Ditchling Beacon may be the best known climb in Sussex - but there are plenty more lung-burners to test your legs
Home to the South Downs National Park and the High Wealth Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sussex has no shortage of seriously tough climbs on which to test your legs.
While the counties of East and West Sussex may not be known for their high peaks, the climbs are short yet sharp, making them tough, explosive, out-of-the-saddle efforts.
Here are our top ten picks of the toughest climbs Sussex has to offer.
Home to the Brighton Mitre CC double hill climb, Steyning Bostal is a classic British hill which sales Bostal Road, starting from the town of Steyning – hence its name.
It’s another climb of two parts, with an initial rise that peaks at 18 per cent giving way to a flat section 400m in length. You’ll need to use this to gather your strength, because at the 1km mark you’ll rise up again to a grade of 20 per cent that doesn’t relent until the end of the climb some 500m later.
We won’t blame you if you decide to descend down the other side for coffee by the sea in Lancing or Worthing, but consider returning back up the way you came down, up Titch Hill (see the climb on Strava here) – there’s nothing ‘titchy’ about it!
Distance: 1.5km Average gradient: 8 per cent Maximum gradient: 20 per cent
No list of the toughest climbs in Sussex can be without Ditchling Beacon – the climb which serves as a sting in the tail for the annual London to Brighton ride.
Ditchling Beacon is the highest climb in East Sussex, and has a road to the summit to match it. The climb was scaled in 2014 by the Tour of Britain, and as such the top ten on the Strava leaderboard is dominated by pro riders – with the current KOM being held by Lars Petter Nordhaug.
Nordhaug completed his ascent in 3:57, at an average speed of 22.3km/h,, which is seriously quick for a 1.4km climb that averages nine per cent and pitches up to 16 per cent.
Ditchling Beacon is a rolling climb and it’s that inconsistency which makes it tricky, with a series of plenty of false flats interrupting your rhythm. You might think you can use these easings as a rest, but don’t be so sure. They only last for 100m at a time, which means you’ll be heading sharply skyway again before you’ve had a chance to catch your breath at the top, which offers far-reaching views back over the count. A real lung burner.
Distance: 1.4km Average gradient: Nine per cent Maximum gradient: 16 per cent
Ditchling Beacon may be the best known climb round these parts but it’s not the only way up the ridge. While Ditchling Beacon can be busy with traffic, Streat Bostal is a little-known alternative on a tarmacked bridleway which climbs the same ridge as its big brother.
Streat Bostal is a shorter, more direct ascent, with one left switchback turn as it carves its way up the hillside. The turn breaks the ascent in two; first, you’ll spend the first three hundred metres to this point steadily increasing your pitch, before levelling off around the corner.
Then the road kicks again to a stinging 25 per cent in places, only slightly easing as you approach the top. It’s only 850m long, this climb, but if Ditchling Becon is a lung burner, then this is a treat for your legs instead.
Distance: 0.8km Average gradient: 12 per cent Steepest gradient: 25 per cent
Bignor Hill has a reputation of being a bit of a wall, and starts at the small town of Bignor, just off the A29. It takes one of the protruding edges of the hill up to Sutton Down, and as such hits you almost immediately.
However, the initial pitches of 20 per cent give way very gradually to slightly easier gradients as you climb. Don’t be fooled, though, the easiest it gets is five per cent, which is still enough when you’ve been buttered up at the bottom.
Slightly further around the ridge (westwards) sits Glatting Lane, which takes one of the lower rises on the hillside at first, before turning left to continue its ascent to the top. Here you’ll experience a 10 per cent average and 16 per cent peak as the road takes a longer route to the summit.
Distance: 1.1km Average gradient: 12 per cent Steepest gradient: 20 per cent
Bo Peep Lane
Bo Peep Lane is a climb that only gets harder from its start point from the A27, between Selmeston and Alciston. Because the second half gradually rises up to 20 per cent, you’ll need to gather and maintain as much speed as you can over the first kilometre.
Then you need to dig in as you pass Old Coach Road path, because you’ll swing left and then right as the severity of the ridge dictates the direction of the road. There’s only one way up from here, and you’ll need to attack it to maintain your hard-earned speed.
Bo Peep Lane is an out-and-back climb, ending at a car park at the top, so the only reason you’ll take on this ascent is for the join – and pain.
