Berwick to Birling Gap walk
via Wilmington, Jevington and Flagstaff point
This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.
|Sat, ||Saturday Walk Berwick to East Dean via Birling Gap||2||not as bad as expected in fact quite pleasant|
|Sat, ||Saturday walk - Berwick to Birling Gap - to coincide with the Jevington Fete||29||largely cloudy and quite windy|
|Sun, ||Over the South Downs to the sea||15||sunny and breezy|
|Wed, ||Midweek Werewolf Walk -- Walk 3:129 Berwick 2 East Dean||8||cloudy|
|Sat, ||Berwick to East Dean||16|
|Wed, ||Berwick to Birling Gap|
|Sat, ||Berwick to East Dean||9|
|Sat, ||Berwick to Birling Gap||22|
|Wed, ||Berwick to Birling Gap|
|Sat, ||Berwick to Birling Gap|
|Sat, ||Berwick to Birling Gap, via Alfriston - withdrawn|
|Mon, ||Berwick to Birling Gap, via Alfriston - withdrawn|
|Sat, ||Berwick to Friston|
Length: 13.3 miles (21.3km) 5 out of 10 (16.2km (10.4 miles) missing out Birling Gap)
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.
Trains: Get the 0916 Eastbourne train from London Victoria (Clapham 0922. East Croydon 0932). Arrives Lewes 1024. Change to the 1047 Hastings train arrives Berwick 1056. Buy a return to Eastbourne. Note that the journey planner may suggest a change at Polegate.
For the return you get the bus from East Dean to Eastbourne. There also seems to be an ESS bus from Birling Gap, the last one at 1718 (from the Plusbus website). I don't know the bus fare, but it might be worth adding PlusBus to your train ticket. Trains from Eastbourne are xx00 & xx25
Lunch: Early lunch at The Giant’s Rest in Wilmington (01323 870207) after 3 miles, or a late lunch at the Eight Bells in Jevington (01323 484442) after 6.6 miles (the choice of the most recent outings).
Toughness: 5 out of 10
9.16 train from Victoria (9.23 Clapham Junction, 9.33 East Croydon) to Lewes, arriving 10.25, changing there for the 10.47 train to Berwick, arriving 10.56.
Buy a day return to Eastbourne, though it is possible to return from Seaford from which a Berwick (Sussex) return would usually be accepted
For walk directions click here. For GPX click here. T=3.129
I am picking this walk in response to a request for something to coincide with the Jevington Village Fete, a village passed 6.1 miles into this walk. Even if you are not interested in that, this is a fine walk for this time of year, starting on the flat, passing through the pretty village of Wilmington, whose churchyard has an extremely ancient yew, and then up past the chalk cut figure of the Long Man of Wilmington. After this you walk over the South Downs to Jevington.
An early lunch is possible at the Giant's Rest in Wilmington, though it has to be said that this favourite SWC pub was under new management last time we visited and disappointed us considerably compared to former days. Whether the Eight Bells in Jevington will be busier than usual due to the fete, I do not know, but presumably the fete itself will have some food options.
After Jevington the walk climbs up onto the downs again and then follows a level route to Friston, 9.4 miles into the walk, from where you can take very regular (every ten minutes or so) number 12 buses to Eastbourne (slightly nearer) or Seaford. If you want a tea stop, it is a very short walk down the hill to East Dean, which has both the Hiker's Rest cafe and the popular Tiger Inn.
Alternatively you can extend the walk down onto the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. Here there are two options, both making walks of 21km (13 miles), ie just under four miles further on from Friston:
- You can walk to Birling Gap, but we are sadly just one week too early for the (in any case very limited) summer bus service, so if you do this you will then need to walk back up to East Dean to get a number 12 bus to Eastbourne or Seaford.
- Or you can turn right along the Seven Sisters (walking over half of them) and end up at Exceat, also getting the number 12 bus to Seaford.
