Home » Walk and hike from Lewes to Southease along the South Downs Way

Walk and hike from Lewes to Southease along the South Downs Way

by zoe tehrani

Wow. This walk might now be one of my favourites. To me, views are everything. And this one has them. Boy does it have them. The walk from Lewes to Southease has a hike up two big inclines followed by ridge walks. But it’s after that second incline that the magic happens. Walking in the South Downs, having views of the rolling hills is not unusual. But something was different about this one.

Three fields blending into each other with their different colours on the walk from Lewes to Southease. Orange, chocolate and grey. Then meeting the blue sky and white fluffy clouds on the top of the frame.
Haystacks dotted about in a cropped field, with a hill in the backdrop and a clean separation line between a green field and light hay coloured field.

I found myself walking along a ridge with a 360 degree view of the hills, with their gentle undulations, and patchwork fields of different shades of green, brown and yellow. Then a view out to the English channel, which almost looked unreal. A perfectly sharp horizon of deep blue sea meeting light blue sky.

A cropped field with fields in the background of different shades of green and orange and a white windmill in the distance.
This is the first glimpse of the sea, way over on the right.

I took about 600 photos on this one. I just couldn’t stop. With great difficulty, I managed to narrow it down to about 70, but that is still too many for this blog. So I narrowed it down further, and once I chose my photos, I entered them in the post. But it was still too many, so I went through it and made myself remove some. But still, this is now my most photo heavy blog post.

Now, you may know by now how I feel about cows in fields (scared). Well, this one had plenty. There was even the dreaded bull. I didn’t see him, but a sign warned me he was there. Somewhere.

This walk is about 14.6 miles and covered 10 miles of the South Downs Way. There is a slightly shorter walking route from Lewes to Southease, but I did this one in a C shape in order to pick up the South Downs trail where I left off. If you don’t want to walk the full distance, I will let you know how to shorten it later in the post. 

Now, lets get to the good stuff.

(Logistical info such as how to get there, timings and an interactive map will be at the end)

The walk from Lewes to Southease

You will start your walk to Southease, from Lewes train station. Once out of the station, follow the road straight ahead up a short steep hill. Keep going straight until the very end, and at the T-junction turn left. Take a right at the second or third road (either will do), and once you reach the church, walk downhill to the left of it. 

You basically keep going straight till you hit the bridge over the river Ore. Don’t go over the bridge. Instead, take a left and follow the trail with the river to your right and bushy goodness to your left.

A small opening in the bushes and trees looking out to the field of green bush and trees at the start of the walk near Lewes.
From under tree cover, looking out to the opening of the river Ore, with trees in the right bank at the start of the walk near Lewes.
A group of cows grazing on the green grass field, with the chalk cliffs mostly hidden behind the trees in the background, on the walk near Lewes.

You will then reach an open field. Walk to the other end of it and go through the little gate. After the second gate, you will leave the river by taking a left to go under the metal bridge.  You will next be walking in a field, with a gorgeous view to the left…

A few houses in a field, enclosed by lots of green and orange bushes and trees at the start of the walk near Lewes.

And a view ahead of a white chalk cliff face. A glimpse of how far up you will have to walk.

A green field sounded by bushes and trees and a clamp of the white chalk cliffs behind then.
A leaning tree of just branches in a green field.

The first incline

If you continue straight you will reach the woodland. Enter through the gate and take the path to the right. Now you go up.

Continue on, going under the telephone pylon till you exit the woods in the village of Offham.  Continue, keeping left till you reach the main road just a short distance ahead. 

You need to cross this road, but be careful of the cars. It’s a winding road and the cars look quite vicious powering along it. 

A road with a house on the other side and a motorcyclist riding along the road.
Turn left here.

You take a left along the road, then take the small path to the right just next to the ‘bend in road’ sign. I don’t know if that’s what those signs are called, but that’s what they mean (I think) so I’m going to go with that. 

Take the right fork in the trail and make your way uphill again.

The uphill dirt trail on the left of the frame, with barbed wire fencing on the right when hiking near Lewes. There are green fields down below on the right with trees dotted about. The sky is blue with a few fluffy white clouds.
Three barbed wires of the fence in focus, with out of focus green and orange coloured field and trees in the background with a blue sky when hiking near Lewes.
Me being arty

Continue going straight till you reach a point where there are metal gates on either side of the trail, take the right just before the gates and walk with a fence to your left.  Continue along, keep the fence to youre left past the next bend and you will soon reach an open field.

