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Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs

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Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs
Author: Claire, Published: 03 Aug 2017 Walk Rating:star1 Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide star1 Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide star1 Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide star1 Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide star0 Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide
East Sussex, South Downs
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide boot Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide boot Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide boot Long Man of Wilmington and the South Downs Walking Guide
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A circular walk of just over 6 miles from the small village of Wilmington in East Sussex. The walk climbs onto the chalk slopes of the South Downs to visit the hillside chalk figure known as the Long Man of Wilmington, followed by a quick visit to a charming church before exploring long stretches of the chalk tracks that criss-cross the top of the seemingly endless downs. In summer, the chalk download is covered in beautiful wild flowers and you will have views of the sea plus another hillside chalk figure, the Litlington White Horse.

The route includes several long climbs and descents, from moderate to steep. The chalk tracks are wonderful firm surfaces after dry summer periods, but are rutted in part and can be very muddy and slippery in winter and after wet periods. The tops of the downs are very exposed so make sure you have appropriate clothing. There are several single bridle gates on route, but there are no stiles or kissing gates. There is a stretch of road walking in the middle of the walk, so take care of traffic at this point. You will be sharing some of the open downland with sheep and cattle (although being the popular South Downs, the cattle tend to be accustomed to walkers and dogs). About half the walk is on tracks bordered by crop fields or hedgerows, ideal for well-behaved dogs to have a good romp around. Allow 3 to 3.5 hours depending on conditions under foot.

The village of Wilmington is located in the parish of Long Man, 2 miles west of Polegate and 6 miles north-west of Eastbourne. The walk starts at the free car park (for about 20 cars) at the southern edge of the village. From the A27, head south through the village, passing the pub and the church. Immediately after the last house on your right, you will find the car park on your right (set back from the road and through a height restriction barrier). Approximate post code BN26 5SW.

Walk Sections

Start to The Long Man
Start to The Long Man

Start point: 50.8166 lat, 0.1894 long
End point: 50.8109 lat, 0.1882 long

Leave the car park via the vehicle exit, cross over the road, go ahead up the steps and turn right to follow the verge-top path with the road and a hedge on your right and fields to your left. NOTE: If this path is too narrow or overgrown for you, you can just follow the road instead for this first stretch. If you are on the path, you will have the first views of the Long Man of Wilmington chalk figure to your left. More about that later…

At the end of the path, pass through the staggered barrier (or on the road, turn left through a bridle gate) to reach the end of the grass track which leads towards the chalk figure. Follow this track, leading you steadily uphill and then swinging right. You will come to a gate ahead, at the base of the Long Man. Pass through the gate to enter the open access land (where sheep may be grazing).

Walk directly towards the base of the Long Man where you will reach a fence ahead with an information board. This is a good place to pause and learn the story of this chalk figure. The Long Man of Wilmington is 70 metres high and has an interesting design. Satellite images show the figure as strangely elongated, but from ground level at a distance he appears in normal human proportions. The Long Man has baffled archaeologists for hundreds of years. Some are convinced he is prehistoric, Roman coins bearing a similar symbol suggest he might date from around 300AD while others think he is the work of an artistic monk dating to around 1300. The earliest known record of the figure dates from 1710, and this clearly shows that the figure originally had a distinctive helmet-shaped head, giving credence to theories that he is a depiction of a helmeted war-god. Originally the figure was only carved into the grass, but in 1874 he was marked out with yellow bricks to preserve his shape. In 1969 these bricks were replaced with concrete blocks that are now regularly painted to keep the Long Man visible from many miles away.

The Long Man to Lullington Church
The Long Man to Lullington Church

Start point: 50.8109 lat, 0.1882 long
End point: 50.8069 lat, 0.1673 long

Standing facing the fence and Long Man, turn right along the grass and chalk path, initially following the fence line running on your left. There are beautiful views across to your right, including Arlington Reservoir. Simply keep ahead on this obvious grass path to reach the next gate ahead. Pass through this (into an area grazed by cattle and sheep) and continue ahead on the path which climbs gently. At the brow of this climb, bear left to reach a single waymarker post sitting at the junction of a chalk track.

The main chalk track here is the South Downs Way. Turn right to join this track and follow it downhill as it passes the fencing of an underground reservoir on your right. At the bottom of the track, a gate leads you out to a junction with the road. At this point we leave the South Downs Way, so turn left along the road itself, taking care of any traffic.

As you reach the brow of the first small rise (with a Chapel Hill road sign on your right) look ahead to the distant hills where you will see the second chalk figure visible on this walk, the Litlington White Horse. A horse is the most common form of chalk hillside figures, and this is one of only nine in the UK that are outside of Wiltshire. It was cut into the hillside in the 1800s to replace one that existed here much earlier.

Continue following the road downhill until you reach a sign for Lullington Church. Here we take a short detour to visit this church. Turn right to follow the red brick path, passing garden fences on your left. Bear right to join the concrete slope for the church and pass through the gate to enter the churchyard. The Church of the Good Shepherd is a tiny flint building, being just five metres square and seating just 20 people. It has laid claim to be one of the smallest churches in the country, but in fact it is just a portion of a much larger church, the remains of which you can see within the churchyard. You will notice the pretty white weather-boarded belfry sitting on top of the tiny remains.

