Fulking archaeology walk
Fulking archaeological walk takes you on a walk through time, along the glorious contours of the Sussex Downs. On one side - the Weald, to the other - the sea. This walk starts and ends at the Devil's Dyke pub.
Devil's Dyke Car Park - TQ258109
Starting opposite the Devil’s Dyke pub and a few metres beyond the bus stop, follow the yellow public footpath arrow pointing west to a kissing gate ahead. Go through the gate and continue along the path, passing a ruined brick structure on your left.
Continue westwards along the path towards the fence line, with a metal gate and finger post just beyond. Pass through this gate and then follow the grass track marked 'public bridleway' diagonally across the field, heading towards the sea.
Continue along this grass track for about 1km until you reach the corner of the field (just before the corner there is a wooden gate, but do not pass through this). Instead, turn so that you have the sea behind you. Walking away from the sea, follow the fence line, keeping the fence on your left.
Do not go through this gate!
Continue keeping the fence on your left until you reach the corner of this field. You will see scrub trees and a cattle track leading down onto the slope in front. Going down the slope, passing a line of scrub on your right, there is a low grassed-over flint wall, also on your right. This may be difficult to see in the summer as grass may obscure it. You can also see the remains of a flint wall with brick buttressing following the fence at right angles to the one you have just followed. On the other side of the valley is Perching Hill. The deserted structure in the valley bottom is Perching Hill Barn.
In the scrub you might see weirdly shaped pieces of metal which seem to have grown into the ground (do not remove!). They are probably part of the defence system for WW2. This area was heavily militarised during WW2 and Perching Hill and environs were used for troop training exercises. We know that at least one young soldier lost his life training here. On the hill to your left opposite Perching Hill you might be able to see darker horizontal lines and a flatter strip of land. These are remains of an Iron Age/Romano-British field system.
Proceed straight down into the valley, keeping the ruined, grassed-over flint wall on your right. You will see a modern fence ahead in the valley bottom and beyond it a concrete water trough. Just above the trough up the slope in the field you are in you can see some depressions.
These depressions mark the site of hut platforms of the deserted medieval village of Perching, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The South Downs used to be more heavily populated than they are now. This site would have been favourable, being tucked away in a dry valley at a slight bend but also having access to water (there are remains of a well in the neighbouring field, not NT property) and being near a track going from the Weald to the sea. We cannot be sure if the village was a permanent settlement or more like a summer farm.
Turn right and follow the modern fence line, keeping the fence on your left. On your right is a steep bank. You can either continue to follow the fence line on lower land or scramble a few metres up the bank.
If you scramble up you will meet a platform - a long strip of flatter land you can walk along. Above that you will see another long strip of flatter land. You are standing on the medieval field system associated with the village. The classic length of a medieval strip lynchet, ploughed by bullocks or oxen, was 220 yards or one furlong.
Continue to follow the fence line. About half way up to the brow turn around - from here you have the best view down onto the medieval field system. Up at the end of the fence line you will meet the South Downs Way (SDW) running east-west along the ridge. Here is a small wooden post plus a waymarker post with a blue SDW disc. Face north to the Weald stretching out below you. Immediately ahead of you on the other side of the South Downs Way, you will see a mound with low wooden fences on its east and west sides.
This mound is a Bronze Age barrow, called a bowl barrow because of its shape. Typically placed in prominent positions, as this one is, barrows mark the burial site of someone of importance. The grass covered crater on the top of this one is probably the result of excavations by much later grave robbers.
Follow the South Downs Way west towards the pylons for about 50 metres. On your left there is a small clump of trees. Amongst these, when the undergrowth is thinned in winter, you can catch a glimpse of a brick and concrete platform.
This platform is all that now remains of the Fulking Isolation Hospital, also known as Fulking Grange, in use from around 1902 to September 1940 when it was requisitioned for military use, later falling into ruin. In the days when highly infectious diseases such as smallpox and TB (tuberculosis) were rife, victims were isolated from the rest of the community in specially designated houses in lonely places.
Continue west, keeping the fence on your left. Cross under the pylons. The deep chalk tracks (bostals) going down the scarp slope from the South Downs Way are ancient highways. They have been gouged out by centuries of rain but also by the traffic of humans, carts, and animals. Continue through the gate after the pylons and strike up the hill to your right towards the clump of trees on the top. Proceed through the gate in the fence ahead which surrounds a mound.
This mound is the motte of Edburton motte and bailey castle, another Scheduled Ancient Monument. You can walk around the circular ditch which surrounds the motte. This castle is believed to date from immediately after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and is ideally placed to command access along the downs, and between the Weald and the sea, and is protected to its north side by the scarp slope.
After a circuit of the castle cross over the stile on the Weald side and walk back east to rejoin the South Downs Way. The line of villages along the road at the foot of the scarp slope mark the line of springs which can be found there. Stay on the South Downs Way and continue to head back east until you reach the car park. As you walk you can get good views of the Weald and the sea and excellent views of the Devil’s Dyke hill fort ramparts ahead.
Devil's Dyke Car Park - TQ258109
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