Southwater to the Devil's Dyke via Truleigh Hill
Southwater to the Devil’s Dyke via Truleigh Hill is not for the faint hearted. It's an extension of this ride, Henfield to the Devil's Dyke Loop via Truleigh Hill, adding an additional 20km of the Downs Linl.
This 53km ride starts off gently in a southerly direction from Southwater Country Park, following the path of the old railway, now fondly referred to as the Downs Link. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a gentle ride, the Downs Link is all but a warm up for the main event, the climb to the top of the South Downs and the summit of Truleigh Hill. After crossing the river Adur, you will ascend 204m (669ft) in a gruelling climb following a bumpy chalky bridleway to the top of the South Downs. At the summit you are rewarded with beautiful views to the south and north. The route then follows the path of the South Downs Way, in a series of climbs and descents until you reach the Devil’s Dyke, where you drop down into the Dyke itself – keep your wits about you, a fall here could see you tumble down the side of the steep valley! Once off the Downs, the character of the ride changes as the route follows a road along the foot of the Downs before returning to a bridleway headed northwards. Sadly, a little part of the A281 needs to be navigated, returning to Henfield and the finish.
Southwater to the Devil's Dyke via Truleigh Hill
Southwater to the Devil's Dyke Loop via Truleigh Hill is a 53km route with 2,368ft of ascent. It follows the Downs Link and the South Downs Way and rewards the rider with both exhilarating views and some adrenaline generating descents!
1 May 2022
This route is best ridden in dry weather when the chalk of the South Downs is dry. When the chalk becomes wet it can become very, very slippery. This is especially important while riding along the South Downs Way and notably, the drop down into the Devil’s Dyke.
The only other notable caution on this route is a 2.2km stretch along the A281. While I have personally had no issues cycling this stretch, it can be a busy road and some motorists unfortunately do not give cyclists the attention they deserve.
The top of the South Downs can be quite exposed, so please dress or bring appropriate clothing - check the weather forecasts!
The route starts at the Southwater Country Park. There's plenty of parking (pay to park), but it can get busy in the summer months. There is a cafe and toilets on site.
The South Downs Link passes between the main car park and the park itself [there are other car parks, so make sure you’re in the right one], it should be easy to find, but if not, just ask someone to point it out. After you exit the park, cross Cripplegate Lane and continue to follow the Downs Link southward. After the little tunnel under the A24, the tarmac road turns through 90 degrees to the left and the Downs Link branches off to the right.
Continue to follow the Downs Link through a wooded section where it leads to Copsale. Take care when crossing Bar Lane before re-joining the Downs Link.
Continue along the Downs Link where it passes through the former location of West Grinstead Railway Station. The remains of the platform still exist and there is also a railway carriage on site that is sometimes open for visitors.
Continue along the Downs Link through another tunnel that passes under the A272 and keep going until you reach Partridge Green.
The Downs Link is well signed through Partridge Green, but you will need to make short excursion from the path of the old railway line, along the B2135 before turning left off the B2135 back onto the Downs Link track. There are plenty of local facilities in Partridge Green, including a bike shop should any emergencies develop.
Continue along the Downs Link where it approaches the River Adur. Keep an eye on the right side of the track for the World War Two gun emplacement which was part of the stop line running north from Shoreham-by-Sea following the course of the River Adur to Henfield, and then on to Horsham Ref: Defence of Britain Archive .
Continue along Downs Link, where it crosses the River Adur and continues to head in a Southerly direction.
The downs link comes to an abrupt half after ascending up a short sharp hill that leads into a small car park. This is the start for the Henfield to the Devil's Dyke Loop via Truleigh Hill route.
From the car-park in Henfield, head down Station Road and turn right into Hollands Lane. Almost immediately turn left on the track (signed Downs Link). A short distance down this track is The Cabin at Berretts Farm, this welcomed addition to the Downs Link opened around 2021 and is a great place for coffee and cake. Continue southward following the Downs Link track. A short distance after crossing the River Adur the Downs Link deviates from the path of former railway line, up over a small hill, where it joins Wyckham Lane. Be careful as you descend on this road as it’s very gravelly and the bend at the bottom can be a little slippery if taken at speed.
Continue to follow Wyckham Lane where it joins King’s Barn Lane where the lane passes a bridge over the old railway line. Have a look each way as you cross; you’ll probably see where the railway used to be. As you accelerate down off this bridge downward, you’ll pass the sewage works on your right. Keep your mouth closed, particularly in the summer months, otherwise you’ll be swallowing flies and you really don’t want to know where they’ve been!
You’ll soon come into the backend of Steyning, marked by a sharp turn to the right. Just after this turn, take the left onto Kings Stone Avenue; it’s still signed as the Downs Link. Follow this road until it meets Roman Road. Turn left and continue down this gentle hill. Where the road turns right, continue straight on onto Castle Lane and follow this until it joins a roundabout.
If you fancy a bit of sightseeing, why not detour and pop-up the road and visit Bramber Castle? If not, continue to follow the signs for the Downs Link; you don’t need to cycle on the road, there’s a very clear worn path across the grass verges where most cyclists ride. If you’re in the right place you’ll re-join the path of the Downs Link that follows along the side of the A283.
