BOAT: Comp Lane/Old Coach Road

Location: West St, Alfriston, East Sussex BN26 5, UK
  • Overall Rating: 5
  • Location: Alfriston to Firle, via Alciston, East Sussex.
  • OS Explorer Map 123, 'Eastbourne & Beachy Head, Newhaven, Seaford, Hailsham & Heathfield'.
  • Starting OS Grid Reference: TQ517037 
  • Starting GPS Co-ordinates: N50 48' 50.23" E000 09' 08.36"
  • Finishing OS Grid Reference:  TQ466071
  • Finishing GPS Co-ordinates: N50 50' 44.54" E000 04' 50.14"
  • To see: See below!
  • ALWAYS follow the Greenlane Code!
Beware the tree roots! They're
rougher than they look.
Short of a ford, this BOAT has it all! It's an incredibly easy drive, and there is so much to see and do in this area one could spend days here and not cover it all! And when finished, there are so many excellent pubs to visit one is spoilt for choice. I shall give a very brief synopsis of the best attractions at the end of this article, but first lets concentrate on the lane itself. 

As mentioned above, the Old Coach Road is an easy day out. It is situated in the South Downs National Park: it's such a beautiful part of the world that the lane is obviously very popular with trail bikers, horse riders, dog walker, cyclists, ramblers, and huge agricultural machinery, so take it easy (as you should be anyway!). The surface for 90% of the route is coarse, compacted gravel and the lane is almost everywhere well drained due to the underlying chalk. For most of its length it is bordered with low hedgerows. There are only two stretches of the lane where the foliage closes in to threaten the paintwork: that at the foot of Firle Beacon and, in summer, the lane south of Berwick Church (see picture, right, demonstrated by Meg the Labrador!) can get a little tight with regards to headroom. This latter stretch also contains some awkward roots crossing the lane, so take it very slowly to avoid damage either to them or to your vehicle.

Starting at it's western end then, at the junction of West Street and Winton Street, just north of Alfriston, the lane initially strikes out north along a gravelled, winding driveway up to Comp Barn. After passing this beautiful and isolated converted barn (to the north of the lane) the surface changes to mud for the first time and heads slowly downhill towards New Barn. 

Here (just south of Berwick Church, which you should check out for the awesome murals contained inside) the lane breaks out of the hedgerows and the surface changes to coarse, grey gravel. A track designated as a bridleway joins from the north. DO NOT be tempted to drive it, even though it looks open.

The lane follows the base of the Downs eastwards, now climbing gently up hill with open fields on each side. Just south of Bostal Hill, a country lane strikes northwards towards the beautiful village of Alciston, with it's ancient church, the largest tithe barn in Sussex, and the remains of a medieval dove cote. You can also find the excellent Rose Cottage Inn which has rooms available. However, we carried on eastwards. The lane passes through Bo Peep Farm and crosses Bo Peep Lane (which is also a BOAT, albeit a metalled one. Click through for details.) after which it continues between the open fields. At the southern tip of Bo Peep Lane, at the top of the hill, free parking can be found should you chose to take a heartily recommwalk along the top of the South Downs. The lane passes a small cottage and Upper Barn (another huge barn!) on it's northern side before continuing its undulations, this time falling for a few hundred yards. Soon the hedgerows start again and another track crosses the lane which leads to Tilton Farm; don't drive it as it's a bridleway.

The lane skirts the foot of Firle Beacon (at 217m AMSL, it's the highest point for some distance, and offer an incredible view over East Sussex, so it's well worth the climb) and Round Hill and eventually reaches a beautiful cottage which lies dead ahead. The lane jinks hard left around it, and then immediately right, and passes into dense foliage. The surface also changes from it's usual gravel to bare earth, so it can get muddy here after heavy rains. The foliage is so tight in places that scratches and even dents are almost a certainty; however this section does not last for more than 450m so it's quickly over. Climbing out, a flint-lined wall then forms the border on the northern side of the lane, which continues until the Old Coach Road turns ninety degrees to the north, reaches Place Farm, resumes it's eastwards direction down a potholed farm track and ends where it meets Firle Bostal, a country lane just west of the village of Firle where the flint-lined Ram Inn can be found.

There is so much to see and do in this corner of the nation's newest National Park that covering all of it is way, way beyond the scope of this article. However, rest assured that you could spend a week down here and still not see everything! It really is one of the most beautiful corners of England that leaves nothing wanting. Get out there and explore!

Some highlights:
View Comp Lane/Old Coach Road in a larger map

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