Ditchling Beacon, East Sussex

Updated: Mar 23

Location: South of Ditchling, on the South Downs

Nearest town: Hassocks, East Sussex

Peak: 248 metres above sea level

Ranks: 32/48

Difficulty: ★

Date climbed: 12 February 2022

Sussex is a lovely part of the country. When you journey north-to-south through either of the twin ceremonial counties of East and West Sussex, you will initially find yourself travelling along narrow, winding country lanes and through sleepy villages that play host to pretty flint cottages and historic churches. This is the Weald - a vast patchwork landscape that stretches from Hampshire to Kent and lies between the ridgelines of the North and South Downs.

Continue on and you will soon reach the South Downs - a range of chalk hills that run east-to-west, from Hampshire right through to Beachy Head outside of Eastbourne. With a steep northern face, the ridgeline that runs across the summit provides superb views out across the Weald.

And it is upon this ridgeline that you will find East Sussex's high point: Ditchling Beacon. The hill - the third highest of the South Downs - can be summited via a steep, winding road from the village of Ditchling in the Weald below. That road, and the National Trust car park at the summit, proved very useful when suffering from a rotten cold and when wishing to shelter as much as possible from high winds of the weekend prior to historic Storm Eunice.

But we did, briefly, park up and join the trail - the South Downs Way - and walked up and touched the trig point. 22 high points! Then we immediately turned around and retreated to the car for a very British winter picnic.

The third and final part of Sussex is of course its sunny coastline, long beaches and iconic white chalk cliffs. This stretch of coast, running from Chichester Harbour to Camber Sands includes the towns of Worthing, Brighton and Eastbourne that are host to a hive of activity year round due to the constant stream of day-trippers travelling down from the capital.

On this trip we were headed for Eastbourne for a first night away of the year. And whilst the sun struggled to shine, we had a lovely weekend staying in the Burlington Hotel directly opposite Eastbourne pier. It was a weekend spent being windswept along the promenade, losing the vast sum of £1 to the penny-push machines at the arcade, and enjoying cream tea in the Victorian Tea Rooms on the pier.

On our journey home we stopped at Birling Gap, an enclosed pebble beach set below the imposing Seven Sisters cliffs. This was our second visit. The first was back in August 2019 as a rest-stop on the second day of a two-day circular walk between Eastbourne and Alfriston. Back then Birling Gap was little more than a point of note on our 10 miles march through the Cuckmere Valley and along the cliff-top path all the way back to Eastbourne. This time around we briefly braved the beach before nipping into the National Trust cafe for tea and cake. East Sussex really is lovely.

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