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A historic hike through medieval landscapes — Sussex Border Path

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A historic hike through medieval landscapes — Sussex Border Path

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

10-22

days

3-6 h

/ day

156 mi

8,575 ft

8,575 ft

The Sussex Border Path is a long-distance hiking route that winds through a medieval landscape of rolling wooded hills, wildflower grasslands, pastoral farmland, and historic towns and villages.

The 156-mile (251 km) route loosely follows the inland Sussex border between Hampshire, Surrey and Kent, respectively, if you hike west to east. The route, which deviates from the exact border somewhat to include the most scenic trails, cuts through the heart of the South Downs National Park and the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Starting from Emsworth, the trail begins with a loop of Thorney Island. It then takes you northeast across the South Downs to South Harting and Liphook before heading to Gospel Green, Rudgwick, Gatwick and East Grinstead. The final part winds southeast through the High Weald back to the coast at Rye.

You can expect varied walking and wonderful views for much of the route. Wildlife-spotting opportunities are good, too, and you see countless Grade I-listed buildings.

Highlights along the way include: St Hubert’s, a picturesque 10th-century church with Saxo-Norman origins; Harting Down, one of the largest areas of ancient chalk downland in Britain; Black Down, the highest point in West Sussex; Lowfield Heath Windmill, a pretty 18th-century mill; East Grinstead, an historic market town with one of the longest stretches of 14th-century timber-framed buildings in England; Bodiam Castle, a mighty 14th-century fortress; and Rye, another wonderfully-historic town with one of the oldest pubs in England.

In this Collection, I divide the route into 14 stages between 8.3 miles (13.4 km) and 13.9 miles (22.4 km) long. Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with or walk any single stage. You are relatively well-served by accommodation and public transport en route. The choice of which direction to walk the trail is entirely yours, as both work well.

The Sussex Border Path mainly follows farm tracks over rolling open country. There are a few steep climbs here and there but nothing too severe or lengthy. As such, it is a good choice for seasoned long-distance walkers and intermediate hikers alike.

Getting to and from both ends of the trail by public transport is very easy as Emsworth and Rye have train stations and bus connections.

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Sussex Border Path

141 mi

7,675 ft

7,675 ft

Last updated: November 5, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Intermediate
    03:43
    9.16 mi
    2.5 mph
    50 ft
    50 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The first stage takes you on a full loop of Thorney Island, a beautiful peninsula that extends into Chichester Harbour.

    

    Thorney Island was used as an RAF Station until 1976 and has remained free from development ever since. Whilst the military do still own a portion of the island, you can walk right around

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:50
    11.2 mi
    2.3 mph
    850 ft
    525 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You visit some wonderfully historic sites on this hike, including a picturesque 10th-century church and a 16th-century thatched pub.

    

    Upping the ante from the previous stage, this hike is 11.2 miles (18 km) long with 850 feet (259 m) of uphill and 525 feet (160 m) of downhill.

    

    To begin, you leave Emsworth

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  • Difficult
    06:08
    13.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,200 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This hike takes you through the heart of the South Downs National Park, where spectacular views over stunning countryside await.

    

    The most challenging hike in the itinerary, Stage 3 is 13.9 miles (22.4 km) long with 1,200 feet (366 m) of ascent and 1,150 feet (351 m) of descent. (For a suggestion on how

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:33
    12.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,000 ft
    575 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Expect glorious views over the Sussex Weald on this hike, which follows sandy tracks over Marley Common and Black Down.

    

    Another challenging stage, this hike is 12.8 miles (20.6 km) long with 1,000 feet (305 m) of uphill and 575 feet (175 m) of downhill.

    

    You leave Rake on country lanes before skirting

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:54
    13.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    450 ft
    1,125 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage follows a ridge along the boundary between Sussex and Surrey, affording fine views into both counties.

    

    Marking the last of the most challenging hikes in this Collection, Stage 5 is 13.9 miles (22.4 km) long with 450 feet (137 m) of uphill and 1,125 feet (343 m) of downhill.

    

    After a steep descent

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:41
    11.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    650 ft
    400 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 6 winds through a pretty patchwork of farmland and woodland to the picturesque village of Rusper.

    

    With relatively gentle walking throughout, this hike should feel leisurely compared to the last three stages at 11 miles (17.7 km) long with 650 feet (198 m) of ascent and 400 feet (122 m) of descent

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    03:28
    8.33 mi
    2.4 mph
    150 ft
    375 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This leisurely stage visits a mysterious windmill and explores villages and towns with historic buildings and excellent pubs.

    

    The easiest hike in the Collection, Stage 7 is 8.3 miles (13.4 km) long with 150 feet (46 m) of uphill and 375 feet (114 m) of downhill.

    

    You leave Rusper to the east before veering

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:49
    11.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    475 ft
    300 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Pretty countryside combines with some exquisite historic architecture on this hike.

    

    After a leisurely previous stage, Stage 8 is more challenging at 11.5 miles (18.5 km) long with 475 feet (145 m) of uphill and 300 feet (91 m) of downhill.

    

    The stage starts with a little section alongside the motorway

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  • Intermediate
    03:41
    8.42 mi
    2.3 mph
    600 ft
    750 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage takes you into the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), one of the finest medieval landscapes in Northern Europe.

    

    With 8.4 miles (13.5 km) of distance, 600 feet (183 m) of ascent and 750 feet (229 m) of descent, you should find this a fairly leisurely hike.

    

    You start by exploring

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:32
    10.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    550 ft
    600 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores a beautiful country estate and makes a whistle-stop at a 16th-century pub that was once a smugglers’ stronghold.

    

    Upping the ante a little from the previous hike, Stage 10 is 10.6 miles (17.1 km) long with 550 feet (168 m) of uphill and 600 feet (183 m) of downhill.

    

    As you leave Cowden

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  • Intermediate
    04:50
    10.8 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,125 ft
    850 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage winds east through the stunning High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the picturesque market town of Wadhurst.

    

    With 10.8 miles (17.4 km) of distance, 1,125 feet (343 m) of uphill and 850 feet (259 m) of downhill, this is an intermediate hike across a gently-undulating landscape

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:27
    10.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    500 ft
    550 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    A glorious waterside hike awaits on this stage, which winds around the northern shore of Bewl Water for the most part.

    

    Following well-maintained paths and with no hills of note, this 10.5-mile (16.9 km) hike should feel relatively leisurely. This stage has 500 feet (152 m) of ascent and 550 feet (168

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:29
    12.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    775 ft
    1,025 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You visit a mighty 14th-century castle and admire vintage steam trains roaring through the countryside on this enchanting hike.

    

    Upping the ante from the last couple of stages, this hike is 12.7 miles (20.4 km) long with 775 feet (236 m) of uphill and 1,025 feet (312 m) of downhill.

    

    You leave Flimwell

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:49
    11.6 mi
    2.4 mph
    225 ft
    375 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The Sussex Border Path finishes with a wonderful hike along the River Rother into the medieval town of Rye.

    

    A firmly intermediate conclusion to the itinerary, Stage 14 is 11.6 miles (18.7 km) long with 225 feet (69 m) of ascent and 375 feet (114 m) of descent.

    

    To begin, you hike east from Northiam through

    by Dan Hobson

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    14
  • Distance
    156 mi
  • Duration
    66:53 h
  • Elevation
    8,575 ft8,575 ft

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A historic hike through medieval landscapes — Sussex Border Path

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