Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Downs Link Shoreham-by-Sea - Henfield

Bridge Abutment at Shoreham

I’m back on my bike this week for another foray along an old railway line.  Following my foray along part of the Downs Link in April I thought that I should take another look at the line.  This time I chose the southernmost section nearest to where I live.  Since I had only an evening available to me I decided to split the Shoreham to Southwater section into two sections.  I have discovered that exploration can take some considerable time on these cycle rides and the outward journey can take almost twice as long as the return leg!
Adur Guardian
I parked at Ropetackle where there are a few parking spaces (which I used to manage!).  Crucially parking here on a Sunday is free of charge, which is worth knowing if you plan a similar trip.  From the car park I headed along the river frontage of the buildings and under the main River Adur railway bridge, which carries the West Coastwayrailway line.  For a short stretch the path is a little uneven and not made up, but inexplicably and without warning a tarmac section suddenly appears.  To start with this is just the riverside walk but after a sharp dogleg the path aligns itself with the old trackbed.  This is obvious because there is an old buffer stop still in place, possibly left behind when this stretch of track was removed in the early 1990s following the closure of Beeding Cement Works.  However, I did notice that the buffer stop did appear to be facing towards Beeding rather than Shoreham, which I thought slightly odd.
The Only Train Now

Before continuing on my way I took a detour down the unmade section of rail route as far as I could (as far as a missing overbridge) and the connection with the Coastway route can still clearly be traced, although for how much longer is anybody’s guess since development seems to be gathering pace in this area of Shoreham.  I retraced my route back to the tarmac and continued north alongside the River Adur.  Although not as scenic as the Arun a few miles further along the coast, the valley is not without interest.  On the opposite side of the river is Shoreham Airport, which supposedly houses the oldest passenger terminal in Britain.  A vintage biplane took off as I passed, followed by the police helicopter, just to prove that the old place was still busy.
Beeding Cement Works

A little further upstream and the river is dominated by a couple of bridges of different vintages.  The first is the delightful old Tollbridge, which has recently been renovated from its previously rickety state to an asset that Shoreham can be justifiably proud.  Indeed the old thing is quite a survivor, having been left to rot after being closed to motor traffic in 1970.  Prior to that it used to carry cars on what was then the A27.  Hard to believe now!  The queues must have been phenomenal once since there was a toll and a level crossing immediately after to negotiate!  Further upstream is the replacement bridge, the preposterously big Adur Flyover, complete with very large slip roads enabling cars to access the river level A283 with the A27 as it comes from the Mill Hill cutting and heads across the Arun.  In these days of more frugal road-building programmes I rather doubt that a structure of this size would be provided here now.  Indeed when the railway was still carrying passengers, the bridge didn’t exist.
Botolphs Church

The last building of note in this area is the rather ostentatious chapel attached to Lancing College.  This dominates the lower Adur Valley (in a good way).  From the Adur Flyover, the route is rather bumpy and unremarkable for the next couple of miles (allowing for some time to get up speed).  Eventually the trackbed widens out, signalling the approach to Beeding Cement Works. This was once a hive of activity and freight traffic continued to use the line as far as this until about 1990 when the works closed.  Most of the buildings remain although in a very shabby state, perhaps not surprising after 20 years of closure.  Many schemes have been put forward to regenerate the works, some sensible (such as installing an incinerator) to the more hairbrained (an artificial ski slope or the new site for a football stadium that would house Brighton and Hove Albion).  Whatever the scheme, the cost of clearing the site and dealing with any contamination is obviously too high for any would be developer and the site remains derelict.
Beeding Castle

Fortunately the route of the Downs Link runs around the perimeter, which is protected from prying eyes from some fairly large trees.  Glimpses into the site show a large graveyard for buses, lorries, portakabins and all manner of other equipment.  Even just clearing this would be a major undertaking, let alone all the other derelict buildings.  At the end of the plant, I took a sharp right, forced on me as the bridge that once carried the railway over the River Adur has long since been removed.  The Downs Link here follows the riverbank once more, although as I was finally leaving the site of the works, I found more evidence of the railway, when I crossed some tracks embedded in the path and another buffer stop a little further along.  This would have once been the sidings for the cement trucks.
Bridge Remnant

