Detailed information from a regular visitor

The view from the golf course
Photo by Peter Sheppard
Early purple orchid
Photo by Peter Sheppard
Sunset at Hollingbury Hillfort
Photo by Peter Sheppard

My association with this beautiful and interesting hill top site goes back over 37 years. The site enjoys commanding views all around of up to 50 miles. It’s a small oasis away from traffic, where I relax, walk my dogs and keep my sanity. If you need to get away from it all for an hour or so, then this is one place where you can do it. There is Brighton to the south and beautiful landscape to the north.

To the south, the view of the English Channel is unsurpassed. Ships using the westbound shipping lane some miles out can easily be seen. If you look to the west of Brighton, you can pick out Shoreham, Lancing and Worthing. Worthing Pier marks a turning point where the coast recedes out of view. On a clear day, the Isle of Wight is distinct. The various ships coming and going from Portsmouth can clearly be made out.

As you walk around the rim of the hill and look further to the northwest, you can see Chanctonbury Ring in the distance. You’ll make out the shape of the South Downs chalk hills: Cissbury Ring, Truliegh Hill, Devils Dyke, Ditchling Beacon, Black Cap and Lewes Race Course, all with their own distinctive beauty and importance. From a point further round, there is an uninterrupted view over Stanmer Park towards Lewes and Mount Caburn, Kingston Top and Castle Hill.

Apart from the natural beauty and views, Hollingbury Hillfort is home to an Iron Age fort. Several features of the fort are visible in the ground. There is a web page about Hollingbury Hillfort.

This hilltop site, with trees moulded by the prevailing harsh south westerly winds, can be wild in bad weather. However, there are many times when the site is far from wild. There are perfect sunrises, birds sing, butterflies are plentiful and downland flowers provide a multicoloured carpet on this chalk grassland. There are sheltered positions with microclimates hosting a diversity of species, including mosses, lichens and fungi.

Flowers and plants
Flora and fauna abound. Because of the fact that the site has not been disturbed much over the years, many species have made the it their home. One of the most important is the adopted flower of Sussex County, the Round Headed Rampion (Phyteuma tenerum). This is a rarity, its distinctive deep blue globular flower standing proud from the downland grasses. There are two small areas where the Round Headed Rampion grows, each containing about 50 plants. Also present is the Early Purple Orchid which, although common, has its own attraction. Marbled White Butterflies live side by side with Chalk Hill Blues.

Hollingbury Hillfort is a classic site for bird watching, particularly at certain times of the year when migrants/immigrants make their way over the coast either to nest in this country or to leave for warmer places. Skylarks, a declining species, are accompanied by wheatears, green woodpecker and kestrel.

A short walk around the site will take a leisurely three quarters of an hour. To enjoy the views, allow as much time as you wish! Walkers can reach the site from Ditchling Road at its junction with Woodbourne Avenue. You’ll see the Golf Course to the north east. Walk north in Ditchling Road from this point about 250yds to a footpath that goes east across the golf course to the site.

There are no refreshments at the site. Take a picnic and enjoy the day. There is a seat on the south side of the rim.

Disabled access
For the most part access is reasonable for the disabled. If you have a wheelchair there is a mostly flat firm path from the road around the site and back, although getting up onto the rim will be more difficult.

From the town centre, buses numbers 26, 46 and 46b go every 10 minutes during the day. Ask for Woodbourne Garage. £2.80 (current prices in May 2006) will get you a day’s access to all of Brighton’s Buses

There’s a car park at the road junction on the south east side. Access to Ditchling Road is from the Brighton bypass at the Hollingbury turn off.

Comments about this page

  • Well done Peter, but why no comments! It is truly a magical place with outstanding views in all directions. As a birdwatcher I remember some good days in the 1970’s with migrant birds in good numbers – much larger numbers than there are around these days. The trig point was the spot chosen to view one of the area’s important birding moments – when the unprecented influx of Honey Buzzards occurred at the end of September, 2000. Other interesting birds seen on the hillfort have been Hoopoe and Red-backed Shrike. The Early Purple Orchids have been one of the successes after the planned strimming of the scrub here by the Council. The most counted were 3,140 on 9 May 2006. Some established garden escapes are here too – Aquilegia and Yellow Foxglove, also a patch of Asparagus!

    By Peter (22/07/2009)
  • A Day Saver bus ticket now costs £4.70 for the day of travel. Use as many as you wish.

    By Malcolm Cook (18/11/2014)
  • I’m not an ornithologist but I remember so clearly the times – as a child – that my two cousins and I spent playing at the Hill Fort. The views from there are stunning and the aroma in the air of the grass, the chalk and a kind of sage smell are with me to this day.  In fact when driving along a highway north of Dallas, Texas, a few years ago, I had the window down and was instantly transported back to Hollingbury Fort.  The aromas were identical.  It just might have been a result of the chalk bedrock and black soil and the kind of plants and grasses that it supports that produced that familiar aroma.

    By Phil Allsopp (25/01/2015)
  • I grew up in Hollingbury, and my sister and I used to walk all over this area as children, dodging golf balls as we went! I remember the yellowhammers (“a little bit of bread and no cheeeeese!”), and a black moth with red spots that I know now as a burnet. Happy, simple times.

    By Janet Beal (26/01/2015)
  • I’ve just been to the fort for the summer solstice and it was very easy to envisage our ancestors doing the same, despite the slight traffic noise and Shoreham power station chimney.

    By Andrew Coleman (21/06/2015)
  • My family moved to Carden Hill in 1947, and as the Hollingbury council estate was still being constructed. we used to play on the building sites. Climbing ladders onto scaffolding. In the piles of sand, that were used by the bricklayers in their mortar, we built sandcastles and fashioned roads for our toy cars to ‘drive’ along. Seemingly unconstrained by issues of health and safety, we Hollingbury kids used the estate as our playground. When we tired of playing football in the street, (in those days our games would only, and rarely, be interrupted by an occasional car), we would wander up to the Hollingbury golf course and play on, as it was then widely known, the Roman Camp. Does anybody else remember it by this name?

    By Harold Lawrence (16/11/2019)
  • Hi. Although I never lived on the Hollingbury estate, I married a girl who did and had a schoolmate who lived some 4 doors away in Carden Avenue almost opposite the Snipe. As a kid (b 1938) I remember the estate being built just after the war and the German POWs that helped build it. They used to make toy out of scraps of wood etc and also sort of plimsoles with soles made of string.
    Much later Carden School was built and the first factories, such as Underwoods the typewriter firm. Later still came the trolleybuses with thir attendant poles and wires. The No 46 ended up at the roundabout near the factories and the 46 became a 26 for the return journey to the Old Steine, returning via the top of the estate and then down Preston Drove. Before the trolleys the BH&D bus No 35 started, I think, from Wilmington Way and then up the tortuous Braybon Avenue having to double de-clutch on the steepest bit down into 1st gear with a grinding of the gearbox.

    By John Snelling (22/11/2019)

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