Saturday, October 28, 2006

MTB BIke Ride: Eastbourne to the Long Man of Wilmington (and back again) via South Downs Way

We went down to Eastbourne today for a bike ride today. As usual we got up late!

After making sure we are packed, We took to train from Brighton station and reached Eastbourne at 12.30pm. Once there we had to navigate our way out of centre Eastbourne and get onto the foot of the South Downs. We cycled from the station to the official starting point (or finishing end depending on your point of view) of the national trail South Downs Way (the trail is apparently almost unchanged from those used thousands of years ago by Stone Age men). There is another trail for walkers from the promenade through Beachy Head, but it is used mainly by walkers.

The trail begins at the foot near Paradise Plantation (next to the Royal Eastbourne Golf Club). Getting there is tricky and we wasted plenty of time getting lost. The easiest way (but not the shortest) is taking Meads Road. This will connect to Beachy Head Road. You would need to turn left into Carlisle Road, heading straight before turning left into Link Road. It is roughly 1 1/2 mile from the station. Anyway we immediately started our ascent up the hill. It was fucking windy. I won't go into extreme details on where to turn and stuff (get an OS map!), but you will have to cross A259, where the SDW goes through the Eastbourne Downs Golf Club. About 1 1/2 hours after we left Eastbourne Station we descended on the rocky bridleway into the medieval village of Jevington, just east of Friston Forest.

Here we took a breather, before getting lost again. We cycled about 1/2 mile north of Jevington Road looking for the SDW marker, before common sense prevailed, allowing me to check a compas. We double back and finally found the marker just 50 yards away from where we came entered Jevington! To save you time, the road is called Church Lane and is 200 yards long, passing St Andrew's Church parish before connecting back on the SDW. 1/2 hour later we finally arrived at the famous chalk figure Long Man of Wilmington (you will have to divert out of the SDW). Supposedly censored by insecure Victorian-Christians, the Long Man is apparently the depection of an Anglo-Saxon pagan god. At 227 feet tall, the carving is the largest human representation in Europe, and second in the world. You won't be able to see the Long Man as you will be above it though. In order to see it properly you will have to cycle straight on the SDW, passing the reservoir, then turning right onto the Wealdway and heading back east.

We continued west on the SDW for about a mile, but because it was late (about 4pm) and we didn't want to head to Alfriston due to the requirment to take the dangerous A259 to Seaford (there wasn't any time left), we decided to head back towards Eastbourne under the increasingly super windy and darkening conditions. We finally reached Eastbourne at 5.30pm, after riding a total of 14.5 miles off-road and 6 miles on road (2 miles in Brighton).

The start:

A demonstration of the almost murderous wind condition at Eastbourne Downs Golf Club.


Evil looking sheeps:

The fantastic views of the valley near Windover Hill:

Above the Wilmington Giant:

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Web said...

What a beautifully green place for a ride but talk about bicycling in the open! Isn't it amazing though have those sheep can stand there when the winds are howling...

Can you tell us more about that bike trail or whether there is a website for it?

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

Jon said...

Hi, thanks for visiting. The South Downs Way is a national trail/bridleway that is used by cyclists, walkers and horse riders. More information can be found here:

...along with information for UK's other National Parks.


Scott Marlow said...

Have done the ride out of Eastbourne on the SDW once, it's a killer start!! you have to try the whole thing one day it was great.. good luck with the rest of it!! Did it last month in the driving rain and wind.

Jon said...

Am looking forward to it. But I am going to wait till spring before slugging it out!