Mountain Biking on the South Downs: Westdean Woods and Cocking Down

Extract from: Mountain Biking on the South Downs.
Author: Peter Edwards
Publisher: Cicerone Reproduced with permission.

picture of mountain biker on the South Downs

Distance 21.5km (13.5 miles)
Off road 18.5km (11.5 miles) (85% of this route is off-road)
On road 3km (2 miles)
Variant 26.5 km (16.5 miles) with additional loop around Levin Down
Off road 22km (13.75 miles)
On road 4.5km (2.75 miles)
Grade Hard
Ascent 515m (1690ft); Levin Down loop 610m (2005ft)
Time 2 - 2hrs 30mins (add 30mins for Levin Down loop)
Start/Finish Cocking Hilltop car park SU 875 167
Nearest train station Chichester
Pubs The Bluebell at Cocking, The Royal Oak at Hooksway
Cafes Moonlight Cafe at Cocking, Studio Tearooms at Singleton


This circular route climbs along Cocking Down heading W along a fine section of the South Downs Way (SDW) to Treyford Hill before descending precipitously to Hooksway, then heading SE via Philliswood Lane and Chilgrove. From Chilgrove, country lanes lead NE to Westdean woods, where forestry tracks take you uphill then down to cross the A286. It's then up and down then up again through Nightingale Woods and Singleton Forest before rejoining the SDW to make a final long descent back to Hilltop car park.

An additional variant route takes in a loop around Levin Down. There are several noteworthy climbs: a long steep climb up Cocking Down; a long, gradual climb through Westdean Woods on forest tracks; a short, steep climb up through Nightingale Woods; and a long steep climb on a rough forest track from Burntoak Gate to the SDW.

The route mostly follows well-maintained bridleways and byways, although there are short road sections near Chilgrove and Wolverstone Farm. Some sections of this route, particularly on the SDW, are popular with walkers, horse riders and other users. There are some fast descents on this route, so for your own safety - and that of other users - control your speed.


  1. From the car park, turn left, continue W past some livestock sheds and climb, initially on a farm road. As the gradient steepens and farm road gives way to chalk track, keep right (straight-on) at a fork and continue to climb over Cocking Down. Continue straight-on on the SDW as the gradient eases. Cross Linch Ball then Didling Hill, enter woods and swing SW along the flank of Treyford Hill. Descend through woods, continue straight-on at a junction, leaving the SDW, and continue steeply downhill along the byway to Hooksway. As the descent bottoms out, turn left opposite the Royal Oak pub onto a bridleway and continue along Philliswood Lane. After 1.2km, the track climbs gradually to the B2141.
  2. Turn left along the road for 1.2km, then take the second left onto a minor road at Chilgrove. Continue straight-on over a junction then turn left at the next junction onto Hylter's Lane. Continue past Hylter's Farm and at a junction continue straight-on on a bridleway, climbing across Colworth Down and into Westdean Woods, initially on a forestry track. Continue straight-on to a junction at SU 860 158.
  3. Turn right onto a forestry track then bear right off the track onto a bridleway entering the woods. Descend through woods, gradually at first and becoming steeper. The bridleway eventually intersects with a forestry track briefly, before turning right again to descend steeply through woods to the A286 - slow down as bridleway emerges directly onto road with fast-moving traffic. Turn R along the road for 300m then turn left off the road and join a bridleway to the left that climbs steeply through woods. Dogleg left then right over a forestry track and continue to climb through Nightingale Wood. The track levels and descends initially through woods then on a flinty track to Broadham House. Climb straight-on up a grass slope to go through a gate and arrive at a junction. (See variant loop option below)
  4. Turn left (straight-on if following variant) to head N along a bridleway to a junction at Burntoak Gate then begin to climb steeply straight-on on a rough track through Singleton Forest. After climbing for 1km, the bridleway bends NE at a junction and continues climbing steeply, before emerging from the woods at a junction the SDW along the ridge. Turn left along the SDW and soon begin the long descent, steadily at first but becoming much steeper, before passing through a gate, continuing through a farm and then along Hillbarn Lane as the track levels. Cross straight-on over the A286 to return to Hilltop car park.

Variant: additional loop around Levin Down

This loop extends the route by 5km and 30mins. Turn right through a metal gate and climb steadily along the obvious path across the grassy flank of Levin Down. The path levels, continues through a gate then descends fairly steeply to go through two gates close together. Continue descending along a track lane to emerge at the A286 - beware fast-moving traffic - turn left and descend along the road to Singleton. Turn left at a junction in the village, keep left at the next junction and continue along Charlton Road. Just before Charlton, turn left onto North Lane (signposted Downs Bridleway) and continue along a flinty track. After 1.2km, turn left off North Lane on a bridleway, which turns sharp right and climbs steeply to a junction, where the variant rejoins the main route at stage 4.