23 July 2014

Another 670 acres of Sussex downland open to all

Another large area of Open Access land has been created by the city council on the South Downs in Brighton & Hove.

The area is 282 hectares or 670 acres – roughly ten times the size of Brighton’s Preston Park. It adjoins existing Open Access land the council created in and around Stanmer Park in 2006.

Combined, the two areas total 650 hectares or 1600 acres. They stretch around two miles from east to west – from Stanmer Park right over to the A23. North-to-south the land varies from a mile to half a mile across.

Eight kilometres - or five miles - of new footpaths and bridleways have been created, through rolling grassland. However, Open Access allows people to roam anywhere across the land, except where there are farmed crops.

It means walkers on the Sussex Border Path can divert onto a route which keeps them further away from the busy A23.

The landscape includes the Chattri monument to Indian soldiers who died in the Royal Pavilion hospital from First World War injuries.

Other features are ancient burial mounds on top of Tegdown Hill – evidence of long use of the landscape by humans. The names Tegdown Hill and Ewe Bottom echo its history of sheep farming - tegs being young sheep. Also clearly visible are lynchets - terraces formed by ploughing dating back many centuries.

Works have involved installing a large number of gates and cutting a new path up a steep bank at Braypool.

Other recent council moves to increase access to the Downs have included opening many new permissive paths off the top of Ditchling Road, north of the city. A new cycle and pedestrian track has been built over the Downs between Woodingdean and Falmer. Another is being built alongside Ditchling Road to Stanmer Park.

Chair of the environment committee Cllr Pete West said: “It’s been one of our main intentions to open up more council-owned downland to residents and visitors. Of course these rights involve responsibilities too and that entails respecting the landscape, farmers, their crops and livestock.

“This is precisely what we should be doing with our new UNESCO Biosphere status – that’s about bringing people and nature together and helping to improve people’s health and wellbeing.”

Jeremy Burgess, Eastern Downs Area Manager for the South Downs National Park, said:  “It’s great news that Brighton & Hove City Council are dedicating this new Open Access land, providing some good links to some hidden treasures in this part of South Downs National Park. We look forward to working with them to help visitors enjoy and understand the significance of the area, and access it in sustainable ways.”

Details of Open Access land around the city can be found on the council’s website here