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Hollingbury 'Castle'

View from Hollingbury Hillfort trig point
Photo by Tony Mould

Communion with nature

I love the South Downs. I love their peace and tranquillity, the communion with nature. I love to walk, run and cycle over them. What a pity that so much ancient downland pasture has been ploughed or “improved” as grassland.

Hollingbury or Balsdean?

For this ‘favourite’ I was torn between Hollingbury and Balsdean. Balsdean, east of Woodingdean, is the most tranquil spot within the city boundary. It’s remote, has a good history, and retains much ancient downland. In the summer the slopes are alive with insects gorging on the nectar of wild flowers. A wander up ‘The Snake’ reveals the sheer natural beauty of it all.

Visits in all weathers

But I’ll plump for Hollingbury as it’s much nearer home and I visit the summit in all seasons and weathers. (Called Hollingbury ‘Castle’, the summit was actually an Iron Age hill fort.) This year, when the snow was lying inches deep, my wife and I donned our headtorches, put on our spiked orienteering shoes, and went for night-time runs. We lost the familiar path and had to wade through the snow – magic!

The trig point

In the spring and summer the wild flowers appear and the gorse thickets are home to stonechats. One of my regular runs takes me across the golf course and round the ramparts to the trig point, 584 feet above the sea. The panorama can stretch to the Isle of Wight, but, with a heavy cloud just above it, the summit can also be moodily atmospheric. What a privilege to live near such a magnificent hill!

Comments about this page

  • During the summer of the 1950s, Jimmy Bristow, Varndean’s PE master, made all those not in the cricket team do an unsupervised cross country run. The course was up past the girls’ school (to mutual jeers from and to those in the tennis courts), across the golf course, round Hollingbury camp and back. Non atheletes like me, peeled off at the blackberry bushes, stuffed our faces, and joined the rear of the atheletic crocodile when it came back. The red stains on the fingers and around the mouth were dead giveaways, but Jimmy turned a blind eye, for if we had been forced to do it, he knew it would have take twice or even three times as long.

    By Roy Grant (13/05/2010)

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