where inexactly is Chiltington Lane?

by C L Scribbler - May 2016

I get lost very easily.
It's more accurate to say - I'm never too confident where I am - in a geographical sense.

But this doesn't stress me out as it's my normal condition.

From an existentialist point of view as long as the place I'm in is reasonably comfortable I don't worry myself with thoughts about how it might be connected to other places (where I'm not). Or even whether those other places maintain their relative positions to each other. As far as I'm concerned they can all wiggle about as much as they like. The geography gene (if there is one) is probably missing in my case.

So what are my qualifications for writing this blog? - which has the title you see above...

"I've lived here for 10 years." - That kind of assertive statement would probably work if it were said by someone else.

But this is me saying it - so I wouldn't place too much reliance on that if I were you.

In an incident which I'm sometimes reminded of by members of my family I got lost in the lane when I was less than a few hundred yards from my front door - when (having thought I had correctly identified a particular railway bridge) I turned the wrong way and ended up miles away near some sort of garden shop selling orchids - which was closed as the hour was growing late.

At the time I was the adult in charge of two young children (my nephew and niece) and we had already been walking for four hours in the vicinity of the Downs (where they lived) and we were coming back home - so we thought at the bridge - and looking forward to having a rest.

That was one of the earliest occasions when I found that having a mobile phone (of the pre smartphone variety) was useful.

(I was the last adult in the UK to have a mobile phone. A fact that customers of my wife's company - who were designing mobile phones found extraordinary. Ask him what features he'd need to see in a phone to make it attractive for him to get one - they said. I gave them my list. That was in 2006. Nowadays - in 2016 - the torch app is there - but I'm still waiting for the built in electric shaver. The phone I had in this story had been a present from my Mum - for just such emergencies.)

Back at being lost...

I realized at the orchid shop that we had probably gone in the wrong direction and we were all too tired to try any more navigational experiments I phoned home and through a breaking up kind of connection tried to explain where I was.

That was not easy - because (self evidently) I didn't have a clue.

There's a noisy road here - I said. (I had had a premonition earlier that I was getting lost when I heard the car noise as we were approaching the orchid place (because Chiltington Lane is normally very very quiet).

Which road is that? - asked my wife on the phone.

I don't know. But they sell orchids.

Luckily that was enough for her to guess where we were and we got a lift home.

In my defense I have to say that I had only been living in Chiltington Lane for about 7 months at the time and since then a lot of water has flown under the bridge, many trial and error lessons have been learned from similar navigational experiments and the cumulative effect has to increase my confidence in finding my way up and down this charming little lane.

How did you ever find it in the first place? - You may be asking.

OK - my brother in law found out it existed and told me on the phone. Then the first time we came to visit I there was a satnav in the car which knew where the lane was.

The second time we came to view the house we came in a different car without a satnav and we missed the turn when we were quite close and drove around a bit. But detours of a few miles when you're in a car aren't quite as tiring as when you're on foot.

Which brings me back to... where in/exactly is it?

When trying to explain roughly where this part of the country lies I start by estimating how much of a geographical expert is the person I'm talking to?

More of an expert than you (in almost every case) I can hear you thinking.

Well, even so, I try to narrow in the explanation of where the lane is by starting with a reference which they might already know.

Do you know where London is?

(This was the start of a conversation I had with some people in the US. They had already guessed I was English or Canadian because of my accent. More likely English because they watch Downton Abbey. So we were already part of the way to knowing where here is. It's in England. Everyone knows London right? - especially if they've flown into one of the many London airports. London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick, London-Birmingham...)

Anyway if you start at London - we're in a line straight down to the coast and then you come back up a bit and we're a little way to the right.

Near Hastings?

Not quite so far.

That's a good enough explanation for people who just want to know where "here" is - but who aren't planning to use that knowledge to get here.

If people already know Brighton it's much easier.

We're about 15 or 20 minutes north of Brighton - but over towards Lewes.

Apparently (so I read in a history book so it must be true) Lewes used to be far better known than Brighton. So when people were trying to find their way to naughty Brighton (when this was starting be a fashionable place to go in the something or other century) the address would say something like "Brighton near Lewes".

If people are a bit more local - such as someone I might meet in Lewes - I'd say - It's over towards Plumpton but you get to Chiltington a mile or so before you get there.

If the person I'm talking to has a very good idea of local geography then I can more confidently say - it's between Plumpton and Cooksbridge.

Those are useful navigational beacons because not only are they places which you can get to by car - but also they have railway stations.

I'll be saying more about the railways in another note.

But to summarize where I've got so far - Chiltington Lane doesn't connect to any roads which you might know.

To get here you first have to find some very awkward and hard to find lanes which join up to better signposted roads - then if you're facing the right way (with the Downs on your left or right or straight ahead - depending which of these you have got to) then you wiggle along a bit and then all of sudden the name of the lane changes.

