Hmmm. I wasn’t fond of this walk. First let me say that the walk around the Long Man of Wilmington area was fantastic. It was the walk there and back from Berwick station I didn’t enjoy. Having to fight my way through so much overgrowth. Overgrowth with stinging nettles. By the end of the Long Man of Wilmington circular walk, my legs were covered in welts. That on top of the uninspiring woodland, and busy roads with no pavement.
If you have a car, I would urge you to drive there and park nearby. Bonus if you are staying in Alfriston, as this is a good local walk.
If you don’t have a car, then too bad. You are going to have to suffer.
What I’m going to do in this guide, is give you an overview of the walk around the Long Man of Wilmington, and what you will see. Then I will provide full logistics, a map, and some useful tips. I will then go on to describe the route step by step with lots of photos. I will finish with some suggestions for other chalk figure walks, and walks nearby.
What to expect on the circular Long Man of Wilmington walk
To go into more detail, I walked to the Long Man of Wilmington in a circular route. Starting from Berwick station, then through Wilmington Village and up to the Long Man. Then I headed through Alfriston, before walking back to the station.
The bits I didn’t like…
That first bit started out alright, then the overgrowth sort of crept in. So much that you couldn’t see the path. There are a few woodland areas which felt a bit sad. Let’s just say I have seen better woods.
For the walk back, it was much nicer, however, it was tainted a bit at the end, by having to walk across a busy road with fast cars, and then along a road with no pavement. There should have been an alternate route to keep me on trail all the way back to the station. However, that route seemed not to exist. My map told me it was there. Except, it would have me walking straight through the middle of a sort of crop field.
The bits I liked….
The whole area around the Long Man of Wilmington, and then into Alfriston was fantastic to walk. Wavy, undulating hills, views to the sea and across to the village of Alfriston. Chalk trails and grass trails. A surprise view to a horse chalk figure.
By the time I got there, I was itchy and permanently felt like I had insects crawling in my hair, so it was hard to fully relax and take it all in.
I also quite enjoyed the railway track crossing, and despite not being fond of the walk to and from the Long Man, there were some nice views.
What is the Long Man of Wilmington?
The Long Man of Wilmington is a large hill chalk figure, in fact, he is the largest human chalk figure in Europe. What does he represent? No one knows for sure. We don’t even know how old he is. He is a mystery.
Want to see the oldest chalk figure in Britain? That would be the Uffington White Horse, which you can read about here. What about the most northern White Horse in England? Head up to do this walk in North Yorkshire.
- Start/Finish: Berwick Station
- How to get there: Located in the east area of the South Downs National Park. You can get there by train on the Southern Line. There are direct trains from London Victoria which take about 1h 20min. The indirect trains involve a change at Lewes and take a little longer. You can also get an indirect train from London Bridge, changing at Brighton.
- Distance: 8.8 miles
- Time: 3h
- Elevation: Highest point is 196m. Total elevation gain is about 352m
- Terrain: Grass, dirt, chalk, road.
- Difficulty: Easy….if you don’t count the overgrowth
- Dog Friendly: The walk to and from the Long Man of Wilmington wasn’t even people friendly. There are also a lot of stiles. Up at Mr Long Man is your best bet. I didn’t notice any livestock, but don’t quote me on this! Although, I doubt animals would be allowed to graze near a historic chalk figure. There were some dog walkers up there, so it seems suitable.
- Amenities: The Berwick Inn next to the station. The Cricketer’s Arms pub near the end of the walk. Both have excellent reviews. Alfriston has a few options for pubs/restaurants/coffee shops, and a bakery. There is a car park at Alfriston.
Map for the Long Man of Wilmington circular walk
Note: There is a gap in the circular. This is where I took a break and paused the tracker. Then I forgot to start it again when I resumed the walk.
Tips for the walk
- If your only option is to walk from the station, then I might suggest not doing the first bit like I did, but instead, walking to Alfriston, then a circular around the Long Man of Wilmington area, and back to Alfriston, before heading back to the station.
- Alternatively, do this in the colder months so your skin is at least covered by clothes. I did this during a heat wave. I had a lot of skin out.
- Even better, drive here if you can.
A Guide To The Long Man Of Wilmington Circular Walk
I forgot to mention, this is the first walk I did after coming back to London from having spent 2 months in Devon and Cornwall. I guess that would be a tough act to follow….
Out of the train station, and on the main road, to the left is a car service station. You want to go and walk to the right side of it. Along there you should find a path and gate to take you into the first field. I definitely noticed the unkemptness of it. Things were starting to feel wild. I didn’t yet know that this was the easy bit.
