A circular trek of 5km (3.1 Miles) rising up 81m (266 ft) to the top of Highdown Hill which on a clear day will give some amazing views across Worthing to Beachy Head in the East and the Isle of Wight in the West. The walk starts in the car park at the base of the hill however a shorter route can be taken by parking at the higher car park approximately half way to the top.
Over the road from the car park and behind the hedge is the footpath that ascends Highdown, it follows the edge of an arable field and leads firstly to the upper car park at 43m high. With the entrance on the left a visit could be made to ‘Highdown Gardens’, these were once the grounds of the nearby hotel. The gardens started their creation in 1909 in one of the many disused chalk pits by Sir Frederick Stern and his wife, owner then of the Highdown Hotel, He developed the site until his death in 1967. In 1970 the gardens were passed to Worthing Borough Council who since the mid 1970s have restored them to Sterns’ original design.
From the gardens head on upwards until reaching an unmissable burial chamber known as the ‘Millers Tomb’. So called after the miller ‘John Olliver’, who In the 18th century had this tomb built 27 yrs before he actually died in 1793. Many claim that he was the leader of local smugglers and used the tomb to store contraband. He would arrange the sails of his windmill at varying angles to indicate the absence of customs men to his fellow smugglers out at sea. The mill is said to have been damaged in a storm and since demolished, however the brick base of the mill can be seen as a mound at the south west corner of the hill fort.
Take the downward path a short way, then follow westwards along the lower part of the hill, the path passes many disused chalk pits and gives some great views across Worthing. The Highdown vineyard can be seen nestled on the lower south slopes, with great soil and plenty of sun, this working vineyard produces both still and sparkling English Wines. Further along can be seen the Roundstone Farm that got its name from an incident with a runaway millstone rolling down the hill following an accident.
Just past the large chalky escarpment, the path continues west and is then shielded from the hill behind a hedge, giving refuge to many birds. Before long Ecclesden Mill comes into view and is situated just above Ecclesden Manor. This brick tower mill is said to have been built shortly after the demise of John Olliver’s mill in 1826, Milling ceased at Ecclesden Mill in 1872 and the sails were blown off in a storm in 1880. It has since been renovated and is now a private residence.
Walk northwards past the mill and then head up the hill on the well worn track to the top at 81m. The Bronze age saw the first settlers and a hill fort was constructed in the early iron age. Later on, this site also became an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and a number of unusual glass objects can now be seen in Worthing Museum. In more modern times the ancient archaeology of the site has been considerable damaged by a radar station that was built During World War II and many uprooted trees following the Great Storm of 1987.
On heading back down the hill, take a break in the Highdown Hotel built in 1820 as the family home of the Lyons family. In 1909 the house and surrounding grounds were bought by Major Stern and his wife, who’s surname was used as the name of a night club in the 80’s. A short descent from here leads back to the car park at the start.