Lullington Church to Bridleway Junction
Lullington Church to Bridleway Junction

Start point: 50.8069 lat, 0.1673 long
End point: 50.797 lat, 0.1739 long

When you have finished at the church, retrace your steps back to the road and turn right to continue your journey along this. At the bottom of the slope you will come to a road junction. Ignore the road to the right (signed to Alfriston) and keep ahead on the road towards Seaford. Pass the pretty property Lullington Court on your right and, just after the flint boundary wall for this property ends, fork left to join a stone track (signed as a bridleway towards Jevington).

Follow this track uphill and at the top of the first stretch, cross over a farm track and continue straight ahead on the stone track bridleways between hedgerows. Towards the top of the climb, where the hedgerow on your left ends, it is worth taking a moment to look back across to your left for fabulous views across the village of Alfriston nestled in the valley bottom.

Continue on the track between open crop fields, with beautiful panoramic views including the Litlington White Horse across to your right. The track levels off and leads you to a fingerpost which marks a junction with another bridleway.

Bridleway Junction to South Downs Way
Bridleway Junction to South Downs Way

Start point: 50.797 lat, 0.1739 long
End point: 50.7958 lat, 0.2027 long

Turn left to join the bridleway, another chalk stone track leading you steadily uphill. At the top of the rise you will come to a junction in the track marked with a four-way fingerpost. Go straight ahead (ignoring both side turns) and passing a noticeboard for Lullington Heath Nature Reserve on your left.

The track leads you steadily downhill. On your right, you will see the grass slopes, gorse and hawthorn trees within Lullington Heath Nature Reserve, a site of special scientific interest for its chalk grassland and chalk heath. Chalk heath is a very rare habitat, where by chance acid soils have been deposited on the alkaline chalk, allowing acid-loving plants like heather to grow on the chalk. Hardy Herdwick sheep are used for conservation grazing, sometimes helped by Exmoor ponies and British White cattle. The reserve supports a whole host of birds, insects and mammals including the rare dormouse.

At the bottom of the slope, ignore the bridleway off to the right into the reserve, instead keep straight ahead on the stone track which now climbs steeply. At the top (well done!), the track levels off and you will pass a couple more entrance gates into the reserve on you right. Keep ahead on the main track, passing over the brow of a rise and beginning to descend. Just before you enter the trees ahead, you will come to a fingerpost marking a junction with the South Downs Way.

South Downs Way to Tenantry Ground
South Downs Way to Tenantry Ground

Start point: 50.7958 lat, 0.2027 long
End point: 50.8074 lat, 0.1933 long

Turn left here and follow the path which leads you between trees and then through a bridle gate to reach the edge of a crop field. Keep straight ahead to follow the stone path along the right-hand grass margin of this field, initially with a tree belt on your right. When the tree belt bears away to the right, simply keep ahead on the main stone path. Keep your eyes peeled for a gap in the tree line across to the right, which creates a perfectly framed view of the south coast at Eastbourne. Ahead to your right you will be able to see the stone ruins of High Barn.

At the end of the field, go through the bridle gate ahead to enter a very large hillside sheep pasture. Keep straight ahead along the full length of this pasture, glancing over your left shoulder to enjoy more great views across the south coast. As you approach the hedge line ahead, follow the path which passes a lone waymarker post and bears left. Stay with this path undulating along the top of the field and passing a few waymarker posts along the way.

Towards the end of the field, the path leads you to a fence. Bear right here to follow the grass track with the fence running on your left. Beyond this fence is the spectacular dry valley known as Tenantry Ground.

Tenantry Ground to End
Tenantry Ground to End

Start point: 50.8074 lat, 0.1933 long
End point: 50.8169 lat, 0.1892 long

Follow the path with the fenced valley on your left. Continue just until the next waymarker (which is before you reach the gate ahead). Turn right at this waymarker, across the grass to reach a bridle gate which leads you into open access land (do NOT take the stile in the field corner, the gate you want is to the right of this stile).

Beyond the gate, turn immediately left and follow the obvious sunken grass path leading you very steeply downhill. Take care of your footing on this descent, but it is worth pausing a couple of times to enjoy the beautiful views ahead. The steep path veers away from the fence, initially on a heading towards the left-hand edge of the reservoir visible in the distance. After the first steep descent, the path swings right, becoming a grass track leading you more steadily downhill. You have just walked across the top of the Long Man, who sits on the chalk hillside sloping steeply down to your left.

At the bottom of the slope you will come to a staggered T-junction with a fence ahead. You now have two choices. If you are walking at a muddy time of year, the final stretch of the full route is often the muddiest, so you may prefer to turn left here to reach the base of the Long Man and then retrace your steps from the outward leg. However, for the full route, turn right to join the Weald Way with the fence running on your left.

Follow the obvious track hugging the low contour of the hill. The track swings steadily right, eventually passing through the bridle gate ahead and then reaching a T-junction with a bridleway track. Turn left to join this, heading steadily downhill. Towards the bottom, where the hedgerow on your left ends, you will have more fine views of the Long Man across to your left. Follow the track all the way to the bottom, where you will reach a junction with the village road, opposite the church. Turn left to join the road, taking care of any traffic, and passing the Old Priory on you right. Immediately after the last house on your right, you will come to the village car park on your right where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by iFootpath and the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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