Home » Walk from Southease to Seaford via Alfriston

Walk from Southease to Seaford via Alfriston

by zoe tehrani

The walk from Southease to Seaford is rather unique in that for half the distance you can see your destination. Walking parallel to the sea, on top of the hills of the South Downs, then turning to walk towards the sea once you hit Alfriston. The walk totals about 14.6 miles, 10.6 miles of which is the South Downs Way (SDW). It is at Exceat where you leave the SDW and follow the Vanguard Way for the remainder of the walk. 

Green fields with the winding Cuckmere River running through them and a view of the sea on the walk near Seaford. There is a dog in the bottom of the frame.
This is where the trail splits.

This walk consists of one big hill at the start out of Southease, a semi big one at the end towards Seaford, then lots of mini ones in between. The mini ones are a mix of low and steep gradient. Oh, and two stair climbs. Half of this walk is on hill top, with views of the hills, villages, the sea, seaside towns and sheep and cows.

In general, I have found the South Downs Way to be very well signposted. However, there are a few parts on this walk where the signs are easy to miss, mostly around the Alfriston area. When I go on to describe the trail below, I will let you know where they are.

Options to lengthen or shorten the walk from Southease to Seaford

There is the option to make this a mega walk by continuing along the South Downs Way at Exceat, to walk along the Seven Sisters cliffs towards Eastbourne. Some people do. It’s roughly a 10 mile, very hilly walk from Exceat. I chose to take the easier option, and walk 4 miles to Seaford. If you instead decide to continue on to Eastbourne, then I salute you.

Also, if once you reach Exceat you are tired (or feeling lazy), you can catch a bus to Seaford. 

My thoughts on the walk from Southease to Seaford

I have to say, I was slightly underwhelmed by the first half of the walk. That’s not to say I don’t recommend it (because I do), but it had a hard act to follow after my previous walk from Lewes to Southease. That walk, as it so happens, has made it onto my list (in my head) of one of my favourite walks of all time. So I guess that any walk that came next was likely to fall short. 

It was mostly the first 4 miles that I found a bit boring. The first 4 miles are uphill, and whilst the views looking to the right and back were good, the ahead views were a little….bland.

Weather is also a factor

I suspect the elements had something to do with it as well. It was mega windy, and, as a good chunk of the walk is on hill top at full exposure, there was no escaping it. I could barely see with my eyes streaming with tears (from the wind. Not because I was crying). But also the sun. It was a lot brighter than I had expected. The sun was so bright and harsh that I couldn’t look directly at the sea because the reflection was blinding. 

Sunglasses would probably have fixed that. Too bad I didn’t have any on me. 

But its not all bad…

At the 4 mile mark, I started to enjoy the views a lot more. Probably had something to do with finding a bush to go for a wee. I had been desperate to go from nearly the beginning.  There were a number of other people walking along this trail, and no where for me to hide. 

Then about half way in, as the sun lowered in the sky, my surroundings started to come alive. All the colours became richer (or rather I could see without squinting), and I stopped being wind attacked as I lowered off the hills. 

Looking through some bushes and branches and a barbed wire fence down into the valley, rich in colour.

The wind is unavoidable, and I can get over the wind, but If I was to do this walk again I would pay attention to the sun. As this is a long walk, it’s almost unavoidable to not walk through midday sun, so rather, I would not go on a very sunny day. 

Despite the bit at the beginning that I wasn’t so keen on, the rest of the walk made up for it. I would absolutely recommend this walk. You just gotta get over that hill first.

Second chances

At some point, I will be walking from Alfriston to Eastbourne along the Northern loop of the SDW. Alfriston doesn’t have a train station so I may end up walking there from Southease. It will give me a chance to walk this section that I didn’t enjoy again. I’d like to give it another chance, as it seems like it would be lovely, without the blinding sun.

Ok, I have talked enough. Now I’m going to tell you about the whole walk.

Full logistical information and more walk ideas will be at the end.

