A Cheeky Walk: Bungalowland

I woke up on May Bank Holiday Monday to the sound of rain. I considered cancelling my plans but decided that a damp walk was better than staying indoors all day. Bungalowland is the last of the Cheeky Walks outside Brighton. It was left to the end, in part, because of the name – it doesn’t sound as promising as most of the others. It was a pretty good walk though, along the cliffs near Peacehaven then through to Telscombe, taking us through areas that were attractive and areas that were less so.

This time there were six of us. Katharine, Kaylee and I started out in the strangely unwelcoming Smuggler’s Rest pub. The clouds were thick and menacing, but soon eased out. The pub food was all right, but I am sick to death of sweet bread on burger buns. Katharine has also been following the walks and has the more recent edition of the book. In mine, Peacehaven is compared to Jimmy Saville, a reference that is now removed.

After dessert (sticky toffee and apple pudding), we were joined by Dr Bramwell, Jo and Cara. Since Dr Bramwell was one of the Cheeky Walk book’s compilers we had no chance of getting lost on this one.

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We set off along the bungalow-lined cliffs. Some of them stood out, such as the house-with-the-boxing-ring-on-its-roof and the Rubik’s Cube house. I couldn’t persuade David to knock on the door or the latter and find out the story behind it.

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We crossed the meridian, re-enacting the picture on the nearby signboard:

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Once away from the bungalows and caravans we found ourselves among the gorse. The signpost that should have been a way marker was no longer there, making it hard to work where we were supposed to go. We ended up in a tangle of gorse and weren’t sufficiently convinced to press through it. After backtracking and exploring, we decided to try again, dragging ourselves through the thorns, forced to crouch almost to a crawl.

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Once out of the gorse, we found some lovely views of the Downs that looked straight out of a Ravilious painting.

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The road led to the village of Telscombe. It was very beautiful, but we were tired and in no mood to explore (we’d also missed the farm open day), so we hiked across Telscombe Tye common back towards the pub. The group took slightly different directions here, and Cara and I rescued a laptop on the way back to the pub. After a drink, I headed home where Kaylee and I watched Guy Martin’s India DVD

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It was a pretty good day. There is just one more walk left, a short stroll around central Brighton – and then the book is finished. What will I do then?

 

A Cheeky Walk: Grooving in the Ghost Village

Doing the Cheeky Walks has introduced me to several amazing places I should have visited during my two decades in Brighton. I’ve found stunning countryside a short distance away and walked along Devil’s Dyke for the first time. But Sunday’s trip to the Castle Hill Nature Reserve was the best discovery so far, and I had no idea it existed.

David Thoreau warned his readers to “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”. The Cheeky Walk around Castle Hill and the Lost Village of Balsdean required a new piece of equipment and a CD. The disc, 1 inch/ ½ mile by Grasscut is intended to be listened to at various points along the walk. I also bought a headphone splitter so that Lela and I could listen to the soundtrack simultaneously. And, in a departure from Cheeky Guide protocol, the walk is accompanied by a map.

Balsdean dates back to the 12th century and was a small farming community. For a time the manor house was used for a mental hospital. It fell into disrepair and the few remaining residents were removed in the second world war. The village was then used for artillery practise. Little trace of the buildings remain. Even online it’s hard to find photographs of what it once looked like.

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Listening to a soundtrack on a walk was an interesting innovation. Some tracks worked better than others (I caught Lela removing her headphones during one of the noisier, glitchier tracks). On the whole, it did enhance the walk, particularly when wind whistled around the headphones. I’d not heard of Grasscut before, but they seem to be an interesting band.

The scenery here was  stunning, a long right-angled valley with derelict farm buildings in the middle. There were also fearless lambs coming up to say hello as we walked down the avenue of trees. A few weeks ago, we’d passed Saddlescomb Farm while the lambing was taking place; now there were young lambs out in the field. I like how the countryside can tell stories like that between walks.

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The only traces of the old village are some half-buried foundations, and a plaque left where the church’s altar once was. It seems a shame to have used a Norman church for target practise.

