20 August 2015

Firle Beacon to Alfriston

First of all, may I just say a huge 'Thank-you' to everybody who made kind comments on my last blog-post about the completion of my jumper - they are very much appreciated.  In these grey, August days that we are experiencing it has been getting plenty of wear.

A few days ago I took a break from the DIY and the painting to go for a walk on the South Downs with a friend. We walked a stretch of the the South Downs Way (a 'National Trail') from the car-park at West Firle, just south-east of Lewes, to the lovely village of Alfriston about 4.5 miles away.  For those of you who are not native to our shores, the National Trails are a group of about 15 walks which are dotted about the country.  They have their own website and many publications written about them and are very easy-to-follow routes as they are clearly signposted all along the way.

I hadn't walked that part of the Downs before so I was really pleased with how spectacular it was.  Looking south you could see the sea and looking north was a view all over Sussex and Kent towards the High Weald.  This photo shows the view from the start of the walk, looking down towards the port of Newhaven - there were quite a few boats going in and out of the port.

It wasn't a brilliant day weather-wise and we were both wrapped up in our anoraks to combat the wind, but we were constantly stopping to take in the spectacular views.  This is Firle Beacon, one of the highest points on the Downs (about 700ft).  I've always wondered why things that go 'up' are called 'Downs' and I've recently found out that it comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for hill which is 'dun' (pronounced 'doona'  from what I can remember of my one year of Anglo-Saxon at University!)

The view over the Weald is spectacular - although on a cloudy day you don't really get the same experience from a photo.  The house in the foreground there is Charleston Farmhouse - the home of Vanessa Bell if any of you have been watching 'Life in Squares' on the BBC.

And this is looking east - the silver disc on the left is Arlington Reservoir.

And this is looking back towards Lewes, with Mount Caburn and the village of Glynde (where the Glyndebourne opera house is) on the left.

It was quite a long walk but an easy one, with gently rolling hills and paths and not too much huffing and puffing.

I put a filter on this photo as I wanted to accentuate the poppies on the foreground!

This is much further along and you can just about see the meanders of the river Cuckmere as it makes its way to the sea at Cuckmere Haven (I've got more photos of Cuckmere here).

Our destination or halfway-point was the village of Alfriston.  I'd never been there and didn't realise that it was a very popular touristy spot.  On the way in I passed these lovely hollyhocks in someone's drive.

Alfriston is truly quaint and pretty - a mixture of half-timbered cottages and flint-and-chalk fronted houses.

The village was crammed full of tea shops so we chose the first one and had a well-deserved coffee and cake.

The garden was full of twittering sparrows busily pecking at the crumbs on the tables.

I lured some in with my empty plate!

We found out that the hymn 'Morning has Broken' was actually written by Eleanor Farjeon (who wrote one of my favourite books when I was small The Little Bookroom) in the village itself so if you want the full, interactive, blog experience, just click on the link and listen along!  Do you think that she also was overwhelmed by the loveliness of the village and the surrounding countryside?

Opposite the teashop was this very old pub, The Star Inn:

And look!  It's a genuine red lion!  (I never knew there had been a sea-battle at Beachy Head - what a fascinating history we have in this country).

Another half-timbered pub on the other side of the street - The George Inn:

Alfriston still has its original market cross, outside another old pub, The Smugglers' Inn!  Plenty of places to go then if you need an alcoholic refreshment and they all look like really interesting old places with lots of history.  I love the idea of all the smugglers coming up from Cuckmere to trade their ill-gotten gains in the shady nooks of this old pub.

As I said, if tea or coffee is more your thing then there are plenty of tea-shops too - and I had to take a photo of the window-display in this one - it's the first time I've ever seen cricket balls used as a decorative feature! You can also see their lovely cakes cooling down on the window sill.  I think Alfriston could become a bit of a tea-shop destination for me - not stopping until I've sampled the cakes at each one!

We had a quick wander around the original branch of a Sussex-based cookware shop called 'Steamer Trading'.  It's a brilliant kitchen shop and there are a number of branches around the country now.  It's not the cheapest shop but it does have a huge range of very desirable products for anyone who loves kitchen things and occasionally I've bought some lovely crockery from there. We were particularly impressed by this range of Emma Bridgewater although not so impressed by the prices - about £16 for a mug!

Of course, Alfriston being such a pretty place and full of history, there were lots of very desirable (and I presume very expensive) dream-houses dotted about the lanes.  How about this one with its lovely hollyhocks, flint-and-chalk facade, wonky chimneys and cute little dormer windows?

Or maybe you'd prefer something a bit smarter and slightly more private?

We were going to visit the Alfriston Clergy House which is a National Trust property but the clouds were becoming more and more grey, so felt that we should be heading back the 4 miles over the Downs to the car before the rain set in.  The Clergy House will have to wait for another day which will be a good excuse to have more cake in one of Alfriston's lovely tea-shops!

Hope you've enjoyed accompanying me on my walk over the Downs, Judy.


  1. What a beautiful walk. I've been watching 'Life in Squares' so it's fascinating to see Charleston Farmhouse. I also did Anglo-Saxon at uni and loved it (does that make me a bit odd?) and I have great affection for brick and flint houses as I'm originally from Hampshire. Looks like you've hit a rich seam of tea-rooms and lovely shops there - a return visit might be in order.
    Cathy x

  2. What a lovely walk you took, a definite need for cake after all that exercise x

  3. You have written this beautiful story as if we are walking along with you. What lovely countryside! And, the tea shops look so quaint. This is exactly the type of place I love to visit. You are so lucky to be living in such a historical place. Thanks for taking us on a wonderful outing. My best to you. Pat xx

  4. Yes thank you I did enjoy the walk, I think I need to put my feet up now! It's really difficult to get those huge views on a photo. Alfriston looks super, so pretty. :-)

  5. If I ever come down south on a holiday, can I come for a day with you? I'd love to visit Alfriston and get a pot of tea with a friend!

    But can we drive there, as I'm not sure the walk there and back would be that good for my knee.

  6. what a truly wonderful walk! and one with cake too. my favourite kind of walk x

  7. What a gorgeous high level walk.... and Alfriston looks lovely. Jx

  8. What lovely pictures ... it's a very long time since we've been in that part of England - we used to have friends who lived in East Dean. Love those buildings and the gorgeous landscape views.
    Margaret P

  9. Hi, Judy. Your blog made me "homesick." I love the English countryside and the charming villages. I am already thinking about when I can return.

    I hope you are doing well. I am back at school. I just finished my first week, so I'm exhausted and haven't done much blog reading or writing lately.


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