RIDE WITH A V
Hassocks to Lewes with a climb to the foot of the Downs, followed by a long gentle roll back down mostly quiet roads
1.5 – 2.5 hrs
About the ride
This green, often leafy route on bridleways and narrow country lanes meanders from Hassocks to Lewes on the north side of the Clayton to Offham Escarpment. A climb over the first two miles takes you to the bottom of Ditchling Beacon, then it’s a very gentle downhill all the way to Lewes.
As well as following briefly in the wagon wheels of the Romans, you enjoy wonderful views of the V-shaped woodland, planted on the slopes above Streat to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, and pedal through a rare chalk stream habitat, home to newts, frogs and Britain’s largest beetle.
Starting & Finishing
Start: Hassocks railway station (London-to-Brighton line)
End: Lewes railway station (London-to-Lewes and Brighton-to-Eastbourne lines)
You can cut this route short and end at Cooksbridge or Plumpton railway stations on the London-to-Lewes line. You can take bikes on trains except during peak hours. Normally only a few are allowed on any one train. There is car parking at Lewes and Hassocks stations and limited parking in the lanes around Cooksbridge and Plumpton.
Suggestions for a looped ride
There are several alternative routes on the lanes and bridleways between Hassocks and Lewes. Be creative! At Lewes the ride links with National Cycle Network Route 90.
There are plenty of options for routes between Hassocks and Lewes, and you can go freeform with yours. This route takes you out from Hassocks to Underhill Lane which runs parallel to the Downs escarpment, then follows paved surfaces through Ditchling until reaching the bridleway on Spatham Lane.
From here it is a mix of concrete, gravel and chalk bridleways until you reach East Chiltington church. There are a few roads to cross, so be mindful of traffic. From East Chiltington you are back on paved roads and there are various ways to reach Plumpton and Cooksbridge railway stations.
If you’re carrying on to Lewes, the last part of the ride from Offham is on a chalk bridleway through woods and then along the River Ouse levee. In wet weather it can be quite slippery and muddy along the river before you reach Lewes and the paved river-side surfaces.
The Living Coast Experience
Heading out of Hassocks, you see the grassy slopes of the South Downs Clayton to Offham Escarpment rising ahead of you. These chalky grasslands are one of the rarest habitats on the planet, rich in plant, insect and birdlife. A Site of Special Scientific Interest, they are the backdrop to your ride, stretching from Clayton all the way to Lewes.
As you leave Underhill Lane, turning your back on the hills and heading towards Ditchling, you cycle through The Nye, a local wildlife site on the outskirts of the village which has long been famous for its history of arts and crafts. Having skirted around Ditchling, the route takes you to the village of Streat which is built on the Sussex Greensand Way, a Roman road that ran east to west from Barcombe Mills to Hardham in West Sussex, linking various Roman roads running south from London. It was built on a ridge of greensand, which runs north of the Downs and gets its colour and its name from marine sediments.
Continuing out of Streat you follow the route of the Roman Road passing to the south of Plumpton Racecourse. Looking towards the slopes of the Downs escarpment on this section of your ride, you’ll see a wooded V on the hillside. Over 3,000 trees were planted here in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
The Roman road continued through what is now East Chiltington, the village church here dating back to the 12th century. On from Cooksbridge, you reach the village of Offham. The quarry on Offham Hill was a source of chalk and lime from the late 1700s to 1870. In 1809, a funicular railway was built here to transport the lime and chalk from the quarry down the steep slope to a wharf on a stream leading to the River Ouse. This was believed to be the first railway in southern England.
From Offham, you take a bridleway that follows the Chalkpit cut, a shallow stream that links to the River Ouse and was used by barges serving the quarry wharf. The cut lies within the Offham Marshes, a rare wet woodland habitat fed by chalk springs. These chalk streams support large numbers of frogs, newts and toads. The ditches are also home to a hairy dragonfly and Britain’s largest beetle, the great silver water beetle.
From the marshes, you head up onto the embankment of the River Ouse, entering Lewes via an area known as The Pells. Here a series of springs once formed natural pools below the low cliffs in Lewes. You pass right by Pells Pool. Built in 1860 and fed by a spring, it is the oldest freshwater lido in the country that is still operating.
Having been established in the 6th century and serving as a traditional market town for hundreds of years, Lewes is rich in history. Lewes Castle was built shortly after the Norman Invasion in 1066 and is one of the earliest remaining medieval castles in the country. Not far from the station are the ruins of Lewes Priory, originally established by French monks in the 11th century. The priory park includes a herb garden planted with the medicinal and culinary herbs the monks would have used. For some local flavour after a thirsty ride, there’s also Harvey’s, a Victorian brewery on the banks of the Ouse.
Want a map of the route to take with you? All our routes are available in the free Komoot app.
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