I crossed the river by means of the South Downs Way footbridge by Botolphs and once again regained the old trackbed heading north.  This section didn’t last long for less than a mile later and the old line is absorbed by the A283 Steyning by-pass.  The cycled path continues as a running mate to the road, allowing for more off road cycling but for the next almost three miles the Downs Link has to make do with alternative routes as the trackbed isn’t available.
Downs Line
Just about where the roundabout is between Bramber and Steyning once stood the old Bramber station.  Sadly no trace exists now and Steyning, about half a mile north has little trace either apart from a retaining wall in the by-pass cutting and a row of railway cottages on the station approach.
Adur Bridge

I took a little detour at Bramber to have a look at the old castle.  Very little of the structure remains (for a little history see ) except for a very tall fragment of the keep and some of the curtain wall around the motte).  However, it is a lovely spot for a picnic and well worth the diversion from the Downs Link.
Adur Cows

From the site of Bramber station the Downs Link heads away from the line of the old route and around the base of the motte of the castle before crossing a housing estate.  I negotiated a few country lanes that got progressively a little worse until eventually the tarmac runs out and the route follows rough farm tracks.  At one point I crossed what was once clearly a railway bridge, although where the track would once have gone has been filled in almost to the underneath of the bridge, leaving only a small air gap.  The line of the route can be traced in either direction, but sadly neither are available for walking or cycling.  This linking section was not enjoyable since the terrain was quite rough and covered in loose stones.  Just before regaining the trackbed though is a view along the line of the South Downs by Truleigh Hill and Devils Dyke as far as Wolstenbury Hill.  On a summer’s evening the shadows created by the low sun was particularly lovely and helped me forget about the uncomfortable ride I had taken to get here.
Heading Back

However, when I finally regained the trackbed about a mile north of the built up area, I was glad that I had persevered to this point.  The ride up to Henfield was beautiful and yet unremarkable.  What is striking about this section of line is that there are a number of bridges over culverts and watercourses, but no overbridges, which occasionally means that you can forget you are on a railway line at all.  My favourite bridge of all was across the River Adur, which probably survived only because it is some distance from the nearest road and would have meant an expensive removal job.  The lineside was now beginning to build with trees and shrubs, giving a slightly more closed in feel reminiscent of other lines I have cycled along.  Yet along this stretch were remnants of what were probably once farm crossings where the gateways still afforded views across the clay vale of the Adur Valley and the South Downs beyond.  Particularly striking was the landmark of Chanctonbury Ring.
Lancing College

Eventually I reached Henfield and once again the station has been completely obliterated, this time by a housing estate.  The road has been called ‘The Beechings’, no doubt by a developer with a warped sense of humour or sense of honour for the man that made the development possible.
Old Shoreham Bridge

On the whole this is an enjoyable ride, but I wouldn’t bother with the ‘missing link’ again.  If I want to come again I will start from Southwater and continue only as far as the end of the trackbed north of Steyning.  The stretch between Shoreham and Beeding Cement Works is moderately interesting but only really for a single trip, rather than somewhere you would want to return again and again.  As with many rail routes, it would probably be most enjoyable as an end to end ride without having to retrace your steps/ wheels.  However, with the whole route being 37 miles long, time will always be against me.
Coastway Line

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sussex Coast Walk Day 5 Bognor Regis - Littlehampton

