Ditchling Beacon is 7 miles north of Brighton, just on the edge of the picture postcard village of Ditchling. It’s a beautiful place to spend a day walking, taking in the views, or just enjoying nature. The highest point is at 248 metres above sea level, and there are 360 degree views to the weald in the north, across the downs on the east and west, and to the city and the sea to the south.
It was once a real Beacon, and would be kept at the ready in case of an invasion. The earthworks of an Iron-age hill fort can still be seen today, unfortunately, much of the southern part of the remains of the fort have been destroyed from ploughing. However, when the Spanish Armada approached in 1588, Ditchling Beacon was part of a chain of Bonfires along the south Downs used to warn everybody who lived in the area. There are great walks in both directions from the Beacon along the South Downs Way.
A couple of miles to the west lies the Jack and Jill windmills, that date from the 1800’s. Jill is open in the afternoons from May to September, check www.jillwindmill.org.uk for further details. Further on is Devils Dyke, a 100 metre deep valley created during the last Ice Age that boasts equally stunning views, and a very cosy pub. To the east the path goes all the way to the historic town of Lewes (6 miles / 9.5 km), where it’s easy to get a bus or train back into Brighton.
The Downs are covered with wild flowers in the summer months, and Sheep graze year round. Listen out for the buzzards as they soar in the skies above. The Beacon is also one of the best places in the area to see the sunset, and a fine (or romantic ;-)) place for a picnic.
The Beacon road winds steeply down from the top to the village of Ditchling. The village boasts some great pubs for Lunch or Dinner, and real log fires to warm up by again in the winter. There’s also shops and places to stay. The road is often used for sporting events, and has featured in a stage of the Tour De France (yes, they occasionally do stages in England!). Just outside the centre of the Village is Westmeston Church, which dates from the 11th century.