Walking London to Brighton


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Last year I created a walking route across London – the North to South Trail from Cockfosters in the far north to Carshalton in the south, on the cusp of Surrey Hills. But then I thought, why stop there? Wouldn’t it be fun to continue the walk to the coast? A plan was formed. I quickly selected Brighton as the end destination due to its popularity and easy links back to London.

Time for some research. I could only find one existing London to Brighton route starting at Richmond and going more or less directly south, ending at Brighton racecourse. This is often walked as a continuous or 2 – 4 day challenge of 100k and usually used for charity walks. So it has some pleasant sections but it’s not designed for leisure – ie to incorporate the most scenic / interesting bits or be linked to transport in easy manageable day sections.

The start of the route was already fixed at Carshalton Beeches station (as that’s where my North South Trail route ended) and the iconic Brighton Pier seemed a fitting end point. My aim was to access as much of the most scenic rural countryside in Surrey and Sussex as possible and to avoid major towns and urban sprawl where I could. It took some time to work out how to get from A to B in manageable day sections and involved some early morning trips out to test elements out before finally walking the whole route this summer and making minor adjustments on the way.

There are seven sections, all linked to train stations as follows:

Carshalton Beeches to Kingswood

Stage one  7.5 miles

This section quickly climbs up the North Downs, leaving views behind to London. It’s a perfect walk for July as you pass by not one but two lavender fields (Oakfield and Mayfield), both of which are accessible from the footpath. The route also goes through ancient Banstead Woods, a medieval deer park which, it was believed, once belonged to Ann Boleyn.

Kingswood to Box Hill

Stage two 8.7 miles

In this section, you leave any signs of London’s urban sprawl behind, crossing the M25 and continuing through rolling hills to the lovely Headley Heath and up to the top of Box Hill with commanding views over Surrey and Sussex to the South Downs.

Box Hill to Ockley

Stage three  11.7 miles

This was my favourite! The route rises up through massive Denbies Vineyard to the top of Ranmore Common, then heads steeply down to Westcott before climbing again slowly through dense woodland. This section feels a long way from London. The route passes by the delightful Leigh Tower, the summit of which is the highest point in South East England, according to the National Trust.

Ockley to Horsham

Stage four  9.1 miles

An easy section with gentle inclines. The route initailly winds around the secluded Vann Lake and on through pleasant countryside and after a short while, passes into West Sussex and then through Warnham Deer Park (many red deer!) before reaching Horsham, which was an unexpected pleasure, with its very pretty historic centre.

Horsham to Haywards Heath

Stage five 13 miles

This is the longest section and passes through the expansive St Leonard’s Forest, beautiful historical Slaugham village and then via Cuckfield to Haywards Heath with views of the South Downs on the way, getting closer!

Haywards Heath to Hassocks

Stage six  10.5 miles

Rolling down to the South Downs. This walk follows paths through surprisingly rural sections of Haywards Heath out into the Sussex countryside and ends right at the base of the now towering South Downs.

Hassocks to Brighton

Stage seven  10.1 miles

The final stretch and probably the most scenic and varied. After passing through pretty Clayton with its ancient church, the path rises sharply up the South Downs to the Jack and Jill Windmills. Then across the rolling South Downs and some woodland to emerge 10 minutes from the seafront in Kemp Town. From here, it’s a breezy walk along the seafront to finish at Brighton Pier. DONE!

The London to Brighton extension of the North South London Trail will be going live January 2024, so watch this space!

by Lucy Maddison

I am co founder of the Walking Post website. I love maps, planning routes , walking them with friends and discovering new and interesting places. My day job is a web designer at Lucy Maddison Design.

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