Exploring the route of the old Dyke Railway: Part XI

The boys peddle on up the 1 in 40 incline towards Brighton & Hove Golf Course, which they can see on the hill in the distance, the thought of Skeleton Hovel in the forefront of their minds.

Flora and fauna
Plants grow slowly on these well drained chalk hills, this is because the soil of the Downs is very thin.  One of the most unusual plants to grow here is Round Headed Rampion, which is know as “Pride of Sussex,” as it only grows in this area.  Also herbs like thyme and marjoram thrive here and surprisingly chicory, which can be used to make a kind of coffee.  It will also surprise most local people, that within a few hundred yards of the busy A27 Brighton by-pass, deer roam freely on Brighton and Hove Golf Course.  These timid creatures can mainly be seen in the evening, when golfers have retired to the 19th hole!

A golfing encounter
The boys reach the golf club, lock their bikes to a fence post and quietly walk over to the first tee box, where two gentlemen are preparing to tee-off.  The first, an overweight middle-aged man dressed in plus fours, wiggles his bum as he addresses the ball, which makes the boys laugh.  He swings at the ball with a large driver, thwack, and the ball sails down the middle of the fairway into the far distance, a perfect shot.  The second athletically built man addresses his ball and takes an almighty swing, ping, his driver sends the ball vertically skywards, with little distance.  “Shoot,” he exclaims, “that was your fault you boys, you put me off!  What the bloody hell are you doing here anyway?”  With childish honesty Tom replies, “We’re looking for Skeleton Hovel!”.  “Well you’ve bloody well found it, it’s where my bloody ball’s landed, in that hollow!”

Skeleton Hovel
The overweight golfer, quite smug as his opponent is now in a difficult position, manages to calm his partner down.  “Look they didn’t do anything, they were quiet, it wasn’t their fault.”  The athletic golfer wanders off towards the hollow to find his ball, cussing under his breath as he goes.  Feeling brave, as the situation has calmed, Tom asks the overweight golfer about Skeleton Hovel.  Now in a strong position on the very first hole, he is happy to help, and explains that the old flint barn and the deep hollow, where the ball has landed, are known as Skeleton Hovel.  “Before the golf course was laid out, during farming excavations, lots of human bones were found, exactly in that hollow, where my friends ball landed.  These proved to be from an ancient burial site, and since then it’s been called Skeleton Hovel.”

Brighton & Hove Golf Course
Brighton & Hove Golf Course is the oldest course in Sussex, having opened in October 1887, just a month after the railway opened.  The boys leave the golfers to their game and wander off to the club house to enquire about the station platform and electric bell.  A number of local history books record the platform as being 50 yards from the club house and that the bell, to warn golfers of an imminent train, as being still retained in the bar.  At the reception they know little about either, “the only bell in the club, is the bell in the bar to call last orders, and it’s certainly not electric,” they are told.  The man points westwards, “Apparently the platform is over in that direction, but I’ve never seen it,” he mutters.

Comparing the view to the virtual map
The boys search the old railway trail in the area adjacent to the golf club and find a pile of rubble, it looks more like fly tipping than the remains of the old platform.  Tiarnan sits down in the long dry grass and boots up the laptop, whilst the boys gather round.  On the virtual view there’s nothing remotely like a platform within 50 yards.  Tiarnan increases the search area, but there is nothing to be found, it looks very much like the platform has been demolished!

Comments about this page

  • Still following with interest. What a shame that sometimes we have no time to give to the young. Is the golf more important than good manners. Well done the lads, good, healthy exercise, teamwork and a contribution to community history. I applaud you.

    By Jeremy Homeward (17/01/2010)
  • Hi there – just stumbled across your site whilst looking for something else. I live in Hangleton and have always struggled to visualise “the gap” between Rowan Avenue and The Downsman pub. I will look at that in a from now on. With regard to the platform for Golf Halt – it is a lot more than fifty yards. Keep going down into the field following the line of the top hedge. Maybe as much as 300 yards in you will be by a thicket on your right. Peer through the bushes and you will see the brickwork of the platform edge. The down side to this is that it is private ground.  I found it by mistake a few years back while photographing the harvest which I had the farmers agreement to be doing. I have got a (very bad) picture that I took that day if you want to drop me a line I will have a look for it. All the best

    By Keith Duke (17/01/2010)
  • You can find the location of the tip by looking at this photo.Where the track is overgrown with trees on the bottom right hand side. It was about 20 feet deep all along that area and the trucks drove in from the top end.

    By Myke Rosenthal-English (26/02/2013)
  • Just as a matter of record, in the 1960s-1970s, not far North from the club house along one of the trackways or the old railway line itself there used to live an old woman called Rosa who my parents said was a Hungarian gypsy. We knew her because we kept our horses in the fields to the north of the club house. We got my childhood cat from Rosa when I was 4, so around 1971. She lived in a line of old huts which could have been disused railway carriages. Did anyone else know of her existence?

    By Jon Silver (28/02/2019)
  • I remember the old huts, they were actually on the track that ran from the golf club north to Dyke Road, adjacent/parallel to ,but 80 yards from the railway track. I didn’t know who lived there but your description, “line of old huts” is correct as I remember it, with a few animals in the field in front!

    By Mr Peter Groves (01/03/2019)

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