Walking from Southease to Seaford via Alfriston

Often, to get to a walking trail involves a bit of navigation from the train station. Well, not on this one. The SDW trail literally goes over the rail tracks of Southease station. A nice easy way to start. Turning right out of the station, I was met with my first South Downs Way signage of the day.  

Sign number two was nearly missed though. Not far from the station, it was stuck onto a wall on the right. 

Make sure to look out for this wall, as it is here that you change direction.

The big uphill

Following the trail, over the bridge towards the first uphill of the day, I reached a point just after some gates where there is a small trail going straight up the hill, and a slightly larger one continuing straight. The path straight ahead looked more official, and slightly less aggressive, so I took it. 

It turns out you can take either as they both lead to the same place. The top.

A bridge over a road leading to the hills at the start of the walk from Seaford to Southease.
The green and orange fields of the South Downs on the walk out of Southease, heading towards Alfriston and Seaford. The view is dotted with trees and bushes, with the bridge visible in the distance on the left. The sky is blue.

As I made my way up, I started to get sea views and the town of Newhaven to the right. If you catch it right, you may get to see ferries from France coming into port. 

I didn’t.

(Sorry, no photos. Looking in that direction was looking directly at the sun)

If you take the route I took, then as the path curves around, make sure to walk with the fence to your right, with a view of the trees up ahead.

Looking uphill with a fence to the right and groups of trees up ahead.
A green and orange grassed field with autumn coloured trees and bright blue sky.

As the fence bends right, you will be bending with it. You don’t have to strictly stick to it, but rather just walk through the trees and gradually bare right towards the fence again. 

The monster cow

It was here that I saw what might just be the biggest cow I have ever seen in my life. I was quite happy that there was a fence separating me from the beast. The cow looked quite content just sitting there, but you never know. 

(Thinking about the giant cow a lot, I later realised it was probably a bull. I had stereotyped all bulls to have horns, when actually, they don’t necessarily).

An orange and white coloured bull sitting in a field, with a view of the sea in the distance.

More Cows

Continuing up the hill, I could see a large group of cows sitting where I was heading. I also noticed the fence on my right became flattened. This image came into my head, of the cows trampling over it to get to the other side. I have always feel a bit safer from the cows when there is a fence between us….but now I’m not so sure. 

A group of orange and creme coloured cows sitting on top of the grass hill with views of the South Downs hills in the backdrop. There are a few sheep dotted about and a bright blue sky with a bit of haze.

Luckily my path didn’t go through the cows, but exited the field just before them.

Continuing uphill

The walk continues on uphill with views of the villages down the valley to the left, and more hills and the sea to the right. This is where the wind really took attack.

A view of the patchwork like fields in shades of green and orange, when walking from Southease to Seaford. There are trees dotted about and in lines and a blue sky.

As this part of the walk is mostly uphill, the views ahead aren’t that exciting. Just plain fields with a few sheep dotted about. You can look to the right for sea views, but I can‘t show you as I have no photos as the sun was in that direction. So, you will just have to imagin it in your head 😉

Fields of orange and green with a few sheep dotted about on the walk from Southease to Seaford.
It was like this for a few miles. It’s nice, but got a bit boring after a while.

At some point, the radio masts come into view. Something a little different to look at, to break up the plain-ness so far.

The South Downs Way path running through a field with a view of two telephone pylons in the distance, with a blue sky backdrop.
South Downs Way signage with a backdrop of a green field and two telephone pylons, on the walk from Southease to Seaford via Alfriston.

The views looking back were great though….

A green grass field on the hill top meeting an orange field, separated by a fence. The sky is bright blue.
A hill top view of the South Downs, with people walking along the top.

I did wonder whether I should have done this walk in the opposite direction, however once descending off the hill later on in the walk, the views ahead are best so actually, it evens out.

The highest point on the walk from Southease to Seaford – 4 miles.

There is a momentary downhill, before walking up again to reach the highest point of the walk (718ft). It is from this point that the views ahead improved. No longer a plain wall of green, but instead rolling hills with a view of the squiggly trail in the distance.