Bognor Picturedrome
This week I had a Sunday morning available to me instead of an evening.  I could go as early as I liked but being a Sunday I had a different constraint than I’m normally used to ie what time is the first train of the day?  This section is getting closer to home for me so using public transport in both directions made perfect sense.  Unfortunately the first train on a Sunday from West Worthing that could get me to Bognor (changing at Barnham) was the relatively sedate time of 7.45am.  So it was that instead of a nice early morning walk and possibly getting back for breakfast, I actually took practically all morning over it! 
Bognor Pier
Having reached Bognor at 8.15am, I headed down to the seafront, past the newly painted Picturedrome Cinema, a rather fine looking old fashioned cinema of which there are so few left these days.  Walking down through the town gave me a much better insight into its historical context, which would have been impossible by merely passing through on the seafront.  As with many seaside towns, Bognor has some old parts that have been conserved and other areas that have been horribly vandalised by town planners over the years.  Although difficult to tell on a Sunday morning when there are only street sweepers and a few customers at the town’s boot fair, Bognor town centre is usually a pretty bustling kind of place.  Much of the shopping area though is a victim of some pretty awful 1960s architecture, which doesn’t inspire a shopping visit.

Swing Boats

I regained the seafront by Steyne Gardens, just along from the pier and headed eastwards once again.  Although still quite early it was fairly obvious that today would be a hot one and I was pleased that I would be finishing early.  All along the Esplanade were a small army of early morning joggers of all manner of shapes, sizes and range of abilities.  Some were virtually professional, done up in their finest gear and almost floating effortlessly along the tarmac, while others were more like me; a bit fat, cherry red and sweating profusely and looking thoroughly uncomfortable and miserable about life.  Sometimes I wonder why these people put themselves through such torture; they can’t surely enjoy it?

Soon I came upon the huge white big top structure that is one of only three remaining Butlins holiday camps in the UK (the others being at Minehead and Skegness).  Despite this being a landmark for nearly twenty miles of the South Downs Way about twelve miles north of here, up close the site is well protected by a very large fence which means that very little of the complex can be seen from outside.  In truth that’s probably a good thing for the good folks holidaying there, for the last thing I’d want if I stayed there is to be gawped at by some oik in his hiking boots!

Railway Carriage Home
By now the runners along the promenade were diminishing in number, but I had entered an area of dog-friendly beaches and there were dozens of dog walkers down on the beach supervising their pooches frolicking in the sea.  Despite being quite early on a Sunday morning, it was quite surprising how much activity there was.  Once I had passed Butlins there was a small Council owned park on the left and the sea outlet of the rife complex that drains much of the hinterland behind Bognor.  Alongside was another of those homes that I had encountered at East Wittering that was clearly built from a vintage railway carriage.  It was one of a number of various sized shacks that may well have started life in a similar way, but which weren’t obvious now.
Beach Hut Line

I looped around these houses and around the corner was rather a different kind of character to the seafront.  This was the much more sedate Felpham, dominated first by beach huts and later the preponderance of large detached houses owned by the well heeled.  Some of these were mock tudor from the 1930s while others were much more modern, perhaps replacing less salubrious houses that had once dared to occupy the same space.  Most of them had very well manicured gardens, suggesting that they are owned by retired people with plenty of time at their disposal or well heeled professionals who can afford ‘help’.  Behind me now was a fantastic view of the coast back to Selsey behind me and once again on the horizon I caught sight of another cross channel ferry heading into Portsmouth.
Middleton on Sea

I had expected this section of the coast to be rather monotonous and in a sense it was, but what kept me entertained was the human activity all around me.  The dog walkers were ubiquitous, while on the sea wall people were occupied with running, young children trying out their bikes and their was the occasional group enjoying their breakfast in their palatial front garden.  Soon, the sea wall lost its tarmac surface and for a short stretch I continued along a gravel path.  After a quarter of a mile or so though I got a nice surprise when I turned the corner and found myself on Middleton-on-Sea Greensward, a rather attractive lawned area above the beach, flanked by an area of vegetated shingle.  The centrepiece of the Greensward is a grassy courtyard and two rows of black terraced beach huts, originally built here in the 1930s, although one of the rows is actually a recent build, replacing the original buildings that were falling into disrepair a few years ago.

