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  The first hill - setting out from Eastbourne

A Hundred Years in the Sunshine

Home is the Range

4th Annual South Downs Way Walk

10 to 18 June 2016   Winchester to Eastbourne

Day 9   18 June   11 miles   Alfriston to Eastbourne 

     Day nine, the final day, began in Alfriston and it was rather bright and pleasant - very much in contrast to the way yesterday had finished. Anyway, we walked down the river to Littlington where homemade refreshments were on offer - some elderflower squash and a piece of shortbread was a good treat before the day's walk began in earnest. The hills became evident and after passing through Westdean there were the Friston steps to contend with. We emerged above Exceat with a splendid view down the Cuckmere valley. After traversing the valley, the climb up to the Seven Sisters was taken steadily and then the series of steep ups and downs was negotiated leading us to Birling Gap where I bought a Feast ice-cream lolly. Then it was the climb up towards Belle Tout where a white Magnum was obtained (well, it is the last day) and this was followed by the climb up to Beachy Head. There seemed to be no respite but eventually the hills came to an end and we descended down to the finish at Eastbourne. It is all over for another year.

     The closing celebration was held at the University of Sussex where food and drink were consumed and a party atmosphere was certainly in evidence. The prizes were distributed and speeches made and there was barely time to say goodbye to friends and acquaintances. Goodbye and we hope to meet again next year.

Storm clouds over Lewes

Day 8   17 June   14 miles   Newmarket Inn to Alfriston

       Day eight began at the Newmarket Inn under rainy conditions. First was the purchase of a bacon roll and second was to put on the wet gear, Now, all ready, I was off on the trail eating my bacon roll as I went. The uphill start to get back up to the ridge was fairly tough but I had the company of representatives from Regatta to chat with. The rain soon stopped and then there was the Jugg's Road to follow before the rolling downland, now bathed in bright sunshine, took us to the steep descent at Mill Hill. We headed to the pretty village of Southease for lunch on the green in front of the church. The afternoon began with the steep climb up Itford Hill but the clouds were now gathering, very black and heavy over Lewes, and the rain began to fall. Across the rolling downland the thunderstorm broke, the rain getting heavier as the lightning flickered and the thunder boomed above our heads. On we went to Firle Beacon but the weather did not diminish and then down into Alfriston, weary and soaked, to find the roads were flooded. The coach journey home was not comfortable in wet clothes and despite extensive delays as the roads became impassable we endeavoured to keep our spirits up.

Day 7   16 June   13 miles   Devil's Dyke to Newmarket Inn

      Day seven and it was very misty and murky when we arrived at Devil's Dyke. Other than putting on some wet gear there was nothing to delay us setting off. The slight misty drizzle soon stopped and fortunately did not return although the Downs were frequently being shrouded in mist. It was pretty hilly early on passing through Saddlescombe before reaching the church at Pyecombe for refreshments - cheese scone and flapjack were indeed very nice. Back up on the ridge and I visited Jack and Jill, the Clayton windmills, before stopping for lunch at Ditchling Beacon. It was again pretty overcast and blustery but the rain just about held off and so it was opportune to purchase a Feast ice-cream and pretend that it is summer. Along the ridge there were plenty of lads out, presumably doing DoE stuff, and at one point some Gurkhas ran by. Anyway, a bee orchid was discovered at Streat Hill - it was a fine example standing proud and alone in the chalky turf. After Plumpton Plain we took a right-hand turn to head south - a large flock of sheep were penned and being inoculated against intestinal parasites. The steady descent across Balmer Down was completed in fine sunshine and then it was up and over Long Hill to the A27. We were soon approaching the finish at the Newmarket Inn but, unfortunately, to the discomfort of some of our ladies, the drains were blocked and the toilets out of action. Oh dear, nevermind.


Day 6   15 June   12 miles   Washington to Devil's Dyke

       Day six and I set off early, well before the coaches began to arrive however, it was not long before I was being overtaken on the steep climb up Chanctonbury. The weather today was sunny and as we pass by Chanctonbury Ring the glorious views to the north across the Weald opened up. Soon, in a field, a flock of sheep were being sheared - no, I think that shoud be shorn, maybe, perhaps. Still, some splendid alliteration. Anyway, onwards to the memorial near Steyning dedicated to Mr & Mrs Walter Langmead and then it was on through the pig farm before dropping down into the river valley, As usual, I sat on the bank of the River Adur for a peaceful lunch. Afterwards, the steep climb up Beeding Hill was soon followed by a more steady incline to the Youth Hostel at Truleigh Hill - where i enjoyed a Feast ice cream - and then there are the radio masts at the summit. To finish the day there is a rolling stretch along the ridge as we pass over Edburton Hill, Perching Hill and Fulking Hill before reaching Devil's Dyke. To rest those weary feet.

