Exceat - Friston Forest - Long Man of Wilmington - Exceat

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I'll say at the outset that this is a challenging walk right from the start, but the efforts are paid back with a variety of views and terrains to suit everyone. That being said, there are miles of lovely level and open walking to be savoured.

Your tasty sandwich of a day begins and ends with the delicious Friston Forest. It's plumped out with a filling of the open downs spiced up by the Long Man. Some views will sneak up on you like this huge figure, or the view over Charleston Bottom. Others like Deep Dean will accompany you for an hour or so.

Emerging from the forest, savour the delights of Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve. It's a rare habitat with acidic soils deposited on alkaline chalk. This makes for a large number of plants suited to both soils. 250 species of plant have been recorded here and 98 species of birds, together with 34 butterfly species. I recommend a good long browse of the Natural England website's feature on the reserve.

Crossing the Downs northwards, the section around the deep bowl that is Deep Deane is hard to take your eyes off for the 2km that you round it. In my opinion it rivals Devil's Dyke and it is open access. It's a bit hidden but there is a nice walk mapped out of it (see Additional Information). As you reach the north escarpment of the downs and meet the South Downs Way, you can see its rolling beauty to the west and the distant views north over the Weald.

The Giant figure itself has much myth surrounding it and is only definitively dated back to 1710 when the surveyor John Rowley illustrated it. Do visit the Sussex Past website for a fascinating read about it. Rowley's sketch suggests it was initially a mere indentation in the grass. In the 19th Century it was traced out by yellow bricks, hidden during the war and finally restored in 1969. The giant as a visual spectacle and Europe's largest portrayal of the human form in itself makes it worth the visit, but in my opinion the best views are from the bridleway leading up to it from the north.

Your return will briefly follow the South Downs Way before diving back into the forest. The Friston Forest walking is a calming, healing and shaded wonder and I have tried to avoid the broader tracks where possible, taking in some of the lesser known paths.

As you emerge from the forest, the view out over Cuckmere Haven estuary from the last waymark jumps into view and is the perfect place to pause and reflect upon the whole day. There are several seats at the top of the hill prior to your final descent.

I hope this walk draws you back to explore another day.

England - South England - East Sussex - Countryside


Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Cafe, Flowers, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Public Transport, Restaurant, River, Tea Shop, Toilets, Wildlife, Woodland

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