Thursday, 21 Mar 2019

The Low Weald

The Low Weald

Best 100-Mile Bike Routes”

Chris Sidwells

The Low Weald is the low-lying land between the North and South Downs. It divides into two areas with the Low Weald encircling the High Weald. The southern part of the Low Weald is slightly wider that the rest of it, so this ride goes around that section with a quick look at the Pevensey Levels and two ‘must see’ bits of the South Downs. The ride starts in Uckfield, the town where Lord Lucan went missing, and heads east through a succession of woods. All the Weald was wooded once; Weald is a derivation of Wald, the German word for wood, which flags that the area was a Saxon settlement. Saxon names and wood references are repeated throughout the ride. Herstmonceux, for example, comes from the Saxon word hyrst, meaning wooded hill. It’s where you enter the Pevensey Levels, a plain formed just after the Ice Age. Sea levels were much higher when the ice melted and the Pevensey area became a tidal estuary. It dried out as the sea levels fell, and today it’s a flat area of land with a number of rivers flowing through it. The Pevensey Levels are where the Norman invasion of England began in 1066.

The Low Weald - photo 1

The Low Weald

The next section of the ride does a loop around Eastbourne to visit somewhere that is truly spectacular. The ride to Beachy Head is pretty good. You cross the Cuckmere River in Hailsham and ride along its valley for a while. This is the river that nearly every geography textbook features to explain oxbow lakes. It’s the perfect example of a mature, meandering river. The route climbs steeply away from the Cuckmere up South Hill, and from there it follows the last bit of the South Downs to Beachy Head. It’s at the eastern end of the chalk-cliff formation called the Seven Sisters. Beachy Head is 162 metres high and a jaw-dropping sight. It’s familiar from films and television, but the cliff is also a notorious suicide spot.

The Low Weald - photo 2

The Low Weald

The view is mesmerising, but it’s time to press on. Heading north you leave the Downs, then ride along the line where they meet the Low Weald to visit one of British cycling’s famous hills. Ditchling Beacon was climbed in the Wincanton Grand Prix world cup races, and on stage six of the 1994 Tour de France, which finished in Brighton. Some of the best racers in the world have ridden up this hill, so I couldn’t have you come here and not do it too. All the same, just ride to the top and ride back down, because any more time spent on the South Downs and this won’t be a Low Weald rideThe final section tops up the Low Weald’s mileage with countryside that is typical of it. Lots of picturesque villages, woods, fields and copses make this one of those places that’s as understated as the English character. However, like so many similar places, it still has stories to tell. Some are stories of success, while others are about human folly, like the Piltdown Man.

The Low Weald - photo 3

The Low Weald

The Low Weald. You ride through Piltdown just before returning to Uckfield. This is where Charles Dawson claimed in 1912 to have found skull and jaw fragments that belonged to a hominid missing link between apes and humans. Piltdown Man became famous, the fragments were exhibited in the British Museum and they were used to create drawings of what our ancestors looked like. It was 1953 before the hoax was revealed. The jaw fragments were only about 500 years old and from an orangutan, and the skull was a human one of medieval age into which fossilised chimpanzee teeth had been placed. Head east on the B2102 and turn left in Blackboys onto the B2192. Join the A265 just before Heathfield and continue east, turning right at Heathfield Park onto the B2096. Follow this road to Wood’s Corner just after a steep hill and turn right. Turn right again and continue south to Bodle Street Green, and turn right to Windmill Hill. Turn left on the A271, then turn right, and continue past the Observatory Science Centre, turning right at Wartling to cross the Pevensey Levels to Pevensey.

The Low Weald - photo 4

The Low Weald

The Low Weald. Turn right just before Pevensey and before you reach the A259, and follow this road through Rickney and Downash to Hailsham. Ride through the centre of Hailsham to the A271, and turn left. Go straight over the roundabout and follow the A22 for 800 metres, then turn left to Upper Dicker. Go left over the Cuckmere River, turn right and follow this road to cross the A27, then continue through Litlington to the A259, where you turn left to East Dean. Turn right and follow this road past Beachy Head to go left onto the B2103, then left onto the A529. Turn right in Friston and follow this road to Polegate. Turn left onto the A2270, then left onto the A27 to Berwick, and turn right. Turn left after Arlington Reservoir, go left and continue through Mark Cross, then turn left at Cleaver’s Farm.

The Low Weald - photo 5

The Low Weald

The Low Weald. Turn left in Laughton onto the B2124 to Ringmer, where you turn right then right onto the A26, then left to Barcombe Cross. There, turn left, and left at Gallybird Hall, join the A275 south and then turn right onto the B2116. Continue straight at Westmeston where the B2116 turns sharp right, then go left to climb Ditchling Beacon. Retrace from the top and turn left at the bottom. Turn right at Clayton and right again onto the B2020, then turn left in Ditchling and follow the B2112 to the roundabout, where you go right. Take the first left then the second left, then turn right then second left to South Chailey. Turn left onto the A275, then right after South Street, then second right and third left to Piltdown. There, turn right then left to Uckfield.

The Low Weald - photo 6

The Low Weald

The Low Weald. Start and Finish: Uckfield.

The Low Weald. Getting There: Uckfield is on the A26, 13 miles south-west of Tunbridge Wells. It has a direct rail link with London.

The Low Weald. Bike Shop: In Gear on the High Street.

The Low Weald. Cafe: The Courtyard Coffee Shop.

The Low Weald. Local Delicacy: Smoked ham from the Weald Smokery.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Low Weald

  1. Pingback: The South Downs

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