Starts at Falmer
2 hours 16 minutes | 6.9miles 11.1km | Leisurely Shorter option 4.8 miles
A new take on a popular walk to Ditchling Beacon, using open access land, or the opportunity to reverse the walk to walk from Ditchling to a football match at the Falmer stadium.
Falmer, pedestrian entrance to Sussex University TQ347099
Buses 23, 25 and the big Lemon bus run from Brighton to Sussex University, stopping at at various points on the campus. Buses 28 and 29 run along the A27, to and from Brighton, Lewes,Ringmer, Uckfield and Tunbridge Wells stopping very near the start point. Falmer station is a five minute walk from the start point.
On summer Sundays the 78 bus runs from Brighton to Stanmer Village and the 79 runs from Brighton to Ditchling Beacon.
Trains run from Falmer Station to Brighton (good connections to London), Lewes (connections to London) Seaford, Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings.
On Saturdays when Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club are playing at home public transport to the ground is very crowded before 3 and after 5.
There is a shorter alternative of a little under 5 miles.
This is a stile free walk.
Ordnance survey Explorer map 122, Landranger 198
Refreshments, Swan Inn at Falmer, bars and shops on the university campus, Ice cream van often at Ditchling Beacon, Tea room in Stanmer Village.
Toilets in Stanmer village.
1) The walk starts at the pedestrian entrance to Sussex University, opposite Falmer Station.
If coming from Falmer Station leave by the main exit. Turn slightly left to head down the underpass. Emerge from the underpass at the entrance to the university.
If coming from the main road bus stop from the Lewes direction get off the bus and take the same underpass, which is accessible down steps next to the bus stop
If coming from the Stanmer park car park walk east along the road from the car park. Enter the university. Pass sports hall and a car park on your right and then turn slightly right to arrive at the walk start. The university visitor’s car park is next to the walk start point but is often full.
If coming on a 23 or 25 bus get off at the first stop on the campus, next to the university sports hall. Walk east from the bus stop.
If coming on a 28 or 29 bus stop from Brighton get off at the university stop and take a path that leads into the university from the stop. This joins the route shortly after the start point.
Locate a gap in the trees that forms a wide green alley going east, parallel to the road. Walk up this. You are now on the Sussex University boundary walk, which you will follow for the next couple of kilometres. Walk to the end of this alley to find a path straight ahead through the trees which joins a road. (At this point the path from the eastbound bus stop comes in from the right.) It is possible to continue straight ahead along the road, but better to continue on the path which is slightly to the left, to the left hand side of a single story square box of a building. Cross a couple of roads to come out at a road on the edge of the campus. Take a small road straight ahead here.
2) After about fifty metres see a boundary path signpost on your left. Turn left up the path it indicates. From hear on to Ditchling Beacon the general direction is straight ahead. After about 400metres a path joins you from the left. Keep straight ahead. Come to a small road. Cross this and take the path straight ahead. (The first metre of this path is steep and possibly slippery. If you are deterred turn left on the road tore- join the walk further on. Walk ahead through the wood until you come to a junction. Turn left here to rejoin the road. Turn right along to the road to reach St Mary’s Farm.
Continue past the farm and go straight ahead through a gate and up a fenced track. See a gate straight ahead of you and continue ahead, with a fence at your left hand side.
3) At the point at which the path begins to descend you will see a gate on your left with a bridleway sign. If you want to cut the walk short turn left here and follow the bridleway to just after point 7.
Otherwise continue straight ahead. The route bears left, starting to head north west towards Ditchling Beacon. You will probably be able to see the cars in the care park. Just before the route meets the South Downs Way it turns right through a gate, but you can also go to the right of this where the fence has disappeared. Come to the South Downs Way and turn left, heading west towards Ditchling Beacon.
Just before you meet the road notice a gate in the fence on your left. You will return to this shortly. Cross the road carefully. There can be quite a lot of traffic on it. (On the London to Brighton bike ride cyclists have to ride, or push, their bikes up the hill which descends steeply to your right!) Continue round the north side of the car park and go through a gate. The path to the top of the beacon runs slightly to the left of the main path
4) The summit is worth visiting for its nearly 360 degree panoramic views. It is one of the best viewpoints on the South Downs Way. The top is marked by a concrete triangulation point, formerly used for mapping.
