This is a 100 mile, 160km unsignposted route under the Downs from Newhaven ferry terminal and Lewes town to Portsmouth centre and Portsmouth ferry terminal. It is designed to be ridden over 3 to 7 days and is suitable for any bike except narrow tyred racing bikes. It is one of a number of initiatives by Travel Log Lewes
The route is 8 miles, 12km shorter if started from Lewes.
I have laid out the route in a number of sheets that are designed to be printed off and taken with you, ideally on a colour printer, but the route is designed to work on a black and white printer. The pages are laid out as if you were going east to west, but the directions are designed to work from west to east as well.
The maps are not all to the same scale. The scale has been varied to match the difficulties of route finding.
If you use GPX here are some GPX files for the main route (not including the alternatives). Do use the maps above as well, otherwise you will miss important things en-route and some key directions.
ABOUT THE ROUTE
Every day in summer you see them on the south downs way – all terrain bike riders bouncing up and down. They look hot and sweaty or wet and muddy, depending on the weather, and a lot of them look grim, as well they might, because every 15km or so the south downs way goes down into the valley and up again. Some of them see it as an endurance test, doing the route as fast as possible to get it over with.
Mostly they have to come down to reach food, refreshment and accommodation and then go up again. The views are panoramic, but you miss all the detail, so one panorama merges into another. And the south downs are arguably a denuded landscape, as Dave Bangs points out in his authoritative book “The Brighton Downs”. They miss what is probably the finest downland view of all, the view of the north escarpment of the downs. I always thought there was a better way.
Now there is. I think this is a wonderful route and I’ve wanted to publicise it for ages. It takes you under the downs, often by lanes so quiet that you have to watch for dogs asleep in the road. It goes through sleeping villages and market towns, past historic and modern attractions, centuries old churches and through comparatively unspoilt countrside. For most of the ride you have excellent views of the north fact of the downs. You get a glimpse of the social history of these parts of Sussex and Hampshire in a way that you never would on the south downs way. Plus you are in the right place for pubs, shops and accommodation. This route is designed for you to take your time, to sink into the countryside. Take three days or even a week.
There are two web sites that should give you nearly all the accommodation that you need. Since the route runs near the south downs way most of the time, the South Downs Way trail pages will give you accommodation for most of the route. You can search to include only places with bike storage. There is also a printable version of this guide which you may find easier to use, although it does not include camp sites and hostels. The site is only in English.
For accommodation in Portsmouth and Newhaven use Tripadvisor or the Tripadvisor for your country. A number of cyclists have posted on tripadvisor about which places take bikes in Newhaven.
Additionally the Portsmouth and Southsea backpacker hostel advertises secure cycle storage. It can be booked via Booking.com. I have not stayed there.
Towns will have all the usual facilities. I have listed rural pubs and shops where I know of them, but running a rural business is a difficult job. Place may close or change their nature. Please let me know of any additions or deletions. Pubs on the route normally open only at lunchtimes and the evenings Monday – Friday.
It is possible to do the ride as a series of day trips. There are railway stations on the route at Newhaven, Lewes, Amberley Fareham and Portsmouth. Nearby stations are at Plumpton (near Lewes) Hassocks, (near Ditchling) and Petersfield (near Butser Hill) You cannot take bikes on trains leaving Brighton on Mondays to Fridays between 16.00 and 19.00 or due to arrive in Brighton before 10.00 Monday to Friday.
ATTRACTIONS ON THE ROUTE
Your ideal companion for this ride is Tim Locke’s book “Slow Sussex” which covers nearly all of the route and much more besides. The book lists a variety of slow attractions and also includes places to sleep and eat.
Here are some links to attractions that are on , or almost on the route. They are listed east to west.
Springbarn Farm Lewes
Anne of Cleves House Lewes
CONTINUING ON THE ROUTE
From Portsmouth you can take the ferry to the Isle of Wight, which has a lot of cycle routes, and then on via Lymington to the New Forest. There is also a route from Gosport to Southampton plotted by Sustrans Sustrans also have a routes from Newhaven along the coast as far as Dover and beyond. They have a route from Newhaven to London, although I am planning my own alternative to this, which should be on the site soon.
At the moment you can get ferries from Newhaven to Dieppe and from Portsmouth to le Havre and other places to the west. So there are possibilities for a number of circular tours. For details of the route de littoral de Seine-Maritime from Le Havre to Dieppe click here. To order a paper copy (more readable) click here
Maps are courtesy of Open Street Map and are reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
Do let me know your experiences on this ride at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Smith, Travelman