silkyraven: (Kensal Green)
[personal profile] silkyraven
Since I seem to be unwell today I'll make the most of a sick day by catching up on some sitting at home things. I thought it might be nice to make a bit of a summary post about walking the South Downs Way so this is it! It's quite long but there are pictures...

If you just want to look at the pictures my Flickr album is here:

The South Downs Way is one of about 15 National Trails that exist in the UK. It runs from Winchester to Eastbourne and is about 100 miles in total. I've long wanted to walk it as it's quite close to where I grew up in Hastings, and the Eastbourne end of the route is all countryside that reminds me very much of my childhood and is full of places we used to visit or see - like Alfriston and the Long Man. This year [ profile] lizw and I walked all of it across four weekends! I feel very accomplished having done it and it was good fun.

All distances *very* approximate!

Weekend 1: Winchester to Petersfield
Day 1:
The walk starts in Winchester!

We think finding the actual start of the route was probably the most difficult bit, and certainly the only point where we used the guide book we bought. The national trails are all extremely well signed and there were only one or two points in the entire 100 miles when we had to take the map out to check which way we were going. We soon found the first sign and got onto the walk proper:

I can't remember exactly where we found this but we came across my favourite photo spot of the trip on the weekend on the first day - poppies!

The first section of the walk is quite arable - lots of tracks alongside fields of crops, but the terrain is quite variable and there's also a fair bit of woodland. We made good time to Exton, where we left the route for the day to trek up to our overnight accomomdation in Warnford.

On the South Downs Way: about 12 miles (Winchester to Exton)
Overall: about 15 miles

Day 2:
This was one of the longer days, and for some reason I took no photos. I don't remember it being too warm or anything, but it was a bit of trek from Buriton to the train at Petersfield.

On the South Downs Way: about 12 miles (Exton to Buriton)
Overall: about 14 miles

Friday night - The Winchester Hotel & Spa
Saturday night - The George and Falcon Inn

Weekend 2: Petersfield to Amberley
Day 1
I think this was the longest day's walking of the trip, and it was pretty hot. Still in mostly arable land. Overall the steep hills were mostly towards the start of the walk I think, giving some lovely views:

There was a long walk from Cocking, where we left the SDW to West Dean College where we were staying. Some useful signs along the way though:

It was SO worth the walk to the college though! It was *beautiful*:

*and* There was a swimming pool!! All hot walks should end in the pool.

On the South Downs Way: about 13 miles (Buriton to Cocking)
Overall: about 18 miles

Day 2:

The trek back up to Cocking was a bit dull, and overall it was a hot day's walking. There were some reminders about how long this area has been settled along the way:

On the South Downs Way: about 12 miles (Cocking to Amberley)
Overall: about 15 miles

Friday night - The Good Intent
Saturday night - West Dean College

Weekend 3: Amberley to Housedean
Day 1

The first thing we learned this weekend was that sometimes you need a torch to see the pavement when arriving in rural locations after dark!! Amberley is actually on the route though so it was nice to not have to go anywhere to get started. Upper Beeding wasn't far off the route either. I felt like it was around this point where arable farming was giving way to cows. The latter part of the walk, closer to the coast was much more rolling hills and sheep and cattle, although there are still crops in places.


The B&B we stayed in this evening was very nice, had personalised M&Ms in the rooms and a huge DVD collection so we watched Rush in the evening which I hadn't seen and was very good.

On the South Downs Way: about 14 miles (Amberley to Upper Beeding)
Overall: about 15 miles

Day 2:

The mist this morning was incredible!!!

We couldn't see very far at all. The day started wandering up a hillside and then suddenly we got above the mist line:

It looks like you're up Snowden or something but actually we're all of about 200 metres above sea level and probably less than 100 metres higher up than the first picture. It was pretty amazing.

We managed to do this section at the same time as lots of horses doing endurance riding so this was a lovely day for seeing ponies. I quite fancy having a go actually, I think Dino might be good at it.

There was quite a trek from the end of the SDW here to Lewes to catch the train and I was *shattered* by the time we got there. It was a pretty long distance day I guess, but I was particularly exhausted for some reason.

On the South Downs Way: about 14 miles (Upper Beeding to Housedean)
Overall: about 18 miles

Friday night - Riverside House
Saturday night - Downs View

Weekend 4: Housedean to Eastbourne
Day 1

The final weekend! Housedean is basically in the middle of nowhere (well, it's about halway along the A27 between Falmer and Lewes. Nice) so we stayed in Hove on Friday, got the train to Falmer and eventually worked out how to get back to the road from there and get to the route itself

The countryside has really given way at this point to what I see in my head when I think of the Downs:

We saw this amazing little old church:

and clearly the people of Rodmell have their priorities in order!

Also some seasonal cheer:

This was however at the same farm where the farmer had chosen to deter crows by...shooting crows and stringing them up on stakes by their feet. One of these 'scarecrows' was very close to the path and it took Liz and I a moment to realise what we were looking at. I have to say there were indeed no crows on that farm but we made out way off his lands as quickly as we could. Really? Dead birds on sticks?

On the South Downs Way: about 12 miles (Housedean to Alfriston)
Overall: about 12 miles

Day 2:
The final day! And a very short section for us. We took the bridlepath option which goes over the Long Man but not at an angle for the taking of photos. It was extremely windy so I'm glad we didn't take the cliff top route in the end, although we missed Beachy Head by a mile by following the signs when we could easily of detoured to it. Ah well. Before long we were at the end:

There was nice wander along the promenade at Eastbourne to finish:

On the South Downs Way: about 8 miles (Alfriston to Eastbourne)
Overall: about 12 miles

Friday night - The Imperial Hotel
Saturday night - The Star Inn

I'm very happy we did this! We routinely made very good time on the walking - leaving around 9am most days and getting to our destination between 2 and 3 pm. Taking whole weekends over it was very relaxing, I just wish there were more days in the week when I got back! We have some half formed plans for similar things next year so hopefully this is something we can keep doing.

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