We had a great adventure over the weekend. Tony, Careg, Brie and Mark with me walked from near Pycombe village to the New Timber Hill across a tremendous mud road and had our lunch at the top of the hill. Than we walked back across the mud ( it was a great adventure and was really nice to see how B. helped M. to get through the mud) and found our sleeping place . The kids pointed out the most beautiful dining room what you can see one picture below . We set up the bashas, and luckily Tony helped me with huge patience when I forgot again and again the special knots. During the trip we learnt a lot about the nature and tasted primrose flowers and young nettle leaves. Tony thought us how to recognise different trees just from the shape and colour of a young sprout. We learnt about the impact of different plants and saw some rabbits at the bottom of the Devil’s dyke’s chalk valley. The weather was over our expectation and at the end we missed our sun glasses. Thank you for the Craggers and especially Tony for this amazing bivi trip.
I would like to echo Henrietta’s thoughts on the walk. Our first stop was the Bronze Age hill fort on Wolstonbury Hill (see below) where, minutes after talking about the wildlife of Transylvania, Henrietta started a conversation with a couple from…Transylvania!
Following a muddy descent we climbed Newtimber Hill (see below) to cook and eat in brilliant sunshine, in what Brae described as ‘the best dining room in the world’ taking in the panoramic view, especially the dramatic steep valley of Devil’s Dyke (see below). We lingered to watch a dramatic sunset as the birds piped up for their evening chorus.
Sunday was glorious and our ‘dining room’ of the previous night was white with a deep frost. Walking a vertiginous path over a chalk pit we descended to Saddlescombe Farm (see below) and had a look at the Donkey Wheel – imaging a massively scaled up hamster wheel and you get the idea – which was used for drawing water from the well.
Another steep hike took us to Devil’s Dyke where the blue sky was filled with the rainbows of paragliders and the sharp angles of hang gliders. The arrival of the 77 bus signaled the end or a great weekend.
A Late Bronze Age Ram’s Hill type enclosure situated on a clay-with-flints capped, chalk hill which forms part of the Sussex Downs. The north-south aligned, roughly oval enclosure is defined by a ditch up to 5 metres wide and circa 1.2 metres deep which bounds a central area of 2.2 hectares. Part excavation in 1929 and 1995, and a 1993 survey, have shown the ditch to be flat-bottomed and interrupted in places by narrow causeways, interpreted as original features. A bank of dump construction surrounds the ditch, measuring up to 5 metres wide and up to 1.5 metres high, and the ditch is flanked on its south western side by a slight internal bank up to 0.2 metres high. The earthworks have been disturbed in places by late 18th century-early 19th century flint diggings, mainly excavated by the inmates of Hursterpierpoint workhouse. Two gaps at the north and south east of the boundary earthworks have been interpreted as original entrances. The later flint diggings have also disturbed much of the interior of the enclosure, although surveys have indicated roughly north-south aligned curving banks measuring 2-4 metres wide and up to 0.5 metres high. These are interpreted as lynchets resulting from the subsequent cultivation of the interior during the Early Iron Age. Antiquarian sources indicate that the monument may have been used as a cemetery during the later Anglo-Saxon period. Reports in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1765 and 1806 suggest that the inhumation burials furnished with grave goods were disturbed on the hilltop by flint quarrying and possibly also by the construction of the now dry dewpond situated in the central part of the enclosure. Other finds include worked flints dating to the Neolithic period and the Early Bronze Age and Roman coins and pottery.
We come back down to Pycombe, cross the road and go up to our lovely bivi site…
Newtimber Hill is owned by the National Trust and is situated in the South Downs AONB. Most of the land is included in a large Site of Special Scientific Interest which spreads westwards along the spectacular Fulking Escarpment and Devils Dyke. All the land lies within the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area designated in 1986. It is a Grade 2 Nature Conservation Review Site on account of its well developed chalk downland habitat. There is a woodland trail at the foot of the hill (access from Beggars Lane/ A281), and from the hill, you have magnificent views of Devils Dyke and the Downs. The hill is managed as Open Space.
Newtimber Hill is a prominent feature in the landscape, particularly from the north and west of the property. Its land gives the impression of a horse’s saddle, with a north and west facing section of the steep scarp slope of the South Downs along with the summit area and a section of the south facing dip slope which is dissected by a shallow dry combe forming gently along ridge spurs. A dew pond near the summit was restored in 1979.
The calcareous grassland is of outstanding quality including areas of very species-rich sward, especially on the steep, west-facing scarp slope. Horseshoe vetch, orchids, dropwort, autumn gentian and roundheaded rampion are present.
The next morning we will walk down to Saddlescombe Farm (Becci can tell you much more about the farm)
History and environment of Saddlescombe Farm
There is archaeological evidence of the farm being farmed since the Bronze Age with burial mounds and trackways being found nearby. Today there are a number of farm buildings ranging in date from the early 17th century, find out more on the National Trust website. Working with the National Trust we have entered the farm into an environmental project which will help to restore the hedgerows, establish pollen and nectar rich areas, manage species rich grassland and have farm visits for schools.
From there we walk up to Devil’s Dyke…
Myths regarding the formation of Devil’s Dyke
Local folklore explains the valley as the work of the devil The legend holds that the devil was digging a trench to allow the sea to flood the many churches in the Weald of Sussex. The digging disturbed an old woman who lit a candle, or angered a rooster
causing it to crow, making the devil believe that the morning was fast approaching. The devil then fled, leaving his trench unfinished. The last shovel of earth he threw over his shoulder fell into the sea, forming the Isle of Wight.
A further variant has it that the Devil’s digging was terminated by him stubbing his toe on a large rock which he kicked in anger over the hills towards the sea, then abandoning his diabolic plans of Weald destruction due to the injuries sustained. The rock landed in the area now known, consequently, as Goldstone valley in Hove. The Goldstone acquired its name from the hints of gold in its makeup. The enormous and mysterious rock now lies in Hove Park in Goldstone Valley, near where it was first discovered. It can be seen at the Old Shoreham Road end of the park and is considered to have been possibly an object of Druid worship.
Another story holds that rather than digging to flood Sussex, he was simply in a huge goat-like form, intending to crush the surrounding area. He smelt the tang of salt water in the wind, and fearing his coat would get damp (for he is vain to the point of sin), he fled leaving nothing but a hoof-print, now known as Devil’s Dyke.
English pagan Black Metal band Old Forest released a song and video titled ‘The Devil’s Dyke’ on their 23 April 2008 ‘Death To Music Productions’ EP release ‘Tales of the Sussex Weald ; Part 1 (The Legend of the Devil’s Dyke)’
We can have a drink and food here if we want before catching the bus back to Brighton.