At the end of the Greensward I reached the end of the walkable stretch of the sea wall and was faced by a rather formidable lump of concrete barring my way forward.  It seems that the private estates along this stretch of coast do not welcome casual visitors either!  Fortunately it was still low tide and the way forward was quite easy, but only along the beach.  As it happens this was quite pleasant walking and although I lost the height and view from the top of the sea wall, there was still plenty of interest at beach level.  I soon became fascinated by the patterns created in the sand by worm casts and water escaping to the sea flowing across the surface.  The number of people on the beach had diminished considerably but there were still a few about, mostly the more energetic dog walkers.
Biting Stonecrop

Ahead I could see the sea defences that had been installed in the early 1990s to protect Elmer, the last of the settlements of this contiguous urban area.  The defences had been placed at the end of the beach at the seaward end and were deliberately designed to allow for some longshore drift to continue.  Starving beaches further along the coast of their raw material can be disastrous as those beaches are then depleted of shingle and sand.  The effect that these defences have had locally can be seen visually at (scroll down a bit).  On the ground the area behind the rocks is obviously built up and there is a crescent shaped scour pattern behind each opening to the sea.  As I passed the rocks I became interested in a man walking along the strandline collecting cuttlefish bones.  As he was carrying a large black sack I guessed that he wasn’t collecting them for personal use.  I wasn’t even sure what he was doing was legal; although given that there were so many on offer I am sure that he wasn’t doing much harm by taking them away.

Pink Bindweed
At the end of the housing I took the opportunity to head up onto the sea wall once again, which was thankfully available to me for the next section.  I wanted to get a sense of what this next stretch of the shore would be like, for this is one of the few stretches of undeveloped lowland coast in the County.  On my left now was farmland and some small woods.  Not terribly exciting but a novelty nonetheless.  The shingle plants here were out in full flower and there was a particularly fine area of biting stonecrop and its cheerful and distinctive yellow flowers.  However, I didn’t want to walk too long at the top of the beach for it was now loose shingle and as a result very difficult to walk on.  I decided therefore to drop back onto the beach and continued along this way until I got to Climping.  Knowing there was a little settlement by the beach here I took the opportunity to look.

Littlehampton Harbour
Climping beach is obviously quite popular with campers as I saw a number of people emerging from their tents, looking a bit dishevelled and unwashed.  Cars were beginning to fill up the car park and the mobile snack bar was already doing a roaring trade even though it was only about 10am.  The car park fees were decidedly low tech – a man sitting on a deckchair with a parasol was collecting the fees from people as they entered.  Having seen the facilities on offer I wasn’t sure that the parking fee was worth it.
Crossing The Arun

Protecting the car park was a decidedly ropy looking sea wall that in places had already been breached by the sea.  The whole thing looked well beyond repair and given its remote location I would be very surprised if any more public money will be used for a replacement.  I soon retreated back to the sandy beach and continued along almost to Littlehampton.  On the West Beach at Littlehampton is a rather surprising feature – some very large sand dunes on the shoreward side of the beach.  These are the first I have seen since East Head and apart from a boardwalk that runs through the middle are kept off limits to would be visitors to protect their fragility.

Littlehampton Bridge
Over the other side of the dunes the golf course was busy (do golfers ever sleep?), but my attention was drawn to the fort built in the Napoleonic Wars to protect the Arun, the first river of any note that I have come across on this walk.  The fort is almost completely enveloped by ivy and other greenery, but enough remains to get an insight into how it once must have looked.  Across the river are the amusements and attractions that can be found in almost any seaside resort.  Day trippers were pouring into the car park on the west beach armed with picnics and beach paraphernalia.  For me though this was the end of my shortish morning walk.  I headed up the Arun and crossed via the pedestrian bridge, getting there in plenty of time for my 11.15am train home.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Sussex Coast Walk Day 4 Sidlesham - Bognor Regis