After about 200m you can take a short-cut by crossing the A283; this can be a nasty crossing as it’s a fast road and on a slight bend; however, around 2015 the Downs Link was extended to avoid this crossing, it’s a bit of a dog leg, but is much safer - just make sure you stay on the Downs Link and don't inadvertently end up on the footpath that follows the River Adur.
Assuming you’ve stayed on the bridleway, you’ll eventually re-unite with the River Adur and meet a footbridge that crosses the river. Take this bridge to the other side and continue away from the river towards the A283 [there’s a water tap here if you need to take on fluids!]. You shortly arrive in a layby beside the A283, follow this northwards where you’ll end-up on the A283. Not for long though, you’ll need to cross to the other side and re-join the South Downs Way bridleway. You can’t miss it; it’s very well signed and is the start of that gruelling climb towards Truleigh Hill.
There’s not really much to say now, this is the climb; head down and off you go! On first appearance it doesn’t look too bad, but it goes on and on and with ruts and bumps, it’s brilliant at zapping that energy from your legs. As the hill begins to round out, you’ll catch glimpse of a gate. This is a good place to stop and catch your breath and to admire the views [see below]; but be warned, you’re not there yet – this is only about half of the ascent, the good news, the gradient begins reduce from this point!
At the second gate, you’ll re-join tarmac where you need to continue upward in an easterly direction, following the South Downs Way to Truleigh Hill itself. As you approach the Youth Hostel, tarmac is replaced by chalk and you embark on probably the most exposed part of the route. There are a number of tracks that branch off in either direction, but continue to follow the well signed, South Downs Way. This stretch is best described as a series of descents and climbs along the top of the South Downs, ultimately leading to the Devil’s Dyke itself.
The Devil's Dyke
To visit the Devil’s Dyke Pub requires a little detour. Be advised, it’s a footpath that leads to the pub along the front of the hill, the bridleway actually goes to the Devil’s Dyke, which is the valley behind the Devil’s Dyke pub.
There’s almost always an ice-cream van at the Devil’s Dyke at weekends, and not to mention the pub itself. If the wind is blowing from a north to north-westerly, you may even see paragliding activities, or, on the rare occasion, glimpse their rarer bigger brothers, the lesser spotted Hang Glider.
Below is a view west, from above the Devil's Dyke [photograph taken from a hang glider], looking along the South Downs Way after the climb to Truleigh Hill. The photograph also shows the lower part of the route, following the foot of the Downs through the village of Fulking where it heads off northwards across fields towards Henfield.
After the Devil’s Dyke, cross the road and continue to follow the chalky path of the South Downs Way for about 200m. I often get this bit wrong; keep an eye out for a water trough on the left side; it’s about 10 m from the track. This marks the start of the bridleway that branches off from the South Downs Way and enters the valley of the Devil’s Dyke itself. If you’re now not riding along the edge of the valley and can see the track ahead slowly descending along the edge of this valley, you’re probably on the wrong track.
Descend here carefully, particularly in wet conditions as the chalk here can be like ice! Once at the bottom of the valley you’ll see a gate. Open and pass through this gate and continue to follow the bridleway through a wooded section making sure to stay on the bridleway without inadvertently diverting off down one of the footbaths. Eventually you’ll emerge on a road, take a left and continue down the hill, passing Holy Trinity Church Poynings on your left where you’ll need to take the next left onto Poynings Road.
Continue to follow Poynings Road, through the village and out the other side to the village of Fulking. Where the road makes a 90 degree turn to the right, continue straight on, down a little bridleway that passes behind the houses and re-emerges on the Edburton Road and the bottom end of the village. Turn left and continue down the hill, passing the The Shepherd and Dog then up the hill and out of the village.
Continue towards the village of Edburton, keeping your eye open for a sign for a bridleway on the right side [if you get as far as St. Andrew’s Church you’ve gone too far]. It’s easily missed as it looks like the track of an exclusive home with an iron gate. There’s a big mail mailbox in the wall next to the bridleway sign, that’s a pretty good landmark!
Open and pass through the gates [closing the gate behind you] and continue northward following the signs of the bridleway. I normally keep extra quiet through here as don’t want to upset or antagonise the residents. Soon the track leads into open countryside following a gentle downhill. After passing two fields, the bridleway takes a 90 degree right turn – don’t go straight here as that’s a public footpath. Continue to follow the bridleway northward for approximately another kilometre, up over a little undulation before emerging on Bramlands Lane. This is really the end of the route as its now just a dash along roads to return to Henfield and the finish.
Continue northwards on Bramlands Lane where it meets Horn Lane. Turn right and follow the road uphill until it meets the A281 [if anyone can recommend an alternative to the A281, please leave a comment!]. Turn left onto the A281 and continue to follow this all the way back to Henfield. When you meet the roundabout in Henfield, turn left and follow the road for about 70m, then turn right into Nep Town Road. Continue to follow this road where it becomes Mill End, then Dropping Holms and eventually Lower Station Road, hinting that the route is returning to the location of the former railway line.
Follow Station Road all the way to the top of the hill where hopefully you’ll recognise the pub at the top and with a quick left turn followed by a right, will return to the Downs Link.
You'll now be back tracking the earlier part of the route until it returns you to the Southwater Country Park where the ride concludes.