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  • 5.0 star rating
    13/8/2007
    First to Review

    This walk is strenuous but rewards you with fantastic views, two lovely old churches, the Jack and Jill windmills and the wonderful natural feature of the Devil's Dyke itself. Allowing for stops, and depending on your fitness, allow three hours or more for the walk. For most of its length, the walk follows the South Downs Way, on generally very good footpaths, although the surface is sometimes rocky, and steep in parts. This particular walk is one of the most strenuous on the South Downs Way, and involves over 330m (1,100ft) of ascents and 250m (825ft) of descents, over 5 miles (8km). There are (of course) pubs and public transport at both ends of the walk. The route is on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Map 122. From Brighton, take buses 40 or 273 from Churchill Square (stop F) as far as the Jack & Jill pub at Clayton. This pub does good real ales and lunchtime food if you want to stop off. From the stop, walk back along the main road towards the Downs, pausing on the railway bridge to look at the impressive castle-like entrance to the Clayton railway tunnel. Built in 1849, the cottage provided rather noisy and smoky housing for a railway worker! Cross over the road and take the second road on the left, signposted Clayton. After a minute, you pass the church of Clayton on your right. This is well worth a look: dating from late Saxon times, the nave features impressive mediaeval wall paintings (see separate review). About 100m further on, take the bridleway on your left. This climbs steadily, with dense vegetation on either side, before emerging into an open field. Follow the path towards the two windmills  named Jack and Jill - on the horizon. The path turns left just before the windmills, and follows the boundary hedge before coming to a narrow lane. If you want a closer look at the windmills, turn right here, and walk to the small car-park, retracing your steps afterwards. Our walk continues by turning left along the lane. After a few minutes, the path splits: take the right hand fork towards New Barn Farm. The path goes through the farm, before coming to a crossroads: turn right to follow the South Downs Way. (We will stay on the South Downs Way now, all the way to Devil's Dyke). This path gently descends, with sweeping views across the valley to your left, following a golf course, until it meets the busy A273 road. Cross carefully here  traffic tends to speed past. The path continues on the other side, descending on the right hand side of the road towards the village of Pyecombe. Emerging at a small road in the village, turns right, uphill, towards the church. This was built in 1170, and is a good example of a Norman village church. It has an interesting and rare lead font of the same date. Passing the church, the path meets the junction with the A273 and the least pleasant part of the walk, as it crosses the main A23 into Brighton. The South Downs Way continues left, over the bridge, and then turns left again past the farm buildings of Haresdean. Ignore the farm buildings, and follow the path as it gently swings right, past the 18th century Hobbes Cottage, and begins to climb towards the summit of West Hill. This is the main climb of the walk  over 110m. As you climb higher, the views on both sides get better and better. The summit is part of the Newtimber Hill estate of the National Trust. After the summit, the path descends steeply towards the settlement of Saddlescombe, with new, but no less dramatic, views of the Sussex Weald, and the gradually emerging outline of Devil's Dyke on the hill across the valley. At Saddlescombe, the path again enters a 'tunnel' of foliage, and the surface is steep and full of loose stones. You then join a small metalled road for a short distance, and continue through a five-barred gate past some buildings down to the minor road which links Brighton to Poynings. Cross this road with care, as traffic tends to pass at speed. The South Downs Way is clearly marked on the other side of the road, slightly to your left. The path goes through another gate and climbs steadily up through rough scrubland towards the pub at the top of the hill, with the Devil's Dyke gradually appearing close by on your right, before arriving at the access road to the Devil's Dyke care park and pub. At this point, turn right and walk alongside the road, or if you prefer, turn back a little and follow one of the paths across the head of the Dyke itself; the pub is a modern building with a large aerial and is clearly visible. On a clear day, Devil's Dyke summit (see separate review) has amazing views across to the sea and the Sussex Weald right across to the North Downs. The Dyke is extraordinarily impressive from here: other features of interest include the rather scant remains of ramparts of an Iron Age fortress which occupied this part of the hill, and the 19th-century foundations of an aerial cable-car which crossed the Dyke itself. The whole hilltop is classified as an Area of

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