Main walk: 15.5 km (9.6 miles)
a) Southease to Brighton: 23km (14.3 miles)
b) Southease Circular (short): 14.5km (9 miles)
c) Southease Circular (long): 24.3km (15.1 miles)
|Toughness||4 out of 10: one steep hill climb (5 out of 10 for option c)|
|OS Maps||Explorer OL11 (formerly 122), Landranger 198|
|Features||This walk takes in the morning along the beautiful (and entirely flat) valley of the River Ouse, passing through the pretty village of Rodmell (summer home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf) on the way. Lunch is at a popular pub in the peaceful village of Kingston, nestling in the South Downs near Lewes. In the afternoon, the route goes across the downs, with fine and expansive views, to the sea in the village of Rottingdean. From there you can either take a very regular bus into Brighton, or finish the walk to Brighton Pier along the seafront.|
Once you get to Rottingdean, you can extend the walk by another 6.1km (3.8 miles) along the seafront into Brighton. With a 1.5km (0.9 mile) further walk to Brighton station, this make a total walk from Lewes to Brighton of 23km (14.3 miles). Very frequent buses serve this route, and there are several points where you can climb up from the seafront to the road, so you can do as much or as little of this route as you wish.
Directions can be found after the main walk directions
It is also possible to do a Southease Circular walk of 14.5km (9 miles) by following the main walk directions as far as paragraph 32, and then switching to the extra directions at the end of this document, which basically follow the South Downs Way back to Southease station, or to do a longer Southease Circular of 24.3km (15.1 miles) by returning over the downs from Rottingdean.
Trains to Southease are hourly via a change at Lewes. Recommended train at time of writing 9:16 from Victoria to Lewes Mondays through Saturdays (arrive Lewes 10:22; depart 10:28; arrive Southease 10.34). On Sundays the recommended train is the 9:47 from Victoria (arrive Lewes 10:58; depart 11:03; arrive Southease 11:09). Returns to Southease should be valid for return via Brighton.
At the end of the walk in Rottingdean, there are very regular buses to Brighton along the coast road. The bus stop is on the far (seaward) side of the coast road, about 50 metres to the right of the intersection: Buses you can get include the 12 and 12A, the 14, the 27 and the 47 (or 57 on Sundays). All but the 12 go all the way to Brighton railway station if you wish, and all pass Brighton pier, if you want to get off there and use the directions at the end of the walk options section to walk up through the town to the station. Note that certain 27 and 47 buses do a detour to Brighton Marina, which adds a bit to journey times.
Trains back from Brighton are extremely frequent. The fastest trains, taking just under an hour, go to Victoria are at 18 and 48 past the hour, stopping only at Gatwick Airport, or at 28 and 58 past, stopping at East Croydon and Clapham Junction.
Converted in 1954 from two fifteenth century cottages, The Juggs (01273 472523) in Kingston, (7.2km/4.5 miles into the walk) is a popular and very pleasant country pub in a peaceful location. There is an extensive menu with a separate blackboard of seafood specials. Seating inside is limited though there is an additional ‘inside-outside’ area which is covered and also has gas heaters for cooler days; there are quite a few tables in the front garden although these can fill up so it makes sense to arrive fairly early for lunch, especially on sunny days. Food is served from 12 til 2:30pm during the week and all day on Saturdays and Sundays.
Linking this walk with the Lewes to Brighton via Rottingdean walk makes Rottingdean the natural tea stop, with various places available, and of course also provides access to the wide range of restaurants, bars and tea shops in Brighton at the end of the walk.
There are numerous options in Rottingdean. The nicest tea place in summer is the Grange Tea Garden, behind the library. Otherwise, The Trellis Restaurant and Tea Room on the right just before you reach the coast road has fine home-made cakes and outside tables, even if they are next to a noisy road, and on the opposite side of the road is the Old Cottage restaurant and tea rooms.
To buy cakes for tea on the beach, there is the Village Bakery on the right as you walk down through Rottingdean and various other small shops. Failing that, there is a Tesco Express to the right when you get to the coast road.
Otherwise on the far side of the coast road, the White Horse – a modern pub, but with sea views, almost certainly would serve tea, as might the Coach House (01273 301945), down the road towards the sea on the left. The Sea Spray cafe to the left just after the Coach House (closed Mondays and Tuesdays, at least in winter) might also be useful.
On the walk extension to Brighton, there is also a seasonal tea/coffee kiosk a third of the way along the cliff-bottom walk between Rottingdean and Brighton Marina, which is one of those places that seems to open on fine days. If it is open, it is an atmospheric place to stop for a cuppa.
