Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Hidden treasures of Sussex: a walk down the River Ouse

Despite being Sussex born and bred, I’ll readily admit that there are parts of our county where I’ve never set foot. So, armed with an OS map and a picnic, I walked the River Ouse from Lewes to Newhaven one sunny Sunday. The whole walk is about 8 miles long including the detour via Rodmell and Southease, and took me four hours including stopping for a pint and lunch.

Getting slightly waylaid by the ruins of Lewes Priory, I made my way via the delightfully-named Cockshut Road to the Ouse, and then turned south along the riverbank. The A27 veers away from the river toward Beddingham Junction, reducing the roar of the traffic to a background hum, the soundscape now one of birdsong, the buzz of insects and the rustle of the breeze through grass.

There’s no bridge until Southease, so to get to Rodmell without doubling back you need to be on the western bank of the river, offering panoramic views toward the cliffs at Lewes, Mount Caburn and along the valley. When Northerners may scoff that “those aren’t proper hills!” they’re missing the point: while they may not be spectacular, the roll of the Downs and the overlap of the green and golden hills have to be some of Britain’s most beautiful sights.

After an hour or so the path to Rodmell peels off to the right, with the track passing Monk’s House and leading up to the main road where you’ll find the Abergavenny Arms. I had an excellent pint of Harvey’s in the garden and walked ¾ of a mile down the road to Southease.

This is a nasty bit of road with a 50mph limit and pedestrian-unfriendly, so it was a relief to return to the footpath which leads into the tiny village of Southease. It’s an idyllic scene with historic houses and a Norman church with an unusual circular tower, wooden beamed roof and the faint fragments of 13th century wall paintings.

After my picnic in the churchyard I walked on to rejoin the Ouse, where there’s also a well-used cycle track. After a couple of miles the riverside path directs you back to the road - another unpleasant stretch with cars bearing down on you until you reach Piddinghoe village. This is another charming village with a second Norman church with a circular tower, and an unusual house converted from a kiln.

Back to the river and not long now to Newhaven past the incinerator and marina toward the mouth of the river. The bridge leading to the railway station is tantalisingly near, but it takes a further frustrating 15 minutes to negotiate your way out of the dockyard, and round the pedestrian-hostile road system to the station, where you’ll find neither a decent pub nor a train at the time of writing, thanks to Southern Rail’s cancellation of the service with a rail replacement bus back to Lewes.

It’s a lovely walk apart from the two short stretches with traffic and as it’s flat it’s an easy one. If, like me, you’ve never actually stopped off to explore the villages along the route, prepare to be wowed by the hidden treasures Sussex has to offer.

Other loosely related blog posts (VERY loosely related!):

A Visit to Dungeness Sound Mirrors

Brighton to Albania by Train

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