Start point for the walk: Lewes Station (TQ 416 098)

Finish point for the walk: Lewes Station (TQ 416 098)

OS 1:25 000 maps: 122 Brighton & Hove

Length: 20.07 km

Maximum height: 200 m

Minimum height: 4 m

Height ascended: 508 m

Estimated time for the walk: 4 hrs 50 mins

Outline route description

(Route description is based on survey walk undertaken on 18 May 2008.)

Cowslip
Cowslip on downs above Kingston near Lewes

Come out of Lewes station, and turn left down Station Road. At the road junction, turn right along Priory Street, which then becomes Southover High Street. Carry along the street (passing Anne of Cleves House on your right) until you get to the Swan public house on the corner with Bell Lane. Follow the road to the left of the Swan, but then take the little lane that carries straight on, rather than following the road round to the left. This is Jugg’s Road. This lane takes you across the railway (although you don’t notice this at first) and then over the A27(T).

After crossing the A27(T), continue to follow the Jugg’s Road, which gradually dwindles to a path across fields. It eventually reach a main road (Ashcombe Hollow) on the edge of Kingston near Lewes. Cross the road and continue up Kingston Ridge ahead of you. Kingston Ridge is at first a suburban street, but then turns into a rutted and, in wet weather, slippery chalk surfaced track. At the base of the downs escarpment the track splits into two. Take the right-hand fork and climb up the escarpment. At the top, the track joins the official route of the South Downs Way, which heads roughly southwest, following the top of escarpment for about a kilometre.

Newmarket Hill
View from the summit of Newmarket Hill

At the point where the South Downs Way turns right to go north, carry on in the direction you were heading, to the radio mast near the summit of Newmarket Hill. Go through the gate adjacent to the radio mast, and then walk a short way down the track ahead of you. The summit is a (not very clearly defined) point somewhere on the ridge to your left. At the time I did this walk in May 2008, the field on the summit had been ploughed and sown with what looked like coarse grass [1]. However, there is no fence between the field and the track, and provided you are careful to follow in some tractor tracks, you can take a short stroll to the summit ridge without doing any damage.

Having admired the view, return to the track and retrace your steps for a short way beyond the radio tower. Where the track bears right, continue straight ahead on a bridleway to a gate in the fence.

Through the gate is a large field, sloping down to the northwest. The bridleway is shown on the ordnance survey map as a flat S-curve running diagonally across this field, heading roughly northeast. The exact route is difficult to follow on the ground. However, just make for the distinct clump of trees at the northeast corner of the field. At this point, the route picks up the South Downs Way again.

Balmer Huff
Balmer Huff, heading north to the col

Follow the South Downs Way northeast and downwards. It eventually passes under the railway between Lewis and Brighton, and then follows between the railway and the A27(T), heading westwards. The South Downs Way then crosses the A27(T) over a vehicular access bridge. Once across the bridge, rather than turning right with the South Downs Way, turn left to Upper Housedean Cottages along the route of the old road now bypassed by the A27(T). At the Upper Housedean Cottages ignore the sign saying ‘Private road - no public rights’ and continue along the old road. Soon, a bridleway waymark points you north, up the hill along a metalled road to Balmer Farm. The farm Is a large jumble of barns, sheds and cottages. Pass through these, following the bridleway northwards past the site of the medieval village of Balmer. This stretch the path is something of a linear agricultural waste tip.

The path continued northwards, passing just to the right of the trig point on Balmer Huff (170 m). The path then drops to a sort of col. At the bottom, take the bridleway off to the right, shown on the OS 1:25 000 map passing between a well ('W') and a 'field system'. The bridleway then crosses the South Downs Way again at TQ 369 111. Continue to follow this bridleway down through some trees until it reaches a path crossroads at the south end of Ashcombe Bottom.

Ashcombe Bottom
Waymark at path crossroads, south end of Ashcombe Bottom

At this crossroads, take the path diagonally off to the right and upwards. The path then soon turns left across fiels, climbing towards Mount Harry. Although the path is well-defined, it is easy to miss two changes in direction at gates, where you need to bear diagonally right. The bridleway eventually enters a strip of woodland that runs around the rim of Cuckoo Bottom. This stretch is often churned up by horses, and can be very muddy in wet weather. However, it is only 200 m long.

Just below Mount Harry, the bridleway meets the bridleway that runs between Black Cap and Lewes. At the junction, turn right and then follow the bridleway past the County Stables of Suzy Smith Racing. Continue along the bridleway, past Her Majesty’s prison, to reach a main road (Nevill Road, the A275). Cross this road and then, continuing ahead, follow Spital Road / Western Road / High Street into Lewes town centre. There are several pubs along the way if you are thirsty. Just beyond the Meridian pub (Shepherd Neame), there is a plaque in the road (and a second plaque on the wall) showing the point where you cross the Greenwich Meridian. Follow the High Street until just beyond the Crown Court and then turn right along Station Street and then Station Road to return to Lewes Station.

Greenwich Meridian
Greenwich Meridian Line, Lewes

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Spending time in Lewes

It is worth spending some time in Lewes, if you have never visited it before - it is a very picturesque town. If, rather than turning down Station Street, you were to continue along the High Street, you would eventually drop down to the river Ouse. From the bridge over the Ouse you can see the famous Harveys Brewery to your left. The Brewery tap is a pub called the John Harvey Tavern, just over the bridge and down an alleyway off to the right. Harveys Best Bitter is highly recommended.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to go directly to the station but would still like a pint if you have time before your train, there is a slightly odd pub called the Lansdown Arms at the bottom of Station Street which also sells Harveys Best bitter. This pub has a slightly hippyish air to it, but I have always found it a pleasant place to have a pint.

Route map

Explore is a (beta) application from Ordnance Survey, allowing people to create and share routes. I've added the route for this walk to visit Newmarket Hill. This will allow you to see it plotted on an OS 1:50 000 map.

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[1] A return visit in July revealed that the 'coarse grass' was barley. Following in some tractor tracks was not an option on this visit, so this is a walk best done after harvesting and before the next crop has grown significantly.

Barley
Barley growing on Newmarket Hill