Day 5   14 June   9 miles   Whiteways to Washington

        Day five and for once the weather seems to be dry even if rather overcast. We are soon back out on the trail and it is a chalky and uneven track down to the River Arun. The river has its own beauty to enjoy before the steep climb up Amberley Mount with many a stop to admire the view of the Arun valley. A stop for lunch at Rackham Banks before we walk over the rolling downland - Rackham Hill, Springhead Hill, Kithurst Hill and Sullington Hill with the sun increasing in strength as we go. The ice-cream lady was out again today, the last time we shall see her this year, and I sampled the delight of the honeycomb flavour. The descent of Barnsfarm Hill as we approached the village of Washington soon passed and the day finished with a cool drink in the garden of the Frankland Arms. Another good day and we are now over half way.

Day 4   13 June   10 miles   Cocking to Whiteways

        Om Mani Padme Hum  . . .  Day four of our journey began on the roadside at Cocking where we finished yesterday. It was a nice start to the day with a gentle climb up Manorfarm Down to the ridgeway and we were joined today by two Buddhist monks from the local monastry near Midhurst. As we crossed Heyshott Down and Graffham Down the weather steadily deteriorated and the splendid views across the Sussex Weald were becoming increasingly infrequent. Once passed Crown Tegleaze the rain became persistent as the trail followed the rise and fall of the mist-shrouded Downs. Eventually we reached Bignor Hill car park where the ice-cream lady was bravely providing us with a selection of delicious treats - the vanilla and stem ginger was indeed lovely. The English summer, sitting in the rain eating an ice cream. As we set off again, the skies now began to clear and we made our way to the finish at Whiteways bathed in sunshine. Another day completed.

Day 3   12 June   13 miles   Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Cocking

        Day three and starting from the Queen Elizabeth Country Park with the weather not great, a misty light rain. Since the SDW through the park was re-routed last year, the first mile now has little to enjoy being largely in a coniferous woodland - so dark and dismal. Still, we soon leave the park behind us and walk along tracks and roads for a few miles - the avenue of copper beeches was splendid as we headed on towards Harting Down. Ice creams were being served this year from a camper van - the butter and toffee flavour was very welcome as the clouds loomed overhead, barely above us at all. Next was Beacon Hill, shrouded in mist, and this year I followed the trail as it goes around the southern slopes. We are now truly on the rolling downlands and the afternoon gradually brightened as we passed the memorial to the German pilot and then the Devil's Jumps before leaving the woods around Monkton House. Now on open downland as it rolls along towards the day's finish at Cocking. A chance to rest with a cup of coffee and rather large slice of home-made cream sponge. The wild flowers were much in evidence today, amongst them were yellow buttercups, pink periwinkles and fields of ox-eye daisies as well as many other colourful plants.


Day 2   11 June   11 miles   Exton to Queen Elizabeth Country Park

       Day two and we arrive early at The Shoe in Exton with plenty of time to buy a roll filled with freshly cooked bacon and then it is out into the misty rain as we head towards Old Winchester Hill. It is a steady climb up and when there I sit and eat my bacon roll - lovely. The misty rain eases off and on and it is quite a warm day. We head down to Whitewool Pond and sit there resting and chatting with friends whilst we watch some men dangling there rods in the water - every so often another trout is landed and clubbed to death. Man the hunter! As the afternoon progresses the sun becomes more evident and temperatures rise as we struggle up and over Salt Hill and Wether Down. But soon we reach the Sustainability Centre and I rest with a coffee and slice of chocolate cake. The final few miles of roads and tracks were quite wearying but there were some good views of the Isle of Wight. At the end, coming down Butser Hill, I could barely keep my eyes open but I struggled to wake up and enjoy a Strawberry Split ice-lolly at the finish.

