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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

South Downs Way Day 3 - Buriton to Cocking

No nightmares last night. That feels like a real step forward, and I think doing this walk is definitely part of that. It was great to wake up feeling like my night had been normal, without hours of rumination or unwanted bursts of nightmare induced cortisol. I had breakfast with two young Romanian men who are also walking the SDW. But instead of my 8 days, they're doing it in 4. That sounds horrendous to me, just a punishment as opposed to a pleasure. I got the impression that at least one of them was losing heart about the enterprise already, after just one day. They have done lots of challenging and impressive hikes in Europe, but the South Downs mud was getting them down.

As I finished my breakfast I chatted again to Emily, and she told me about her family's experience of taking over The Nest pub a couple of years ago. They have transformed it from a very run down building to somewhere comfortable and smart, and she was saying that their clientele now comes from miles away. And rightly so, it's a gem. She had taken the details of the blog yesterday, so must have read how thrilled I was with the mini eggs that came with the bill. She presented me with a beautifully packaged present of some more for my journey. There are some lovely people in the world.


There was a steep climb out of Buriton back to the path, and then the continuing theme of mud and deep puddles. David chatted to me about his day ahead as I was puffing and blowing, and periodically swearing at the impending slide into the water. Despite the jeopardy, I've kept my feet dry again, no mud has gone over the tops today. Maybe I should have saved that news to the end of this entry, so you'd be reading on excitedly wondering whether I got wet feet. I've ruined the suspense, sorry.


I decided to record any signs of spring today, as I have been struck with how depressingly wintry everything was still looking. Liz took a lovely photo yesterday of ferns beginning to unfold which I thought was satisfyingly symbolic, with the green shoots straining upwards. And there have been other things too, with primroses, daffodils, hawthorn, bluebells and cowslips during the day. They are small but concrete images of hope.


Previous readers of this blog will know that music has been a very important part of my walking experience over the last few years. I've not really listened to anything since setting off, as I've been trying to engage with my environment and how I have been feeling. But, given things seem a bit more settled, I thought I'd give the new Beyoncé album a try, after our daughter Jessie had been really excited about it when we saw her at Easter. What a treat. Fantastic singing, and the harmonies are a joy. I loved American Requiem, and the reimagining of classics like Jolene and Blackbird delighted me.


The wind was getting up as I started to approach the unmarked border between Hampshire and East Sussex. Today's walk is not really long, and my check in time at my accommodation was quite late, so I had decided at the outset to take it slower today. I had my thermos back thanks to my friends yesterday, and a break with a cup of tea is easier to extend than just a slurp from my hydration bladder. So I took the first rest of the day at about 4 miles, with half the peanut butter sandwich that I made yesterday. I know how to treat myself.

The plain leading to South Harting was over to my left and there a couple of towers on the skyline ahead of me. I knew that there was the National Trust Uppark House nearby, but Google fortunately told me that it was closed before I set off to visit it. Also it looked nothing like those towers. When I got home I looked them up. Wikipedia tells me that it is the Vandalian Tower, a folly built to commemorate the British colony of Vandalia, a short lived colony that disappeared with the spread of America. The existence of which is entirely news to me.

The track started to climb steeply, and eventually came out onto Harting Downs. There were brilliant views over the Weald towards South Harting, the wind was blowing, and I decided to take another quick break whilst looking at the view. It's so good not having to rush.

The other album that I've listened to today is Ages by Coco and the Butterfields. The title song was suggested to me by someone who knows me extremely well, and I loved it. It kept me going as I climbed Beacon Hill, and indeed provoked a tiny dance.

Again the official route skirts the summit of the hill, and it was a steep climb, but it was so worth it. It’s been weeks and weeks since I’ve felt happy like that. Both my physical and psychological packs felt lighter.


Coming down from Pen Hill, I took it very steady as the mud was terrible. So slippery and unpredictable, it made it very hard work. It was such a relief to temporarily get to the odd bit of dry track, where I didn't have to concentrate so hard on remaining upright.

I passed the Devil's Jumps, which are a series of Bronze Age burial mounds, and exchanged cheery greetings with the first Duke of Edinburgh group I've encountered this year. They are always good value, those teenagers, with their combination of cockiness and innocence, and enormous rucksacks.