Sidlesham Ferry Bridge

It’s been a couple of months since I last ventured out on this walk and I felt it was high time I continued my journey eastwards. Coastal walking on a summer’s evening is perfect; the light is superb, there is no problem with heat or sunburn and yet there is still plenty of activity. For this section of my walk, I decided against public transport between the two points as the connections weren’t great on a Sunday evening (however, if you want to walk the route in one go there is a regular connection via Chichester using the number 51 and number 700 buses). I preferred instead to do an out and back from both ends, which meant that I effectively completed the walk twice. Given that the majority of the walk was around Pagham Harbour, a place that holds a great fascination, this was no great hardship. When I set out, it was a case of fortune favouring the brave for although it had been a fantastic day, the weather turned suddenly overcast and there was a huge shower which could have put me off entirely. Yet, by the time I arrived at the start point the weather had improved considerably and the evening turned into a smasher.

I parked up at the visitor centre just to the south of Sidlesham, which has some useful facilities (and crucially a car park that does not have a barrier that closes at dusk). From here I initially headed south around the nature trail until reaching the old tramway bridge. This is clearly not the bridge that once carried the old tramway as there is now a flimsy looking thing carrying some form of pipe (although the concrete spans are probably original). However, the fact that there is any trace of a cheaply built railway more than 70 years after it closed is remarkable. The views out over the circular Pagham Harbour are superb from this point and because the tide was out the mudflats were a feeding frenzy for various wading birds, ducks and seagulls.

Sidlesham Pond
The first mile of the walk was along the trackbed of the old tramway, built in the early 1900s by the engineer Holman Stephens (to find out more about him see the excellent website at . The page on the railway is at ). All the way along the route hundreds of rabbits were feeding and quickly hopping into the bushes alongside the track as I approached. It was almost like some kind of weird conveyor belt.
Prevailing Wind

Eventually I came to the road leading into Sidlesham Quay and my brief trip along the Selsey tramway came to an end. The trackbed was not obvious the other side of the road and hereabouts somewhere was once Sidlesham station. Given that most of the stations on this line were little more than a shack and a wooden platform, it is not surprising that no trace remains. I turned right at the road and entered the wonderful little hamlet of Sidlesham Quay, which is like a mini Bosham. At the heart of this small settlement (which used to be a functioning port) are the remains of an old watermill that has now been demolished to make way for an area of greenspace. A nice seat has been provided to enjoy the extensive views across the harbour.

Pagham Harbour
I ducked down onto the narrow solid part of the mud flat in front of the last house and continued on my way around the perimeter of the harbour. In paces this path was quite hard going as the path was not clearly defined and a combination of the heavy rain and receding tide had left behind some substantial puddles and some quite slick (although fundamentally solid) mud. I was quite relieved when I turned the corner about half a mile later and continued on the top of the sea wall around to Little Welbourne. Along this stretch there were extensive views to the north and the Downs were visible away in the distance. Indeed I could see the unmistakeable shape of Goodwood Racecourse on the hill away in the distance, and slightly nearer the spire of Chichester Cathedral, although less obvious was also poking up above the trees.

Little Welbourne
On the right of the path the view across the harbour was extensive mudflats, just as they are in Chichester Harbour. On the left though, it could easily be imagined that the harbour was once greater in size, for there were still sizeable lagoons and watery areas that had been drained to make way for pasture. A large herd of cows munching what looked to be very lush grass were testament to that.
Looking Across to the Downs

Eventually I reached Little Welbourne, where there is a small thatched building that acts as some form of educational facility. It was shut, but there were notices in the window of the types of bird that had been spotted on various days. Up until this point I had largely had the walk to myself, but by now quite a few people had been tempted out by the pleasant weather, many of them I suspect from the nearby caravan park by Pagham Lagoon.

Red Valerian
I continued along the edge of the high tide point for the remaining part of the perimeter walk until climbing up onto the shingle ridge by the lagoon. The lagoon itself is quite an impressive feature and was busy with birds such as coots, moorhens, seagulls, ducks and even a great crested grebe, which seemed rather alone among all the other birds. The point by the lagoon marks the point at which it is quite obvious that you move from an intertidal zone to a beach environment. For me continuing along the coast there would be no more mudflats for quite awhile as the route eastwards promised to be shingle/ sand for a very long time.

