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The west-facing front of the 14th-century timber-framed Alfriston Clergy House.
Alfriston Clergy House, Sussex, the first building to come into the care of the National Trust | © National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Alfriston Clergy House countryside walk

Walk in the footsteps of the artists and writers of the Bloomsbury Group as you follow this circular route to 600-year-old Alfriston Clergy House, taking in downland views along the way. Alfriston sits within the South Downs National Park.

Total steps: 12

Total steps: 12

Start point

Willows car park, off Alfriston High Street, grid ref: TQ522032

Step 1

Set off from the Willow's car park (just beyond the Market Cross on Alfriston High Street). Walk straight across the road and through the Dene car park and take a right turn (north) up West Street, which soon becomes a hedge-lined lane. There is no pavement along this section of the walk. Near the top, you'll reach the carved wooden calvary. Note how from here it becomes quieter, with the sounds from the village carried off on the downland breeze.

Step 2

Cross the road at Winton Street and take the footpath, heading downhill over the field, following signs for the Vanguard Way national trail. Bear right, as the Old Coach Road arises here and passes from the left of the path you are following. The path rises and falls through the centre of arable land. The spire of Berwick Church is visible above the trees on the rise ahead.

Step 3

Go through the gate (over a small stream). At the bottom of the dip, the path climbs to the churchyard – almost entirely concealed by trees. On the hills in the distance to your right, barely visible over the brow, is the chalk carving of the Long Man of Wilmington. He looks out, in Kipling's words, 'naked towards the shires'.

Long Man of Wilmington, Sussex on a summers day
Long Man of Wilmington | © National Trust Images/Julie Heal

Step 4

Follow the path until you a reach a gate on the left that takes you into the churchyard. Enter the churchyard, and go round to the north porch and into the church to discover the murals by Bloomsbury Group artists.

Christ in Glory collage from Berwick Church, Sussex
Christ in Glory collage from Berwick Church | © National Trust Images

Step 5

Leave the churchyard via the arched opening at the north-west end. Turn right and follow the path down into the village, taking the turning on the left uphill at the white marker stone marked 'Berwick Church'. Take the concrete track passing the sign marked 'footpath only' leading past the buildings at Church Farm. Continue along the track with trees on your left and follow as the path passes between two arable fields (it can be muddy underfoot in winter). In the summer watch nervy meadow pipits rising out of the grass.

Step 6

At the end of the field, follow the hedge round as it curves left. Turn right at the gap in the middle of the hedge at the Wealden Way post, with a yellow arrow pointing across the next field.

Step 7

Follow the field edge towards the village of Alciston's 13th-century church. Pass through the gate in the corner on the right and take the path leading to the main street into Alciston.

Step 8

Keep to the route and turn left, passing the remains of a medieval dovecote and then the huge tithe barn.

Step 9

Follow the lane as it winds back up towards the downs, where the trees form a canopy as you continue to walk. At the top of the track a circular bench has a signpost indicating 1 mile east (1.6km) to Berwick and 3 miles (4.8km) west to Firle. Take the right-hand path after the bench and, a few paces on, take the left-hand path leading uphill.

Step 10

After a gentle ascent with the scarp slope rising up ahead, cross the stile among the trees and follow the path running at an angle east along the escarpment up the hill. This section is very steep so why not take the opportunity to pause halfway up and turn to enjoy panoramic views across the Weald, with its patchwork of small fields and hedges. As you reach the stile near the top, you may hear skylarks singing overhead in spring and summer.

Step 11

At the top, look out for Bostal Hills prehistoric tumuli, and take in the views across to the sprawl around Newhaven Harbour. Climb over the stile and continue up towards the top of the slope. Turn left and follow the South Downs Way national trail along the top of the ridge. You will be able to enjoy views towards Cuckmere Valley and the Seven Sisters (much of which we care for). Follow the path along the summit heading east, passing through gates into further fields.

Step 12

Eventually, over the brow of the hill, Alfriston comes into view in the valley below. The spire of St Andrew's Church, known as the 'Cathedral of the Downs', rises clear of surrounding rooftops. At the bottom of the field, pass through the gate and cross the track, carrying on along the chalk path with fields on either side. Old and gnarled birches lining the track create an eerier atmosphere. Follow on, down past the houses into Weaver's Lane. Cross the road at the sign pointing to Alfriston Clergy House. Walk along the track and enjoy views of St Andrew's church. On your right is Alfriston Clergy House, the first built property acquired by the National Trust.

View of Alfriston Clergy House, Sussex from the garden through flowers
Alfriston Clergy House | © National Trust Images

End point

Willows car park, off Alfriston High Street, grid ref: TQ522032

Trail map

Map showing walking route from Alfriston via Berwick and Alciston
Map showing walking route from Alfriston via Berwick and Alciston | © Crown copyright and database rights 2013 Ordnance Survey

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Get in touch

The Tye, Alfriston, Polegate, East Sussex, BN26 5TL

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