Day 1   10 June   13 miles   Winchester to Exton

        At last, back on the trail - yeah - it is good to be out here again, King Alfred and his sword, the fast flowing River Itchen and then up East Hill and out of the city, over the M3 and into the open country. Wild and free. Through the pretty village of Chilcomb and up Telegraph Hill to Cheesefoot Head. There are plenty of poppies to bring colour to the landscape as we walk along the tracks to Gander Down and lunch in the warm sunshine. Then it is more tracks and roads before The Milburys pub and another chance to meet up with friends. Then disaster - gutted as I take the wrong path at Wind Farm, shame and embarrassment. Anyway, like a novice I was soon put right and shamefaced it was on again through Lomer Farm and so to Beacon Hill. Such incredible views across the Meon valley but the steep path down across the fields was not very evident and caused many people to follow the road instead. I backtracked across the side of the hill and eventually found the path and followed in down to a field covered in cows with still many more coming in. It was then only a short step to The Shoe at Exton to finish the day's walk with an ice-cream cone, strawberry and cream flavour, and await the last bus home. A lovely day and fine walk. Great. The highlight, meeting up with all the people I have not seen since last year, everybody is a friend.


3rd Annual South Downs Way Walk

6 to 14 June 2015   Eastbourne to Winchester

Day 9   14 June   20.1 km   Exton to Winchester

      Another cloudy start but it soon turned sunny and glorious for this, the last day. We began from Exton at 9.50am and headed up the ever-steepening Beacon Hill (659 feet) and from there the undulations on the trail were fairly gentle. We travelled along road and track to Gander Down and Cheesefoot Head (577 feet) and finally Telegraph Hill before descending to the pretty village of Chilcomb. It was then across the busy M3 and into Winchester to walk alongside the River Itchen and finish at the King Alfred statue at 16.10 pm - an average speed of 1.98 mph. A good day but hard and to finally complete the South Downs Way in 9 consecutive days. Today's highlight, apart from finishing, was a Twayblade Orchid in the woods just before we reached Cheesefoot Head.

      The party in The Guildhall, Winchester at the end of the walk was great as it gave a last opportunity to speak to old and new acquaintances from the walk and look forward to meeting them again in future years. Home is the sailor / Home from the sea.

Day 8   13 June   16.9 km   Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Exton

      Cloudy start but the sun broke through before lunch for a warm and sunny afternoon. Set out from the Queen Elizabeth Country Park at 10.05am and immediately it was the long haul up Butser Hill (886 feet and the highest point on the South Downs) and on the way down were runners taking part in the SDW100, the whole 100 miles on foot with a cut off time of 30 hours. It was then a spell of walking along both road and track before we reached Hyden Cross with glorious views to the north. A refreshing cup of coffee in the Sustainability Centre and back out again to the slopes up Salt Hill and the sharp descent down and on to Whitewool Pond for relaxing to the sight of some fly fishing. Then the climb up to and over Old Winchester Hill (at 646 feet, an Iron Age hill fort) before descending into the Meon valley to finish the day at The Shoe, Exton (about 16.10pm) with a white chocolate and marshmallow ice cream cone - at an average speed of 1.73 mph. A lovely day out in the countryside, nothing could be better. Last day tomorrow, it has just rushed by and I am looking forward to next year.

The line stretches up Butser Hill

Day 7   12 June   20.6 km   Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park

       Not a bright day, with just a little patchy light rain in the afternoon. Set out from the A286 near Cocking at 10.05am and slowly climbed Cocking Down passing one of Andy Goldsworthy's chalk stones created in 2002. It was then over Linch Ball (814 feet) and Didling Hill before reaching the Devil's Jumps (five Bronze Age barrows but we could find no bee orchids) and then the memorial to Hauptmann Joseph Oestermann, the German pilot. The rolling hills continued with Mount Sinai, Pen Hill and the panoramic Beacon Hill (794 feet) before reaching the Harting Downs to enjoy a Honeycomb ice cream, the last from the ice cream lady until next year. It was then several miles of track and road until we reached the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and took the new SDW path through the woods (it seemed at add more distance and another hill, not a popular alteration). It was certainly a tough day and I finished at 16.15pm - an average speed of 2.08 mph. The fairy at the top of Beacon Hill was a sight never before seen, there is always something extra to find.

