A traverse of the lonely Laughton levels. Savour the joys of solitude and a surprising variety of scenery.
Distance, Terrain and Time
13.34 Km / 8.29 miles on level ground, 3-4 hours
If you were new to the area this would not be the first walk you would want to do. There are not the obvious attractions of the downland ridge or the woods of the High Weald. But if you want to get away from the madding crowd and experience the subtleties of a variety of scenery this walk is for you. It is, perhaps, a route for a seasoned walker who wants to do something different.
This is a walk of the pastoral, of villages and farms and quiet pleasures. In walking it you will be helping to keep some less well used paths free of overgrowth. For most of the walk you are unlikely to meet another walker.
An unusual feature of this walk is the amount of lawn walking you may do. There is quite a lot of turf farming in the area.
Music to get you in the mood or sing along to on the walk
Joni Mitchell’s “Hissing of the Summer Lawns”
There are a number of stiles, mostly in decent condition. You need to pay close attention to the instructions at a couple of points.
Start and finish points
Start at Ringmer at the 28 bus stop just east of the Green Man at Ringmer. (bus displays the stop as Kennel Corner)
Finish at Berwick railway station.
An alternative start is Broyle Place about 2km from the start, but this is served by only 4 buses a day Monday to Friday. (Service 143)
There are occasional buses to and from Ripe. See the Cuckmere bus timetable for services 38, 42 and 44
It is also possible to finish the walk at Selmeston. From the church walk south along the main lane through the village to the A27. The 25/125 bus runs about every two hours back to Lewes.
To walk from Lewes railway station to the 28 bus stop leave by the main exit. Turn right and walk for about 100 metres to the Lansdowne pub. Turn right here and follow the road as it bends left. Walk past some traffic lights and find a bus stop on the right outside Waitrose. This is the 28 stop. (The 143 leaves from the bus station opposite)
For bus and train times see Traveline South East
Ordnance Survey maps
Explorer series number 123 Landranger series 199, 198
The Green Man at Ringmer, Village shop Ripe, Berwick Inn at Berwick station,
1)The walk starts at the 28 bus stop just east of the Green Man Inn, which is at the eastern end of Ringmer. Cross the road and walk down a lane signposted to Ringmer Industrial estate. Pass the estate on your right. The continues straight ahead and then turns left past a house. The main part of the track turns right into the grounds of the house, but your route goes straight ahead and enters a field. Turn right in the field and head across it, aiming for a modern house at the other side of the field.
Reach a lane by the house. Turn left here and then left again to reach the main road. Turn right along the footway, which is separated from the road and walk to a junction with a minor road coming in from the right.
Opposite this road, on the left hand side of the main road, is a signpost and a stile. Cross the main road carefully and then cross the stile. Immediately turn right and walk alongside the hedge. You come to a second field. Turn left here, with a hedge on your left. At the corner of the field turn right and walk towards the next corner of the field.
2) Turn left and walk about 10 metres along the road side. Then, when you reach a house, cross the road to a garden style gate opposite. Go through the gate. There is a rather old paper sign warning of a bull here, but I have never seen one, just some rather dopey cattle. There is a hedge in front of you and fields on the left and right. Go into the field on the right.
You now have a slightly difficult bit of navigation. You are aiming for a stile in the corner of the field opposite you, almost due south of where you are, but from where you are now standing it is not clear where this is. You may find it easier to walk round the left hand side of the field. This field may be churned up a bit by cattle. (It is the only field on the walk where this is likely to be a problem).
At the end of the second field you will find two gates. Go through the metal one on your right and then turn left, so that you are walking in the same direction as previously. The hedge is now on your left hand side. On clear days there are fine views of the downs.
Pass a modern house, which looks a bit incongruous in this remote setting. Go through a metal gate. Ahead of you, slightly to the right, you will see a substantial footbridge. Cross it.
A)You can see the dramatic tower of Laughton Place to your right. Walk diagonally across the field to aim for a wooden gate just to the right of the houses you can see ahead of you. Go through the gate and turn right. Walk to the entrance to Laughton Place.
You can rent the Place from the Landmark Trust who say “From about 1400 Laughton was the chief manor of the Pelhams, without whom eastern Sussex would not have been as it is. In 1534 Sir William, who had attended his king at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, remodelled the house on a grand scale, round a moated courtyard and with terracotta decoration in the newest Renaissance fashion”. He used the latest fashionable material- brick. However the dampness of the site meant that the house was quickly abandoned. All that has survived is this tower.
The Pelhams were a notable local family. According the “Wealden Walks” guide, in 1356 Sir John Pelham captured the king of France for the English king and over 60 Pelhams are buried in Laughton churchyard, including two prime ministers.
