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One Hundred Years in the Sunshine

6th Annual South Downs Way Walk

8 to 16 June   Winchester to Eastbourne

Day 1  -  8 June  -  Winchester to Exton  -  20.03 km

     Enjoy this trip

     Enjoy this trip

          . . .  and it is a trip

     So, it was an almost unbearably early start this morning - 6.40am and I was leaving home - but it is so worth it to meet all those good people who I have not seen for a year. It is, however, rather worrying that people now see me as a seasoned veteran of this event.

     We arrived in Winchester and I spent some time taking photos of the King Alfred statue and also the new official starting point at the City Mill. But soon enough I was on my way and heading out of Winchester - over the M3, through the pretty village of Chilcomb and climbing steadily up Telegraph Hill.

     Crossing the A272 at Cheesefoot Head and then following the trail alongside Temple Valley. It was a pleasant stop for lunch near Gander Down, before crossing the A272 again, and then walking along tracks and roads to reach the Milburys for some rest and refreshment.

     The final stretch of tracks and roads brought me to the summit of Beacon Hill and there I stood for a while to admire the magnificent view across the valley of the river Meon. All that was left was the steep descent across fields into Exton to finish this 13 mile trek. The walking had felt good.

     The day had begun fairly cloudy and a little cool but was soon to warm up and then became rather humid as the sun gradually broke through. It was a lovely day for walking and I spent a lot of it alone enjoying the peacefulness and the beauty of the countryside.

     When I reached The Shoe at Exton I had the pleasure of enjoying an ice-cream cone with one scoop of white chocolate and the second scoop was chocolate with hazelnuts. Utterly splendid.

     A great day and a splendid way to start the 39th Annual South Downs Way Walk.

     Yep. The boy done good.

The Annual South Downs Way Walk is organised by Footprints of Sussex

Visit them at footprintsofsussex.co.uk

Learn more about this walk along the National Trail at southdownsway.com

This annual event is sponsored by Regatta and supported by West Sussex County Council

Raising funds for Cardiac Rehab Support West Sussex

Helping local cardiac patients

Please make any donation direct to me. Thank you

Donations this year total £70.00. Thank you.

Time After Time

Day 2  -  9 June  -  Exton to QE Country Park  -  16.89 km

     Well, the second day dawns and it is almost 7am before I set out from home to catch the train to Arundel and then wait for the coach to take us to Exton where we finished yesterday.

     The Shoe is open and ready for our arrival with bacon rolls, pastries and many other delicacies as well as cups of good hot coffee. I select a suitable bacon roll and wrap it carefully for later enjoyment. Then a final few adjustments to my pole and rucksack before setting off on today’s walk. The sun is shining and there are few clouds in the blue sky.

     Heading out of the Meon valley I slowly climb up Old Winchester Hill and then follow the Monarch’s Way across the ancient earthworks at the summit. It is here that I sit and eat the bacon roll while surrounded by the wide views that are all around. Will the aliens be landing today?

     On reaching the eastern side of the hill I find the it has become colonised by a flock (or is it a flight) of para-gliders who colourfully soar and swoop in the sky above. Very nice, but no time to stop and stare as I walk onwards and look back to view the full splendour of Old Winchester Hill.

     It is soon time to descend into another branch of the Meon valley and reach the trout farm at Whitewool. I sit on the bank beside the water and eat my lunch and, although there were no fishermen, the view was still very good indeed.

     Lunch over I set off to face the arduous climb up Salt Hill as the humidity began to rise. Taking a steady pace the top was soon reached - there were several groups of Duke of Edinbrugh around as well as a few hang gliders - and I then headed towards the Sustainability Centre, another good place to rest for a while. While resting I was able to enjoy both a mug of tea and a slice of banana cake with chocolate chips.

     The final leg of today’s 11 mile walk saw us slowly pass the splendid view from Hyden Cross before wandering through the edge of Hyden Wood. The following stretch of track and road walking was rather wearisome but the Queen Elizabeth Country Park was soon reached. All that remained was to walk down the steep slope of Butser Hill to the Footprints banner and the finish in the visitor centre.

     Whilst waiting for the back-markers to arrive and the last coach to take us home I enjoyed a Cornetto-style ice cream and reflected on the day’s walk. At times I was in the company of other friendly souls but often I was alone with the sounds of birdsong for company. It’s all a dream, it is such a great pleasure.