The rolling hills of the South Downs on the walk from Southease to Seaford via Alfriston. The fields are shades of green, yellow and orange. There are sheep dotted about and there is a view of the squiggly walking trail in the distance.

It is also just after here that I found a bush to wee behind.

The descent

The rest of the walk is mostly downhill, with some mini hills thrown in. But they are so mini, they don’t count.

The curving walking trails of the South Downs Way on the walk from Southease to Seaford via Alfriston. The sky is bright blue.
Standing on the side of a hill looking at the green field, then a fence to an orange field, then another green field. The fields are diagonal across the frame.
A dark green field diagonally across the frame with a fence. There is one small bush by the fence, and a bright blue sky backdrop.

Continuing along the squiggle trail, past the car park, and at some point later, the trail splits. A small post told me to head along the left trail. So I did. A little further along there was more obvious signage.

The right trail actually takes you straight to Seaford. I am heading to Seaford (and so are you), but not this way. First, we must go to Alfriston

Reaching Alfriston – The half way mark – 7 miles.

The village of Alfriston comes into view down in the valley. 

Looking down towards the village of Alfriston in the valley on the walk from Southease to Seaford. There is a fence on the left of the frame.
A view of the rolling hills in shades of green and orange and a view of the sea on the horizon.
Looking right.

Then once through the gate at the bottom of the field, the trail leads through some tree cover. I was quite relieved when I got here. To finally have an escape from the wind and sun. 

Trail signage on the walk near Alfriston, against a blue sky backdrop.
The walking trail into Alfriston with bushes and flowers on either side of it. The sky is blue.

As I made my way down the trail, I could hear church bells in the distance. I wondered what it could be. It wasn’t Sunday so it can’t be that (if you have never walked in the English countryside before, on Sundays, the sound of church bells fill the air for Sunday mass). Maybe a wedding? 

The rolling hills of different shades of green, with groups of trees and a glimpse of the sea in the distance.

It was down in Alfriston that the route got a little confusing, so I will direct you.

At first, there is a signpost pointing the way.

South Downs Way signage in Alfriston, on the walk from Southease to Seaford. It is in bushes next to the road, with houses and trees on the background.
So far, so good.

Then once you reach the end of the road, there is no direction (except signage pointing you back the way you came). I wonder whether there was signage which I couldn’t see. I mean, I have been pretty impressed at how so far every single junction has been signposted. 

Ok, so anyway, take a right and then take the first alley to the left.

A small road between the medieval buildings on the walk into Alfriston.
Take a right at that t-junction

I can confirm the church bells were for a wedding. 

As I walked down the alley, I was bombarded with smartly dressed wedding goers. In particular, I noticed the women in their heels and thought to myself how glad I was that I wasn’t wearing heels right now.

I actually stopped wearing heels a long time ago, and they ONLY come out for weddings. There came a point in my life where I stopped choosing style over comfort. I do still have lots of heels, I can’t bring myself to get rid of them yet. Partly because they look pretty in my wardrobe, and partly because once I do get rid of them, it will mean I have officially gone over to the other side.

I’m not quite ready to let go.

A church surrounded by trees and immaculate grass. There is a group of people by the church. The sky is bright blue.

Out the other side you will see the church. 

Don’t walk towards the church, but instead continue along the alley on the left and you will find SDW signage again. 

Leaving Alfriston 

The trail from Alfriston to Exceat is both the South Downs Way and Vanguard Way. Heading over the little bridge and turning right, I found myself walking though an open field with a little river, with some house and church cuteness. 

Looking along a small bridge with white wooden railings when walking out of Alfriston. There are people walking on the bridge and trees at the end of it with green grass fills either side.
A small river running across the field with green lush fields and trees on either side of it. Orange and green hills are in the distance.
A bright green grass field in Alfriston on the walk from Southease to Seaford. There are two houses slightly hidden behind a line of bushes and trees, with the hills behind them. The sky is bright blue.
The Alfriston church spire poking out above the bushes and trees, behind a green grass field on the walk from Southease to Seaford.
A small dirt trail near Alfriston on the walk from Southease to Seaford.It is surrounded by overgrown grass and bushes and trees to the left. The sky is blue with a pink tinge as the sun lowers in the sky.