A trail in the centre of frame surrounded by grass. It is in between two fields, closed off by a metal gate.  The right field has an orange colour. The sky is blue with white fluffy clouds.
You turn right here, before those gates.
A small dirt trail in the centre of frame on the walk from Lewes to Southease. There are trees to the right, and a barbed wire fence on the left superheating and orange green coloured field.
And continue with this fence to the left until you reach the open field.

The first ridge walk

Walk through the field, continuing up, and under the telephone pylons. You will be continuing on in this direction for a while, and after going through more gates you will find yourself on the first ridge, with views to your right down to the villages below, and views to your left of the South Downs hills. 

I can’t recall how many gates you walk through on your way up, but at one of them you will see your first signage pointing to the South Downs way

Signage in focus pointing in 5 directions for either the public bridalway or South Downs Way.

The South Downs Way

You made it! Welcome to the South Downs Way. The trail sign will point ahead and to the left. Take the left turn onto a much smaller path with nothing but views of the South Downs hills ahead (and some telephone pylons). From here on out, you will be following the South Downs Way. There are many more twists and turns for the rest of the walk, however, I’m not going to direct you turn by turn anymore because it’s very well signposted. Every single junction you come to will have SDW signage. But I will still tell you (and show you) everything you will see.

A dirt trail made of two thin trails with grass in between. There is overgrown grass on the left with open fields further left. There are bushy looking trees in the distance. The sky is blue with fluffy white clouds dotted about.
A grassy trail  in the centre of frame on the walk from Lewes to Southease. The rolling South Downs hills are in the distance.

From the start of the SDW, you will continue for about 2.5 miles gently downhill, passing by fields, and maybe even some haystacks……I was truly tempted to go and jump on them.

(I have walked along this way a couple of times and the haystacks aren’t a permanent fixture, so you aren’t guaranteed to see them)

A group of haystacks in a cropped field on the walk from Hassocks to Lewes.
Fields of the South Downs with haystacks dotted about.
A small dirt trail with green grass patches either side of it, enclosed by a barbed wire fence on both side. There are cropped fields on the other sides of the fences. The field on the right is in a curved shape. There are trees in the distance.

Next, you reach some woods where you have a very steep but short incline. Then once out of the woods, you walk down a steep hill until you hit the road.

A dirt track winding uphill surrounded by green foliage under tree cover when hiking near Lewes.
The rolling chocolate and green coloured hills of the South Downs in the distance, with groups of trees. There is a barbed wire fence in the front of the frame with green fields either side of it.

The road and the half way mark on the walk from Lewes to Southease

So, you will know the road is there, way before you even see it. It’s loud. The SDW signage will direct you to a bridge to go over the road, then for a short while you will walk on a path alongside it. Did I mention its a loud road?

A glimpse of the main road lined with trees, and a cropped hill field the the background when hiking near lewes.
Over there is the hill you will have just walked down….and the road.

You actually have the option to start the Lewes to Southease walk from this point, if you don’t want to walk the full 14.6 miles. I mention this because the second half of the walk, from this point, was my favourite part. That’s not to say the first half wasn’t good, because it was, but I realise some might not want to walk that far. I detail in my logistics section at the end how to start from here.

The second incline 

Once you leave the road, the walking trail will still be level for a bit as you pass by more fields.

A cropped field, with a green line of grass running through it. There is a line of trees on the edge of the field, with a hill behind that. The sky is blue with white fluffy clouds.
This is looking back. You can see the arch you will have just walked under.
Green and chocolate coloured undulating fields with a small house in the middle.

Then you start to go uphill.  As you make your way up, take a look right for some gorgeous views of the hills through the bushes and trees. 

Looking through an opening in the dark green bushes and trees to the undulating multicoloured fields when hiking near Lewes.
The undulating hills of the South Downs, of different shades of green, orange and brown.

As I made my way up I saw some cows up ahead, right in my path. Hmmm. There was an opening into the next field. So I took it. I wasn’t going to take my chances with the cows. I continued up with the fence to my right (and the cows just the other side of it) when I then noticed another opening in the fence….right next to the cows.

I stood there for a solid 5min working up the courage to walk past it where the cows could get me. You might think I am being dramatic, but these cows were being feisty, jumping on each other. Maybe they were mating. Well, whatever they were doing, it was scaring me. lol.

