Hiking in Sussex – a walkers paradise
image courtesy of istock.com (artist name Credit:AmyLaughinghouse )
The county of Sussex offers visitors a famous snapshot of the course of British history. This region, however, is less well known as a hikers paradise.
So where do you start?
Hastings and the surrounding area
Hastings may not be the first place you think of when you dust off your walking boots and hiker's backpack. But think again. Hastings and its environs boast some of the most fascinating and enjoyable walking territory in Britain.
Steeped in history, this is the land of Saxon invasion, a land littered with the remains of Roman fortifications, as well as the exposed coastline where William the Conqueror landed at Anderida, ready to do battle in 1066.
The Saxon Shore Way
Follow just a small section of the 260 km pathway known as the Saxon Shore Way, which in its entirety extends from Hastings along the coastline to Gravesend. But be warned, even the 17 km hike, described here, is not for the seriously unfit. Of course, if you prefer to take a more relaxed approach, you might be better off spreading this walk over two days.
The starting point is Hastings Country Park, at the East Hill funicular above Hastings. Take the footpath along the cliff tops for approximately 5 km. Then descend through wooded glades to a village called Cliff End. From here, the path takes you across Pett Level towards the historic town of Winchelsea.
Signage along the Shore Way can be a bit "hit and miss", but as long as you keep your eyes peeled for the red circle signs with the horned helmet logo, you're unlikely to get hopelessly lost. Even if you do take the occasional detour, you won't regret it; there are many picnic spots in peaceful settings and numerous glorious vantage points, along the way, inviting you to pause and take in the magnificent scenery.
Or how about following the same path as the Normans, in 1066, from Pevensey, where the warriors first went ashore? Take the route along the Pevensey Levels and onward through woodland and undulating countryside. As with the Saxon Shore Way hike, this even longer 30 km trek is best split into two days, unless you happen to be in peak condition and prepared to get up at the crack of dawn in order to cram it all into one day! But why bother, when there's so much to see and do, en route?
This walk starts at Pevensey and takes you across the Pevensey Levels, where if you're lucky, you'll glimpse herons gliding above the Levels. The path continues through wooded glades and on towards Battle, with imposing views of Battle Abbey.
Pause along the way to take in the splendours of the reconstructed Elizabethan castle, at Herstmonceux (on the first part of the walk); and, on the second leg, to soak up the ambience of the many charming hamlets, as well as the fascinating natural habitat. The entire route, however, offers such a delightful mix of history and natural beauty, that it's not surprising that this particular walk is becoming increasingly popular with walkers from far and wide. This route has something to offer everyone, regardless of interests (and levels of fitness!).
If you're looking for another agreeable place to go walking in Sussex, the Chichester area has much to offer.
A rewarding walk, which is not too arduous, is the 9 km path that takes you from Chichester Harbour and Fishbourne Roman Palace, with its marvellous Roman mosaics, across marshland and meadows towards the picturesque village of Bosham.
(Chichester Cathedral pictured above)
The walk starts at Fishbourne, the site of Fishbourne Palace and the remains one of the most impressive Roman villas in Britain. Then follow the path along the peninsula, through marshland and on towards the Saxon settlement of Bosham, with its attractive seventeenth and eighteenth century cottages. The scenery along this route may be less dramatic than the previous two walks, but the peaceful atmosphere is unrivalled.
Whichever route you follow, you're guaranteed to breathe in some history along with the invigorating fresh air. Above all, you'll feel incredibly smug that you've taken the time to explore these havens of British tranquillity and scenes of historic significance.