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As we walked along the valley we occasionally heard screaming noises. Sometimes they sounded almost human. They had to be something to do with the flags near the derelict farm buildings.

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On our way back through the bottom of the valley we found that the noises were drone racers, from the Hidden Valley Group. Four of them were flying, piles of battery-packs beside their chairs – a drone can only fly a few minutes on a charge. Even so, when the racing is going on it looks exhilarating and the manoeuvrability is amazing. You can see examples on sites like FliteTest or RotorRiot .

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We stopped to talk with Ed, one of the racers. We also got to have a look at the viewscreens – the drones fly with cameras, allowing the pilots to fly with a first-person view. The drone racers told us about an air-show and drone-racing competition coming in early may.

After talking to the racers we were faced with the climb out of the valley. I’ve encountered a fair few hills on the Cheeky Walks, but this was the steepest of them all. But we did it bravely and without complaint.

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We followed the trail back to the start of the walk and then to the car. I think this hidden valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Brighton. I can’t believe we passed so few other people as we walked through it. Had everyone found better things to do? I’d wasted so many weekends when I could have come out here.

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A Cheeky Walk: The Lord Lucan Experience

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The Cheeky Walks Guidebook isn’t particularly kind about Newhaven, the location of last weekend’s walk. It compares the town to “a limbless toy discarded and left to rot in the attic, its stuffing long since eaten by rats”. Despite that, this was another fantastic journey, featuring the ghost village of Tide Mills and some lovely cliff-top views.

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The town is definitely very run down in places. On leaving the station at Newhaven Harbour, we were immediately faced with Industrial Decay, with the old abandoned station buildings. A little further on was the third train station in a short distance, Newhaven Marine. This is now only used as a stop for Ghost Trains (also known as Parliamentary Trains). Although we didn’t visit, there are some good pictures of the station online.

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Newhaven Marine station

From the stations we walked down to the seafront where we found the ghost village of Tide Mills. After flooding in 1937, many of the houses were condemned, with the remaining residents evacuated in 1940. The town was then used for artillery target practise during the war. It’s an eerie location.

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We did the first part of the walk in a group of four, with Rosy and Olive, who left us at a Cafe on the High Street:

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Our meal was filling, but not particularly tasty. The toilets doubled as chair storage, which made using them an adventure, but there was some latin graffiti out the back – non temere beneficiis, which seems to translate as ‘do not fear benefits’.

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The second half of the walk took us onto the cliffs of Newhaven Fort, which has some amazing views of the sea. It was a little breezy when we were there, but this would be an amazing place for a summer picnic.

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Despite the urban decay in much of Newhaven, this was still a pretty good walk. Lela and I even got a trace of sunburn. We ended up at Rosy’s Dad’s house for a cup of tea. It was a good day.

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Just 4 walks and 18.5 miles remaining. If the weather holds, we’re doing a pair of walks next weekend. Whatever are we going to do when these walks are finished?

A Cheeky Walk: The Devil and Miss Price

I’ve discovered some great places from the Cheeky Walks, but this week I visited a place I should have been to before. In 4 decades living within 5 miles of the place, I’ve never actually walked Devil’s Dyke. I’ve been around it many times but never actually inside. The Devil and Miss Price was one of my favourite of the cheeky walks. It’s themed around the “model, children’s author, novelist, businesswoman, philosopher” Katie Price, aka Jordan, but it is really an excuse to plot a walk to Poynings, Saddlescombe Farm, Newtimber Hill and Devil’s Dyke.

The route starts on the top of Devil’s Dyke, looking out across the Weald. A sign told us that the painter Constable had described this view as the grandest in the world. I think the view from Newtimber Hill later in the walk had the edge, but it’s still an amazing scene. It also takes in most of the places where I grew up.

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We walked down the slope to Poynings via some of the most treacherous steps I’ve ever seen. How we didn’t end up slipping, sliding and covered in mud is a miracle.

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The mud stopped soon after and we passed through Saddlescomb Farm and up onto Newtimber Hill before dropping back to the farm.