Alternatively, you can try Firle Bostal (head further westwards from Selmeston to find the base – or see it on Strava here), which takes a similar profile to Bo Peep Lane. The steeper grades are slightly more spread out though, building to a maximum of 18 per cent, while the initial run up is shorter.
Distance: 1.9km Average gradient: Seven per cent Maximum gradient: 20 per cent
High ‘n’ Over (Alfriston Road)
High ‘n’ Over is swinging left hander which skirts the basin created by the Cuckmere River as it winds its way towards the sea. You can approach it along Alfriston Road, off the A27 just eastwards from Bo Peep Lane.
This climb is a point-and-squirt affair: at 800m in length it proceeds straight up after the initial left hand bend at an average of 10 per cent, with a peak grade of 18 per cent seen very near the top. There’s not much pacing to be had on this one – just gun it from the bottom.
The reward for getting over the top is a direct road into the town of Seaford, with great views of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs.
Distance: 0.8km Average gradient: Ten per cent Maximum gradient: 18 per cent
Butts Brow is another climb, like High ‘n’ Over, that points towards the sky with no rest. At one kilometre in length, and an average gradient of 13 per cent that gets up to 19 per cent in spots, it’s hard enough to trouble the most hardened of hill climbers.
From the north western edge of the suburbs of Eastbourne, as you leave the town take a left off Wish Hill, and you’ll be faced immediately with those stinging inclines. There’s little space to build any momentum, so this can become a real grinder of a climb.
If you choose to ride this, bear in mind that it’s not a pass, so the road simply runs out at the top, giving way to footpaths and bridleways. So perhaps this is one to do just before turning back a coffee stop on the seafront in Eastbourne town.
Distance: 1km Average gradient: 13 per cent Maximum gradient: 19 per cent
Kidd’s Hill (The Wall)
While Bignor Hill has a reputation as a wall, Kidd’s Hill is actually known locally as ‘The Wall’, indicating how tough it is. At 1.5km in length, it’s one of the longest climbs in our list, and at eight per cent average it’s take no prisoners for its entire length.
What makes the wall really tough is how the gradient starts from the very bottom, and only really gets harder as you rise up – reaching a peak of 16 per cent at the 1km mark. After this it eases slightly, finishing off with a four per cent gradient in the last 250m. The climb is dead-straight, too, which gives the sense that it will never end.
Make it part of a loop to take in the Ashdown Forest, because at the top you’ll be afforded with great views of the woodland, before descending down towards Maresfield for a mid-ride coffee and pastry.
Distance: 1.5km Average gradient: Eight per cent Maximum gradient: 16 per cent
If you want another way to enjoy the Ashdown Forest, the 7.8km climbs starting from Groombridge is a great option. Completely different from our other climbs in this list, this Ashdown Forest segment is a rolling climb up to the summit on the B2188. The average may only be two per cent, but it’s much steeper in parts to test the legs.
The road rolls up and down twice as it approaches Lye Green – on the second lump you’ll hit 18 per cent for a short spurt – whereupon you take the right fork in the road and proceed up the steady rise to the summit, at around six per cent for the final 3km.
As you approach the top the road barely eases, making this segment a real challenge of stamina thanks to the initial challenge you’ll experience on the lower rolling portions, before the main event through Friar’s Gate.
Distance: 7.8km Average gradient: Two per cent Maximum gradient: 26 per cent
In contrast to Ashdown Forest, Cob Lane is the shortest of our picks in Sussex, at only 350m in length. So why should you be swayed to give it a go?
In short, it’s steep – in fact, it’s the steepest climb in this part of Sussex. An average gradient of 16 per cent trumps anything else here, and that’s not even the whole story.
Over the short length of this climb, you’ll experience pitches of up to 26 per cent, which for many will necessitate riding in the saddle to keep purchase on the road surface – the opposite of how you’ll want to ride up it, we’re sure.
Because it’s so short and intense, you may not even notice the profile of the climb actually eases in the middle before kicking again towards the summit at the B2028. Take our advice: build as much speed as you can before the bottom, and be prepared to unclip in your lactate-filled state at the junction at the top.
Distance: 0.3km Average gradient: 16 per cent Maximum gradient: 26 per cent
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