was ready to ascend Wolstonbury Hill and they had closed the path!

Of course there was more than one route up to the top, only the northern and western sides were closed, I continued east along the lane and found another path heading south, before long it started to climb and I knew I was on the right path. The path was well shaded, but not particularly smooth, not far up the hill I came to a junction of paths and I wasn’t entirely sure where I was, eastward seemed to take me out into the open and back downhill again, that was no good, so after consulting the map I pressed on south again up further.

A short distance further I came to a gateway that opened out onto the side of the hill, and I could see the path leading right to the top. This was it, after another application of suncream (and a mouthful of drink) I headed out into the blazing sun and launched myself up the hill.

That last section was one of the most exhilarating climbs of my life, the sun was hot, there was little breeze, my leg muscles were complaining, but I was all alone, not another soul in sight, enjoying the beautiful Sussex landscape that emerged once I had cleared the trees.

It felt fantastic to be pushing myself to climb this hill, I had never witnessed the views from the top before, but I am sure many of my ancestors had before me. It had been a struggle but the reward was well worth it. It was a clear day, a little bit hazy in the distance but that didn’t matter, and I could see for miles in all directions. I wandered around the earthworks at the top of the hill, visited the trig point and just savoured the moment. There was a slight breeze here, but little shelter apart from a few gorse bushes. I found some shade and sat down, quenching my thirst with more drink and applying more suncream.

I sat and admired the view, it was breathtaking. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what half of the places were, what mattered was that it was Sussex, my Sussex, my ancestors Sussex. I could think of no better place to be on Sussex Day. The sense of achievement was tremendous, I felt physically and emotionally that I was on top of the world.

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