Having admired the view, return the way you came, stopping perhaps for an ice cream if the van is there. Cross the road and go through the gate as if returning the way you came. Then turn right through the first wooden gate you see, about 15 metres after the road.
You are now on access land. For many many years the Ramblers Association fought for the public right to roam freely on uncultivated land. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act enshrined this right in law. It applies only to mountain, moor and downland, not (for example) the Weald or lowlands). It only applies to “unimproved downland”- downland that has not been cultivated or changed in any way. There are only small pockets of the downs that meet this definition. They are shown on modern versions of the Explorer maps in yellow, with brown edges.
So you can walk anywhere you want in this field, but I recommend following the valley ahead of you down to the bottom, which is called, imaginatively, Big Bottom. Suddenly you are far away from the crowds that throng the beacon and the South Downs Way. Head towards the water trough at the bottom of the Bottom. Once you reach this you can climb on a sheep track to a gap in the fence in the south-east corner of the field. (There is also a gate just to the right that you can use.
5) Once through the gap the field ahead of you is sheep-cropped grassland. Head more or less due south towards the football stadium. (Is it a thing of beauty or a blot on the landscape? Opinion is divided.) You are aiming for the far right corner of the field. The stadium disappears behind a hill and you pass a number of clumps of trees. Gradually descending. Soon a gate appears in the edge of the field. Head for this. (Warning, in this area maps tend to show trees where there are none and do not show trees that are actually there.)
6) Go through the gate and turn left along the field edge, next to trees. Turn right at the corner of the field and follow the fence and line of trees to the south west until you get to the corner of the field. Here you will find two gates Don’t take the one that enters the wood to the left. Instead, go through the one straight ahead. Continue to follow the fence and tree line and go past some trees on your right. Descend slightly and, in a hollow, find a gate on your left.
7) Go through this and follow a path ahead to where it joins a track. Turn right here (The short walk re-joins the route through a gate. If you are on the short walk you will know that you have rejoined the main route as you have left the open downland and entered the wood. Follow the track up hill to a junction.
8) You have a further choice here.
If the toilets and cafe in Stanmer beckon, keep straight ahead. Follow the track down into the valley to emerge in the village. The cafe is on your left and the toilets on your right. When your needs have been met continue in the same direction towards the church. You join the main park road. You can walk on the grass beside it. See a gate to your left and climb the hill to rejoin the main route at point 9.
The more attractive main route turns left. After about 20 metres there is a Y junction. Take the right hand path. Follow this for nearly a kilometre.
9) The path emerges into open downland briefly and the Stanmer Alternative joins the main route here. The path keeps straight ahead as it re-enters the trees
10) At a further junction take the path which bears right. (The route straight ahead heads quick shortly into the university campus. If you hit this you have missed the turning.)
11) You come to a gate where there are views of Stanmer Park. Do not go through the gate, but turn left just before it. This path emerges from the woods to a broad open field which is part mown and which is part of the university. Initially go straight ahead with the fence on your right, but when you reach the mown area bear left, heading diagonally across the field to a metal gate. Go past the gate just to the right. If you are parked in the Stanmer Park car park turn right to return to it. Otherwise turn left left along the road into the campus. There is a bus stop on your left. If you came from Brighton on the 23 or 25 bus you can use this stop to return although you will get a tour of the campuses of two universities. Otherwise cross the road and walk east along roadside paths. The university visitor’s car park is on your right. To get to the station or the 28 and 29 bus stops. Turn right after the car park. You are now back at the start.
To reach Falmer station or the 28 and 29 bus stops to Brighton. Go under the underpass to your right. You can also pick up the 23 and 25 here after their tour of the campuses.
To reach the 28 and 29 bus stops towards Lewes follow walk towards the main road and then follow the cycle lane to your left. The stop is about 100 metres up this.