When spring stretches its legs in Sussex and everyone in Brighton and beyond heads for the hills, don’t be tempted with the obvious spots – Ditchling Beacon, Friston Forest, Devil’s Dyke, Seven Sisters Country Park – just because they’ve got a carpark. Make a beeline for a smaller, less obvious village and start a walk from there. Easy! The Ellie & Co team of two do this all the time and always find a space. So today, to inspire your next country ramble, I’m sharing five of my favourite hidden walks in Sussex we’ve done time and again. In fact, we made all of them up (except for one) using our OS map app (which is brilliant and I highly recommend). All you need to do is pack a picnic, a blanket, a flask of coffee or something stronger and you’re off! I’ve also created a map for each one which you’ll see linked at the end of each walk description*. Enjoy!
1 Wide-open fields, windswept views, wineries – Streat, East Sussex. Distance: 8.5km/3 hours
This walk takes you on a wander around the area surrounding Ditchling, Plumpton, and Lewes, up hills and through fields of corn and offers some amazing sweeping views along the way. It also starts in Streat, one of my favourite hidden Sussex villages. I love it not only because it’s just over the hill from Brighton, but for its cosy setting in a hidden corner at the foot of the South Downs. Also, despite how tiny it is, it’s home to a few incredible treasures: a pretty church, Streat Place, a privately owned Elizabethan manor house which you can peek at through its impressive gates, an honesty food stand called Suzy’s Streat Food, The Dairy at Streat Place Barn apartment rental. It’s also near one of my fave campsites, Blackberry Wood with its wild meadow and amazing treehouses for rent. Oh and as I mentioned earlier, depending on what route you want to take, you can also end up at winery – there are a few in the area: Blackdog Hill, Court Garden, Artelium, and Henry’s Marani at Plumpton College, the only Georgian winery in the UK.
2 Rivers, villages and mysterious chalk figures – Litlington, East Sussex. Distance: 11km/4 hours
This walk takes you meandering through the landscape surrounding the Cuckmere River including the villages of Litlington, Alfriston, and Wilmington. It starts in Litlington, to avoid the busy, expensive nearby Friston Forest carpark, traffic through Alfriston or crowds at Wilmington. Like Streat, Litlington is small but home to some incredible treasures: the Litlington Horse chalk figure, the Long Man Brewery, for post-walk beer tastings and the Litlington Nursery, complete with tea rooms and a gem store, obviously! From Litlington, the walk takes you via the Long Man of Wilmington chalk figure to the village of Alfriston, a nice place to stop for a tea break at Badger’s, buy supplies at the Village Stores and a browse in Much Ado Books, and back to Litlington. Nearby, the church in Berwick hides murals by the Bloomsbury artists which you could see on your way home.
3 Forest bathing and wine tasting – Furners Green, East/West Sussex border. Distance: 9km/3 hours
This walk takes you through part of High Weald, a medieval landscape, through villages Danehill and Sheffield Forest on the borders of East and West Sussex. Which my photos don’t do justice. It starts at Heaven Farm in Furners Green which has a campsite and a farm shop selling homemade ice-cream and the most delicious fresh, unpasteurised milk. Discovering the first is like stepping into another world, only the sound of birds singing and trees swaying in the breeze to keep you company, as it’s likely you’ll have it all to yourself. Somewhere along the way you’ll end up at the Bluebell Vineyard for wine tasting. There’s also a vineyard trail to follow through the vines which is quite nice after a glass of wine, and you’re free to bring a picnic to enjoy here, too. Hic. Good pubs in the area include The Griffin Inn at Fletching and The Coach and Horses at Danehill.
4 Follies, fields, and honesty food stalls – Firle, East Sussex. Distance: 8km/2.5 hours
This walk has everything you want from a country walk – beautiful South Downs views, windswept open fields, bit of woodland, a clean loo mid-way (!), two historic homes, a folly, an honesty food stand and a great pub at the end! What more could you want? It starts in Firle Village rather than in the busy Firle Beacon car park – but this means an uphill climb at the start – and takes you up and along and over the South Downs, offering dramatic scenery across East Sussex, a trundle through fields reminiscent of the French countryside, I think, past Charleston House, Firle Tower, the landscape surrounding Firle Place, then its back to Firle Village for lunch at The Ram, and to stock up on eggs, fruit and veg at the honesty farm shop near the Firle Village Stores.
5 Chalk Stones Trail – Cocking Hill, West Sussex. Distance: 8km/2.5 hours
This self-guided walking route that takes you up and over undulating hills of West Sussex and through dense forest in search of a bizarre set of giant chalk stone sculptures (which features in my upcoming Secret Sussex guidebook). You also get to start in a village called… Cocking. There are 13 sculptures in total to discover on the trail. Each one is set at various points along the trail that starts from the bus stop at Cocking Hill and ends at West Dean College (once owned by the guy who made Salvador Dali famous) – or vice versa – and takes about 2.5 hours to walk, if you don’t get lost. They’ve been in place for 20 years and some of them almost completely reclaimed by nature, which adds to their elegance.
You can download a trail leaflet and map, here.
*My maps don’t show extensive directions; they’re just a guide to inspire and act as a starting point. For more extensive directions, I’d recommend the OS map app which is brilliant.