A winter walk on the South Downs

A winter walk on the South Downs near Falmer – approx. 4.5 miles. We met in Falmer village north by The Swan pub. It was overcast and spitting with rain but we carried on! First we crossed the busy A27 by the footbridge to visit Falmer south as I and never seen the pond there. Malcolm told me there are terrapins living in that pond. Someone released them and they survived! We headed east of the pond to the church of St, Lawrence, which happened to be open. The church and parish is mentioned in the Doomsday book, but the current building was built approximately 1815. Also Malcolm had mentioned that the biggest barn in Sussex was nearby and I was keen to see that. We could view it from the back of the church yard and it was amazing! Huge! It’s the size of a football pitch. It was a tithe barn and it dates back to the medieval period. It was built by the monks of Lewes Priory who then owned the estate containing the village of Falmer. After that we headed back to Falmer north to see if any latecomers were joining the walk. No-one else was visible, so we started the walk proper. Heading north out of the village we joined a wooded path called ‘Tenant Lain’ on the map. This seems like an ancient name to me, and I think that some of our contemporary walking routes over the downs are actually ancient paths which linked all the little villages, some of which don’t even exist anymore. This path ran behind Sussex university buildings until we met the road, we crossed over and entered onto the South Downs proper. Suddenly the landscape opened up in front of us; rolling, sweeping curving. The weather was clearing and we could see about 30 miles in all directions. We could see Newhaven to the south and the sea. We continued on up a gentle slope called Water Pit Hill and then cut east over a field called Balmer Down. On this field you can see ridges and contours which are the remains of a medieval village called Balmer. I really love seeing things like this, and as I looked at the land imagine the ghosts of past people. I really enjoy being out on the South Downs I find them very peaceful and calming. I have a sense when I am there, not only of their great age and stillness but also how alive they are, even in winter, with plants and animals. We came to the top of the slope called Balmer Huff and at the edge of Buckland Bank, passed near to the South Downs Way where we turned west to meet the path back south west towards Falmer village. By this time the sun was shining. It was heart lifting and lovely to be out on the downs in the sun on a winter day. I am always really glad when I get out walking. It always makes me feel better physically and mentally. It took us about 3 hours to do the walk and look at the village.