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Secret Lanes of Lower Dicker

2 hours 45 minutes | 5.5miles 8.9km | Leisurely

Beautiful secret lanes, level walking, quiet fields, lovely undiscovered woodland and a link with the second world war Normandy landings. A secret waiting to be discovered. One part that may be a little overgrown, but there is an alternative.

Starts at

TQ577121 at Hellingly School, west of Hellingly Village, near Hailsham, Sussex

Getting there

Buses run roughly regularly to the stop from Eastbourne, Polegate, Hailsham, Horam, Heathfield and Tunbridge Wells  See Travel Line South East. From Lewes you can get the train to Polegate and get the bus up.

Parking is possible in the road by the school

An alternative start point using public transport is point 10 on the main road at Lower Dicker.  Buses running between Eastbourne and Uckfield stop at this point as do buses from Lewes on Monday to Friday.  These buses also stop near point 15. See Travel Line

Route instructions

Lower Dicker has a long industrial past.  Driving down the main road today you can see that there is still quite a bit of commercial activity.  But the past has resulted in a large number of lanes that are now quiet and unspoiled- a real surprise.  There also a large number of small woods of considerable beauty.  This walks takes you through this scenery and also visits the site of preparations for the Dieppe Raid in the second world war.

Ordnance Survey maps Landranger 123, Landranger 199

There are no toilets directly on the route.

1) Start at the bus stops next to Hellingly school. On the west side of the road, just south of the junction, is a gate, with a footpath sign that is often obscured by the hedge.  Go through the gate and head straight ahead along the side of a hedge. Where the hedge turns right keep going straight ahead.  After about 200m bear right towards the main road. (If the path is not clear through the field you could follow the hedge along the north side of the field.)  Come to a gap in the hedge and walk through this.  Cross the main road carefully and follow a concrete track on the other side, which turns left shortly after.

At the point at which the track turns right the right of way goes goes straight ahead aiming for the trees.  If the path has been ploughed over here you may find it easier to walk round the edge of the field. But please report this to the council.  You are looking for a point at which the path enters the trees on your left.  You can be guided by a bridleway which comes in from your right and which is usually marked out by horse riders.

2) Enter the wood and find a track ahead of you. Turn right here and follow the track until it comes to a lawn at the side of a house. Walk across the lawn and then follow the drive, which turns slightly to the left.  The drive turns into a track.

The lane you have been following is quiet and peaceful now.  It was not like this in the summer of 1942. It was full of tanks manned by Canadians preparing to take part in the Dieppe raid . The lane was used to camouflage tanks being prepared for the raid.  We can imagine thes young men, perhaps aged 19 or so,  thousands of miles from home having answered the cry for help from Britain, perhaps alternatively excited and terrified at the prospect of their first slice of the action.  Many of them did not return from the raid.

3) At the junction you need to aim to go straight ahead, to the right of the galvanised fence ahead of you.  You will probably find it easier to go right for a couple of metres and then turn left through the hedge before the following alongside the ugly fence.  However you only follow the fence for a very short way.  You come to a junction of paths.  Keep straight ahead here. Shortly the path turns sharp left. Follow it round.  Notice that on the map there is a path to the right, but it has been fenced off.  The Ramblers are still pressing for this to be opened.  If you report this to the council there is more chance of it being opened. The more people complain about path problems the sooner they get dealt with!

4) Within about 50 metres the right of way turns right, just south of the field border, but at the time of writing this was overgrown.  If it is still overgrown keep straight ahead and then turn right when you emerge into the open.  Follow a path to your right which aims for a gap in the hedge in front of you and joins a lane. Turn right at the lane and follow it to its end.  If the right of way has been re-opened it will take you directly to the end of the lane.

From the end of the lane take a path that goes west.  This can sometimes be a bit overgrown for a short stretch.  If it is please report this to the council

5) Continue straight ahead along field edges, keeping hedges on your right. When it appears that you can go no further you will find a stile on your right in the corner of the field.  Climb over this and then turn left along a drive to reach a quiet road.  Turn left and soon meet the main road. Cross this carefully (There is an island slightly to your right.)  Take the track opposite.  This used to be regularly ploughed up by trail riders but the council has solved this problem by making the surface smooth and firm so that it does not interest them.

6) Come to a four way junction and turn left here along another lane.  It is hard to remember that you are so near a busy main road.

7) After about 800 metres look out for path going off to your right.  This is actually the second stile on the right since point 6, but you may have missed the first one.  Look for a path at a point where the hedge gets lower, which heads away across fields towards large farm buildings. Take this path. The route does not follow the legal right of way, but, after a second stile, turns right through a gate shortly after a building and then immediately left up a farm track.  At a junction of farm tracks keep straight ahead. and then go through the next field to a gap near the left of the field. Go through this gap and then turn left along the field edge.  You will see a stile ahead of your entering a wood. Climb over this stile and follow the path through the wood to emerge on the road.

8) Cross the road and go up the drive opposite.

9) After about 200 metres you will find a gate on your right with a footpath sign. Walk through this and then bear left along the edge of the field.  This is a wonderful place to pause, eat your sandwiches and admire the panoramic views of the South Downs.  You are next to the Lower Dicker Site of Special Scientific Interest (A)

Follow the hedge as it winds round the edge of the field until you come to a stile on your left.  Climb the stile and walk along the field edge. After about 50 metres come to a track.  Turn right and follow this track as it twists and turns. It finally comes to a drive. Do not take the footpath over the stile straight ahead but instead turn left here and follow the drive to the main road. Just before you hit the road you will see a recreation ground on your left.

This is the home of Hellingly cycle speedway team. Cycle speedway is a sport where two riders from each team race four times round the track on bicycles with no gears and no brakes.  The team is one of the last in south east England and is threatened with closure because they have to travel such a long way to find opponents.  This film shows them in action against Newport, all the way from South Wales.

10)If you turn right here before crossing the road there is or was a pub called the Potters Arms (B). It may or not be open as it has had a chequered history.  Cross the  main road using the nearby island and turn right until you reach the bus stop on the north side of the road (This is an alternative start to the walk.)  A path leads north from the bus layby, although there is no sign and, rather than a stile, there is a low fence to step over. Follow this path straight ahead over a number of stiles for about 400 metres until you come to a path branching off across a field to the left.

11) Turn left here, heading for a wood. Cross a bridge and enter the wood.  This is Caldicotts Wood, one of my favourite woods in Sussex. It is easy to get lost here as tracks turn off to the left and right.  Try to keep going as straight ahead as you can.

If the weather is favourable enough stay still here.  Gradually all kinds of wildlife will begin to emerge.  I wish I knew more about this wood, which looks quite old. I've never met anyone else there.

12) The point that you are aiming for is a gate with a footpath junction sign.  If you go too far to the north follow the fence to the west.  If you go too far south you will hit a track.  Follow this to the right till it comes to a gate.

Go through the gate. The path you need now travels north-east through the field, along the outside edge of the wood. It then rejoins the path you left to visit the wood.

13) Turn left here and turn right onto a track through woods.  You are now on your outward route. But do not turn left here at point 2.  Instead carry straight on to the road.

14) Cross the road carefully, aiming for a track which is almost straight ahead (slightly to the right)  Follow this track for about 400 metres.  Look out for a path to your left (If you keep straight ahead you come to Lower Horsebridge (C), which has pubs and a shop. Turn left and follow the path back to your start point (1)

A few years ago many of the paths you have walked were not open or were not easy to use.  Action by the Ramblers has prompted the council to get the paths open.  If you come across further problems please r