top of page

Rottingdean in the footsteps of Kipling and company

A 3 mile walk around Rottingdean taking in the sites of Rottingdean as Rudyard Kipling knew it as a boy and as a young man including the lost village of Balsdean, a rifle range at Lustrell's Vale and the Grange.

The path is a mix of road, track and grassland and is easy with moderate inclines, rolling downs and moderate in places.

Directions and points of interest

1. From the war memorial and village green cross the road to St Margaret's Church, turn left and walk two streets up to

2. Bazehill Road. Turn right and follow uphill as the road beomes a single lane and leads to

3. Panoramic views of the open downland, coastline, racecourse, windmill and the English Channel.

4. The route dips, revealing the beautiful Balsdean Valley, then halfway down

5. Take a right turn, through a gate opposite a farm track. Go south along the grass path, through a second gate, and along the edge of the field, on the far side of the Balsdean Farm buildings. Go through a third gate, walk straight through more open farmland and views toward Saltdean.

6. At the bottom of the fields the path cuts between two houses and out onto Bishopstone Road.

7. Look left into Lustrell's Vale where Kipling set up a training rifle range in 1898.

8. Turn right onto Whiteway Lane leading back down to the village and at the bottom turn right

9. at the Grange, once the vicarage, now the library, art gallery and museum with Kipling room, and visitor information point, turn right to

10. Return to the war memorial, facing Kipling's house, The Elms. Look left across the green to prospect cottage and Aubrey house where Kipling's aunt Georgiana and Edward Burne-Jones , the Pre-Raphaelite painter, lived, worked and first welcomed Kipling to the village.

Notes on the walk

Bazehill Road (2) was the route taken by the Kipling's in their pony cart up to the "motherly Downs for jam-smeared picnics".

The lost village of Balsdean (4) was 800 years old when Canadian soldiers used it for target practice in WW2, leaving litle to see today except a plaque marking the chapel's altar.

A rifle range at Lustrell's Vale (6) was started during the Boer War by Kipling who was concerned about the lack of training and preparedness of local youth.

Whiteway Lane (8) was once the route for 17th and 18th century smugglers whisking their goods out of the village and inspiring Kipling's the Smuggler's Song

The Smuggler's Song:

Five and twenty ponies

trotting throug the dark,

Brandy for the Parson, 'baccy for the Clerk.

Laces for a lady, letters for a spy.

Watch the wall, my darling,

while the Gentleman go by!

The Grange (9) was home to the artist William Nicholson 1909 to 1914.

Rudyard Kipling first stayed in Rottingdean with his aunt Georgiana and Edward Burne-Jones at prospect cottage as a boy and his own son John was born there in 1897. The young family then rented the Elms until 1902 before moving to Burwash.

Well known pieces written while Kipling lived in the village include the Just So Stories, Kim, Recessional and Stalky and Co.

Others who have found inspiration roaming

"the whale-backed Downs" around Rottingdean include writers Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, DH Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, Enid Bagnold and Angela Thirkell, artists William and Ben Nicholson, Paul Nash, Aubrey Beardsley and William Morris - while movie stars like Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant and Julie Andrews enjoyed stays at the Tudor Close Hotel. Following in their footsteps with the wide sky above and the pewter sea below may bring to mind Kipling's personal tribute to the Downs:

God gives all men all earth to love,

but, since man's heart is small,

ordains for each one spot shall prove

beloved over all.

Each to his choice, and I rejoice

The lot has fallen to me

Ina fair ground - in a fair ground -

Yea, Sussex by the Sea!

Transit information

parking, W.C's, and refreshments in Rottingdean Village and on the seafront

Please follow the countryside code at all times.

This map may be used in conjunction with OS Explorer 122


bottom of page