Day 6   11 June   16.4 km   Whiteways to Cocking

       The sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky. Set out from Whiteways at 9.55am and soon reached the slopes of Bignor Hill (738 feet). A steady pace uphill and Toby's Stone (a mounting block) was eventually passed by and then it was only a short walk to Bignor car park to meet the lady with the ice creams, stem ginger flavour today, very nice. A few brief steps along Stane Street (Roman trade road) and then passed Glatting Beacon (804 feet) with its radio masts. Soon it was downhill to cross the A285 only to climb straight back up the other side and pass near Crown Tegleaze which, at 830 feet, is the highest point on the Sussex Downs. It was then fairly level walking along the top of Graffham Down and Heyshott Down before the gentle descent of Manorfarm Down to the finish at the A286, arriving at 15.10pm - an average speed of 1.95 mph. It was a hot and tiring day but still enjoyable.

Day 5   10 June   15.6 km   Washington to Whiteways

       Well, back in God's country again and the sun is shining. Started from Washington at 10.05am and took an alternative route to climb the very steep rise through the woods at Biggen Holt and so return to the South Downs Way. The series of hilltops along the ridge with such wonderful views to the north, glorious. The springy turf together with chalk and flint paths soon put the miles behind us. After Chantry Post I spotted a Fox Moth caterpillar in the path and then it was soon time for an ice cream treat at Kithurst Hill. Wide views across Amberley Wild Brooks from Rackham Hill (633 feet) before the sharp descent into the Arun valley. Soon crossed over the river only to be met by the long climb back up to the top of the hills and then on to Whiteways (for coffee and cake), finishing at 15.25pm - an average speed of 1.82 mph. A great day and feeling pretty good - spotting the caterpillar was special but rather disappointed that I missed the bee orchid.

Day 4   9 June   18.6 km   Devil's Dyke to Washington

       Out again today - setting out from Devil's Dyke at 9.50am to firstly see the magnificent views across The Weald, it all seems so high up with a miniature landscape far below. Then westwards along the ridge to Truleigh Hill (709 feet) with it's prominent radio masts before making the long descent into the Adur valley and over the river. The long climb up Annington Hill and through the pig farm, around Steyning Bowl and onwards to Chanctonbury Ring at 781 feet. The difficult chalk and flint path down to Washington was a slow finish to the day and I arrived at the Frankland Arms at 15.40pm - an average speed of all but 2 mph. The day was fairly cloudy and a bit chilly apart from when the sun did briefly appear. No highlight but I feel I must campaign heavily for the protection of the cement works and pig farm - I shall say no more.

Day 3   8 June   19.9 km   Newmarket Inn to Devil's Dyke

       Still going strong. I set out from the Newmarket Inn at 10.00am and once across the A27 it was firstly up and over Long Hill before the long climb across Balmer Down. Then onwards and up to Blackcap (676 feet) and the ridgeway with glorious views in all directions. Heading west across Plumpton Plain towards Ditchling Beacon (814 feet) it was soon time for lunch and a Feast lolly from the ice cream van. Continuing on to Keymer Post (768 feet) and passing many dew ponds before reaching the village of Pyecombe. The ladies of the church (which has a fine tapsell gate with genuine Pyecombe shepherd's crook) had laid on a lovely spread of coffee and cakes which were enjoyed in the sunshine amongst the gravestones. No rest for the wicked, it was then over the busy A23 to be met by the long climb up and sharp descent to reach Saddlescombe before the final climb of the day up Summer Down to the finish at Devil's Dyke (the largest chalkland combe in Britain) at 16.25pm - an average speed of 1.93 mph. Another good, hard day . . . and the highlight? Well, walking all alone high above Saddlescombe and reaching a field with about 15 cattle gridlocked in the corner by the gate. It took quite a lot of coaxing to move them one at a time away from the gate so that I could get through.

Day 2   7 June   22.1 km   Alfriston to Newmarket Inn

       The big day, almost 14 miles. Set off from Alfriston at 9.45am and as we plodded up the long climb towards Firle Beacon (712 feet) a long stream of runners were on their way down as part of a half marathon. Together with the views over Arlington Reservoir and the village of Firle, there were many hang gliders at the top of the steep escarpments waiting for the right wind and, when it came, many of them took to the air. We soon passed the Radio Station at the top of Beddingham Hill (620 feet) before reaching Itford Hill (a mere 538 feet) and soon it was the descent to the South Downs Way Bridge over the A26. Then, across the River Ouse and lunch by the church at Southease. The long haul in the afternoon up Mill Hill to the ridgeway with the views over Lewes and the surrounding areas. Moving from East to West we crossed the Meridian Line before reaching Jugg's Road to circle the perimeter of Cold Coombes and finally heading downhill to the Newmarket Inn on the A27, finishing at 16.20pm - at an average speed of 2.1 mph. A good but hard day with the highlight being the crossing of the meridian, did I gain an extra day or lose one?

