urban75 walk club: Brighton and Devil's Dyke (part 1)
Report and pics © urban75 editor, May 2005
Organised by Eme, this was one of the most pleasant walks so far, taking in Brighton beach before catching a vintage open top bus to Devil's Dyke, and then walking the South Downs through the pleasant hamlets of Poynings and Fulking.
Brighton railway station
The London & Brighton Railway reached the seaside resort in September 1841, with over 3,500 men and 570 horses used in the construction. The railway wasn't cheap to build, costing £2,634,059 (£57,262 per mile).
The railway station stands on an artificial plateau at the top of Trafalgar Street, with the terminus building being completed on the 21st September 1841.
The Italianate style station was created by the architect David Mocatta who was charged with designing all the original stations on the line (sadly, Brighton is the only one still surviving).
The recently refurbished cast iron and glass train shed rises to 22m (75ft) above the platforms and was erected in 1882/3.
Giant ice cream cone and deckchairs
View of striped deckchairs and a large plastic icecream cone on the bustling Brighton seafront.
Windsurfer and old West Pier, Brighton
Designed as a promenade pier by Eugenius Birch, Brighton West Pier opened in April 1863.
Originally only sporting an open deck with small Oriental-style ornamental houses, a couple of toll houses and pier head glass screens to protect visitors from the elements, a central bandstand was added in 1875.
Ruins of the West Pier, Brighton
Throughout the 1880's improvements were made to the pier, with weather screens first being added along the full length of the structure, followed by the construction of a large pavilion and, finally, by a graceful concert hall in 1916.
The landing stages (added in 1894) provided a terminus for steamboats travelling to France, the Isle of Wight, Bournemouth, Weymouth and Dover.
Disused walkway on to the West Pier from the Brighton Promenade,
During its glory days of the 1920s, the pier had its own resident orchestra (Elgar had conducted there) with the theatre presenting plays, pantomimes and ballets all year round.
The pier was held up as an example of English seaside architecture at its finest, with its concert hall and theatre once being two of the best surviving examples of Victorian and Edwardian seaside entertainment buildings.
Crumbling ruins of the West Pier slowly all into the sea
In 1965, the Grade I listed pier was taken over by AVP Industries who wanted to demolish the south end. When they were refused permission, the pier was closed on September 30, 1975.
After closure, the much loved pier suffered a slow, terminal decline, hastened by heavy storms in December 2002 causing major damage to the structure.
A hugely suspicious fire on the morning of March 28 2003 completely engulfed the southern end of the pier, with fire services unable to reach the location to control the fire.
If there was any remote chance that the first fire was accidental, there can be no doubt that the second fire that broke out on Sunday May 11 2003 was an act of arson.
Started in the early hours of the morning, the fire continued to burn throughout the next day, destroying what was left of the pier and leaving only a metal skeleton.
The final blow came on June 23 2004, when high winds and heavy seas brought about the collapse of the middle section of the frame, laving just the the dome of the old concert hall visible above the waves.
On 12th April 2005, the West Pier Trust sadly acknowledged that their 30 year struggle to restore the old West Pier had ended in failure.
Sunbather, Brighton beach
A lone sunbather relaxes in a deckchair and watches a wind surfer pass by.
Group shot on Brighton Beach
The walking crew relax in the glorious May sunshine. The weather forecasts had been gtim all week, with the BBC emphatically insisting that cloud and rain were on the way for several days. Happily, they got it completely wrong!
View from the promenade, Brighton beach
A peaceful scene on Brighton Beach.
Devil's Dyke bus arriving on the Promenade
Brighton and Hove buses run an open-top vintage bus up to Devil's Dyke as a regular service, although their timetable ominously noted that sometimes modern buses may be substituted.
Happily, we got the real thing!
On our way to Devil's Dyke - and I'd managed to 'bagsy' the front seat!
The bus conductor was an affable fellow, cheerily collecting fares for the journey. Top dude!
Front seat view from the bus
There were spectacular views of the South Downs to be had as our vintage bus rumbled over the hillside.
Arriving at Devil's Dyke
The bus drove along a picturesque country lane that terminated by Devil's Dyke.
We partook in a swift ale while we waited to hook up with some chums arriving by car.
View from Devil's Dyke, South Downs
There were spectacular views on offer as soon as we stepped off the bus, with southern England stretching for miles ahead of us.
The rather bland Devil's Dyke pub/restaurant stands inside an Iron Age Hill Fort, once a popular Victorian sightseeing destination.
Footpath, Devil's Dyke, South Downs
The South Downs are a 379-square-mile range of chalk hills that stretch from Beachy Head, Sussex to Winchester in Hampshire.
Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966, walkers, horse riders and cyclists can take advantage of a 161km national trail, called the South Downs Way, which follows old droving trails across the chalk ridges and undulating chalk valleys.
The southern remnant of a prehistoric ridge that once stretched across the Weald to the North Downs, the layers of chalk can be up to 1,400 feet thick, with the Downs spreading out up to ten miles wide east of Brighton.