‘Upper Beeding to Pycombe’ – walk, South Downs Way

Looking East from Edburton Hill towards the high point above tree topped Devils Dyke and Newtimber Hill to the far left.

This is a short stretch of the South Downs Way (SDW) which includes some classic downland country and views. Buses are easy at either to rail connections to make this a simple circular hike of 8.5 miles that can be completed in a short day (map at foot).

I travelled by rail and bus on a weekday from Clapham Junction to Shoreham-By-Sea buying my rail tickets on Trainline.com which cost £10.00 for a return on specific trains (I would be returning from Hassocks, which is on the Shoreham line so a loop). I like to ensure I build in time at the end of my day so I have plenty of time for connections. This can often result in an hour in a pub or sitting on a village green till the bus comes but it’s no hardship. The train takes just over an hour to get to Shoreham-By-Sea which is a fabulous historic village on the Adur river with a great atmosphere and beautiful church. A 15 minute wait for the No 2 bus towards Upper Beeding meant I had time to buy lunch and very good coffee at a deli on Brunswick Street then stroll to the riverside bus stop.

The bus took about 10 minutes to get to the stop called ‘South Downs way’ on the busy A road. A couple of minutes into the walk up a long hill and the skylark song became audible. I love this sound, it is the Downs for me. Having climbed the hill the path meets a minor road and follows this with views West, climbing steadily for another mile or so until the Youth Hostel below Truleigh Hill. It’s all a bit suburban imo, unlike the more majestic open range further East on the SDW.

Looking West from the initial climb up to the Downs towards Chanctonbury Ring.

Beyond the Hostel and houses the path does open up a bit with more of the sweeping, pillowed hills that the SDW is known for and the walking is pleasant for the next couple of miles with views to the sea down the dry valleys before the trees above Devils Dyke come into view (pics below). Sometimes, a place to stop for r&r is a welcome sight but it just seemed that as soon as I had got into my stride, the town was here to meet me again as the numbers of walkers and dogs increased. Love dogs but my ideal walk is one on which I meet few people.

Looking South towards the coast
Looking northeast down Devils Dyke. The route descends a path among the trees on the ridge to the right.

Devils Dyke has a pub and a car park and marks the 4 mile point of the route. A quick stroll around the edge of this Iron Age hill fort makes it clear why it was chosen, the steep sides making any attack a difficult task. Leaving the pub and car park behind and a short walk along the minor road, the route enters the National Trust land to the southeast of the Dyke and heads northeast. This is a descending ridge through pleasant scrub and trees full ogf Goldfinches while I was there, till it meets a road by a car park in the valley at about mile six of the walk. Crossing the road and entering a gate to the National Trust’s Saddlescombe Farm which includes Newtimber Hill, turn immediately left up the gentle slope of the hill. The path rises steadily with views back to the Dyke and the Downs to the West. This is a much quieter stretch of the walk and Newtimber Hill has a good atmosphere about it (road noise apart) dotted with veteran Oaks and open meadowland and some gorgeous funghi.

The route loops across the top of the hill before hitting a hedge line and descending a narrow, green-lane through scrubby farmland for the next half mile until it leaves the Downs next to a farm shop. It is then a three quarter of a mile along roads, crossing the A road to the village of Pyecombe (follow the cycle-route signs) which has a wonderful Norman church and pub. I was catching the bus to Hassocks station in order to travel back to London but buses also go South Brighton. My stop was on the main road near the garage. Buses are frequent but the pub is temptingly open all day and was a pleasant place to spend an hour.

Not my favourite stretch of the Downs. Maybe on a hard Winter’s day it might take on a little of the wildness I enjoy. But I have now nearly completed my South Downs Way using public transport from London so am happy the penultimate stretch is completed.

Reviewing the route in the Plough pub in Pyecombe
Country bus stop covered in ‘travellers joy’.

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