1 - From the busy coast road (A259), close to the Portslade and Southwick border, between East and West Sussex (about 150 yards west of Church Road), take a look across the busy Shoreham Harbour and bid farewell to the sea.

Cross with care what was once the Brighton to Shoreham turnpike road in the 19th century and is now the A259 coast road and locate the opposite northbound Brambledean Road. Pass beside commercial units and then head up the residential street. Cross over the St Michael’s Road junction, keeping direction for 125 yards to Eastbrook Road. (There is a path, marking the true line of the county border, that passes behind nearby houses but access can be difficult.)

Turn left for 100 yards and then go right into St Aubyn’s Crescent. Pass by the entrance to Lincoln Road, continuing to the junction with Gladstone Road and Gardner Road – a West Sussex sign reminds you where you are.

Cross to the twitten leading to Fishersgate railway station and climb right over the footbridge. The footpath continues between houses and commercial units, crossing over Shelldale Road. Follow the continuing footpath, with allotments on the left.

2 - On coming to Old Shoreham Road, go over, with care, to the signed footpath and keep ahead on this enclosed age-old trackway, with more allotments to the left (ignore a right turn after a short distance). Climb for 375 yards to cross over Mile Oak Road on to the rising opposite path, passing over Mile Oak Gardens in a further 100 yards.

The way ahead now begins to take on a more rural feel, clearing some of the houses, and in 150 yards comes to a fork in the path – take the right option, keeping to the path beneath trees. In 250 yards, turn left for a few yards into a meadow and then turn right up the bridleway on the southern slopes of Southwick Hill.

Keep to the right hedgeline for about a quarter of a mile to a four-way signpost. Pass through the adjacent bridle gate on to the National Trust site.

3 - Turn left on the bridleway, keeping to the left fenceline, and after a little over 200 yards bear right, away from the bridleway and fence, to continue on a footpath northward on a gentle climb. Follow the wide, springy downland turf path between scrub, passing across the top of the road tunnel with its thundering traffic below. Be grateful for those stalwarts who lobbied and protested to save the hillside and stop a cutting being excavated when the A27 road was built.

Keep direction up the rise, leaving behind the last of the Mile Oak houses away to the right, and head towards a thoughtfully positioned viewing bench. Continue past the seat for a few yards towards a fenceline and turn right down the hillside.

In about 100 yards, just after a second squeeze stile that is off to the left, turn right on a trodden path, traversing the hillside for about 200 yards, passing beneath power lines, and finally bearing left down a slope to a wide, chalky farm track.

Turn left down the track, with buildings of Mile Oak Farm coming into view down to the right. On approaching the farm, in the valley bottom, pass right through a gate on to an enclosed footpath and skirt right around a paddock to a wider farm track.

4 - Turn right for a few yards, back along the track towards the farm buildings to just before the first barn and, beside a signpost (restricted byway), turn left, passing through a gate on to a wide, rising track.

The way ahead now climbs across the open downland of Cockroost Hill, with Hazelholt Bottom back to the left and Tenant Hill to the north. Take no side turnings and climb, passing Mile Oak dew pond.

As the path passes the hill summit off to the right, the track takes a half-right turn. Views open up from this point, taking in vistas in all directions. continue for 350 yards to a crossing track, north of Mount Zion.

5 - Turn left (no signs here) and follow the northward track that on a hot, summer’s day can feel mercilessly exposed and you will be glad you remembered the sun cream and water. On a windy March day it can be bitterly cold as you tug a scarf or hat around your ears.

After a little over half a mile on the fence-enclosed track, a bridle gate in the right fenceline is encountered. Go through the gate (blue arrow) and take a north-easterly, quarter-left line across a wide meadow.

Pass between scrubby, stubby, wind-blown gorse bushes and keep direction, heading for a mid-field marker post and onwards to a distant fence and bridle gate. (There are grazing animals in the field so dogs should be kept on short leads.) Scabes Castle, where Iron Age and Romano British artefacts have been found, is off to the right, with Adder Bottom also descending on the right.

6 - Keep general direction in the next field but bear just a few more degrees left, climbing, with a fence ahead that leads towards gates at the top of the Downs. Pass right through a bridle gate and bear left around the top of the huge, steep coombe that faces out across the Weald.

Head for the obvious ruined structure that stands just behind the Iron Age fortifications, cross a ditch, climb the ramp and make for the gate that leads to the Devil’s Dyke pub, bus stop and pick-up point.

The first stage of our south/north traverse of West Sussex is complete but there is much more to come, out in the Wild Wood.

  • Distance/ Time: Five miles taking two and a half hours
  • By Car: Drop-off on A259 coast road, 150 yards after Church Road, Portslade. Pick-up at Devil’s Dyke car park, adjacent to pub. Start point grid ref: TQ257050.
  • By Public Transport: Coastliner bus service 700 from Old Steine, Brighton, or Marine Parade, Worthing, drop-off at Church Road. Trains to Fishersgate Station, join walk at end of stage one. Bus return from Devil’s Dyke to Brighton centre, service no 77, call 01273 886200. For general travel details visit www.traveline.info or call 0871 2002233.
  • What’s underfoot: Starts in an urban area but soon clears on to open downland with bridleways and wide tracks but no stiles. Possible with a baby backpack. Just about possible with an off-road baby buggy but rough ground in places.
  • Thirsty Work: Refreshments available at Devil’s Dyke pub
  • So you don’t get lost: OS Explorer map 122 plus a compass for general direction

Click here for a full-sized map of the Southwick to Devil's Dyke walk