Berwick to Birling Gap walk
via Wilmington, Jevington and Flagstaff point
Berwick to Birling Gap: 18.9km (11.8 miles)
Berwick to Friston: 15.2km (9.4 miles)
Berwick to East Dean: 16.2km (10.4 miles)
Berwick to Birling Gap and back again to East Dean: 21.3km (13.3 miles)
Berwick to Exceat via Flagstaff Point: 21.1km (13.1 miles)
5 out of 10: two well-graded climbs up onto the South Downs, and three short steep climbs onto the Seven Sisters at the end, but otherwise flat or undulating
OS Landranger 199; Explorer OL25 (formerly 123).
This walk uses the same start as the Berwick to Seaford walk also on this site, following a relatively flat route across fields to the village of Wilmington at the base of the downs, with fine views of its famous chalk cut figure, the Long Man of Wilmington. After Wilmington you go right to the base of the Long Man and climb up onto the downs, crossing their lonely centre to the picturesque village of Jevington, with stunning views en route. After that you climb onto long ridge, with more fine views, to the village of Friston, and descend to the sea at Flagstaff Point, the central point in the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, walking over three of the Sisters to Birling Gap.
Finishing the walk at Birling Gap depends on the 13X bus being in operation, which from mid September to mid June is only on Sundays (see Transport below).
However, if the 13X is not running, you can do this walk in a slightly modified form using the very frequent 12/12A route (also on www.buses.co.uk) which runs daily and year round along the main road from Friston and East Dean to Eastbourne till late in the evening. Using this you can:
• finish the walk at Friston after 15km (9.4 miles) or at East Dean (where there are various tea options) after 16.2km (10.4 miles).
• walk to Birling Gap and then inland to East Dean, making a total walk of 21.3km (13.3 miles).
• walk from Flagstaff Point to Exceat and get the 12 bus from there, making a total walk of 21.2km (13.1 miles) .
Take a train from London Victoria to Lewes, and change there for hourly trains to Berwick. The online rail timetable often suggests changing at Polegate, but there is no advantage in this. Catch the first train after 9am to get to Berwick in time (currently the 9.47). Buy a day return to Eastbourne.
At the end of the walk you need to catch a bus to get to Eastbourne railway station. Ideally this should be the 13X, which serves Birling Gap and Beachy Head. This operates twice an hour from mid June to mid September on Sundays only: on Mondays to Saturdays in this period it operates three times a day, with a bus from Birling Gap to Eastbourne currently at 5.18pm and one to Seaford at 6.24pm. For the rest of the year (mid September to mid June), this three times a day service operates on Sundays only. See www.buses.co.uk for details.
If the 13X is not running, or if you end the walk at Friston or East Dean, the 12 and 12A buses run very frequently to both Eastbourne. There can be buses as often as every ten minutes in the day: later in the evening the service is half hourly but continues till very late. From Exceat it is quicker to get the bus to Seaford rather than Eastbourne and get the train from there.
Trains back from Eastbourne are every half hour until late. A return train ticket to Eastbourne is usually accepted from Seaford if you end up there: trains from this station are half hourly and you change at Lewes (or occasionally Brighton) for London.
The Giant’s Rest in Wilmington ((01323 870207), 4.8km/3 miles into the walk, is a deservedly popular pub with a very creative menu. It serves food all day Saturdays and Sundays and from 12-3pm and 7-9pm on weekdays.
A later option is the very characterful Eight Bells in Jevington (01323 484442), 9.8km (6.1 miles) into the walk, which serves food all afternoon (but check this).
The Jevington Tea Garden apparently reopened in April 2019 after a gap of some years. I have no information on opening times and have not had a chance to try it out since it reopened, but in its past incarnation it offered excellent tea and cakes in a tranquil house garden.
Otherwise in Jevington, the Eight Bells pub 200 metres up the road (see Lunch) serves drinks all afternoon and apparently also offers cakes.
If ending in East Dean, refreshment options include the Tiger Inn on the village green and the adjacent Hikers Rest café which is open until 4.30pm in winter and 5.30pm in summer.
Otherwise, if you can reach it in time, the National Trust café at Birling Gap (01323 423197) is open until 5pm in summer or 4pm in winter.
If finishing the walk at Exceat, the Saltmarsh cafe by the Seven Sisters Visitor Centre, open to 5pm daily, is one option: or 400 metres along the main road, by Exceat Bridge, is the Cuckmere Inn, which has a fine outside terrace and serves hot drinks and food all afternoon and evening
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk