Fishing boats, a historic fort, cliff walks, sea views, wildflowers plants, downland views, secret woodland, an historic village and a giant cockroach. This walk round Newhaven’s harbour and surrounding countryside has it all.
Newhaven Town Railway Station TQ449001
Trains to Newhaven run from Lewes (with connections to London) Seaford and Brighton.
Buses also run to the station. There is a frequent service from Brighton, Seaford and Eastbourne. On Mondays to Saturdays there is also a service to Lewes.
Ordnance survey maps Landranger 198, Explorer 122
Toilets, pubs and shops in Newhaven Town Centre (A) and along Newhaven quayside.
There are three stiles on the walk, all between Hoathland and Piddinghoe.
1) The walk starts at Newhaven Town Station. Leave the station by exits to the platform and walk north a few metres to the main road. Turn left here. For the next kilometre or so you will be following national cycle route 2.
Keep on the south side of the road, walking along the pavement and cross the swing bridge. Turn left at the end of the bridge and follow the river Ouse. (If you need the shops of Newhaven town (A) cross the main road and walk up the street opposite) After a few metres on your left follow the cycleway alongside the river. Pass the Alma pub (food and tea and coffee as well as the normal drinks, normally open all day, balcony). Its a bit early to stop but you might want to take note for your return. Also pass the fish shop where you can buy locally caught fish. On your left you can usually see fishing boats. This is still a working port. To your right you will see various attractive sculptures and landscaped areas. Usually you only get this sort of thing when the industry is dead and gone, but here an attempt has been made to integrate work and leisure.
On your right you will see new residential developments, including some very tall flats. These have had a chequered history, with developers and others involved going bust, and at one time were hard to sell, but most of them seem to be occupied now. To your left you may be able to see the cross channel ferry on the other side of the river. This was once the fastest way from London to Paris and boat trains came direct from London to the Maritime station across the river. But now there are only two boats to Dieppe a day. Lets hope they survive.
After a block of flats the cycle lane turn right. Follow it round. The cycle lane ends. Keep straight ahead on the dock road. Pass an italian restaurant which is also open in the day and does snacks. This joins the main road to the beach.
2) Cross the main road and turn left. Pass the park, toilets (signposted “Last toilets before France”) and the outdoor Gym (free to use should you feel energetic). After the park take the pedestrian route to the Newhaven fort, which is a paved road slightly to the right of straight ahead. Walk up to the entrance of Newhaven Fort.
Picture- Newhaven from the fort.
(B) Newhaven Fort defended England for hundreds of years. Now it is a museum which tells the history of that defence, with a particular emphasis on the second world war. A visit is recommended. There is a cafe for visitors. On the walk you will pass various relics of the defences.
To continue the walk turn right at the entrance. Pass through sculptures depicting soldiers on the move and walk along the left hand side of the car park.
To your right, before you get to the main part of the car park, there is a sort of wavy long bench. On some of the slats there are little plaques with the names of local and famous people. One of these plaques contains the name of Jack Nissenthal. You can read the extraodinary story of his part in the raid on Dieppe which took place in 1942 here. It is a story that should be more widely known.
At the end of the car park continue on a path. This meets a track at a point where there are some old concrete defences. Turn left on the track and walk up it for about 50 metres. Look out for a clear path going off to the left. Walk up this path when you find it.
At first the path goes through the undergrowth, but then it opens out and there are spectacular sea views and views of Seaford Head to the East. If the tide is out you can also see Newhaven’s sandy beach, inside the harbour. For years this has been a playground for local people, but now the company that owns the port have closed it off.
Picture – Seaford Head from the walk.
Naturalist Dave Bangs is passionate about this area where he has found Vicia sativa, Vicia tetrasperma , Vicia hersuta. teazel, fleabane, knapweed and Carline Thistle He has also seen giant hawk moths and perigrine falcons. At TQ431001 there are the remains of a bronze age barrow.
Follow the path round to the right and head for the Coast Watch station. Pass in front of this and follow a path which twists and turns but is always obvious. Keep straight ahead. This path is very near the cliff edge in places and care should be taken. Pass above a mobile home development on your right and then walk next to a field.
This stretch of the walk highlights why the Ramblers have campaigned for a coastal path for the whole of England. Until recently, if a coastal right of way fell over a receding cliff it was lost. But with the new coastal path this will no longer happen. See details about the English Coastal path here
The field ends and the route continues straight ahead next to the cliff, through uncultivated land. Pass a house with attached carvan, some way to your right. Ascend a slight hill.
Dave has found scarse bloody-nosed beetles here and other rare species. In any sensible world the area the area you have been walking in would be part of the south downs national park. But since it’s near Newhaven the park planners turned their noses up at it and the park boundary stops at the main coast road.
4) You see a very large white mobile home on your right and meet a car track which curves away to your right. Follow this, passing the mobile home on your left. You walk up this track past the caravan site. The track ends at a T junction with another track, where there is a grand display of the native rose Rosa Rugosa. Turn right and then take the first left, a track which leads to the main coast road.(Ignore a footpath to your left.)
5) If you want to end your walk here you could take the bus back into Newhaven. The bus stop is on the opposite side of the road just to your right. To continue cross the road very carefully and head straight ahead, along Links Avenue, which is really a track. The track ends at a gate and here an interesting piece of navigation begins.
You are entering Hoathdown, a piece of downland that was derelict for many years. Dave Bangs says that there are huge numbers of different species of plants and insects here, although owners Lewes District Council have let the gorse run wild. Even to my untrained eye there are large numbers of wildflowers.
The path does not follow the legal right of way here. At the gate you will see it heading away just to the right and heading north At first it passes by a horse field. but then it heads slightly left. Initially the way is quite clear. Keep following the main path. But then you find yourself at something of a clearing. A path appears to come in from the right behind you and a further junction follows almost immediately. the main path appears to go left, but you need to bear right, slightly uphill.
Picture- bear right here.
After this the route becomes fairly clear again until the path turns right down some steps into a deep, damp, lovely and mystical woodland. This must be amazing in mist. There are quite a lot of paths, but thankfully there are waymarks at every junction. Follow these. Emerge from the wood at a stile, where there are fine downland vistas.
Turn right after climbing the stile, along the side of the wood. When the boundary of the wood turns right in about 10 metres, keep straight ahead, across a pathless field, aiming for the highest point ahead of you. (Sometimes this field has been planted with crops. It is legally ok to walk through them and you may see the route that others who have done this have taken. If you do find this problem please report it to East Sussex council)
6) Once you get to the high point you will see a stile straight ahead of you. Climb this and keep straight ahead. Aim for the spire of Piddinghoe church, which you can see in front of you. There is another stile to cross.
Turn to your right and you will see the giant cockroach of the Newhaven incinerator squatting in the Ouse valley below you. Its silver shell is visible from most of the downs round here. It was strongly opposed by many Newhaven people. Most of what it burns comes from large conurbations like Brighton. They obviously thought Newhaven was a good place to dump their rubbish. Although it is next to the railway line all the material comes in on lorries.
7) Pass a copise on your left and continue downhill on a track with a fence on your left. There is a large barn complex on your right You will walk through a gate to the left of the farm buildings in front of you. Once through the gate walk along a track straight ahead, which curves right and meets the road up the valley. Cross this carefully and take the path ahead of you, which goes through what looks like a garden gate. to emerge in the main street of Piddinghoe.
C) You are now in the attractive village of Piddinghoe which is well worth a wander round. I’m told there is a thriving community but there is, alas, no pub or shop. Most of the village is to your right.
To continue the walk turn left. If you have had enough there are buses to Newhaven and Lewes from the bus stop straight ahead where the street through the village meets the valley road but they are not frequent. But to continue the walk take the next right, signposted for Newhaven. You are now on the Ouse Valley way. The path runs down to the river Ouse and then follows it for about 1.5 kilometres to Newhaven. It passes Piddinghoe pond, which is much used for dinghy sailing and also passes the incinerator.
As you approach Newhaven the path follows an inlet to the right of the main channel and then approaches a boatyard. Don’t go through the boatyard, but find a place to come off the bank and follow a drainage channel towards a children’s playground.
The flat land to the right of the playground is, or was, a flat recreational area where kids kicked around balls, played games and people did all the things that you do in recreation grounds. It is or was pretty much the only area in north Newhaven to do this sort of thing. In 2012 Lewes district council sold it to someone to build a hotel on.
Reach a road and turn left along it. Walk to the end, where you can see the Lewes council depot. Just before the depot turn right up a small alley, right by the gate. Then turn left to emerge on the pavement next to the main road round the town centre. Turn left again. Pass a subway on your right. Cross the road which goes to Denton Island on your left. Keep straight ahead to the bridge across the Ouse. Cross the road at the pedestrian crossing. You are now back on your original route. Turn left for the station and right for the Alma pub and the fish shop.
I’d like to thank Dave Bangs, whose nature rambles in this area and whose book “the Brighton Downs” inspired this