Cows grazing in a small green field on the walk from Lewes to Southease. One cow is jumping on another cow.
Cows grazing in a field on the walk from Lewes to Southease. There are bushy trees in the background.

Well, I did make it safely past the opening, then made my way further up the hill. 

The second ridge walk (where the magic happens)

You will reach the ridge and find yourself surrounded by the rolling hills of the South Downs, and you start to get a peak of the sea.

The undulating hills of the South Downs on the walk from Lewes to Southease. The fields forom a patchwork of different colours ranging from green to orange, to brown in different shades. There are groups of trees dotted around.
The rolling green and orange tinged hills with brown cows grazing and a small bit of blue sea view.
The rolling hills of different shades of green, orange and brown as they crisscross in the valley.
South Downs way Signage of the walk from Lewes to Southease.

The Bull

Over the past month, I have found myself in a field with a bull twice. I did say in my blog post about walking from Faversham to Whitstable that things come in threes, so I am due one more bull encounter. This time I was warned about the bull. I did think twice (or 5 times) about whether I should walk through this field or turn back. Well, I had come this far. I had to keep going. 

A gate leading to an open green grass field. There is a sign on the fence which says ‘Bull in field’.

As I made my way through this field, I was on super high alert, keeping myself next to the barbed wire fence, prepared to jump over it if the bull appeared. Thinking about whether I would be able to make it over the wire without getting cut. I concluded that I wouldn’t and that I might leave here today all cut up.

It was scary walking through this section, but I also wondered if a bull really was in here. The trail is near a pretty steep decline into the valley below. Maybe the sign was pretend lol.

A green grass hill with a steep incline and a view of a village and lots of trees below on the walk from Lewes to Southease.

My guard went down a little (but only a little) and I was able to properly look at my surroundings. You can even just about spot some white sea cliffs in the distance. I suspected that was the cliff of Seaford Head.

Well, I’m pleased to say, the bull did not appear, and once I left the field, my guard went back down to normal levels. As I didn’t see the bull, does this count as the third time? Probably not, which means I am still due one more bull encounter….

Views out to the sea, and seaside towns

You will soon leave the trail and find yourself on a small road. This seemed like a good place to take my photo…

Zoe Tehrani posing on a road on the walk from Lewes to Southease. The road is in the centre of the frame and leads out to the horizon. There are fields either side of the road.

It is from here that you get good views of the towns by the sea, Newhaven and Seaford. It all seems so close, I wondered how long it would take me to walk to them. But no, Southease was my destination today. The walk to the sea is for another.

Descending off the ridge towards Southease

The rolling hills of the South Downs in shades of green and orange. There is a barbed wire fence on the right of the frame with overgrown grass. The sun is starting to set giving a pink hue.

As I made my way downhill, a couple of farmers in their trucks drove on by, I looked at the time and realised a train would be arriving at Southease in 15 min. The trains are once an hour, so I decided that I would make this train and started power walking……

It actually took me about 45 min to get to the station from this point. Not even close lol.

The path lead me to a section with high fences either side, and signage warning of traffic up ahead. I couldn’t hear any traffic, but ok. 

I laughed a bit when I reached the road. There was no traffic lol. Just a quiet road with signage pointing the pub. 

Signage pointing to the pub with fields and ocean view in the background.

I instead continued following the direction of the SDW, I had a train to make (I still believed I would make it at this point).

Once I realised that train was not to be mine, I was kind of happy. I no longer had to rush and could really take in the sights again. With cows and haystacks dotted about in the fields below, I realised I was walking towards a farm house. I decided that maybe I will marry a farmer. Then I can live here.

Three sheep grazing in a filed with a backdrop of the hills of the South Downs in shades of green and orange. There are haystacks and trees dotted about. The sun is starting to set giving a warm glow.
South Downs way sign post in the bottom front of the frame with a view below of a cropped field with haystacks dotted about, next to a green field.
A farm house in a valley of the green and orange coloured hills with trees dotted around.
The rolling hills in shades of green and orange with haystacks dotted around.
A cropped field with haystacks dotted about.

At the bottom, I took a left away from the farm house, leaving my imaginary farmer husband behind and found myself on a main road. I missed the turning. There would have been a right turn a bit further back. I didn’t go back, but decided to continue along this road, and meet the trail a bit further on. Don’t worry, if you make this mistake like I did, it’s only a short walk along this road before you are bombarded with South Downs Way signage.

