‘Lewes to Alfriston’ walk – River and Downs.

Looking East near Firle Beacon

The first fine week of 2020 and I was keen to get out and enjoy some sun on a cold and frosty morning so decided to get out of London and revisit an 11 mile walk from Lewes in East Sussex to Alfriston. From Victoria Station, Lewes is just an hour away by train and added to that 20 mins on the Overground and I could be there by mid-morning. I use Trainline for tickets and, with a discount card could get there and back for £14. A bargain. A quick loo stop at Lewes station and packed lunch bought at the excellent cafe on platform 2 and I was on my way. The walk (map below). Come out of the upper part of the station and turn left towards the ruined Lewes Priory adjacent some playing fields. Cross diagonally to the right across these (or take an alternative route past the college to the left) go through a small gate and over a bridge that crosses a small river, turn left onto a metalled road which winds past a couple of houses and round the local recycling depot and ultimately under a large road bridge and finally onto the banks of the River Ouse, a large, navigable, tidal river which meanders its way S to Newhaven on the coast. The river does flood and there are levees on each bank which can be used as your path if the river is high. Given this was January after a wet, wet Winter the path was claggy in parts but frustratingly slow to begin with, the path narrow and occasionally very muddy. Thankfully it does improve after a mile or so, the path becoming wider and drier. The expansive scenery also improves – A mix of road, rail and river and some attractive pylons but beyond these the beautiful inviting downs to to the E and W. There is interesting birdlife – seashore dipper types, Swans, Starlings, Egrets and various reed loving little birds.

The path meanders with the river until it reaches an old swing bridge (pic above). Cross this to the E and continue along the lane until you get to Southease station. Use the railway crossing and continue until a group of buildings which include the YHA at Itford farm. Turn right immediately before the buildings (signposted South Downs Way) and follow the path over the footbridge that crosses the busy A26. Once you are over the bridge the Downs come down to meet you. Take the long path snaking up the hill or go straight up the grassy hill to the top of Itford Hill and continue E on the SD Way past Red Lion Pond. The views really open up here with Newhaven to the S and the Ouse valley N with views of Lewes and its prominent castle. The walking up here is really enjoyable, easy and freeing. Continue E for another mile or so, cross a track and head for the monolithic radio masts. Then, in less than a mile, cross another small road and car park and continue for approx. 1 mile till you reach Firle Beacon (217m 711 ft.) The views are vast – N to the Weald and S across rolling downs to the sea.

The route now heads SE towards Alfriston past another car park through farmland until see the village and come to a gate with three routes to the village. Take the one directly in front (not the two to the left) this being the SD Way which winds down a hedged lane into the village. There are places for coffee/tea and pubs in Alfriston (the George Inn is open early afternoon and very cosy) and an incredibly beautiful church and Green. It’s worth spending a few hours exploring the beautiful architecture. I needed to get back to Lewes and there are alternatives. There is a bus (just the one) at 16.00 or Berwick station with an hourly service three miles to the N on footpaths. The alternatives are a taxi to Lewes or the cheaper option (as suggested by a local in the George) a Seaford taxi to Seaford railway station then a quick train to Lewes.

Alfriston from Cross Dyke
Alfriston Village
11 miles in total with nearly 1000ft of ascent/descent

Walks with Visorando

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