My my, what a month of firsts September has been. There was the Duke of Yorks/Duke’s at Komedia weekend cinematic Kids’ Club. Then there was the Half Moon in Plumpton. And this past weekend, there was Landport Bottom.
Yes really. Five years. And we’ve never done this simple little leg stretch around one of Lewes’s pretty nature reserves. It begins practically in town for crying out loud!
I won’t write too much, because most of you will have done it and will already have deleted this email from your inbox, or possibly have just glanced at the pictures with a ‘tsk’ before moving on to reading the Guardian online or ordering something nice from John Lewis (I am not placing you all in a middle class corral, that’s just what I would do!).
But a walk at Landport Bottom is just so excellent for a young family. Or any family. Or just anyone with legs.
1) You don’t have to drive because it’s South Downs access right from in town. (But as it’s just off the Nevill Road at the very top of town, if you DO want to drive (if one of your party’s legs are super small and you’re constrained by time as was the case with us), you can do so anywhere near Wallands School, and then walk the path to the right of the school to meet Nevill Road).
2) It can be a Downs walk. When you come through the main gate, you can walk straight up the gentle hill, and only have to go a little way before you’re looking over the whole town. My older son spotted the mound in the Railway Land because he saw the white cliffs above Cliffe. Those markers in place, his eye moved over the town’s rooftops to where his own bedroom window was!
I gather from the Lewes District Council website that LB is a nature reserve of 44 hectares of Downland encompassing three fields, and indeed at the top of this initial field is stile access to the next (which my two climbed but we didn’t go over).
3) Or it can be a woodland walk. You can also head off to the right from the entrance gate, where there’s another smaller gate into the little woods. Walk along the path at the top of this fenced-off area, or go off-track into the tangle of trees. It is fairly easy to get through and quite open at some points, but it is on a gentle slope so watch your step.
My sons loved that the gate into this stick-lovers dreamscape housed changeable signage that told you whether or not there are sheep in the main field.
4) Or it can be both. We went into the woods (for the sticks) and spent a good hour messing about, gathering sticks, looking at the mass of snail shells, poking them with sticks, breaking sticks, fighting over sticks, fighting with sticks… You get the picture.
At the very end, the main path forked and we took the left, which lead us to the pit at the top of the chalk cliffs you can see from the Pells. This is what my son’s bedroom window looks out over and he was thrilled to be standing right on top of them when we hadn’t known we would come out here. The view from here sweeps across the Ouse Valley and you can spot the Church of St Peter in Hamsey not far away.
This pretty spot is chalk grassland, which the LDC site describes as ‘one of Britain’s most threatened and sensitive habitats’. It’s a chalky scooped hug on the side of the cliff face that is floored with grass and (when we went) wild blue flowers. There’s also the odd remnant of tinny-fuelled teenage fun *smiley face*.
I must warn as well that there is a sudden and very sheer drop at the cliff edge that is hard to see because the grass grows right to the edge and over it. Be careful.
To get back into the main field you have to scale a short but very steep section of cliff behind you. Our two-year-old had to be sort of pushed up this section – it would have been tricky with a baby or smaller toddler if you were without some kind of sling.
Once we were at the top of that little section of cliff, it was just a hop over a stile and we were back in the first field, which we slowly wandered through, checking out the view and talking to the sheep.
This tiny loop was a two-hour walk for us – no buggies, no slings, just ambling with little pressure to go a great distance to get anywhere.
For us, this was the best thing about Landport Bottom: our days still divided and sometimes conquered by a lunchtime nap, we got out of the house and had a manageable walk together with minimal carrying. We were home for lunch and felt we could justify an afternoon of hunkering down under a duvet to celebrate the onset of autumn with a first view of A Bug’s Life all together.
Sometimes it’s the simple things, isn’t it?
Lewes District Council (the basic facts about Landport Bottom): lewes.gov.uk/community/10988.asp
The Sussex Archaeological Society (about Landport Bottom’s past as a battlefield in the Battle of Lewes): sussexpast.co.uk/battle-of-lewes-main/landport-bottom-the-battlefield
Friends of Landport Bottom (with details on the Nevill Junior Bonfire Society’s bonfire and fireworks at Landport Bottom): e-voice.org.uk/friendsoflandportbottom/
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