Day 1   6 June   16.8 km   Eastbourne to Alfriston

       Gosh, well here we are once again. Setting out from Eastbourne at 10.00am it was good and sunny with a fair breeze to accompany us. Climbing up towards Beachy Head (538 feet) it was seeming all routine, those super views and such great company but as we turned the corner towards Belle Tout the breeze was now in our face and increasing in strength. Birling Gap was sheltered and warm and the treat of a Feast lolly was most welcome. Next was the Seven Sisters, as the breeze seemed to become a gale we struggled up and down the steep slopes - Went Hill, Bailey's Hill, Flagstaff Point, Brass Point, Rough Brow, Short Brow and Haven Brow. Then, at last, into the shelter of Cuckmere Haven as we dropped down to walk alongside the river to Exceat. Up and down a hill and soon we reached the village of Westdean where I caught up with Sue and we strolled along through Friston Forest and then yet another hill before reaching Litlington. With only a mile or so left to go I stopped to enjoy afternoon coffee and shortbread, laid on in the village hall, unkind to refuse. All that now remained was a gentle wander along the banks of the Cuckmere River to Alfriston and finish at 16.10pm - an average speed of a magnificent 1.68 mph, far too lovely to hurry. Yes, a great day - no especial highlight, just the unrelenting wind against, all along the Seven Sisters, will be remembered for a long time.


2nd Annual South Downs Way Walk

20 to 28 June 2014   Winchester to Eastbourne

Day 9   28 June   Alfriston to Eastbourne

       Back on the road again, 11 miles from Alfriston to Eastbourne - again it was a lovely warm day. Set out from Alfriston at 9.45am and followed the River Cuckmere to Litlington, then through Friston Forest to West Dean and down to Exceat. Followed the river path through the country park before climbing up Haven Brow to Cliff End. From there it was straight path along the coast, although very undulating and a long way up from the sea. The slow clamber up and down the Seven Sisters before dropping down to Birling Gap for a Feast choc-ice, less houses than last year but more beach. Then the climb up to Belle Tout, it is still clinging on, followed by the seemingly endless rise up to Beachy Head with the lighthouse far below. The cliff edge does seem a lot closer and finally, at last, the descent down towards Eastbourne to finish the trail at 3.45pm. Today's best view was looking westwards across Cuckmere Haven to the cliffs leading round towards Seaford.

There was then a further mile to walk along the promenade at Eastbourne to get to the Winter Gardens for the end of walk celebration and another chance to talk to old and new friends. Great fun.

 A total of 74 miles completed this year, slightly better than the 73 miles achieved in 2013 - although I do feel that I am getting slower, some days I was barely in before the last bus.

Belle Tout and the chalk cliffs

Day 8   27 June   Newmarket Inn to Alfriston

       Could not face the prospect of the long 14 miles from Newmarket Inn to Alfriston - not sure how far I would have got if I had gone - it is becoming a rather disappointing close to the SDW 2014.

Tomorrow is the last day, I must go and finish in good spirits and see again the people I have met on the trail this year.

Day 7   26 June   Devil’s Dyke to Newmarket Inn

       Feet and calves not up for a 13 mile walk from Devil's Dyke to the Newmarket Inn so I have not gone today. Sorry. Hopefully I should get out for some of Day 8.

Day 6   25 June   Washington to Devil’s Dyke

       My foot felt quite reasonable this morning so I went to see how far I could get - 7 miles, Washington to the River Adur - the weather was warm and sunny. I set out from Washington at 9.50am  to face the steep climb back up to the ridgeway, it was a long haul and finally rewarded by some excellent views - the Isle of Wight was very clear and the oil refinery at Fawley recognisable. A quick visit to the dew pond and then the inspiring sight of Chanctonbury Ring on the skyline, high above the wide expanse of the Weald down below. Walking eastwards through the farmland with birds singing overhead towards Steyning Round Hill and Bowl - and then passed the memorial to local farmers Walter and Thelma Langmead and on to the pig farm. The chalk and flint descent to Botolphs in the river valley did no favours to my foot and then a short stretch along the riverbank before crossing the Adur and, at 14.15pm, calling a halt to the day's walk. No especial highlight of the day, just the joy of walking along the ridge on a glorious summer day - what could be better.