Through the gate on the other side and past some bushyness, there are a few more trail turnings, this time, well signposted. 

When you reach the private road sign, don’t walk up it. I nearly did, as the SDW signs pointed me this way. Then I noticed the sign. I stood there for a moment trying to work out where to go….

A road diagonal across the frame, with bushes and a house on the left. There is a white sign saying private road.

As it turns out, the signage was just to the right of where I was standing when I took this picture (pointing right). In my defence, it was under the darkness of shadow.

Follow this trail uphill, then down again with some lovely views, to reach the woods.

Green and orange fields, with green trees of the woods on the right. The sky is bright blue.
Heading to those woods on the right.

The woods

Taking a left in the woods, and after walking a bit further along, the steps appear. Ahhh, steps. This is the first of two stair climbs. 

Under the darkness of the woods on the walk from Southease to Seaford. there is signage pointing the way leading to some wooden steps. There are orange autumn leaves on the ground.

I have walked up many steps in my life. I even trained for a marathon which has lots of steps, therefore, I did a lot of stair training. However, steps never seem to get easy. Surely by now, stairs should be easy. 

Ok, I am being a bit dramatic. It’s only a short stair climb. But still, I got rather breathy. 

Leaving the steps behind, and walking along a trail enclosed by trees, next, an opening will provide you with two trail options. Which trail to take? Well, there is signage here, but it’s been slightly hidden in the bushes on the right. In case you don’t see it, it points right.

South Downs Way sign hidden in bushes.

Walking under more tree goodness, the trail then turns out of the woods. Walking towards the next woods, I see my second stair climb. 

This stair climb is a good one……

Reaching Exceat10.6 miles

Reaching the top, I was rewarded (and you will be too) by a stunning view down into the Cuckmere Valley, and the winding snakelike Cuckmere River.

A view over the Cuckmere Valley on the walk near Seaford. There is a fence and gate at the front of the frame with a dog standing next to it on the other side. The fields are bright green and orange, with trees across the middle and a view of the winding Cuckmere River at the bottom. The sky is blue with faint white clouds.
If you are wondering about the sign and the dog. Don’t worry. There were no other animals in this field.

After heading down the hill, and over the road, I said goodbye to the South Downs Way trail. 

Although, you don’t have to say goodbye, you can continue walking along it to take you over the Seven Sisters cliffs towards Eastbourne. It’s quite far though. The Seven Sisters Walk is amazing, but maybe best save that for another day. You can read more about it in my post about walking the Seven Sisters.

Cuckmere and The Vanguard Way

Turning right over the road, and past the carpark, the trail continued on alongside the road for a bit. Although, looking left at the gorgeous views, I could pretend it’s wasn’t there.

The winding Cuckmere River with paddle boarders on it. The sun is setting giving a warm glow. There is a sign post on the left pointing to the country park.
A road diagonal across the frame, lined on the other side with bushes and the fields behind it. The sky iOS blue.
This is the road. It’s very close.

Once you reach the bridge you will have to navigate the cars. To cross the bridge you have to actually go onto the other side of the road, then once over it, cross back over and into the carpark.

Good luck.

At the other side of the car park and through the gate, then through the second gate, a bit further along is where I rejoined the Vanguard Way. 

The trail on the walk near Seaford surrounded by bushes and leading to a gate. On the other side is a field with cows grazing. The sky is blue with streaks of white clouds.

You do have the option of taking the left trail before the gate, as they both head where you are going, however, I have walked along the left trail many times. I have not taken the right trail before. Now seemed like a good time to do it.

More cows

The right trail was actually quite incredible. Walking next to the small river with cows drinking from it just on the other side.

Cows grazing in the field next to the Cuckmere River, on the walk near Seaford.

