Plumpton To Falmer Walk

Plumpton To Falmer Walk

by Robert Veitch

‘Tis the season to be jolly. ‘Tis also the season to stretch one’s legs with the returning Tim… So, don your favourite festive pullover and traverse the Downs with us this Christmas

We left Lewes by train, arriving at Plumpton eight minutes later. Head for the western end of the platform, towards the larger footbridge, turning left at the end, walking parallel to the racecourse. Follow the tarmac as it skirts around the buildings, gently uphill and over the brow as it changes to concrete underfoot.

Turn right at the T-junction by the end of the flint wall, noting the V on the Downs, two miles distant as the crow flies. Follow the loosely surfaced track for ¾ of a mile, along the natural ebb and flow of the landscape. At the end, turn left by the post box, veering right 50m later by the red telephone box. The track passes between old and new graveyards, a serene and scenic location whatever the weather.

A ¼ mile later, turn left at the T-junction. The surface becomes looser as the Downs approach, narrowing to a footpath by the green metal railings where it enters the tree canopy. The trees become woodland as the path ekes its way up the shallow gradient of downland pre-scarp. Two gates precede a duplicate arrangement slightly further on, immediately before the Offham to Ditchling road.

Turn right, walking along the road for 20m, before turning left and beginning the final major ascent of the Sussex Living walking year. Narrow at first, the path opens up as chalk appears underfoot and the gradient stiffens, increasingly. The gate opens on to Streat Hill. The route runs parallel to an old cutting, towards another gate. “I’ve missed these walks, it’s hurting my calves,” chirped Tim, as a seat appeared on the right.

The path arcs to the right into a bowl layered with ancient terraces, towards the V. Planted in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, it consists of beech, fir and lime – with glorious shades of shimmering red, orange and yellow on the day we visited. The path finesses the tip, offering views of trees planted in parallel, generations ago. “We’ve made the top of the Downs,” whooped Tim as the wind welcomed us to the summit gate at 224m (735 feet).

Turn left, along the South Downs Way, through the hollow at the top of Streat Bostal, past the junction with Plumpton Bostal, turning right 200m later, by the bridleway fingerpost. Where the path bears left, keep to the right of the fence. The trail leads downhill, towards a gate, just before the power lines. The steepness increases as another gate approaches, before the path reaches the valley floor of Waterpit Bottom. The route sweeps right and uphill, skipping across contours, beyond the gorse to the summit of Waterpit Hill at 150m (492 feet) by the metal gate.

Ahead lies the sea, visible on the horizon. Alongside the path, a few wild rapeseed brighten the way. After half a mile wandering gently downhill, turn right at the dilapidated brick building, following the path into the lines of beech trees, then through them to the narrow road that runs alongside. Walk north along the road for no more than 150m, then take the path on the left, by the telegraph pole, turning 180° and heading south. Follow the path through the trees, alongside the new university blocks. Orange tipped posts indicate the route. Keep left when the path splits, gradually easing away from the buildings, eventually emerging at a road.

Turn right, and then left after 50m on to Eastern Ring Road, before turning right onto Southern Ring Road 150m after that. Follow the road downhill, for 1⁄4 mile, taking the footpath on the left, as the road turns right. The footpath links to the A27, from which it’s a noisy walk west for a couple of minutes to the A27 underpass. On the other side of the underpass are the steps to Falmer station and the journey home. “That’s a real journey, very enjoyable,” summed up Tim as our train home pulled into the station.

Happy Rambles from the 2018 walking team: Tim, Jago, Benjamin, Lucy, Beth, Joe and Muggins!

Distance: 7 miles

Walk Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Stiles: 0

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 0L11

Refreshments: Best to take your own

Buses: #28 & #29 Brighton to Tunbridge Wells, #38 Berwick to Brighton, #166 Lewes to Haywards Heath, #167 Lewes to Burgess Hill, #168 Burgess Hill to Burgess Hill

Trains: Hourly to Plumpton. Five trains per hour from Falmer

Parking: Free (limited) parking at Plumpton Station. Pay parking at Lewes Station

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