Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber walk
Fresh air, spectacular views and an ancient landscape will accompany you along this scenic downland walk near Devil's Dyke, West Sussex. Discover our wildlife-rich dewpond, catch a glimpse into the past when you visit the old Donkey Wheel, traditionally used to draw water for the farm. Finally, why not finish off your walk with a lovely cup of tea and a tasty slice of cake from the Wildflour Café?
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National Trust 'Newtimber Hill' sign, grid ref: TQ272115
From the car park, cross the road and follow the track into Saddlescombe Farm. On your left you'll see the National Trust 'Newtimber Hill' sign. Enter the gate, turn left immediately, and follow the path uphill. Go over the stile alongside the metal gate, and bear right.
On your left is the remains of a disused chalk quarry. Continue uphill to the top-most edge of the quarry, and take in the views of the Devil's Dyke valley. To the right of the valley lies Fulking Escarpment (with its pylons perched on the top). Further to the right, you'll see Chanctonbury Ring; a hill in the distance topped with a circle of trees.
Saddlescombe chalk quarry
It's believed Saddlescombe chalk quarry was last used in the 1870s. For centuries, chalk was mined here and burnt in the lime kiln at the bottom of the quarry. The lime produced was then used both to supplement the heavy clay soils of the Weald and for making mortar.
Turn around so that the quarry is behind you. Walk straight up the hill towards the clump of trees. Keep the trees to your right, continue for 270yd (250m), heading towards a mound in the distance.
Upon reaching the mound (often referred to as a barrow) you'll notice its concave top. Walk around the left side of the mound until you reach the opposite side. You'll see three large trees in the distance with a wide grass path running through the centre.
Newtimber North Hill barrows
The South Downs are littered with mysterious lumps and bumps and Newtimber is home to a fine selection. Some believe this mound to be a bowl barrow (burial mound) dating back thousands of years. This commanding point would have been selected due to its chalky banks being visible for miles around. The depression in the top of the mound could indicate Victorian archaeologists plundering the grave for treasures. However, some say the mound may be a gun emplacement from the Second World War, or it could be a combination of the two; a burial mound converted into a gun emplacement.
Just after the trees, you'll reach the first fork in the path. Take the left-hand grassy track and continue until you reach a second fork, take the right-hand grassy track. Walk on until you find a large dried-up dew pond to your right. Go around the dew pond towards the fence on the opposite side where you'll find a water-filled dew pond.
Dew ponds are a historic feature on the downs, possibly dating back thousands of years, and would have served as drinking sites for sheep. Given the porous nature of chalk, the ponds had to be clay-lined to hold water. Newtimber is home to three dew ponds, which provide a wonderful wildlife haven for newts, dragonflies and beetles. The wooden fence keeps the cattle and their dung at bay.
Rejoin the grassy track and walk for roughly five minutes, passing a cluster of trees to your left.
Twenty two yards (20m) before you come to a wooden gate, turn right and you'll see Saddlescombe Farm in the distance, with a shallow ditch and bank in the foreground. This ditch is a cross ridge dyke. Follow the ditch down the slope towards the farm. You'll come to a short concrete post in front of you. Bear left at the post and head towards the fence line and gate in the bottom corner of the field.
Cross ridge dyke
This man-made cross ridge dyke runs north-south, and is thought to date from the late Bronze Age period. It would most likely have served to enclose cattle within different territories.
Go through the gate, and follow the flat grassy track (keep the fence on your right) towards Saddlescombe Farm for ten minutes. The slope to your left is a spectacular spot for wildflowers.
If you're walking here in June, the bank above you should be a wonderful carpet of common spotted and fragrant orchids and downland flowers, all alive with a variety of insects. In September, you'll be greeted by a purple haze of devil's-bit scabious - the downland equivalent of bluebells in a wood.
Keep to the flat track, passing a water trough on your right. Continue until you reach the bottom corner of the field and go through the wooden bridle gate on your right (marked South Downs Way with a blue access arrow).
Walk straight ahead for 22yd (20m), until you come to a stile on your left with a sign for Saddlescombe Donkey Wheel. Cross the stile, and follow the grass path as it bears to the left. Continue on to find the Donkey Wheel straight ahead of you.
This large wheel was turned by a donkey or pony for hundreds of years. The well, some 164ft (50m) below, provided fresh drinking water for the whole farm. Mr Stan Hollingdale, who lived at the farm all his life until his death in 2011, remembered it last being used back in the 1930s. The connection of Saddlescombe to mains water left the wheel and it's donkey redundant.
Retrace your steps back to the Donkey Wheel sign. Go over the stile, and turn left. Continue along the hard track, keeping the farm on your left.
When the track forks, bear left down to the Wildflour café and enjoy a well-deserved rest and a cup of tea. To return to the car park, turn right out of the café and follow the track.
Wildflour cafe, grid ref: TQ273115
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