One final option is to turn left when you get to the seafront esplanade, and walk the 1.5 kilometres or so to Saltdean, which has a fine beachfront cafe in the large glass building you can see at the top of the steps. The same buses link Saltdean to Brighton as pass through Rottingdean
On the Southease Circular walk, tea options include the Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell and the YHA Courtyard Cafe 150 metres beyond Southease station (go across the level crossing and carry on up the road). This is open from 10am to 4pm daily
Rottingdean has a gently shelving shingle beach which is perfectly swimmable so long as the tide is reasonably high. However, at lower states of the tide, be careful of the underwater platform of sharp chalk rocks. The beach immediately opposite the ramp by which you descend to the seafront promenade is relatively free of these, but does have an underwater obstruction about two thirds of the way at a point indicated by signposts at the top of the beach
|Points of interest||
Monk's House, Rodmell (tel 01892 890651)was the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf who lived here from 1919 until Virginia's suicide in March 1941 (when she filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself in the river). Her ashes are buried in the garden. Leonard remained here until his death in 1969. Visitors to the house during the years they spent here included Vita Sackville-West, Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster, Maynard Keynes, T. S. Eliot and Roger Fry. The house (National Trust-owned) is open to visitors on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, April to the end of October 2pm to 5.30pm.
‘The Street’ in Kingston contains many old buildings and seems largely untouched by recent decades or even centuries. A highlight is St. Pancras Church which dates to around 1300.
From the top of the downs just after lunch, you get a fine view back over the town of Lewes. Note how the castle dominates a gap between the downs, a key communication pinch point in times gone past. The castle was one of five built by William the Conquerer shortly after his invasion of England in 1066 to control key supply routes between London and his Normandy home. The other castles were Pevensey, Hastings, Bramber and Arundel.
Rottingdean was a remote village until the coast road was built, and is one of those places that supposedly was a hotbed of smuggling. These days it retains a quaint air, but this is somewhat spoiled by the enormous quantities of traffic that shoulder their way through its narrow streets.
Rottingdean was the home of Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and – from 1897 to 1902 – of the writer Rudyard Kipling (The Kipling Gardens, passed on this walk, are the gardens of his former house). Kipling had a very productive time in Rottingdean, writing his children’s works Kim, Stalky & Co and the Just So stories there, as well as Recessional, a surprisingly downbeat poem considering the fact that it was written for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. In it, he worried about the imminent decline of the British Empire:
Far called, our navies melt away
On dune and headland sinks the fire
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre.
Judge of Nations, spare us yet
Lest we forget - lest we forget
Incidentally, the fact that the lines "Lest we forget" often appear on war memorials is not a coincidence. Kipling was given the job after the First World War or coming up with appropriate texts for war graves, and borrowed the line from this poem. It was an interesting choice, as it was the same concern about the possible decline in British power that is expressed in this poem that led Kipling in the run up to the First World War to campaign vociferously for an increase in the size of the British army and navy to counter the growing power of Germany. One consequence of this was that when war finally broke, he vigorously encouraged his son Jack to enlist, despite the latter having terrible eyesight which would normally have disqualified him from active service. After Jack was killed and the horrors of the Western front became known, Kipling was wracked with a terrible guilt, from which he never quite recovered.
Brighton Pier might seem an unlikely spot for nature observation, but towards dusk you can see simply immense flocks of starlings wheeling about here – or over by the ruined West Pier a bit further along the seafront. Literally tens of thousands of these birds can gather in great flocks, which swirl and swoop in unison in the sky, before roosting for the night. Groups will settle and then take off again, and there an immensity of chattering. It is quite a sight.
Brighton Royal Pavilion evolved from 1787 onwards as a holiday home for King George IV, who first popularised Brighton as a resort. The current extraordinary building was created by architect John Nash from 1815 to 1823. Its somewhat ludicrous oriental style is a good guide to the interior decor, which nonetheless somehow contrives to be breathakingly beautiful. One key innovation of the Pavillion was the siting of the enormous kitchens right next to the dining room – normally in palaces, the kitchens were far away from the state rooms, but George was a gourmet (he became enormously fat) and hired the best chef of his day to cook for him. The Pavillion soon fell out of royal favour after Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, however. Not only did she have a very low opinion of the disreputable George IV, but after the coming of the railways in the 1840s, Brighton became too busy with the lower classes. In any case the Pavillion was wildly unsuitable for Victoria and Albert’s large family. They eventually built their own holiday home at Osborne, on the Isle of Wight. The Pavillion is now owned by Brighton Council and is open to the public
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Out: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (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