Day 3 - 10 June - QE Country Park to Cocking - 20.56 km

     Not such an early start - the taxi arrives at 7.45am and whisks me comfortably down to Arundel. A lovely start to the day and well worth the tip!

     We have the comfort of receiving the coach first before it picks up more walkers in Chichester and then it is on to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. On arrival we each receive a complimentary bar of KitKat (two fingers, and I wonder if there is some hidden meaning. I am sure there is no such intention).

     I set off through the uninteresting woods of the Country Park and enjoy my chocolate before it melts - the sun is out and the day is quickly warming up, it looks as if it will be a warm one. The roads and tracks that lead eastwards do not have much to commend them except for the Copper Beeches shortly before Sunwood Farm - they were looking special in the sunshine.

     We reach Harting Down and the lovely ice-cream lady is there to dispense the frozen treats and I use the complimentary voucher (courtesy of Footprints, thank you) to assist my purchase of a Butter Toffee flavour. This is again said to be the final year for this delightful flavour, we shall have to wait and see what the future holds. I eat my lunch here as well as the ice-cream surrounded byt my SDW friends.

     We are now travelling across true downland and after Harting Down we are faced by the steep edifice of Beacon Hill - like any true man, I take the easy route around the bottom. I discover that it is not a simple task to find an unoccupied tree for a rest stop and I later learn that I missed seeing the Bee Orchid that was on display in this area.

     The trail continues up and down the hills in the heat of the day and we soon pass the memorial to the German airman and then the Devil’s Jumps (Bronze Age barrows) before returning to the open downland above Didling Hill. It is now a long and seemingly endless journey to reach Manor Farm just south of Cocking where we finish today’s 12 mile hike.

     On this stretch there are many sheep as well as some bovine creature - the fields and verges have masses of ox-eye daisies - and there is Andy Galsworthy’s chalk stone as well. My feet are weary but that is little discomfort as the day has gone well and I reach the finish.

     At Manor Farm, the owners offer us a wide selection of refreshments as well as their organically farmed meat products. I am tempted by a fruit scone filled with jam and cream - there is no reason to resist temptation - and I sit in the grass enjoying my reward and thinking of all the people I have spoken to today, whether they be walkers on the trail or bikers coming the other way - all are friends with a smile and a pleasant word or two.

     The coach ride back to Arundel is a race against the clock, it is looking promising as I stand by the door waiting to jump off as it pulls up at the bus stop. Then I run (so undignified) for the train - the train goes at 18.54pm and I get there at 18.53. Phew! made it.

Day 4  -  11 June  -  Cocking to Whiteways  -  16.35 km

     I leave home just before 7.25am and it is feeling a little bit chilly - nevermind, I am sure that it will warm up later.

     We are soon on our way and the sun is now coming out to brighten the sky. It is not long before we reach the start of today’s walk at Manor Farm near Cocking. It is a steady climb to begin the day and this eventually levels out as the trail leads us through a fairly wooded area above Heyshott Down and Graffham Down.

     The sun becomes strong and the temperature rises. The chalk and flint path is hard on the feet but the views north from Tegleaze Post are splendid. I do not rest here but continue a little further onwards to lunch on the down slope of Littleton Down.

     After lunch it is a long and tough climb back up to the top as the trail now heads towards the two masts on Glatting Beacon. Passing by the masts, we soon cross Stane Street and reach the Bignor Hill car park where the ice-cream lady awaits. I am tempted by the Honeycomb flavour.

     Making our way up Bignor Hill we are rewarded by long views in all directions which have, today, been shortened by the heat haze. Over the top and we are passing Toby’s Stone before the path drops steeply to the Three Barns above West Burton. The final stretch of the day is along a very uneven and rutted path before I take a right turn which takes me to the finish at Whiteways, this final path is exceedingly overgrown and unattractive.

     A little wait for the last few walkers to arrive and it is time for the last coaches to take us home. With a little negotiation we manage to get the coach to drop us at the west side of Arundel rather than take us all the way to Chichester and back in rush-hour traffic.

     It has been a most pleasant day - good walking and friendly faces, what more could we ask for. Even though there were no special highlights to remember, it was just a great walking day.

Day 5 - 12 June - Whiteways to Washington - 15.50 km

     Well, today is a walk through God’s country and who knew what events were to unfold as we reach the mid-point of our journey along the South Downs Way.

