Mount Harry Walk

Mount Harry Walk

by Robert Veitch

Due to popular demand (mostly from his mother) we’ve brought Tim back, to walk with us from Plumpton to Lewes across the South Downs.

From Lewes Bus Station we took Service 166 to the Half Moon at Plumpton for £3 one way. Once off the bus, walk towards the Downs, crossing the road to reach the bridleway opposite, beneath the trees. This is Plumpton Bostall, a loose dirt track that evolves into concrete as it heads up the steep scarp slope of the Downs.

Pause by the beech trees on the right and admire their woody spaghetti of exposed roots. Catch your breath and pace it slow, after all it’s not the Alps.

Emerging from tree cover, pass through the gate on the left marked ‘Access Land.’ Follow the path up the grassy hill, which looks vertical, almost intimidating, but eases off quite quickly. Turnaround and raise your gaze from your footprints to the horizon. Life-enhancing views of this sceptred isle are worth the effort.

The path follows the natural bowl of the land around a large solitary sycamore. Earthwork terraces are clearly visible, relics from eras past. Grass underfoot feels good for the soul. Head for the fingerpost and gate. Once through it – welcome to the South Downs Way.

This is Plumpton Plain. Blackdown to the west and Ashdown Forest to the north are visible on clear days. “An epic cinematic panorama,” according to Tim, “if this were a film it would be a western, shot in wide-angled technicolor. So tranquil, I’m lucky to live in this part of the country.”

Follow the wide track and easy walking of the South Downs Way towards a five-way fingerpost. The South Downs Way departs to the right at this point, but take the finger indicating ‘Lewes 3 miles’ distant and straight ahead.

A National Trust sign marks the entrance to Blackcap. Pursue the left fork where the path splits and follow the lines in the grass of other walkers. Trees border the path to the left, and chunks of knapped flint harden the texture underfoot. A trig point marks the Blackcap summit (206m / 676 feet).

Along the path towards Lewes, the Mount Harry Beacon will be visible, as will the Glyndebourne wind turbine. Walking towards the beacon gorse flanks the path on the left. At the marker post keep going, past the balding trees on the left. Flint populates the space underfoot once again. The incline is smooth and easy going on the last few steps to the beacon.

Up close “it’s somewhat lacking in stature and not quite tall enough,” according to Tim. At 196m (643 feet) the Mount Harry summit is a little lower than Blackcap, but the views are just as good. Lewes, Newhaven and Seaford Head fill the skyline when conditions are favourable. There’s just a couple of miles to go as the path begins its descent towards Lewes, through a gate, and across the meadow.

A little further on, turn sharp right at the fingerpost, uphill, then right again and through the gate. Beyond the scrub, sharp left and follow the fence line to the fingerpost. It’s left here, under the green canopy, then right at the end, across the narrow road and through the hedge line opposite, indicated by the yellow arrow on the fingerpost.

Emerging through the hedge, turn right and take the old road to the end, turning left just before the racecourse. Lewes Racecourse was open from 1727- 1964 with Miss Rhonda being the final winner before closure. The spectators are all gone, the bookies have gone, and  the winning post has gone, though horses remain in training.

The path is adjacent to the racecourse. Left or right at Jill’s Pond makes no difference as both converge on the other side. This area is Landport Bottom, site of the Battle of Lewes in 1264 between Simon de Montfort’s army representing the Barons and King Henry III. De Montfort’s army won the day, but he would die in battle the following year while Henry reigned until 1272.

The path serenely curves right, and opposing the covered reservoir is a pair of gates. Take your pick of the gates, then look left and right before crossing the racecourse. These gallops are still used to train horses, so remain alert. Across the racecourse, a stubby post indicates the path. It’s a very short distance through scrub until it joins a chalk path. Turn left and just keep going. The walls of Lewes prison will appear as the path widens out, becoming a track and then Spital Road.

At the main road, cross safely and head into town. The joy from the walk will fizzle out, but the delights of Lewes will replace it. Where you go is up to you. Tim reflected, “it’s been enjoyable and rewarding. It’s great to be out in the fresh air on such a fabulous day.” And with that he wandered off , looking for refreshments.

Distance: 4 miles

Stiles: 0

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.OL11

Parking: Pay parking in Lewes

Refreshments: Take them with you, or wait until the end

Public Transport: Bus 166 from Lewes / 167 from Burgess Hill

Whilst Les Campbell is recuperating from an accident, Robert Veitch has taken on the role of being Les’ legs. We hope that Les will be back out and walking again soon and wish him all the best with his recovery. Robert has tested the route personally, making sure it is suitable for walking. However, even he cannot guarantee the effects of the weather, or roadworks, or any other factors outside of his control. If you would like to send your feedback about a local walk, please email editorial@sussexliving.com