You need to walk straight through this field, and through a metal gate into the next one. Here you will find a nice path. Relish these moments.
See that hill ahead in the photo. Go and head up that. There are some lovely views around here, of the South Down hills to the right, and then a nice view to the village looking back.
At the top of the hill, follow the trail to the right, then ahead to the left you should see a gate. Go through that.
From here you will have a view to the Arlington Reservoir to the left. This walk doesn’t take you to it, but you can easily go and add it in if you want. I will show you how…
Walk to the bottom of this field, then through a metal gate at the bottom to the right (which is engulfed by stinging nettles). You will be on a road now, where you turn left.
If you want to go to the Arlington Reservoir, stay on this road and you will reach it.
For this walk, look out for a trail signpost and stile to the right.
Over the stile, and into the field, there is a trail signpost which says private land. You need to follow the arrow to the right, towards the trees.
Over in the trees, you will find two stiles. Take the one straight ahead. Then a bit further along, there is another stile to take you into a field.
The mini woods and road
Go across this field, and over another stile to reach the road. This road is ok. Go straight across and left, to walk in the mini woodland area. It felt a little sad and dull along here. Luckily it doesn’t last long. But it does take you back onto the road. Again, this road isn’t too bad.
At the road again, turn right, where you will have a walkway. Then a short way along, follow the trail signpost to the right and under some more sad woods.
The first view to the Long Man of Wilmington and the start of the walk through the overgrowth
The woods are short lived, and you will soon be in field again. To my surprise, you have a view to the Long Man of Wilmington from here, and the trail at this point is still nice to walk along.
Follow this trail, and some time further along, it will curve to the left, at which point the overgrowth begins.
I actually found it quite novel at this point. A mini adventure. It reminded me of when I walked from Faversham to Whitstable.
Continue along, and the overgrowth does get a bit worse, before it gets better. It doesn’t last too long though, and just when it ends at the corner, you should see an almost hidden trail to the right, to take you through the bush.
Through the bush turn right….
Just ahead there is a metal gate. A gate engulfed in green stuff. More overgrowth. My heart sank a little. I thought I was done with that.
Although, through the gate it’s not too bad. It does start off a bit hairy, but then there is a nice little trail along the side of the crops, which you can walk all along….for now.
You will start off walking up a mini hill, then it will level off and be a gradual downhill. The trail gradually becomes less and less, then before you know it, it disappears, and you are stuck fighting you way through. I made a mental note to check my body for ticks later.
On a positive, you have another view to the Long Man of Wilmington along this bit of the walk. A bit closer now.
The nice trail and the railway track
At the bottom, to the left, is a very nice big track. Walk along it (in the same direction, towards the hills and the Long Man of Wilmington). I was so happy to be on this track. It starts off as mud/dirt, then turns to grass.
When you reach the end, you need to walk over the railway track. It’s a little hidden at first, but you should see the sign. It was all quite exciting. A nice but still rugged trail. A railway track where you need to use your common sense, and don’t get penalised for walking across it.
Over the railway, the landscape was quite pretty. Bushy and overgrown, but with a nice trail to walk and guide you through, with a nice view to the hills ahead and the Long Man of Wilmington.
This trail will lead you to a metal gate. My heart started to sink as I approached it. I could see what I was heading to. More overgrowth. I checked my map to see if there was an alternative. I wasn’t sure I could handle anymore of this.
There isn’t an alternative.
Luckily it doesn’t go on for too long, before you are back into a field, which does have long rugged grass, but it’s child’s play in comparison.
I mentioned earlier how this walk reminded me a little of when I walked from Faversham to Whitstable. At this point it was feeling a lot more like the Avebury walk. If you go and read it, you will see what I mean.
Some more fields and the road
At the end of the field, there will be a path leading through a gate on the left. Go through there and turn right into another grass field.
Further along you will reach another proper path through a gate (or rather, a big open area where a gate might be). Continue on this path, and through another gate, which will lead you to the road.
Go straight across the main road, onto the side road lined with tall bushes.
There is a random post box here.
Somewhere further along (before the house), there is an almost hidden trail to the left. This will take you under a short bit of woodland, and through a wooden gate into an open field.
Walk to Wilmington Village, and more views of Mr Long Man
The next series of fields were a welcome relief, with a nice grassy path leading through them. Although, I had now learnt not to get too excited. There could be more overgrowth around the corner*
The walk now takes you through some fields, and gates, with a nice view to the Long Man of Wilmington to the right.