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Until doing the Cheeky Walks, I’d not realised that Saddlescomb Farm had a connection with the Knights Templar. Facts like these that provide a testament to the long hours of research put in by Bramwell, Bick and Ashton.

The walk through the Dyke felt magical. How had I missed this? And what am I going to do when I’ve finished these walks?

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My friend @dpashley says that behind every sign there’s a story

A Cheeky Walk: Bottoms Up

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Good Friday was a perfect day for a Cheeky Walk, the first proper sunny day of the year. We opted for ‘Bottoms Up’, an innuendo-laden tour of Stanmer Park and Ditchling Beacon – ‘bottom’ being a common Sussex place name. This was also the first time when we got lost.

One of the directions was via a carved tree-trunk. We missed it the first time past, because a couple of people were sat covering the carving. It didn’t help that I also missed one of the sentences in the directions. We retraced our steps and met a famous dog, who turned out to be half shitzu and half poodle – meaning it was either a zoodle or a shitpu. His owner told us a story about the risks of birdwatching, and how they had once watched a heron, amazed how still it was, only to learn that it was a statue.

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Lela takes photographic evidence of the gate I missed

We were misled once more by the Keymer Finger Post – it looks as if the field has been re-fenced, as the gate was now in the wrong corner of the field. Still, with the aid of Google maps, we found our way back on course. We also passed close to the route of the Earth, Wind and Fire walk – what a contrast the weather was.

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Lying fingerpost

I think this walk was one of my favourites. It was hard work on the legs, but it gave some wonderful views. And it ended with a portable creperie. Despite only being seven miles, it felt a lot longer – perfect for a bank holiday. Now it’s just 28 miles and 6 walks to go.

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A Cheeky Walk: Earth, Wind and Fire

Apparently you can buy coats designed to keep the wind out. I never thought I needed one until yesterday’s walk, crossing the Downs with the wind cutting through the layers I was wearing. I realised that last year’s winter Cheeky walks were all urban ones, and that doing the rural ones in February might not be a good idea.

Despite that, the Earth, Wind and Fire walk was a good one, starting in Pyecombe and taking in the Chattri, Jack and Jill Windmills and the Clayton Tunnel. It was fairly similar to a walk taken with Jamie and Jen last year (although the windmill is closed to visitors until May). Still, despite the cold, the views were amazing.

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This sign to the South Downs seems unnecessary
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The church is sinking…
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More mud
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The Mallard Mailbox, pointed out by the guidebook, has sadly seen better days
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Fuck off, i360

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Cheeky Walk: A Perfect Walk

The last entry in the Cheeky Walks book – and the longest outside Brighton – is the Perfect Walk in Arundel. I don’t like to read too much of the walk in advance and assumed Arundel meant twittens and history. Instead this was a country walk, with long, scenic stretches beside the river Arun and deep woods. So, probably best not to do it in Winter. Right from the start it was thick with mud, and Lela had decided to wear her trainers instead of hiking boots or wellingtons. But we pressed on – for 8½ miles.

It was pretty good though. Arundel castle appeared and disappeared, providing a regular reference point. There were turkeys. And there was a wooden suspension bridge. And the least level cricket pitch I’ve seen in Sussex. But the mud was incessant and exhausting. The mess around the stiles did make for fun puzzles – which route to take to avoid getting wet feet?

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We didn’t have a hope of a table at the George and Dragon in Belpham, but easily found a riverside table at the Black Rabbit. Sadly the food is less wonderful than it was many years ago in 2012 when the guide was written. They don’t do veggie roasts, and the veggie burger was underwhelming. Still, they had a fantastic location and gherkins that looked like worms emerging from the burger.

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One of my favourite things about the cheeky walks is you sometimes feel like the directions are about to lead you wrong, but they never do.As the book gets older, the directions become less accurate. In this one, it warns at one point “if you pass the phone box, you have gone too far”. The phone is gone, but the box is  now an information resource:

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The weather may have been poor, but we saw the first signs of Spring. Maybe not a perfect walk, given the ground underfoot – but it might be worth trying again on a summer’s day:

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