Thursday

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley

There's a dip in the road on the coastal route to Hastings where for a moment you can glimpse a very different route that cuts through it. 

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley photo by modern bric a brac


This other route begins to the north and is no more than a path that follows the meandering of a river as it flows to the sea.

Every time I've passed this way I've had a strong desire to stop and follow this much more scenic route and find out for myself all it has to offer.

The weekend before last when the weather was absolutely glorious my Welsh One and I did just that, stopping at the unbelievably pretty Alfriston on the way.

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac
Alfriston High Street

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac
St Andrews church, Alfriston

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac
National Trust Alfriston Clergy House


Once we had left Alfriston we headed on towards West Dene and nearby we saw high on the hillside a huge white horse glimmering in the sunshine. To the left were signs that there might be a path that would lead right up to it and we both agreed we had to stop and find out if we could reach it on foot.

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac


After we had walked for a short while beside a wooded area we reached the river bank and to either side we could see the river bending to our left and to the right. On the other side was a herd of copper coloured cattle grazing beneath the white horse and no bridge to be seen.

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac


Without spotting anywhere to cross we walked north in search of a bridge. As we walked along we could see a little white heron on the bank of the river. She spotted us, flapped her wings and flew a little further off. A couple of swans with their teenage cygnets nestled behind grasses while they cleaned their wings and finally we spotted a bridge in the distance.

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac


Crossing the river we had to double back on ourselves but within no time we were on the path next to the cattle and the bottom of a very steep path up to the top of the hill.

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac


Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac


Every few steps I had to stop to catch my breath, the gradient was so steep, meanwhile, my Welsh One waited each time patiently without seeming challenged at all. Come on, really? I thought, this hill?

We reached the top and were rewarded with the most stunning panoramic view across the Cuckmere Valley from the sea all the way to the Weald in the north. The white horse had become almost completely obscured from view but we had found others of the most magnificent kind.

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac


Later that day we stopped at a local pub for lunch and on the wall was a very old photo of the White Horse of Hindover with the following information:

The horse was cut in 1834 by James Pagden, his brother and a group of friends, including a Mr Ade when they lived at Frog Firle farm. This was recorded by James' sister Florence Pagden in her book on the area.

In 1924, Mr J T Ade of Hellingley re-cut the horse and made further repairs in 1949, after it had been covered up during WWII. Since then repair work has been carried out by East Sussex County Council, and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.


There was one more treat that awaited us as we travelled back to Brighton in the form of some even older hill art. Nestled in green the outline of a male figure between two vertical lines came into view.

Days Out in Sussex - Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, photo by modern bric a brac
The Long Man of Wilmington


It was The Long Man of Wilmington, believed to have been created by Benedictine monks who lived at the priory close by more than 600 years ago.


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