The last gate takes you under some more trees and along to the next overgrowth. This overgrowth (at the time of writing) wasn’t too bad in comparison to what’s happened so far.
At the end, there will a confusing wooden trail signpost. Pointing to the right and back the way you came. You want neither of these. Instead, go straight, and you will reach the road behind the houses. This is Wilmington Village.
Walk through Wilmington Village
Walk along to the main road, and turn right. Along here you will find cute cottages, some with thatched roofs. I didn’t take photos of them as I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures of peoples homes. Plus there were lots of cars parked in front, which taints the photos a little.
Continue walking along the road, then just past the church, there is a side road on the left, with a trail signpost.
You can actually continue to walk straight on the main road, which will lead you to the Long Man of Wilmington. I would suggest taking the left though (which is what I did).
Walk to the Long Man of Wilmington
This road, leads you onto a path under trees, and then takes you uphill along a chalk trail. This bit I really liked. You get a good close up view to the Long Man of Wilmington, and lovely views to the hills. But most importantly, there is no overgrowth.
Btw, this is the best view of Mr Long Man, so take it in.
Somewhay up the hill, there is a trail and gate to the right. You will need to look back to see it, so keep an eye out.
This takes you along the hillside where you will have the best views of the walk so far. You can see the Arlington reservoir from up here. The views ahead on the trail are really lovely too, the way the hills are wavy.
You will be able to just about see the Long Man, but only just. If you look closely, you will see a trail running along under him, and another trail going up the hill above him. You can take either. They will join up on the other side.
I recommend going up the hill….
Walk up and over the hill
As you approach the Long Man of Wilmington, you will reach the trail split, where I suggest you walk up. It looks like an aggressive uphill but it’s not too bad. It’s only near the top where it feels steep and like the end is getting further away.
At the top, go through the gate.
Up here you you will have a view to the sea on the other side. Now, I wasn’t blown away by the view on the other side. It’s nice enough, but view on this is better. Just wait though…
Through the gate, turn right, and you will see a few trail options. You want to take the main looking one. So not the one furthest right, but the one to the left of it.
The surprise horse chalk figure
Through that gate, and a little further along, there will be a trail spilt. I was initially going to take the smaller right grassy one, but then I saw something which made me take the main trail….
The horse. Can you see it?
I wasn’t expecting this at all.
Heading towards the horse, the views opened up even more, and it was all rather lovely. The chalk trail then takes you to the right, with a lovely sort of semi framed view of the hills in the distance.
Through the gap, where the trail splits, either will do. I took the top one as it’s a little higher, for all the views. Along here you will get a nice view to hill valley to the left, and also to the village of Alfriston. The next stop in the walk.
Walk from the Long Man of Wilmington towards Alfriston
Continue to follow the chalk path downhill, then at the junction, turn left. There are a few lefts here. Take the left or middle. Not the right.
I started off along the middle, then made my way on onto the left bigger chalk path.
At the bottom of this path, you will reach a gate and road. Go straight across the road to pick up the trail on the other side. A short way along here, there is an offshoot trail on the left with a stile. Keep an eye out for it. I initially missed it and had to turn back.
Over the stile, there is a lovely path right down the middle of the crop field, with a view straight ahead to the church. I wonder if this was done on purpose.
At the end, the trail sign will point you left. I instead went straight. I figured it’s allowed, as there is still a path through there.
At the end of this path, take the mini trail that curves left. Once through the bushes, turn right. This will lead you down to the road.
At the road, just ahead (to the right and then left) you should see a public bridleway sign with a horse picture. Follow it, and you will reach the village of Alfriston.
Walk through Alfriston
As I arrived, there was a wedding going on in the church to the left. That reminded me of the last time I was here, when I walked from Southease to Seaford. That time there was also a wedding. Must be a popular wedding place. That’s also why I didn’t take a photo of the church. I was close enough that it would look like I was taking a photo of the wedding people. That would have felt a bit weird.
Now, to reach the high street, continue straight over the bridge and keep going in a rough straight direction, in between some brick walls, and you will reach the main road. Turn right here.
You will reach a little square of sorts. Take the left road off the square. It’s a bit residential now, but it’s nice walking past the houses. I always like to see how people live in cute villages.
Stay straight on this road, towards this house:
Continue along the main road, and just past the house, there is a trail on the right.
I quite enjoyed the footpath arch thing at the start of the trail. But my enjoyment quickly faded when I realised I was being taken on an overgrowth path again. I contemplated going back to walk on the road.
I didn’t do it, but I seriously thought about it.