Pagham Spit
I had a good look around Pagham spit as I wanted to take a look at the view ahead. From Pagham the Sussex Coast as far as Beachy Head can be seen and it was a little scary seeing how far I have still to travel. However, the nature of the coast changes completely since from here it is almost a continuous arc around to Beachy Head without negotiating all the inlets I have done so far. Infact from here it is no more than a half hour drive back to Emsworth, where I started and yet by foot it has been 3 ½ days! Pagham Spit is also notable for its shingle plants and many were out in full bloom including the Valerian, Yellow Horned Poppy, Sea Kale and the wonderfully named Vipers Bugloss. There is also a hide on Pagham Spit where keen birdwatchers can skulk without disturbing their feathered friends. I came across a fellow blogger ( who does just that!

Pagham Caravan Site

By now the stubborn grey cloud overhead had finally moved on and the weather was utterly glorious. Ahead of me would have been a rather tedious stretch of shingle beach walking all the way into Bognor Regis, so was glad to retrace my steps back to Sidlesham and enjoy this tour of Pagham Harbour all over again!

Bognor Wreck

Once I had teamed up with the car I drove around the tortuous road route between the two ends of my walk. I parked up on Bognor Esplanade and wandered down onto the beach. The tide was going out and much of the sandy part of the beach had been exposed so I headed down to the water’s edge and decided to follow that as my route rather than the interminable shingle. My eyes were drawn to two things – one a cross channel ferry way in the distance beyond Selsey Bill but clearly distinguishable. The other was much closer and appeared to be some form of concrete structure that had washed in (impossible I know). I had no idea what this was, but I am guessing it may have been part of the D Day equipment left behind to rot (many of the preparations took place around here). If any readers are aware of what this is (see the picture) I would be pleased to know, for I have found no reference to it on the internet. I continued as far as that, but no further for by now the sun was getting low in the sky and meeting up with Pagham Spit was nothing more than a mile of shingle walking with little or no additional interest.

Bognor Beach
Having inspected the wreck I returned towards the centre of Bognor and headed for the pier. This was once the home to the International Birdman competition (since 1978) where people wearing silly costumes flung themselves off the end to see how far they could fly under their own steam. Alas for Bognor, the pier was shortened in March 2008 and the competition was moved to my home town of Worthing amid fears of the receiving seawater being too shallow. The pier itself has clearly seen better days and has been severely rationalised due to the usual cocktail of expensive maintenance, storm and fire damage. Some pictures of the pier and how it used to look can be found at

Tropical Bognor
The other notable thing about Bognor Pier is that it was the starting point for the blog by Colin and Rosemary Fretwell, who turned left! (see it at ). Sadly no new posts have been made to this account for four years, so I’m not sure if these two are still at it.

Bognor Pier
Bognor seafront was relatively quiet apart from a few kids playing around on their skateboards. The facilities at the first of the Sussex seaside resorts I have reached are what you might expect, with crazy golf, fish and chip shops and grand looking hotels that echo a bygone era. It is not hard to picture hoards of tourists lapping this stuff up still on a hot summer’s day, but for now it was chilly and the sun was about to disappear and only the hardiest were out enjoying the Esplanade!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Devils Dyke - A Victorian Theme Park

Interpretive Board

Faced with a short amount of time I finally got around to doing something that I had first thought about during my completion of the South Downs Way last year – visit what remains of the railway that used to ferry the visiting Brighton and Hove public up to this well known Sussex beauty spot.