A dark brown gravel road with cropped fields either side dotted with haystacks. There are trees in the distance.
The road leading away from the farmhouse. The right turn would be through those trees somewhere.

All about the South Downs Way

I passed an unusual amount of South Downs Way signage. Just a little reminder in case you had forgot where you are.

South Downs Way signage on green grass on the walk from Lewes to Southease. There are cute country cottages in the background, with trees behind them.

Reaching Southease Station

The sun was now hanging low in the sky, giving a sort of warm pink tinge to my surroundings. My train was not going to be arriving for a while, so as I passed over the bridge of the river Ore, I stopped for a moment to watch it. It was so calm, just how I was feeling in that moment. Calm, content and a little sleepy, as the day was coming to an end. 

The river Ore leading from the bottom of the frame into the distance as it curves to the right. The river is still and calm, and there is a warm hue as the sun is setting.
Southease train station. Looking at the train tracks and walking bridge over the tracks.

I noticed on my map that there was a hostel near by, and I became filled with this desire to spend the night here. I didn’t want to go home. The train journey back to the city was 1.5 hours, but really I wanted to stay in this peaceful place and wake up in the morning in the fresh air before continuing on with this walk to the sea. 

Up until now, I had not had the desire to do this trail by sleeping my way along it. But rather, wanted to complete it as day trips. This is the moment things changed. I knew there were sections of the trail that don’t take you anywhere near train stations, and I hadn’t quite figured out the logistics of those parts yet. Well, now I knew. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be spending the night in the South Downs as I walked from one section of the trail to the next……

Logistics on how to walk from Lewes to Southease 

Start: Lewes

Finish: Southease

How to get there: Buy a return ticket from London Victoria to Southease. The train is direct as far as Lewes (which is where you get off to start the walk). Then from Southease, it’s one stop to Lewes, where you make a change for the train to London.

Distance: 14.6 miles, to walk from Lewes station to Southease station in a C shape. My favourite part of the walk was the second half, so If you don’t want to do the full 14.6 miles, you can cut out the first 7 miles and start from the main road (A27) which is the halfway mark. To get there, head up the hill out of the station (on Station road). At the high street, jump on the 29 Regency Route bus heading towards Brighton. Get off at Housedean Farm, and just up ahead, the South Downs Way tail will be on the left. You could technically walk to this point, but it’s a very boring 3 mile walk, mostly along a busy A road.

Time: It took me about 6 hours, which included lots of photo stops. But no lunch stop. Wow. I’ve only just realised as I write this that I walked a very long way without stopping to eat. 

Elevation gain: With all the hills you will have walked up about 2018ft (615m), but the highest point of the walk is roughly 690ft (210m)

Terrain: Narrow dirt trails, grassy trails, gravel paths and a bit of asphalt road at either end.

Difficulty: Medium (I’m calling it medium because it’s a long one).

MapLewes to Southease walk

Click on the little box in the corner to open in your Google maps.

More walks in the South Downs

I did this walk as a continuation from the section of the South Downs Way, from Hassocks to Lewes. Or now that you have seen the ocean and a glimpse of the white cliffs, you may be tempted to head to them to walk the next section from Southease to Seaford and then continue along the Seven Sisters

If you would like a circular hike, you could try a hilly 13 mile one from Hassocks to Devils Dyke.

I found this website with more South Downs walking ideas, including circular walks which would work really well if you have driven to the area.

Pin it for later: A guide to walking from Lewes to Southease

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3 comments

Bunny September 23, 2019 - 12:29 pm

LOVELY PHOTOS ,LOVELY WALK
My type of view – especially with no people in sight…( or bulls)

Reply
Tracy March 21, 2022 - 11:16 am

I did this walk a couple of days ago, perfect blue sky. I deliberately didn’t stop as I was aiming for a specific train back from Southease but next time I do it would allow at least an hour to take in the breathtaking views and to pause and realise you can hear nothing but skylarks. I usually get lost when I go for walks but Zoe’s directions were so easy to follow and the photos really useful to reassure you that you were on the right track. No cow encounters, just some really cute lambs!

Reply
zoe tehrani March 24, 2022 - 8:47 am

That really makes me so happy that my directions were easy to follow! Thanks Tracy 🙂 Oh it must be lambing season, I love walks around this time

Reply

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