Second World War Woodingdean Walk; 19th January

Spot the difference! Two WWII photos taken from what is now the playing fields of Woodingdean Primary School:
Top, ARP taking a break from the Blitz bombing on Brighton from their First Aid post in the converted barns next door.
Below, Woodingdean’s first church has been completed, and the East Sussex War Ag. Committee has demanded that The Meadow should be put to the plough.
Photos; above, a screenshot from Brighton’s Blitz, 1940 film, viewable via BFI Player; below, photograph courtesy of the Holland, Mercer Collection of Woodingdean and Balsdean.

On Wednesday, 19 January, 10:00 am, I will be leading a guided history walk through Woodingdean — an accessible wander back into Woodingdean’s Second World War past. All being well, I hope to be joined by some older Woodingdeaners who were young children at the time of the war. They include Woodingdean local history author, Peter Mercer, and my mother, Peggy Cuthbertson.

To be told are stories of evacuees, the Home Guard, the best shops to spend your sweet ration on, Emperor Haile Salassie’s favourite fish and chip shop, the Queen’s visit (our present Queen’s mother), the tragic shooting of Gnr. Prince at the Downs Hotel, and much more.

The walk starts at the Downs Hotel bus stop (corner of Downsway and Warren Road), Woodingdean, opposite the Church of the Holy Cross (map). Buses 2, 22 stop here from Brighton and the 52 bus stops nearby. Car parking is best at Castle Hill National Nature Reserve Car Park, Woodingdean, off Falmer Road (B2123), just north of the junction with Bexhill Road. Grid reference TQ356063. The Woodingdean Community Centre Car Park is nearer but is often full.

We will start at 10am and I have estimated 2 hours (there may be a lot of shared reminiscences!) to cover a distance of a little over half a mile of easy walking between the Downs Hotel and the Lawn Cemetery bus stop. From here you can either;

  • Catch a bus back to Brighton,
  • Or, return back to the start,
  • Or, for those who are fitter, we can continue on up the hill to the start of the Racehill, returning via an accessible tarmacked path along the back of Woodingdean, with more Second War World history along the way, including the crash sites of three different planes in the fields of Upper Bevendean Farm to the north of Woodingdean. They included one of our very best Battle of Britain flying ace’s — a Czech, Josef František, who flew with the RAF’s 303 Squadron. This longer walk totals just two miles and I hope to finish it before 1pm.

May I also propose the Downs Hotel for drinks or lunch, at 1pm, for a post-walk informal chat. Other cafes are also available. Toilets are available for customers in the Downs Hotel and in local cafes, or just inside the main doors of the church.

The walk is organised by Brighton & Hove Council’s Healthwalks team. New walkers are asked to register either:

Please remember that Woodingdean can get very cold, so dress up warm, and please be Covid safe.

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