Coming from one direction the fact that you have arrived is confirmed by a sign.

But if you're unlucky enough to come from one of the other directions then the road sign has fallen off and all you see is some posts in a ditch.

you are not yet hereThere is some kind of directional marker at this point with various words on it which you can't guarantee you'll read as you drive around trying to avoid hitting anything coming the other way or going into a ditch.

This is at the intersection of 2 other lane names which meet at an awkward angle - so when driving along 2 of them (Wickham Lane and Beechwood Lane) you can get the false impression that you're actually continuing in a straight line along one and the same lane.

But I can assure you - you're not.

A lot of people keep driving on when they should be giving way too.

(By the way - if you know the names of those other 2 lanes already then this blog wasn't intended for navigational experts like you. You should probably be the one writing it.) Anyway at that point - where the 3 lanes (with different names) all come together in a triangle- the road sign does say something about East Chiltington. (I think it does. I'll go out later and check if it still does.)

The angle it's pointing to can be difficult to judge. So a practical hint is this.

If you see the sign which says East Chiltington and you haven't just come from Chiltington Lane and if you aren't coming from another detour (which you already have confirmed is the wrong way) then that's probably the right way to go.

About a mile up the road on your right you will encouragingly see a confirmatory sign which says unambiguously "Chiltington Lane" (hurrah!) and then you know you've just driven through it and should turn around and go back to where you've just been. That was it.

In another blog I'll give you the exact set of instructions to give visitors or delivery drivers - which take into account how high their vehicles are whether it's likely to be raining or it's a Wednesday.

well done!

Now you know how to get here you must be exhausted.

If you live here you can now make yourself a cup of tea (or something stronger) and rummage around the larder to see if you've got any cakes or biscuits or crisps uneaten. (Save some for me. I might pop along and join you later.)

But if you are intrigued by the idea of visiting and staying a bit longer I've researched and posted a list of B&Bs which are in and about the lane.

There is some navigation involved in that blog too. But it's less of a struggle as we start somewhere which by now you already know... the end of the lane which has no Chiltington Lane sign. And if you don't know where that is then you might have to reread this blog again from the beginning.

here's something else for walkers and riders

walks and rides - a book about the Bevern Sringline villagesLong time Chiltington Lane resident Mary Parker - who never gets lost around here (if you click on her name it will take you to her blog page on the South Downs web site) has written many books with local themes.

Her book Walks and Rides around the Bevern Springline Villages is "about the historic villages of Ditchling, Westmeston, Streat, Plumpton, East Chiltington, St. John Without and Hamsey. Linked by the Bevern Stream, these villages are of Saxon origin The surrounding countryside is criss-crossed with public rights of way which provide walkers, horse riders and cyclists with marvellous opportunities to enjoy fresh air, beautiful countryside and historic places." ...more about this book
Chiltington Lane sign (Highbridge end)

If you drive past this sign then you're either going towards your destination (or you might have just missed it).

Re the above sign BTW - after reviewing an earlier photo of the same sign on the home page of Chiltington Lane and remarking on the poor contrast of text to background - our intrepid photographic team was tasked with the mission of trekking back with the technology to clean it afore taking a more handsome looking close-up.

Reader I have to confess to you that the poor readability of this sign (which no doubt has confused many a wouldbe visitor who has missed it in the murkier hours of daylight and ended up in the outer wildernesses of Haywards Heath) is due to its patina.

The crumbling rusty nature of the sign therefore is part of its rustic character and a cause for celebration. We don't want a shiny new ome thank you.

Although it would be jolly nice to have one with some encouraging words on it at the other end of the road.

The photo below shows you what the Chiltington Lane sign looks like at the other end of the road where it meets Wickham Lane.

Chiltington Lane sign at junction with Wichham  Lane

Chiltington Lane OS views

I've got lost even when I was comfortably near the centre of the zone shown by the above map.

Map image from Ordnance Survey


The sign above points to some other places for - as many have discovered - East Chiltington at 1¾ miles is not Chiltington Lane.

You're really close when you see this sign.

Less than half a mile away from the centre of Chiltington Lane itself.

However it's still possible to drive for a long way the wrong way - as I discovered on my second visit while house hunting without the benefit of a satnav.

If you follow all three directions - then one of them will be right.

One out of three is pretty good odds when it comes to navigating as far as I'm concerned.

When you have correctly identified the lane (by technology or asking someone you see walking) the next tricky part is finding the right house.

The Chiltington Lane grid system and the ascending and descending order of house numbers relative to the Sussex Greensand Way underpass will be discussed in a future blog.

other signs in the lane

In the summer of 2016 there were some other signs in the lane too. They were more about keeping things as they are for future generations rather than getting onto the next destination. ...read more