When you have had enough of this remote idyll go through the gate opposite the entrance to the Place and walk east, keeping the field boundaries on your left.
3)Come to a junction where a track turns left with a hedge on its left. Take this track to the left and follow it to the end of the field. Turn right here. It is currently necessary to climb a wooden fence. (The signpost is misleading because it does not point the way that you need to go, even though this is right of way) Go through a metal gate and enter a wood. At a junction keep left. Keep a large hedge on your left. At one point the route becomes a little overgrown, but the way is still clear.
You join a track, which comes in from the left. Bear right along the track. The track then turns sharply right into a field, but your route keeps straight ahead. You will see a footpath sign and a redundant stile. Pass this and enter a field. Walk round the left hand edge of the field.
At the end of the field you emerge into a lane at Mark Cross. Slightly to your left, opposite the houses, Mark Cross Lane heads south-east. Take this lane for about a kilometre until it bends sharply to the right. Leave the lane here. You will be travelling straight ahead up the drive. But in order to do this you must press a button. The gate will open.
4)Walk up the drive almost to the house. You will see a laurel hedge. The path runs to the right of this hedge. You then cross a stile into a garden.
The owners of this garden, having extended their garden over the path, seem to have gone out of their way to make the transit of their property pleasant. You walk first up a secluded path and then turn left, following stepping stones set in the lawn. Continue straight ahead to emerge in the centre of Ripe Village with its pub and shop.
The village of Ripe has changed. It is no longer an agricultural village for ordinary rural folk. Some years ago a licensee of the Lamb wanted planning permission to erect holiday cottages. The parish council were reluctant to agree until he said that the alternative was to erect some social housing. He rapidly got his permission for the holiday homes! However the village is still very attractive to look at.
Walk between the disused pub and the shop in the direction of Chalvington. Immediately behind the pub, by the bus stop, take a small lane which turns into a footpath through a tunnel of trees and shrubs. Emerge from the tunnel. Cross a footbridge. Emerge at the road. Almost immediately you follow a footpath sign to the left. You go through one field (uncultivated in 2013) and then enter a large field which was laid to turf in 2013. It is difficult to work out where the right of way goes. If you keep the stream about 50 metres on your left you will not be far wrong. You are aiming for a small gap in the hedge in the corner of the field diagonally opposite where you entered the field.
Pass into the next field which you leave at the field corner diagonally opposite, to the left.
5)Arrive at Langtye Lane which you cross to find another path immediately opposite.
In the next section of the walk you may find some problems with the paths. If you do please tell East Sussex Rights of Way at firstname.lastname@example.org. The more complaints they get the more likely it is that problems will be sorted out.
In 2013 the path ahead was obstructed by a crop of oil seed rape but it was possible to walk around the edge of the field. It may be simpler to do this in any case because otherwise the stile which you use to exit the field can be hard to find. If you follow this option turn right after the stile. Go to the corner of the field. Turn left and walk to the next corner. Turn left again and look out for a gap with a stile on your right. Cross the stile.
You now walk down the side of the field ahead to the corner. Turn left here. The path follows a ditch for some way past a clump of bushes.
6)Shortly before the next corner of the field the right of way crosses a fence, but the way is barred by barbed wire and, shortly afterwards by a Hawthorn hedge. To avoid these problems go ahead to the corner of the field and then turn left. Very quickly you come to a gap.(There may be a gate here). Go through the gap and turn sharp right down a track down the edge of the field
The right of way runs diagonally across this field to the far left corner, but in 2013 it was obstructed by rape. It is possible to walk down the track on the western edge of the field to the field corner, where you can turn left and make your way to the next corner.
At this point the footpath problems cease. There is a small bridge which leads you into a wood, followed by a stile that gives you access to the next field. Walk left at 45 degrees to the woods (due south) Enter the next field and head for a railway crossing. Cross carefully and continue straight ahead.
7)There is a barn on your right. On your left is a stile with a footpath sign. Note the direction on this sign. You will be walking in a straight line in this direction through 3 fields to Selmeston. In the third field you will come to a track. Turn left on this track to emerge onto a lane, via a stile on the left of a gate.
Turn right down the lane. Walk past Church Farmhouse (or go in for afternoon tea) to reach the church.
8) Turn left into the churchyard and follow the edge of the churchyard round to the east of the church, leaving the yard by a gate. You find yourself in a lane. This is the bridleway to Berwick station. Turn left here and then keep straight ahead to the station. The bridleway runs straight ahead from here, but its character varies considerably. It is at various times a lane, a narrow path through weeds, a grassy ride and a way though fields. Ignore all side paths. Keep straight ahead. Finally you emerge on the road. Ahead of you is the Berwick Inn and to your left is the station. There is a shop on the other side of the railway line. Trains run hourly throughout the week.