During lockdown, a lot of National Trust locations were forced to temporarily close pending new guidelines, even those with outdoor spaces. With this, we decided to check out a few of the walks and trails that they have to offer. We’ve been members of The National Trust for quite a few years. Even during lockdown we decided to keep up with our membership. We knew that one day we’d be back, but we also wanted to continue supporting them.
The National Trust is responsible for the upkeep for a number of historic locations. From castles to stately homes and gardens. They offer members (or paying customers if you’re not a member) a chance to experience a piece of history, whilst preserving them for years to come. Locations are often well-maintained and tidy, and there’s always something going on or to take part in.
We’ve always enjoyed visiting a National Trust location, and because it’s a real treat for us we always try and make the most out of our day. Ordinarily, when visiting one of their stately homes, we’d grab a coffee or browse their plant shop. But when it comes to one of their walks, it’s often just that. So we have to improvise, which means we bring a decent flask of coffee and/or a picnic – making the experience completely different.
One of the lovely things about their nature walks, instead of their homes and gardens, is that there’s more space to run around. You’re also not limited to a path or trail. You can just explore (within reason!).
Here are a few of our favourite places to visit:
Just a few miles outside of Brighton, Devils Dyke offers one of the most stunning panoramic views across the Sussex Downs.
Access can be gained by car or by bus. During the summer months, there’s an open-top bus (Number 77) that takes you straight to Devils Dyke.
At nearly a mile long, the Dyke valley is the longest, deepest and widest ‘dry valley’ in the UK. Legend has it that the Devil dug this chasm to drown the parishioners of the Weald. On the other hand, scientists believe it was formed naturally just over 10,000 years ago in the last ice age.National Trust
Apart from a family-friendly pub, Devils Dyke is pretty remote. It not only offers families and ramblers an opportunity to explore, but really take in what nature has to offer. Devils Dyke has a great variety of walks available, regardless of skill.
Birling Gap & Seven Sisters
Birling Gap is just a few miles out of Eastbourne Seafront, and access can be gained by travelling to Beachy Head or from Seaford. It’s is part of the famous hiking trail; the Seven Sisters, which is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastline on the south coast.
Two years ago, Sharon hiked the Seven Sisters as part of a charity hike – it is NOT for the faint-hearted. The crisp views, however, make up for the steep hills.
Birling Gap offers rock pooling opportunities, pebble and sand beaches, and is the perfect example of a coastal and marine nature reserve. You’ll also find a well-stocked (but busy!) cafe, visitor centre and gift shop, as well as plenty of places to run around and take in the crisp sea air.
Access can be gained by car or by bus (get off at East Dean). Parking is Pay & Display for non-National Trust members and (the last time I checked) can be refunded upon purchasing something at the cafe!
Near to the historic town of Arundel, the Slindon Estate is 1,400 acres of farmland, deep woodland, parkland and downland. Access can be gained at numerous points of the estate and centres around the village of Slindon (obvs).
The various walks are perfect for all seasons, whether you explore on foot, bike or horse!
We unintetionally did this walk twice as we didn’t realise where we were until we reached the village – it’s that big! The good thing, though, is that there’s a gorgeous cafe and village shop in the centre. It’s the perfect reward after a long walk.
Ditchling Beacon is the highest point in East Sussex and offers breathtaking 360 degree views. Look towards the south to find the sea, north towards Weald or east-west across the Downs. You can find it by travelling south just outside of the village of Ditchling.
Neighbouring Ditchling Down lies to the west of Ditchling Beacon, and is a prime example of chalk downland. Walk the path along the scarp slope, passing through the disused chalk pits grazed by sheep and dotted with wild flowers throughout spring and summer.National Trust
Just down from Seven Sisters, Cuckmere Valley is a wonderful mix of chalk paths, grassland and paved paths with views along the river Cuckmere. We’ve come here many a time with T’s scooter and bike, as it’s wonderfully flat and is perfect for an afternoon paddle. Walk as far as you can and you’ll come to a quiet pebble beach, with views of the Seven Sisters.
Access can be gained by car or by bus, although the car parks do get VERY busy. Located at the site is a pub, as you enter the valley, a tea room, an ice cream van, as well as a small visitor centre. There’s also a small Kayaking centre and bike hire.
Just outside the town of Lewes, East Sussex sits Black Cap. A polite 623 acres of hilltop grassland, with hidden wooded areas and undulating views across the Downs.
This was an accidental find for me during my maternity leave. T had just started toddling and I didn’t compensate for the hill, but the views when you get to the top are worth it!
There’s not much here, though. It is very much a park up (in a nearby lay-by) and walk kind of place, so take a flask and a picnic!
When did you last visit a National Trust location? Do you have any recommendations?
If you’d like to visit some of their other locations in Sussex, check out the link here.
Devils Dyke: The National Trust
Birling Gap: The National Trust
Ditchling Beacon: The National Trust
Black Cap: The National Trust
National Trust Walks, National Trust Walks, National Trust Walks