I don’t suppose many people outside of Sussex realise that a full scale standard gauge railway line ever ran to the top of Devils Dyke. The present day visitor would be forgiven for even disputing this piece of railway history, for it is such an unlikely place to want to connect to the rail network. Yet, the railway ran for approximately fifty years and finally succumbed to the inevitable competition of buses in 1938. For any of the line to be traceable after seventy years is remarkable enough, but the whole route outside the urban area of Hove remains and can be seen clearly on satellite images on the Google mapping system. In fact although the route has mostly been obliterated (apart from some short sections) through Hangleton and Hove, the line of the old route can still be traced by the shapes of the roads which curved around it.

Leaving The Urban Area
From the top of Poplar Avenue in Hangleton, a family friendly tarmacked section of the line remains now connected to the national cycle network rather than the rail network. On a beautiful June evening I set out to have a look at what is left, not only of this remarkable line, but a couple of other even more ambitious projects at the Dyke itself. I did not concern myself this time with the urban section, starting at the car park along the Dyke Road nearest to Brighton and Hove Golf Club (parking is available in Hangleton but starting at the north end is less complicated).
A Newer Transport Link

There is a short walk from the car park along the golf club access road to a point on the line just about where the intermediate station that served the golf club once stood. Apparently a remnant of the platform does still exist but is on private land and in any case during June would be completely engulfed by vegetation. The route north to the terminus station just below the Dyke is clearly traceable by following the hedge line, but alas is not open for ramblers/ cyclists.

Heading For The Summit
The thing that immediately strikes you as you head south is how tortuous the route was. The line follows the contours remarkably well to minimise the grade, but a trip up here by train must have been very slow. For the train crew it must have been pretty lonely on rotten days!

Old Funicular Remains
The view outwards across Benfield Valley and to Hove/ Portslade beyond was superb tonight. I could not begin to imagine what the view must have looked like when the train actually ran, since much of the housing I was looking at wasn’t built until the 1930s and post-war. Some landmarks, such as the Shoreham Power Station and Foredown Tower were there but looked completely different. Perhaps the addition to the landscape that has had the biggest impact though is the A27 bypass and soon enough the roar of the traffic is pretty evident. I crossed the bridge and wandered down through the cutting that represents the best preserved piece of the line through the urban area of Hangleton. Sadly though it is obviously a haven for dog walkers as the whole cutting smelled like a dog toilet. The smell wasn’t surprising though when I realised that there wasn’t a dog bin to be seen.
View to Newtimber Hill

At Poplar Avenue the trail abruptly ends and only the most sharp eyed person could even begin to guess where it once headed (an aerial view makes it easier). For me, the irony of a bus passing as I reached this spot wasn’t lost on me and I retraced my steps back to the car a couple of miles away.

Above the Old Line
Before leaving for home I took a trip to the top of the Dyke to have a look at a couple of other relics of a time when the Dyke was a major tourist attraction. In order to drum up business, a steep graded funicular railway once ran down the side of the scarp slope to encourage visitors to head to Poynings for afternoon tea. As you might imagine, the venture was a flop and the funicular closed only about ten years after it opened. The same was also true of a cable car that ran across the width of the steep sided valley that gives the place its name. I didn’t really know where to look but soon came across the remains of both ventures. The steep sided railway can still be traced just to the east of the present day hotel and the top station foundations remain. In the grass looked like the remains of the winding gear, now heavily rusted. The bottom of the slope is now covered in trees, in contrast to how it was when the funicular was operating. Across the hill the remains of the cable car is also restricted to a couple of concrete blocks that once housed the cable towers. It is hard to believe that the Dyke once boasted a camera obscura, fairground rides, an observatory and two bandstands, but these attractions are what persuaded people to come to this beauty spot. Now the pleasures are rather different, with walkers, cyclists, horseriders, paragliders and folk just content with the view making up the bulk of the visitors. Some good pictures of the rail line can be found at , and

Former Station Area

Before leaving I had a little look at what remains of the terminus of the railway. No buildings remain and the station site is now occupied by Dyke Farm (no right of way exists through the farm so you have to make do with overlooking the site from several hundred metres away). From my vantage point I could see the entire line all the way almost down to the Brighton by-pass - a truly astonishing railway for an almost forgotten tourist mecca.