- SEA SWIMMING: We are getting to that time of year when a dip in the sea becomes possible (albeit that the water is still rather chilly), but tides at Birling Gap are a bit awkward today, with low tide at 8pm. These means concealed underwater rocks could make it tricky to swim. Eastbourne (near the pier) or Seaford can be swum at any state of the tide, however, and the east side of Cuckmere Haven (on the Exceat ending) can usually be swum after picking one's way across stones a bit...
Trains back from Eastbourne are at 00 and 25 past until 22.00 (ie trains are now half hourly all evening, whereas before they were hourly after 7pm).
Trains back from Seaford are at 25 and 53 past until 21.53, changing at Lewes (once again, the requirement to change at Brighton on two of the evening trains has now gone and all trains now have Lewes connections).
29 on this walk: 27 at the start and two late starters who drove to Jevington and then walked with us in the afternoon before walking back to their car. The weather.... Well, there was some dispute about this in the train home. One view was that it was mostly sunny and only cloudy at the end. But that is not what I saw. As far as I am concerned we had some sun at the start and it was then largely cloudy and quite windy : this was definitely the case after Wilmington. In two months’ time I would have said “a bit autumnal”.
Notwithstanding, this was a grand walk. The amazing yew in Wilmington churchyard was as awe-inspiring as ever and up on the downs there were hundreds of common spotted orchids (and good flowers in general). The Jevington fete was...nice, but a fairly ordinary village event. A nice tea tent. A big queue for the burgers. “Ferret roulette” (bet on which hole the hapless critter will energe from). Most of us soon went on to the Eight Bells, eschewing the “funny dog show”, whatever that was.
It is the first time (that I remember, at least) that I have eaten at the Eight Bells. Walker-friendly. An efficient bar. A good varied menu. But hit and miss dishes. The fish pie won high praise, the swordfish was drowned in a questionable sauce and was soggy from defrosting. My “mushroom tagliatelle” was a thick cream and cheese soup (enough cholesterol to clog a main sewer) with a couple of sliced mushrooms and some pasta swimming in it. I felt queasy all afternoon.
The fete (or perhaps just fate) inevitably split the group up. I presume all walked on to Friston and some to East Dean but only know for definite that five of us went on to the Seven Sisters, then on to Birling Gap and up to East Dean. It was grand to see the sea and the cliffs and think of swims to come, but today was not the day for it. We repaired to the cosy interior of the Tiger Inn instead.
More info about who walked where: three of us walked to Birling Gap and then followed the coast path into Eastbourne, and two of the three caught the 7.25pm train, chips in hand! At least two people were ahead of us and caught the 6.25pm train. One walker went to Birling Gap and then turned the other way, to Exceat, saying she'd get the bus from there. It was a great walk and the wildflowers were a delight, especially the very red poppies, the pink orchids, and the little downland flowers which make a carpet of purple and yellow.
A small clarification: this walker turned right for Exceat at Flagstaff Point not Birling Gap. As views about 8 Bells seem to be mixed it may be worth noting that I was quite happy with an (admittedly undemanding) lunch at the Giant's Rest.
Length: 18.7km (11.6 miles) Toughness: 5/10
10:06 Brighton train from Victoria (Clapham Junction 10:12, East Croydon 10:22), changing at Brighton (arr 11:03, dep 11:12) to arrive at Berwick at 11:35.
Trains back from Eastbourne are at xx:59 (journey time 1h 27 mins).
An Off-Peak Day Return to Eastbourne will cover both the outward and return journeys. But you’ll probably find it considerably cheaper to buy separate Advance tickets for each journey, provided you’re willing to commit yourself to getting a particular train back.
The regular 13X bus from Birling Gap to Eastbourne station at 40 minutes past the hour inconveniently arrives there 7 minutes after the hourly London train has departed. There is an extra bus at 17:15 that connects reasonably well with the train. Or you could catch the Eastbourne Sightseeing bus at 17 minutes past the hour, which takes you to the seafront, a 10-minute walk from the station, and connects well with the trains. An alternative is to walk (or take a bus) inland to East Dean (with its refreshment options) from where the frequent no. 12A or 12X buses run to Eastbourne station.