     It is almost 8 o’clock before I leave home (such decadent luxury) to catch the train to Arundel and then the coach takes us on the brief journey to Whiteways for the start of today’s walk. At only 9 and a half miles it is the shortest day of the whole event.

     Anyway, not to get ahead of myself, it is during the announcements on the coach that I learn that my entry in yesterday’s quiz successfully won the Regatta rucksack. Hooray and, from the loud cheer that went up, it seemed it was a popular win. Thank you, Footprints  . . .  Thank you, Regatta  . . .  Thank you, everybody.

     Gosh. Everything is in such a whirl as I begin walking  . . .  hat and camera are still in my bag so I stop to re-organise and, even then, I do not set off in the direction that I intend. The excitement is so very clearly all too much.

     A couple of deep breaths and after finally getting myself all together I walk up the side of the field (the path still being too overgrown) towards the SDW. There, at the edge of the field, warming itself in the sunshine, is an adder. It was so well camouflaged by its markings that it was difficult to see even when you knew it was lying there in front of your eyes.

Day 6 - 13 June - Washington to Devil’s Dyke - 18.59 km

     A day of calm after yesterday’s whirlpool of excitement - be still my beating heart.

     I leave home at 5 minutes to 8 o’clock in the morning and catch the train to Arundel. This routine is beginning to become second nature and the coach takes us to the start at Washington.

     As the Frankland Arms is currently closed there is no reason to hang around and so I set off to face the stiff climb towards Chanctonbury and the Ring. The day is bright and sunny with a fair breeze and the air is clear allowing great views into the far distance.

     During the climb I slowly ease my way towards the back of the walkers where there is plenty of space to enjoy the beauty of the countryside. Chanctonbury is at last beginning to recover its iconic shape after so many years and then the trail continues gently onward through sheep country but, alas, no shearers.

     There is the Langmead memorial and then it is around the top of the Steyning Bowl before heading towards the pig farm. The pigs and their arks move around the hillside each year and it is this that seems to give it a natural living process. Good to see these creatures along with the cows and sheep, it is a working environment that changes with the seasons.

     All downhill now to Botolphs and the River Adur - I sit on the riverbank near the footbridge and eat my lunch - a lovely spot to sit and watch both the river and the world go by. It’s all a dream, life passes by.

     Time also passes and I move on to come to Beeding Hill for another breath-taking climb. Each pause to rest allows the opportunity to enjoy the sight of the river valley in glorious splendour. The road goes ever on and reaches the youth hostel at Truleigh Hill. It is a good place to stop and purchase a Cornetto ice cream - mint flavour. Good treat.

     The day has been another good one and I head for the finish at Devil’s Dyke - there are only a couple of miles and a few hills to go. The 12 miles have sped by quite easily.

     I soon reach the Dyke and meet up with all the friends who are waiting there for the remaining walkers and the last coach home. To complete the day, it was especially good to see Ann.

      The days are ticking by, only 3 to go, it is not enough and we all want more.

Day 7 - 14 June - Devil’s Dyke to Newmarket Inn - 19.85 km

     Leaving home is getting earlier again, it was 7.25am today - still, all in a good cause. Whilst waiting for the arrival of the coach at Arundel, I sat on the station bench and wrote another stunning limerick. This one has got to be a winner.

     The latest weather forecast had said that it would be dry but cloudy and windy - wrong, it was persistent rain and was rather grim by the time we reached Devil’s Dyke. Only 12 and a bit miles today and in nasty weather, no problem.

     We set off and headed downhill to Saddlescombe before going up and over the next big hill. In Pyecombe, at the Church of the Transfiguration, the ladies had laid out a splendid array of cakes and also some savoury items - Footprints were treating us to this mid-morning snack and we also chipped in with donations to the church. A fruit scone with jam and cream was excellent.

     The rain got even heavier whilst I was at Pyecombe and this forced me to clamber into some wet weather gear - this was not what I wanted to do. Still, it is perhaps not a completely perfect world. As we climbed back up to the top, the cloud was very low and visibility was becoming pretty minimal. It was impossible to keep others in sight and I rather hoped that I was following the right footpath.

     Directionless, one can only see cloud and about two foot of grass - a boy could get lost, let alone the DoE lads who were wandering around. At Ditchling Beacon there was no ice cream van - no treat for me, then.

     Continuing on, the weather remains rather bleak but eventually the rain does stop and visibility returns. I cross Plumpton Plain and the sun begins to make an appearance at Blackcap. It is mostly downhill now and by the time we reach the golden barley fields it has become quite warm.