I set a slow pace to try and protect my foot - it did not seem to be wise to increase the pace, walk a further 5 miles to Devil's Dyke and try to catch the last coach back. As it is I shall need to rest it tomorrow and hopefully get back out on the trail for Day 8.

Day 5   24 June   Whiteways to Washington

       9 miles again today, through God's country - Whiteways to Washington - the weather was sunny and hot as I left Whiteways at 9.50am and rejoined the SDW before heading downhill to the River Arun - unfortunately my foot began troubling me and so I sat on the riverbank and stuck on a blister plaster in the hope of preventing a problem - the sun was beating down relentlessly and after crossing the B2139 I began the wearisome ordeal of making my way up the ever-steep Amberley Mount. At the top there was a common spotted orchid and then the walk along the ridgeway (Rackham Hill, Springhead Hill, Kithurst Hill, Chantry Post and Sullington Hill) with magnificent views of the Wildbrooks and Parham Park. The journey was relieved by the ice cream lady stationed at Kithurst Hill car park to offer light refreshment. We descended Barnsfarm Hill into Washington and it was this final downhill that made my foot quite painful and I hobbled to the finish at the Frankland Arms at 3.25pm - not sure how my foot is going to feel by morning.

Day 4   23 June   Cocking to Whiteways

       Only 9 miles today, the A286 south of Cocking to Whiteways - another sunny and warm day - left the A286 south of Cocking at 9.55am heading eastwards up Manorfarm Down - on the south of the track we saw a bee orchid - then passed Heyshott Down and Graffham Down and for a while joined the West Sussex Literary Trail. Again we were reaching heights of over 750 feet before the drop down to Littleton Farm on the A285. It was on the way down that I was overtaken by a group of Nepalese runners . . . I must have quickened my pace a little as they overtook me again on the way up the other side, after crossing the road, and heading towards Sutton Down. It was back over 700 feet as we passed  Glatting Beacon with it's radio masts and as we headed for Bignor Hill (738 feet) the ice cream lady was in evidence and I sampled the butter toffee flavour (again). It was then passed blue fields of flax and Toby's Stone (Home is the sailor / Home from the sea) and steeply down to the three barns at Westburton Hill and finally across the rolling downland to finish at Whiteways cafe (3.35pm) for a well-deserved coffee. What was the highlight today? It was a good walk but the bee orchid was special.

Day 3   22 June   Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Cocking

       13 miles today, Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Cocking - good warm day and seemingly all uphill - left the Country Park at 10.05am and climbed steadily up to the ridgeway and then followed the path as it led eastwards. Eventually, a steep climb through some woods as a chapter of bikers rode along the B2141 below (well, there was at least a page and a half of them) and then out on to Harting Downs. The amazing views to the north as we ate lunch and enjoyed an ice cream, the village of South Harting nestling in the valley below with the green coloured, copper clad broach spire of the church. The trail leads on and although not actually on the South Downs Way we took the very steep climb up and down Beacon Hill (794 feet) before passing over Pen Hill and across Philliswood Down. The German grave and then the Devil's Jumps (a Bronze Age barrow cemetary) were noticed and then it was Didling Hill before the rolling path crosses Cocking Down and passes one of the chalk stones created by Andy Goldsworthy. I arrived at the day's finish on the A286 at 4.40pm with just enough time for a coffee, supplied by the owners of the nearby Manor Farm who had set up refreshments for us as well as making available some of their organic meat products. Today's best moments were the views from Harting Down and reaching the summit of Beacon Hill - next stop Everest.

