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Ditchling Beacon new gate & path opening on the South Downs, Sussex.
On the 26th of October 2018, Bob and I attended the opening of a new gate, signage and path at Ditchling Beacon, East Sussex to enable us to access this new route of approximately 5.5 miles. This was sponsored by Gatwick Airport as part of their community engagement programme and in attendance were Andy Gattiker, National Trails & RoW Lead from the South Downs NPA, James Winkworth who organised the day also from SDNPA, Melanie Wrightson, Gatwick Airport Community Engagement Manager and Andy Pule, Head of Terminal Operations at Gatwick. A 2 minute interview on Radio Sussex can be listened to on this link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06m86hx. It is 1.56 hours into the recording.
We raised the problem of this path last year with Andy G and because of the funding from Gatwick they were able to do the improvements – prior to this we couldn’t get through the gate as there was a sleeper across the entrance and apart from this the uphill climb to access the route was too furrowed and steep to safely negotiate. The new gate was relatively easy to do Andy told us, but the actual path formed part of what is classed as an ancient monument and they had to apply to all the right Authorities to get permission to undertake the work and they weren’t allowed to fill in the furrows, they had to lay a membrane on top and overfill the membrane itself so that the contents of the furrows remained as they were for future generations to explore. Over the membrane went various other layers of filling, such as sand and other substances, to fill up the dips and hollows without actually disturbing them, then a substantial top layer of firm surfacing resulting in a lovely smooth path that we can easily get up. The route that follows is really breathtaking and you get a feeling of total tranquillity as you go along the tracks, it is quite a challenging ramble but great fun and goes through a wonderful green, lush valley.
We start from Ditchling Beacon, going through the new entrance and path and then steeply downhill into a lovely green valley and onward through this wonderful area through a farmyard, a field of crops, some very “lumpy” and quite challenging tracks, until we emerge onto the South Downs Way near to Jack and Jill windmills from where we return to Ditchling Beacon. In this area alone we now have 4 or perhaps 5 rambles of varying lengths. I say “perhaps 5” because the routes are quite hilly and demanding on the batteries, OK for lithium of course, but one of the routes means going up a very steep and long ascent and it is a little worrying in case the poor old batteries decide they’ve had enough. However, there is a shortcut on this particular ramble so – if the batteries hold out there is 5 rambles!
Our thanks must go to the SDNPA in particular for all their help and understanding, and whenever we come across a problem they will always try to help if they can. In this case, the sponsorship by Gatwick Airport has made this new route possible, very gratifying that they are so generous and public spirited, so many thanks to them. This isn’t the only improvement that is being done either, at present there is work going on at 4 or 5 different places on the South Downs as a result of this funding.