Lewes via West Firle Circular walk
Long. A steep hill (views) to Glynde. Lunch in quiet West Firle, then the South Downs Way (chalk ridge), with a flat valley walk back to historic Lewes
Glynde, Firle and the South Downs.
Standard walk 23.3 km (14.5 miles), six hours walking time. For the whole outing, including meals, breaks and trains, allow 11 hours.
Short walks The standard walk is in three sections, each with a station at the beginning and end that can be used to shorten the walk. Lewes to Glynde is 5 km (3.1 miles), Glynde to Southease is 11.8 km (7.3 miles) and Southease to Lewes is 6.5 km (4 miles).
OS Landranger Map No 198. OS Explorer Map Nos. OL11 and 25 (formerly 122 and 123).
7 out of 10
Each of the three sections of this walk makes a fine walk in itself. Put together, they make a grand day's circuit in stunning scenery.The main walk starts in the historic town of Lewes with the early section having fine views over the town and castle. After reaching a secluded valley, skylarks can often to be heard whilst hovering in the sky. The mid section along the South Downs Way offers extensive views both inland and towards the port of Newhaven with the Channel beyond. The final stretch re-enters Lewes along the levee beside the River Ouse.
The walk has 360 metres of ascent spread over three steepish hills, but in between there are long sections which are mainly level. The main walk is not well suited to December and January due to the limited daylight.
See shorter walks above. Glynde and Southease are on separate train lines but each has trains daily to Lewes. The last section is completely flat but perhaps the least interesting.
There is a slightly longer and tougher version of this walk , that replaces the last section with a ridge walk on the opposite side of the valley along part of the South Downs Way.
Positioned at a gap in the South Downs, views of Lewes are dominated by Lewes Castle. Construction of the castle started soon after the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Two hundred years later, the Battle of Lewes led to England's first parliamentary meeting in Westminster in 1265. Five hundred years after that, Thomas Paine would meet with a debating club in the Inn that is now the White Hart Hotel. Paine wrote a pamphlet called Common Sense that sold half a million copies in 1776 and inspired the American Declaration of Independence, signed later that year. His relative obscurity compared to the likes of Thomas Jefferson is sometimes attributed to his later book Age of Reason, regarded at the time as atheistic.
Lewes has also been the home to Harveys Brewery for two centuries, using their own spring water and local hops from Kent and Sussex. The beer can be sampled in the lunch pub.
The Parish Church of St Thomas a Becket in Cliffe, now a district of Lewes, is thought to have been built in the 12th century with the present body and tower dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Ramparts and ditches can be seen at the site of the Iron Age fort of Mount Caburn. The site was occupied prior to Roman times. Legend says that the hill was created from earth thrown up by the Devil as he dug Devil's Dyke (a hollow in the Downs to the west). Another tale tells of a giant called Gill who would hurl his hammer from the summit.
Firle Place nestles at the foot of the South Downs and has been the home of the Gage family for five centuries. A group portrait by Sir Antony Van Dyck hangs in the Hall. The house is open on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from late May to late September (tel 01273 858335).
The writer and critic Virginia Woolf, lived at Monk's house in Rodmell until, in 1941, she committed suicide by walking into the River Ouse, weighed down by stones in her pockets. An inquest in Newhaven recorded a verdict of "suicide while the balance of her mind was disturbed".
Take the train nearest to 09.15am from Victoria direct to Lewes. Journeys take about one hour and there is a service on Sundays. From London Bridge and other Thameslink stations, change at East Croydon for the train from Victoria.
By car: there is a car park at Lewes station and others in the town, or you car park for free half way round at Glynde or Southease
About half-way round the main walk is the lunch stop - the Ram Inn (tel 01273 858222) in Firle serving real ale and wholesome food at reasonable prices (Food Fri-Sun midday-9pm, Mon-Thur midday-5:30pm, Teas 3pm-5:30pm). The pub has two pleasant gardens, a no-smoking 'snug' and the 'Court Room' is where judges once sat during circuit sessions. An earlier lunch stop - the Trevor Arms in Glynde has closed.
Picnic Virtually anywhere along the route would be a good picnic spot.
Possibilities for tea in Lewes include the Garden Room Café (tel 01273 478636) at 14 Station Street which closes at 5pm, or, the White Hart Hotel (tel 01273 474676) on the High Street. This hotel has a lounge open 10am-10pm daily and also a pleasant balcony at the rear. It was at this inn where Thomas Paine expounded his revolutionary politics.
An earlier version of this walk was published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 2. We now recommend using this online version as the book is dated.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (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