Luckily, this bit doesn’t go on for too long, and it’s no where near as bad as earlier. I was still a little traumatised from that.
Walk through some nice fields
You will then enter a field with some nice views. Continue straight through it, towards the rooftop which you will see ahead. As you get closer, the house that belongs to the rooftop appears, and the stile just to the right of it.
Over the stile, you will reach a road (not the bad road. That one comes soon). To the right is a lovely thatched roof. You can’t see the house, but you can see the roof. Turn left here.
Further up the road, where it curves to the left, you go right. There will be a few options here. Take the most right one. Then a short way along, keep right on a slither type trail.
The view across the fields through here is really lovely, with a house ahead to the left. I also realised in this moment, I hadn’t eaton anything. I was hungry, so I had a sit down to snack and admire the scene around me. It was quite beautiful watching the corn rippling in the wind. I hadn’t noticed this before. I also hadn’t been looking. You forget sometimes to stop and really take it all in.
The trail continues down and and up through the corn fields. Sometimes narrow, sometimes wide.
Keep following it, and up the hill in the last photo below.
At the top, walk to the right where the trail sign is, then an immediate left, to walk on a trail next to a church.
This will lead you into another field. See the people on the photo below. Follow the direction they are going, to reach a stile on the other side.
Unfortunately, this leads you to a mass of overgrown stinging nettles. By this point I was already very stung, so was almost immune to it, so I just walked through, not paying any attention. The damage was already done.
This will lead you to an open area, maybe for cars to park. Walk around to the left along the road, to reach the pub.
You are close enough to the end here, that you could use this as your end of walk stop. However, there is a pub right by the station which looked nice, so maybe hold off for that one.
The big road, and more fields
Turn right at the pub, and this will take you to the main road. This is a very busy road. It was a bit of a waiting game to have a safe moment to dash across it.
The trail is across the other side and a bit to the left.
Continue along the faint markings of a grass trail, towards the bushes and trees on the other side. As you get closer it will look like there is know where to go. That’s because the trail is obscured by all the bush. It’s not until you are right up close that you will find the little gap. Yes, more overgrowth.
Through the bush, continue straight up the hill field, then at the end corner, there is a gap to the left with a stile. Go over that. Continue across the next field, on a wide grassy trail, towards the trees on the other side….
The missing trail and next big road
Now, when you reach the other side, there will be a stile and trail signpost.
What I ended up doing was turning right here. However, I tried to go over the stile and straight. My map said there was a trail straight across. Except, this is what I found:
I wasn’t sure about walking on this dirt bit, it looked like it was ready to grow stuff, so I walked around the edge to the other side, but there was no trail to be found.
So I had no choice but to go back. Well, I guess I did have a choice, but it probably isn’t allowed. If you take the right like I mentioned before, this will take you to a gate and out of the field to the road. At this road, turn right. It wasn’t as car busy as the last big road, but there were fast cars at intervals. There is no pavement to walk on, but you can hear the cars coming before they get to you, which gives you time to make sure you are on the grass edge.
Back to Berwick station and the end of the Long Man of Wilmington circular walk
Follow this road, to reach the junction, where you turn left, following the sign to Berwick station.
It was actually a nice sight, seeing the railway ahead and the pub with flowers next to it. It sounded like people were enjoying themselves in the pub garden, so I must be a good one. I didn’t stop there, as my train was due to arrive soon.
At this point I was quite happy. Happy it was all over.
More walks near the Long Man of Wilmington
Seven Sisters walk – I can’t not mention this one. It’s not too far away, and is considered one of the best walks down south.
Birling Gap to Friston forest walk – Another way to see the Seven Sisters without doing the full slog.
Lewes to Southease – Slightly further west in the South Downs, but near enough I would call it local. It’s a long one, but also one of my favourites in this area.
Southease to Seaford – This one takes you through Alfriston and down to the coast, with a nice view to the Seven Sisters cliffs
More chalk figure walks
Ivinghoe Beacon walk – Over on the other side of London, you will find this walk in the Chiltern Hills. It’s a brilliant walk, with incredible views, and a great view to the Whipsnade White Lion (the chalk figure).
Wendover circular walk – Also in the Chilterns, this walk takes you right up close to the Whiteleaf cross. It’s not the best place to view the cross, but you are close enough you can touch it*.
*Not encouraging touching.
Kilburn White Horse – Up in the North York Moors. This one boasts to being the most northerly horse in England.
Uffington White Horse – This walk is a bit further out, over in North Wessex. This one features the oldest chalk figure in Britain.
For more walk ideas in the South Downs, you can check out the South Downs website.