A Devil's Playground
The legend of Devil's Dyke on the top of the South Downs above Brighton is far more romantic than the down-to-earth explanation offered by geologists: that Britain's largest dry valley was formed during the last Ice Age by the ebb and flow of ice over its chalk landscape.
Ancient parisoners took it as gospel that the valley was the Devil's work, carved out of the land by the Devil himself so the sea would flood the Weald and drown all its God-worshippers. Man has lived on this landscape for 5,000 years, building farmsteads in the Bronze Age and hillforts in the Iron Age to defend against invaders and then farming corn and grazing sheep at Devil's Dyke in the Middle Ages.
It is still a wild place, described by John Constable in 1824 as the grandest in the world and too wonderful to capture on canvas. It remains sparsely populated today, its wild flowers have room to flourish in particular the poppies that burst into flower and the wild orchids that are scattered across the slopes. Look to the sky and visitors to Devil's Dyke can spot skylarks, corn bunting, kestrels and even ospreys.
The lonely beauty of Devil's Dyke attracts 800,000 visitors a year, dogwalkers booked in to pet friendly accommodation, families on holiday and serious walkers who pass through while tackling the South Downs Way.
Yet the Dyke also has a close association with nearby Brighton since it is connected by a very pleasurable 30-minute scenic bus route that runs from Brighton Pier. If you want to enjoy this cosmopolitan city and escape to the expanse of the Downs at this spectacular place then here's a great way to do it.