Day 2   21 June   Exton to Queen Elizabeth Country Park

       Only 12 miles today, Exton to Queen Elizabeth Country Park - another lovely warm day - starting from The Shoe pub at Exton at 9.45am we were very soon on the lower slopes of Old Winchester Hill. A slow climb and time to admire the blue fields of flax, at present in bloom prior to the seeds being harvested to make linseed oil. Still upward and we were soon crossing the top of the hill (Monarch's Way not South Downs Way) - 646 feet - before descending to the trout farm at Whitewool Pond for lunch and watch a little of the fly fishing. Then a steady climb out of the valley before the gradient steepens sharply up Salt Hill, many a stop to recover but, finally, at a height of around 750 feet the reward of glorious views across the countryside. Soon there was to be an ice cream from the Beech Cafe at the Sustainability Centre (an independent learning centre) to refresh the legs and then onward passed Hyden Cross (with exceptional views to the north) and finally Butser Hill. Descending into the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and finishing at 3.45pm with a cup of filter coffee and a bag of Maltesers. A great day, enjoy the flax in bloom and the summit of Old Winchester Hill.

Day 1   20 June   Winchester to Exton

       13 miles from Winchester to Exton - lovely warm day with plenty of sunshine - I set out from the King Alfred statue at 9.45am to walk out of Winchester and across the busy M3 motorway (had to run a bit sharpish there!). After passing through the pretty village of Chilcomb we climbed up Telegraph Hill and then along to Cheesefoot Head. The SDW and the King's Way follow the same path in this area and I took lunch on Gander Down with the sound of larks singing in sky above me. After crossing the A272 for the second time, the path continued along Holden Lane until we reached The Milbury's public house and enjoyed a refreshing glass. Inside the pub is a 300 foot well powered by a treadmill which has a diameter of 12 feet. Anyway, could not sit there relaxing for too long as the trail led on toward the fairly steep descent into the Meon valley and the village of Exton. I reached The Shoe pub at 16.10pm with time enough for a healthy helping of ice cream in the garden with the swift river Meon flowing by . . . and all too soon it was time for the coach to arrive and drive us back to Worthing. End of a lovely day and the best memory was the fields of scarlet poppies, a heavy flush of red in the golden fields.


1st Annual South Downs Way Walk

7 to 15 June   Eastbourne to Winchester

Day 9   15 June   13 miles   Exton to Winchester

       Last day - wind, rain and a few spells of sunshine. Good walk today, the final hill and the descent into Winchester. It is the first day my feet have not hurt, where is the sense in that? Home is the hero, home from the sea - sailor beware!

Day 8   14 June   12 miles   Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Exton

       Lovely weather, lovely walk. Butser Hill, Old Winchester Hill and the Meon valley - ah, Hampshire, God's own country but we all know that Sussex is much nicer. Last day tomorrow and then my feet can have a deserved rest.

Day 7   13 June   12 miles   Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Park

       Although the walking has been great during the last 3 days, the struggle on the first two necessitates my taking another day out to recover my feet so I can do the final two days. It is a pity but not sorry to miss today's wind!

Day 6   12 June   9 miles   Whiteways to Cocking

       Rain and low cloud again today - only time for a couple of photos before the rain set in. Good walking but no chance of seeing views of the countryside. The ice-cream lady was out again today and Middle Farm, Cocking provided tea and cakes.

Day 5   11 June   9 miles   Washington to Whiteways

       A very wet day, good job I took my waterproofs. Despite the rain it was a good walk but, as the cloud was so low along the top of the Downs, one could only see a few yards. In view of the conditions I did not try to take any pictures.

The iconic Chanctonbury Ring

Day 4   10 June   12 miles   Devil's Dyke to Washington

       Hooray - up and running again (well, ok, hobbling). A fine walk along the ridge with spectacular views into the distance. So many lovely country churches lie close to the path of the SDW - and, as a treat, we spotted some orchids too.

Day 3   9 June   12 miles   Newmarket Inn to Devil's Dyke

     Disaster has struck, the pain yesterday seems to have turned into a minor blister or some such thing - limping badly today - trying to rest and recover and hope to get back out tomorrow with alternative footwear. So disappointed.

Day 2   8 June   14 miles   Alfriston to Newmarket Inn

       The breeze was very strong along the ridgeway, we could have done with it being a bit more from behind. A long climb up to Firle Beacon and then greeted with many glorious views to the north over the Weald ... but "ow" my feet hurt. Had to stop at Southease.

Day 1   7 June   11 miles   Eastbourne to Alfriston

       Done in 6 hours & 20 minutes - seemed like a long 11 miles, was caused by the SDW sign posts being a bit random. The stretch along by the Seven Sisters was very up and down however, the view into the Cuckmere valley was so magnificent.

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

Visit them at footprintsofsussex.co.uk

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

This annual event is sponsored by Regatta