This walk is a variation of the Book 2 Berwick to Eastbourne walk. It visits the Long Man of Wilmington but then takes a different route across the South Downs to Jevington, before following a long ridge towards the coast, arriving in the middle of the Seven Sisters and ending at Birling Gap, where you take a bus into Eastbourne. Those with energy to spare can extend the walk by about 5 miles by continuing over Beachy Head and along the Eastbourne seafront.
An early lunch can be taken at The Giant’s Rest in Wilmington (01323 870207) after 3 miles, or a late lunch at the Eight Bells in Jevington (01323 484442) after 6.6 miles. There are tea options at Birling Gap, East Dean or in Eastbourne.
You will need to download the Walk Directions.
On Sunday there are celebrations and a parade in Brighton for the football team's successful promotion to the Premiership and trains and the station are likely to be busier than usual. I will catch the 09.47 from Victoria to Lewes arriving 10.51 and then pick up the 11.23 from there to arrive in Berwick at 11.35. You have a longer wait at Lewes than Brighton but this could prove less stressful than arriving at a packed and "rowdy" Brighton station. Also if you are at Lewes and anything goes pear-shaped with connections to Berwick you can easily improvise a lovely walk from Lewes.
15 on this lovely walk with the weather sunny and breezy . An ideal day for walking with the group fragmenting by the time we reached Wilmington where I had lunch in the churchyard by the ancient yew tree whilst others walked on to Jevington after booking a table at the 8 Bells. After my sandwich and walking alone I took a more circuitous ridge path with fine views to Jevington via the village of Folkington.
Most of us met up at Jevington and continued on to Birling Gap with one taking the short SDW route to Eastbourne after the long climb. We reached Birling Gap in good time to catch the 5.20pm bus to Eastbourne but sadly the journey did not work out as planned. Just beyond the car-park at the Beachy Head pub there had been an horrendous multi-vehicle crash so all traffic including our bus had to turn round and return to Eastbourne via the main road route. Most of us got off the bus and walked to Eastbourne station with one staying on in the hope of catching the 6pm train which she just missed by 6 mins. We all met up to catch the 7pm train to Victoria. A mixed bag of a day, further marred by some walkers witnessing a dog attacking a sheep after the incompetent owners had failed to secure a lead on the animal before entering a field!
I'd like to express the view that a walk that ...
- doesn't start walking until after 1130
- has lunch as 1415
- has most participants on a 1900 train and doesn't get them back to London until 2030
- had me on the 1800 but only because I cut out Birling Gap and walked to Eastbourne
... all for just a dozen miles is a walk that would have been better starting earlier.
8 on this walk, including one late starter who caught us at lunch, proving that even a 10.47 train is too early for some (actually, to be fair, be had bus problems). The weather was cloudy which was a disappointment after the warm spring sunshine of the day before. But less cold than of late and increasing signs of spring - willow catkins, celandines, daffodils at their best.
Lunch at the Giant's Rest was as delightful as ever. We then had the glorious scenery of the downs almost to ourselves. All but one of us stopped for tea at the Three Bells in Jevington (the exception being the late starter, who thought we had carried on).
Most got the bus from Friston, but the late starter completed the glorious triangle from Friston to Flagstaff Point, along to Birling Gap and back to East Dean. Two more of us walked down to Flagstaff Point and back, but had not enough daylight left to do more: a pity as it was just wonderful on the Seven Sisters at dusk - utterly quiet, no other walkers whatsoever, and a fabulously low tide (due to the full moon). The remainder of the triangle would have made a wonderful moonlight walk, but it was not to be: for the umpteenth time this winter clouds thwarted us.
The three of us then drowned our sorrows with two bottles of wine (+ dinner) in the Tiger Inn, and ended up rather sleepy on the last train back from Eastbourne.