I took another break for the rest of my lunch (chocolate brownie and a pear, if you're asking!) at the edge of Didling Hill on a fallen trunk amongst cowslips.


It was quite a slog coming down the hill towards Cocking. I felt envious of the two sheepdogs who were having a lift with their farmer.

The travails in the mud and the extra hills I had chosen to do had taken it out of me. I passed some fields with livestock for the first time, including an extremely well endowed bull looking pleased with himself amongst his harem.


I was all for ploughing on to the village, but then there was an unexpected cafe a mile outside Cocking which appeared to have my name on it. I realised I’ve not had a coffee today, which might explain why I was feeling more tired than expected. The Cadence clubhouse is a very comfy cafe that’s set up for cyclists, but they were happy to accept muddy walkers.

And as I was packing up to leave, Davina and Wendy introduced themselves to me. Davina is off soon to walk the Path of the Gods between Bologna and Florence. David and I walked a portion of the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi coast last summer. Those gods got about. It was great to chat to them, and share rucksack and packing experience. Again the sort of thing that would leave a non-walker cold, but for members of this elite club a light comes on in the eyes....


The Blue Bell at Cocking is a community owned pub which is very comfortable and serves good food. I was presented with an existential question on my arrival though, when the member of staff realised I'd been assigned a double bed despite having booked a single. I was very happy with that outcome, but she was perturbed. It led to her asking 'are you sure you're Jane Smith?' There have been times over the last couple of months when my sense of self has been challenged, but this felt extreme.


This leg of the walk was described by my B and B host a couple of days ago as a bit bleak. It's true, there are no coffee stops or any habitation on the walk to speak of. It’s been very muddy and windy and a bit grey, and there’s been a lot of uphill climbing. But I will never forget the moment of complete happiness on the top of Beacon Hill, and the feeling that everything was getting better. And that maybe I am becoming sure who I am again.


Stats

Distance travelled - 12.2 miles

Total ascent - 1694 feet

Calories burned - 1741


Local tipple - Bluebell from Sussex Best Bitters, which is a 360 brewing company. I’ll need to ask my brewery expert friends what that means!


Dinner at The Blue Bell, Cocking - good

Halloumi burger and fries with salad

Apple and cinnamon crumble


No video of the walk today as the app had turned itself off. Grrrr.


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13 comentarios


sophie.holroyd67
06 abr

Nb: it was particularly lovely to see the signs of spring in the photos. This was the section I had the miraculous snow on, remember? 8th March, 2023. I missed out the section up to the viewpoint before the devil’s whatsits as I took a wrong turn in the wood (for me it was after then as I was going the other way) and ended up miles off the route. Clucking bell!

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
07 abr
Contestando a

You didn’t miss much with the Devil’s whatsits! Would have been extraordinary with snow. Xx

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sophie.holroyd67
06 abr

No nightmares, mini eggs, perfect curling ferns… no wonder you were dancing! GREAT PHOTO!!!! Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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valbaty
06 abr

The British Colony of Vandali is new to me. I think it deserves a 'google'. The photos of spring fern and flowers are beautiful and encouraging, but the best photo is of you dancing on the hill!

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
06 abr
Contestando a

It’s certainly a bit bonkers - I was careful that there wasn’t anyone around during my dancing!

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nora.bennett
06 abr

It's comforting and inspirational to read these dispatches from your walk, Jane. I'm catching up from under the blankets in a bunk near Arzua, to shield other pilgrims from the light of my phone. Your weather and walking surface have been worse than ours (and ours have been dodgy at times) and your distances put most of our days to shame, but your ability to wring the last drop of joy out of the experience is admirable as always. Ultreia! as the Camino saying goes.

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
06 abr
Contestando a

Thanks Nora. I’m looking up Arzua to see where you are now, hope you’re enjoying the pilgrimage despite the dodgy weather.

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jlburn
05 abr

Ooh - those eggs look good!

Lovely glimpses of Spring to gladden the heart but that bull looks way too close for comfort! Also great to see you looking and sounding so ebullient. Those are rosy cheeks! You clearly are sure that you are Jane Smith! What a relief. xxx

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
06 abr
Contestando a

Aren’t they rosy though? 🤣🤣

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