Every morning since starting my trek along the South Downs Way (SDW) I have assiduously checked the local weather forecast. Today, eating my breakfast in the Castle Inn surrounded by fellow walkers, I realise we are all in for a good soaking before the day is out.
A group of chaps at the adjoining breakfast table seem to be planning their journey along the SDW to include detours to pubs. Forty years ago I would probably have been doing the same; nowadays a diversion for me involves bagging a trig point or reaching my accommodation.
Boots laced up and rucksack on my back, it is odd how familiar carrying the rucksack has become to the extent that I now miss it when its not there, and I am on my way. Leaving the Castle Inn I turn right along The Street soon passing the historic St Mary’s House.
At dinner last night the couple I talked to described with interest their tour of the 15thcentury house and said it was a must visit site. Perhaps I will come here with Lynnie and we’ll have a look around. Today I have no time to stop; I need to press on as I have 24 miles ahead of me.
After crossing the River Adur I continue along the road through Beeding and then find myself walking besides the A2037 before turning right along a lane called the Bostal which continues on a track up hill. Soon I am catching up with the bunch of lads from the Castle Inn. I hear them before I see them! I prefer to walk in relative solitude and struggle with the constant banter going on between this group.
Heading uphill I realise that walking the SDW on a Saturday is going to be far busier than a weekday.
After passing Beeding Hill car park the SDW joins a tarmac lane with fine views.
Carrying on I have fine views out to sea with Shoreham Harbour and fort.
Pressing on I start to put some distance between the group and I, but unfortunately the wind is at my back blowing their noisy conversation my way, but at least I have a cracking view in front of me.
Eventually through a combination of distance and terrain I am walking in silence and it is blessed relief. I can enjoy the views in peace and quiet.
As I go over Edburton Hill there are more panoramic views, I am making the most of the vista before the rain arrives. The forecast for a few hours time is wet weather and low cloud.
As I near Devil’s Dyke I take a short diversion towards the pub, not for refreshment, but to bag the trig point a few hundred yards off the SDW, number 109 bagged.
Back on the trail I am once again stopping to gaze out to sea.
After crossing Devil’s Dyke Road I am walking above Devil’s Dyke. There are a number of myths around how the dyke gets its name. They all appear to involve the devil trying to breach the chalk downs to allow the sea to flood the Weald of Sussex.
Apparently in Victorian times this area was a major tourist attraction with a fairground, bandstands and observatory. It is said that on Whit Monday 1893 30,000 people visited here. Today there are a few people about, but thankfully nowhere near 30,000!
I am now heading downhill on Summer Down to reach a car park where I cross the road and then follow the path around Saddlescombe Farm and the Wildflour Café before heading uphill again stopping near the top to look back at the view behind me.
It is starting to drizzle as I head downhill towards Pyecombe and I am caught in the familiar dilemma of when to don my waterproof gear. It is always my preference to walk without over trousers, but the forecast suggests that once it starts it is going to rain for the rest of the day. Rather than walk in wet gear I stop and get kitted up.
After crossing the A23 I wander through the edge of Pycombe, stopping briefly to look at the 12th century Church of the Transfiguration.
Through the village the SDW heads along an uphill track between fairways on Pycombe Golf Club. After passing New Barn Farm I take a slight diversion from the SDW to look at the Jack and Jill Clayton Windmills.
The Jack Windmill is a five-storey tower mill built in 1866. In 1953 the golf correspondent Henry Longhurst purchased both mills and converted the Jack Mill into his home. It has since undergone further development and is now a private home with holiday accommodation.
The Jill Windmill built in 1821 and has been fully restored by a charity as a working post mill and is open to the public.
Returning to the SDW I head along the ridge soon reaching the restored Burnhouse Dew Pond. These ponds are a feature of walking on the downs, they are man made structures designed to collect rainwater for grazing animals in areas where there is no natural water.
After five days walking on the SDW I am still struck by how easy this route is to follow. It is well marked and so popular a trail that the path is distinctive.
Soon reaching Ditchling Beacon I stop to bag my 110thtrig point,. At 814 feet above sea level this is the third highest point on the SDW providing extensive views.
Walking along the ridge I can see the Amex Stadium, the home of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club. In the past I regularly watched the Saints play away matches, but Brighton is an away game I have never attended. These days my interest in football has waned so it is unlikely I will ever get to this stadium.
As the SDW approaches Blackcap it turns to the south. However, I keep heading east to make a short diversion to bag the Blackcap trig point, my 111th.
The plantation on Blackcap provides shelter from the rain and is a perfect spot to stop for some refreshment. A plaque says these trees were replanted in1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
I retrace my steps to the SDW and head south. After a mile, where the SDW turns left, I continue straight on along a chalky track, Buckland Bank, heading towards the trig point at Balmer Huff. The track is slippery in the rain so it is difficult going but eventually I reach my 112th trig.
Having bagged the trig I head back towards the SDW, following the national trail across Balmer Down and then through the edge of Bunkershill Plantation where the local hunt are meeting.
After crossing the A27 I am heading back uphill. The weather is miserable as I skirt around the top of Cold Coombes and then join a track, Jugg’s Road. Apparently this ancient route between Brighton and Lewes acquired its name when the wives of Brighton fishermen transported the catch to the markets at Lewes by donkeys laden with baskets of earthenware jugs.
Following the SDW along this ridge I know I am missing out on some stunning views. The visibility is poor and I am grateful the way is so easy to follow. After joining a concrete farm track the visibility gets even worse and the rain is torrential.
At Mill Hill I leave the SDW, heading downhill to Rodmell and my overnight accommodation at Sunnyside Cottage. Despite dripping with water I am warmly greeted by Pauline, my host for the night, she assures me I am not the first person to turn up at her door in this state.
After arranging my gear to dry off and having a refreshing shower I am settled in the next-door Abergavenny Arms with a pint reflecting on another 24 miles covered. Tomorrow is my final day’s walking and I have now become very settled into the routine of a long distance walker.
To follow our walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer OL11 – Brighton & Hove
22nd September 2018
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2018)