Devil’s Dyke

Due, in part, to the nature of the flowing hills and valleys that make up Brighton & Hove, there are several places that offer absolutely breathtaking views. Those from Brighton Racecourse, Foredown Tower in Portslade and the top of Ditchling Road are certainly amongst the finest. Most are due to the variance in height of the land though some are completely man-made, such as that from the top of the tallest building in town, Sussex Heights. Of all these great vantage points, it must be said, that the view from Devil’s Dyke on the South Downs is without doubt the finest.

It is said that the Devil began digging a dyke through the Downs in order to flood the Weald (the portion of Sussex north of the Downs) because he was furious about there being so many churches in the area. An old woman saw what was going on, lit a candle and put it in her window. She then knocked her sleepy cockerel off its perch so that it crowed, thinking that it was the morning. The Devil thought that dawn had arrived, threw down his spade and kicked a hefty boulder. The boulder sailed over the hills into Hove and became the Goldstone.

I’m not quite sure that I believe that entire story as it is more probable that the spectacular Dyke, a large gash in the hills, was carved by tremendous amounts of water flowing from the Downs during the Ice Age. Although the Dyke itself is particularly enchanting, people generally travel up there for the viewpoint over the Weald which is 711 feet above sea level. It is in fact possible to see as far away as Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

A popular railway line to the Dyke from Hove was opened in 1887 and closed in 1938. The same engineer, Charles Blaber, was also responsible for a steep line to Poynings that opened in 1897 and closed in 1908. In 1894, an aerial cableway was installed 230 feet above the ravine which closed in 1901. Hang-gliding is the most popular form of life-risking at the Dyke today.

My descriptions of the view from Devil’s Dyke in no way do it justice so please go and see for yourself if you haven’t already. And remember, if you happen to go at night, be sure to bring a torch – and a cockerel!