I not so sure about the cows in the right field though. They were quite vocal. Then a bit further along, a bunch of cows in the right field came running towards me, only to be stopped by the fence separating us. Making lots of moo noises in the process. 

I remembered back to earlier in the walk when I saw that (what seemed to be) trampled down fence. 

Hmmm. I moved along quickly just incase.

Cuckmere Haven

Up ahead, the first hill of the Seven Sisters cliffs came into view. Ah, my old friend. I thought about how much I love that walk, but also how glad I was that I didn’t have to walk up it today. From this angle, the steepness of that first hill was quite tiring to look at. 

The white chalk seven sisters cliffs in the distance on the walk near Seaford.I The sea to the right of it is blue, and there is field with the coastguard cottage in the foreground.

From here, I continued walking with the sea to my left, uphill, then down hill, then one final uphill to the golf course.

The trail on the walk near Seaford lined with overgrown grass on the left and the blue sea behind that. There are birds flying across the sky where the sun is setting giving a warm glow.
Looking along the walking trail near Seaford, towards the white chalk cliff of the Seven Sisters in the distance. The sea under it is bright blue.
Looking back

Reaching Seaford – The end of the walk

At the top, I was greeted by a spectacular sunset view over Seaford. I checked the train times and saw there was a train back to London in 20min. 

Perfect timing, I thought.

Standing on top of the hill, looking down at the curved coastline and buildings at the end of the walk from Southease to Seaford via Alfriston. The low hanging sun s on the left of the frame creating a warm, pink glow. There is a bench on the hill, looking down to the town.

I made my way down the hill, however, once at the bottom I realised that if I was to make that train, I would have to run. Im not supposed to run with my hips yet. 

But I ran anyway.

The next part of the walk is along a path next to a shingle beach and cute beach huts. On my run, I quickly stopped for an iPhone photo of the beach huts so you can see them. 

Beach huts in Seaford at sunset

I made the train with 1 minute to spare.

Logistics for the walk from Southease to Seaford via Alfriston

Start: Southease Station

Finish: Seaford Station

How to get there: Southease and Seaford are on the same train line, which makes buying a ticket for this walk easy. From London Victoria, buy a return ticket to Seaford. You will have to change at Lewes, but from there, it’s only one stop to Southease (this train then continues on to Seaford).

Distance: 14.6 miles

Time: Allow about 6 hours. 

Elevation gain: Highest point is 718ft. Total elevation gain is about 1785ft

Terrain: A mix of dirt, gravel, grassy trails and a little asphalt. 

Difficulty: Medium (It is mostly easy with some hills but I’m grading it medium because its long). 

Map

Click on the box in the corner to open the map and trail in your Google Maps.

Tips for the walk 

Choose a day that isn’t mega sunny with no clouds…….Or take sunglasses.

If walking in a field with cows and their calves, be careful. They can get quite aggressive. Some cows ran after me, but luckily I was separated from them by a fence.

More walks in the South Downs

I have mentioned a few times already, the walk along the Seven Sisters cliffs. It’s a good one. Its one that I always recommend first to people asking me where to go walking and hiking near London. Also, the South Downs Way section just before this one, the one which makes it onto my list of favourite walks, is Lewes to Southease

If you would like to see the Seven Sisters Cliffs without the massive trek, you could try the Birling Gap to Friston Forest circular walk.

Heading a bit further back along the trail, you could walk the section from Hassocks to Lewes. A lovely, mostly ridge walk, passing by Jack and Jill Windmills.

As you will have a view of Newhaven for a lot of this walk, I would like to also suggest the walk from Newhaven to Brighton. Not technically in the South Downs, but right next to it. It’s a pretty easy one, with the option to walk on an under cliff path or clifftop. 

You can find out more information about the South Downs Way on the National Trails website.

Pin it for later – Southease to Seaford via Alfriston walking guide

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1 comment

Bunny October 10, 2019 - 9:07 am

Gorgeous photos and very tempting .#getbritainhiking

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