8. Caburn & Three Nature Reserves





Mount Caburn and 3 Nature Reserves


This 3 hour, 6 mile and 280 metre walk takes in Mount Caburn, Malling Down and Southernham Nature reserves.

Start at the back of Lewes Golf clubhouse, which is reached by walking up the steep Chapel Hill at the lower end of Cliffe High Street.

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At the rear of the clubhouse take the gate onto the footpath and turn sharp left to keep the hedge and course on your left. Carry on straight up after the hedge drops away to reach a solitary post.

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Turn right at the post and follow the path down to reach a farm gate and a dew pond.

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Through the gate and past the concreted dew pond, Then follow the sign ahead bearing right to walk along the valley.

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Over the left-hand stile and walk uphill to the stile at the top.

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Over the stile, turn right and walk up to Mount Caburn going through the protective ditch and up to the top for some splendid views. After exploring, walk back down to this stile and, without going back over, carry on straight ahead, northwards.

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When you reach a farm gate carry on straight downhill for a short distance. See insert below for a route variation here.

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With a wood on your right and a path coming in on the left, leave the main path by bearing left steeply uphill, to reach the top of a small chalk pit. From the top are good views of Glyndebourne Opera House.

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Facing away from the pit and Glyndebourne head for a signpost near a fence with a gate. There’s a small wood well over to your right.

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Don't go through the gate. Walk straight ahead with the fence on your left. At the next farm gate the fence falls away, carry on straight up the hill. Near the top bear right to regain a fence and the golf course on your left. March on alongside the fence with great views of the Weald and the North Downs.

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At the point where the fence drops away, bear left to walk down to the far lower corner of this field where there is a gate.

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Through this gate turn sharp left to go round the head of Malling Down valley bearing right and entering the wood on the opposite side. You could go down and up the other side but this is hard work. It may be worthwhile, however, in August to see the iridescent Adonis Blue butterflies. It is surprising to see allotments at the base of such a steep valley but the orientation of the valley is such that it is a sun trap.

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Go through the gate at the end of this path to exit the wood and then turn right to carry on in the same direction with the steep wood on your right. Turn left at the far corner and continue with woodland and soon houses on your right. Walk past the Lewes Martyrs memorial.

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At the small footpath sign, with the Lewes Golf clubhouse directly ahead, turn right and down and you will soon reach Chapel Hill.






I did part of this walk again in Dec. The climb up the side of the quarry to waymark 8 was difficult and muddy and not everyone will manage it. There is no footpath between the quarry (8) and waymark 9. An alternative from waymark 6, after the gate, is to bear left and work your way along the path to wm 9. The downside is that you lose the view of Glyndebourne

Also the Glyndebourne wind turbine has since sprouted and looms largely.


GoogleMap Caburn


This walk has a number of varied views, including the vista from Mount Caburn. South Downs features include: chalk pits, dry valleys, dew ponds and butterflies including the Adonis Blue in August. You'll see the difference from the common blue no problem: iridescent and black marks along the wing tips. We are going to traverse no less than three adjacent nature reserves. The first two are owned by the Sussex Wildlife Trust: Malling Down, based on a steep valley, is preserved for Butterflies, Southerham is on a working Downs farm. Mount Caburn and surrounds are a Special Area of Conservation due to the rare orchids. It is a favourite place for paragliders but personally I prefer to have it to myself on day or at a time when the aerial recreators are absent.

Adonis Blue

Additional info:

Sussex Wildlife Trust
Malling Down


Dew Ponds

May have been around since Saxon Times and used to water cattle and later sheep. They fill up with rain water not dew but have a surprising capacity to retain water. Originally locally they were surfaced with crushed then puddled chalk, produced by revolving an ox pulling a heavy cart round and round within the hollow on wettened chalk with the flint removed, maybe with some added ash. This produced a surface said to be be as hard as cement. Concrete has been used and, more recently, butyl sheets. As butyl is not very resistant to cattle hooves it does not really represent an improvement, unless the pond is to be used for wildlife purposes, which, these days, is the main function of many of the surviving ponds.


Caburn: Orchids and sheep.

a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), as an example of orchid-rich chalk grassland,containing: early spider-orchid Ophrys sphegodes, burnt orchid Orchis ustulata (left) and musk orchid Herminium monorchis. It also contains the rare Small Leaved Sweet Briar. The South Downs breed of sheep was developed here by John Ellman, the local tenant farmer. The name comes from the Celtic 'Caer Bryn' meaning 'stonghold hill'. It is covered in Poppies in Spring.



The Martyrs Memorial

Can be devisive:

see here



Built in 1901, when catholicism was becoming respectable and there was a degree of protestant backlash. It commemorates the horrific events of 1555–1557, during the Marian Persecutions. When Mary Tudor came to the throne in 1553, she had 288 Protestants burned for their “heretical” views – 17 of these martyrs were burned in Lewes. The events in Lewes on Nov 5th are also linked to this event. The Bonfire societies nowadays claim to be remembering all forms of persecution but they still carry 17 burning crosses. A degree of anticatholisism is still evident in association with this memorial, the large numbers of Catholics executed for their beliefs in England and Ireland being largely ignored.