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Art of the Downs

Art of the Downs

Bloomsbury Trail

Start your day with a visit to the country home of Bloomsbury Group artists, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at Charleston. Their evocative house is the last surviving example of a complete Bloomsbury-decorated interior with paintings, ceramics and textiles by Bell, Grant and other 20th century artists.

Duncan Grant’s Studio, Charleston House. Credit: Penelope Fewston

Wander the enchanting walled garden after your tour of Charleston house, then relax with a locally-sourced light lunch in the café or browse the Bloomsbury-inspired arts, crafts and gifts in the attractive shop. Pick up a free walking map in the shop and explore the surrounding area while you are here.

From Charleston, head towards Berwick Church of St Michael and All Angels, a site of both spiritual and creative inspiration surrounded by magnificent views of the South Downs. Using themselves, friends and locals as models, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell controversially painted the church during World War II with murals illustrating the life of Christ. A circular trail from Charleston takes over 2 hours to walk. Cycling from Charleston, you can reach Berwick Church in 20 minutes.

As an alternative trail, or combine both if you have energy, visit Firle Place and Firle village where you can pause at the graves of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Quentin Bell in the Church of Saint Peter. This circular trail takes over an hour to walk, or you can cycle to Firle in around 15 minutes.

Getting around
Distance 7 miles from Lewes railway station
Duration All day, but can be done in stages or over a couple of days. The order of attractions visited can be changed to suit your mode of travel.
Grade Challenging
Directions – Train Regular trains from Lewes to Glynde or Berwick railway station, both about 4 miles from Charleston.  To walk from Glynde Station, pick up the directions at point 9, below.
Directions – Bus 125 bus from Lewes Bus Station Mon – Sat only. Ask the driver to let you know when to disembark. It’s then a 20 minute walk up a single track lane to Charleston.
The 125 bus is operated by Seaford & District Mon-Fri and by Cuckmere Buses on Sat with stops at Berwick and Firle.
Directions – Walk Charleston is 7 miles from Lewes or you can break your journey by taking the train to Glynde or the 125 bus to the track lane leading to Charleston.

  1. Turn right out of Lewes railway station along Station Road, then left into Lansdowne Place.
  2. Continue straight along Friary Walk and over the mini roundabout, then left into Cliffe High Street.
  3. Walk to the end of the High Street, then cross over and walk up Chapel Hill.
  4. Pass to the right of Lewes Golf Club, go through the gate into the Southerham Nature reserve and follow the path heading diagonally down the valley.
  5. Go through the gate next to the Dew Pond and follow the grassy path along the valley floor.
  6. Go though the kissing gate, and follow the path onto a shoulder of Mount Caburn.
  7. Continue along the top and bear right and follow the route for Glynde.
  8. Turn left on Ranscombe Lane, then right on Lacys Hill.
  9. Pass Glynde Station and take the left fork after the bend until you reach the A27.
  10. Walk left along the A27, cross the traffic island and turn right into road for Firle.
  11. Turn left along The Street to Firle village, where you can visit the Church of St Peter and pick up the Charleston circular walk.
Directions – Cycle
  1. Head right from Lewes railway station then sharp right into Pinwell Road.
  2. Follow Pinwell Road then right on Court Road.
  3. Continue left, then right to stay on Court Road and veer left onto Railway Lane.
  4. Turn right onto Cliffe High Street, joining Regional Cycle Route 90 and turn right at the end onto South Street.
  5. Continue on the designated path and follow route 90 along Southern Lane and the A27.
  6. The route takes you though Glynde village and past Glynde Station, rejoining the A27, ending before Middle Farm.
  7. Continue along the A27 and, after you pass Middle Farm, take the lane on the right signposted to Charleston.


Take the 125 bus, or continue your journey by foot or cycle, to the pretty village of Alfriston with its medieval timbered shops and public houses. Here you can visit the first property ever acquired by the National Trust at Clergy House.


Enjoy a concert, opera or recital at Gyndebourne. You can take the shuttle bus from Lewes provided by the event organisers.

Visit NT Monk’s House in the pretty village of Rodmell. Find more information on the Literary Heroes Trail.



"The Downs...too much for one pair of eyes, enough to float a whole population in happiness."