From Lewes to Alfriston via the Ouse and the Downs

From lovely Lewes in East Sussex along the River Ouse valley, then up onto the South Downs for a bracing downland stretch with views across the Weald, gorgeous South Downs Way and the sea, ending up in the delightful village of Alfriston, where there are afternoon buses back to Lewes.

Technical sheet

A Lewes walk posted on 24/01/20 by urbanhiker. Last update : 20/11/20
  • Walking
    Activity: Walking
  • ↔
    Distance: 18.07 km
  • ◔
    Calculated time: 5h45 
  • ▲
    Difficulty: Moderate

  • ∞
    Return to departure point: No
  • ↗
    Vertical gain: + 232 m
  • ↘
    Vertical drop: - 224 m

  • ▲
    Highest point: 211 m
  • ▼
    Lowest point: -1 m
  • ⚐
    Area: South Downs
  • ⚐
    District: Lewes 
  • ⚑
    Start: N 50.870532° / E 0.01134°
  • ⚑
    End: N 50.809185° / E 0.15571°

  • …
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Looking South on the Ouse


(S) From the upper part of Lewes station, turn left towards the ruined Lewes Priory adjacent some playing fields. Either cross these diagonally to the right through a gate (or take an alternative route past the college to the left) onto a metalled road which winds past a couple of houses and round the local recycling depot and ultimately under a large road bridge and finally onto the banks of the River Ouse, a large, navigable, tidal river which meanders its way South to Newhaven on the coast. The path meanders with the river until it reaches an old swing bridge.

(1) Cross this to the East and continue along the lane until you get to Southease station. Use the railway crossing and continue until a group of buildings which include the YHA at Ilford farm. Turn right immediately before the buildings (signposted South Downs Way) and follow the path over the footbridge that crosses the busy A26. Once you are over the bridge, the Downs come down to meet you. Take the long path snaking up the hill or go straight up the grassy hill to the top of Ilford Hill and continue East on the South Down Way past Red Lion Pond. Continue east for another mile or so, cross a track and head for the monolithic radio masts. Then, in less than a mile, cross another small road and car park and continue for approx. 1 mile till you reach Firle Beacon. The views are vast – North to the Weald and South across rolling downs to the sea.

(2) The route now heads South-East towards Alfriston past another car park through farmland until seeing the village and come to a gate with three routes to the village. Take the one directly in front (not the two to the left) this being the South Down Way which winds down a hedged lane into the village.(E)


  1. S : km 0 - alt. 7 m - Lewes Railway Station
  2. 1 : km 6.11 - alt. 1 m - Old swing bridge
  3. 2 : km 12.95 - alt. 211 m - Firle Beacon
  4. E : km 18.07 - alt. 10 m - Alfriston Centre

Useful Information

The path can be claggy in parts and frustratingly slow to begin with, the path narrow and occasionally very muddy. The river does flood and there are levees on each bank which can be used as your path if the river is high. It does improve after a mile or so, the path becoming wider and drier.

There are places for coffee/tea and pubs in Alfriston and an incredibly beautiful church and Green. I needed to get back to Lewes and there are alternatives. There is a bus (just the one) at 16.00 or Berwick station with an hourly service three miles to the North on footpaths. The alternatives are a taxi to Lewes or the cheaper option a Seaford taxi to Seaford railway station then a quick train to Lewes.

Good walking shoes/boots vital in the winter, the route is exposed so wet weather gear and hats sun/rain vital. You will have to carry your water though there is a cafe at the YHA.

Always stay careful and alert while following a route. Visorando and the author of this walk cannot be held responsible in the event of an accident during this route.

During the walk or to do/see around

There is interesting birdlife on the river – seashore dipper types, Swans, Starlings, Egrets and various reed loving little birds.

The views from the Downs include Newhaven and the sea to the South and the Ouse valley and Weald to the North with views of Lewes and its prominent castle. The walking up here is really enjoyable, easy and free.

It’s worth spending a few hours in Alfriston exploring the beautiful architecture and lovely Green. Likewise Lewes a bustling Old town with a castle and excellent shops.

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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.