It’s easy to become lazy and go for the easiest option when trying to enjoy a sunny day. Brighton doesn’t help this very much. For example, a simple wander in to town, with a stroll around the Lanes, can make for a pleasant enough afternoon. Yet, as much as this town is a cultural bubble that offers so much entertainment, it is a shame that so many of us forget what lies in the hinterlands.
A number of years ago I vowed to try and take time out of the Brighton on a weekend. To try something different. Initially I decided to visit some of the outlying towns, as I’m the sort of person who enjoys a good charity shop and so this option offers many possibilities. For a few weeks I got to enjoy some short bus and train journeys and a little more awareness that life does exist off the Yellow Brick Road. Even the dullest of provincial towns can be made pleasurable by a chocolate doughnut and a well-made mocha in a café that offers service with a smile.
Yet, as much as other local towns may offer endearing qualities for the easily pleased, the countryside locally offers the ultimate get-away experience. It took me a while to realise this. Perhaps it was my lazy nature, but it did seem like a lot of effort to get myself together for a five-mile jaunt. Once I’m out there, though, the term splendid isolation, especially during winter, is never truer.
From the edges of the town, easily accessible with public transport, we can embark on all sorts of invigorating strolls. Amongst the most obvious of starting points is Ditchling Beacon. For a while now Brighton & Hove Buses have ran a bus that goes there fairly regular during the summer months, In fact I think it now runs all year round. Once there, the South Downs opens up, and a number of feel good walks, short and long, make themselves available. My favourite walk takes me the 6 miles or so from there to Lewes. It only takes a couple of hours, but for most of the journey you can see for miles far and wide, and a warm summers day brings a splendid experience on the route to Blackcap.
My most regular walk takes me eastwards from north Woodingdean to either Kingston, for lunch at the Jugs, then on to Lewes, or to Southease and the River Ouse. Its excellent for a casual stroll or a 2-hour stride designed to meet the infrequent services that might stop on a Sunday at Southease station. Once you get to the top of the hill above Kingston you are greeted with the wonderful sight of the valley below. I once made that walk at sunrise (see photos below) and it was an experience I will never forget. The early morning mist rolling on the Ouse, Beddingham Hill shrouded in low cloud, the sun rising over Newhaven-and not a soul around. There are a few angry cows on the descent into the valley, but they are well worth the risk.
It takes quite a lot of effort to remove ourselves from the cosy warmth of our own abodes and stride out with our thoughts to the local countryside. During my journeys I am often surprised at just how few people I meet, even on what would be described as well beaten tracks. It is so worth it though, because once you’re out there the marvellous isolation gives a clear head and an appreciation for nature that the town could never afford.