     The finish today is at the Newmarket Inn and I have a white coffee whilst I relax and wait for the coach. I caught the penultimate coach home - I think it was the first time since the thunderstorm at Firle two years ago that I had not been on the last coach.

     Despite the wind and rain, it was a good day walking over the Downs and taking us closer to our destination.

Day 8 - 15 June - Newmarket Inn to Alfriston - 22.06 km

     I left home at 7.25am again today. The train journey is followed by the coach journey and I am soon at the Newmarket Inn. During this time I hand in my latest limerick, fingers crossed for success.

     The sun is out and the sky is blue, it is a lovely day and the views stretch out endlessly on this 14 mile walk. There is the football stadium and the Ashcombe windmill and soon we see many cows and their calves. The meridian post is passed and, then, it is not far to Southease.

     I sit on the grass in front of the church with its round tower and eat my lunch - it is most pleasant here - and then it is off to the youth hostel to buy a white Magnum. The climb up Itford Hill is taken slowly and then the walk along the top seems to be endless. The passing of the radio masts at Beddingham Hill and on to Firle Beacon.

     The descent to Alfriston ends the day and I celebrate with a Feast ice cream. Although nothing much seems to have happened, the views have been glorious and all that is left is to await the last coach home. Super day.

     It is all over - what to do now.

     The 40th Annual South Downs Way Walk will be organised by Footprints of Sussex and will be taking place from 7 to 15 June 2019.

     Eastbourne to Winchester - all the way.

Be there, because I will be.

Day 9  -  16 June  -  Alfriston to Eastbourne                                                (via Jevington)  -  12.9 km

     The last day, it has come much too soon.

     Anyway, I leave home at 7.30am and catch the train to Arundel where I meet up with my friends for the last time this year. The coach takes us to Alfriston where we set off to complete our walk along the South Downs Way.

     As my feet were beginning to suffer at the end of yesterday’s walk, I decide to take the inland route via Jevington which is a little shorter and will allow me to walk at a much gentler pace. After crossing the White Bridge my path leads straight on before it travels across a field and then heads up Windover Hill. The climb is pretty steep and rather endless but a steady pace gets me to the top.

     The trail continues over open ground across the top of the Downs before making the descent into Jevington. It was good to spend a couple of miles in the company of the event’s most senior walker, this after having seen a lot of the youngest on most of the previous days.

     Jevington was having a summer fete and preparations were in full swing as we passed through. It was another long climb, after lunch, this time up Bourne Hill before passing along the western side of Eastbourne to reach the finish at Holywell.

     At final few photos to commemorate the completion of another journey and a Feast ice cream to celebrate as I sat on the grassy bank and applauded the finish of many of my friends.

     The coaches took us to the celebratory reception at Sussex University where there was a finger buffet and complimentary drink. We collected our certificates and the prizes (thanks be given to Regatta) were awarded to widespread applause - my rucksack for winning the Day 4 quiz was an interesting shade of blue. My limerick, sadly, did not fare successfully.

     All that was left was to say goodbye to the many, many friends on the walk. It is becoming a very large family and most will be back next year to renew the joy and pleasure of the walk. I do so look forward to next year.

          After we walked down from the ridge

          But before we crossed the Adur bridge

          There in the grass

          Dumped on its arse

          Was an old and abandoned fridge

The new starting point at the City Mill, Winchester

    No time to stop and stare  . . .  on the east side of the A29 was a field flushed red with poppies. Then the trail drops down to the River Arun and the views across the valley are wonderful. It is pleasant to walk slowly and enjoy it all. Next is the long and arduous climb of Amberley Mount and this is completed with only a couple of pauses. Rackham Banks is a great place for lunch and I sit and eat my sandwiches while watching the gliders swoop so low before my eyes.

     The rolling downland marches on, passing Rackham Hill, Springhead Hill, Kithurst Hill and Chantry Hill before reaching Chantry Post where the prospect of ice cream draws us on. Yes, it is Butter Toffee flavour  . . .  for the last time? well, with arrangements made for next year we shall have to wait and see.

     After Sullington Hill I make my way down Barnsfarm Hill to Washington where the finishing banner awaits at the village hall.

     A good day. With sunny intervals and a fair breeze and, most importantly, great walking. Footprints certainly endeavour and succeed in making the event so special.

Wild, go wild, go wild in the country

Where snakes in the grass are absolutely free