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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

South Downs Way Day 4 - Cocking to Amberley

Yesterday evening had a bit of a challenge. The window in my bedroom had been left open when I arrived, and it was very stiff. In shutting it I managed to close part my thumb inside the mechanism. I looked down at it in that moment before an injury like that starts to hurt, and swore quietly to myself. It then began to bleed in the most energetic way, and with enthusiasm quite out of proportion for the size of the injury, which was not large. Trying to stop the blood going all over the floor, bedding, towels whilst also finding my first aid kit and sorting out plasters with my left hand was quite the mission. And those who know me know that I am ridiculously squeamish. I was fine in the crisis, but once I had the chance to think about it I came over all peculiar and went to bed. I know. It's not impressive. But aside from the feeling otherly, it's been such a pain today, as I've not been able to press on my right thumb. There are a lot of things to do with packing a rucksack that require your right thumb to be pressing.

Another of the brilliant encounters that I love so much over breakfast. Olly and Hannah had been camping nearby but came in to the pub for breakfast. We started chatting, and I discovered that they had met working in Antartica. Olly still works there as a pilot, Hannah now works as an engineer back in the UK. They were fascinating about the life there, the challenges and the joys. His description of spending all day digging fuel barrels out of metres deep snow was one I'll not forget. Nor the idea of encountering sea birds 100 miles inland, surrounded by nothing but white. I bumped into them a couple more times during the day, I was so glad to meet them.


I picked up my packed lunch from the pub. On offer was a sandwich, fruit or crisps and a chocolate bar. I was told that they had no fruit, but could offer me a tomato. The thought of the state of that after a morning in a rucksack filled me with some concern. And then I asked what type of chocolate they had. 'We've got Twix, or.... (long pause) Actually, we've just got Twix'. Twix it was then.

The first part of the walk was across a ploughed field, with the clods of earth looking like a lunar landscape. The sun was hazy in the sky, and the birds were erupted in singing all around me.


The footpath making its way through the woods up to the SDW proper was the steepest bit of hill I've done for a long time, involving a number of stops to pant. I met two women cautiously descending whilst being hindered by their dogs. They told me that there were far easier ways to get to the path. Possibly would have been more helpful to know that at the bottom rather than the top. But if I'd taken the easier route then I wouldn't have emerged from the woods to find the view burst out below me.


Today has been fine and dry, and the weather generally has been so much better than the forecast a week ago. But the mud has continued as the theme of all the days so far. It's spectacular. My feet have stayed dry again though, if that lasts another 4 days it will be a miracle

As I approached Graffham Downs, I met Gail. She is celebrating her impending 70th birthday in style, by doing a complex triathlon. She has done 700 laps of her local pool, is going to cycle 70 miles round the Isle of Wight, and then will complete the challenge by walking 70 miles of the South Downs Way. She was out doing a cheeky 16 mile training walk. She walked alongside me for a while before I stopped for a break. She walks faster than me. And I walk fast. What an inspiration. Who knows what she'll be doing to celebrate her 80th.


I watched her walk off with Olly and Hannah, who had joined us, and sat on a soft patch of grass and talked to my lovely friend Carly. These phone calls to my friends are so encouraging and lovely, keeping me connected to my life outside of walking. I'm very grateful to all of the people who've been in touch in whatever form.

The fields have been so dramatic today, with the markings of the ploughing looking like gigantic art installations. And the newly turned earth was fragrant in a faintly exotic way. The seagulls were loving it too.


Although it had only been a mile or so since my tea break, I was not going to pass up the chance to have a coffee at another of the Cadence cafes. And thank goodness, as it meant I got to meet Carol and Suzie. They are walking together, doing the Way in stages. They were excellent company, sharing our experiences of the recuperative effective of being outside walking, and recommended a book - '52 ways to walk', which includes dancing. I showed them my energetic picture from yesterday. I hope they really enjoy the next stages, when they get to do them. You will notice that they are modelling the spectacular almond brownies that we all loved.


The second hill of the day was quite steep, though nothing like the first, but it paid off, leading to a lovely open section of grassy path with open views to the south. I watched a bird of prey with some unfortunate in its talons, and then saw the first little lambs of the walk, my favourite sign of spring.



A car park marks the section that is shared with the old Roman road of Stane Street. It's wide, and open, and ran from Chichester to London, and must have been a nightmare to build if it was muddy like today. Specially in those centurion's sandals.

The track summits Biggin Hill, and then it started a long descent with lovely views that showed the extent of the flooding of the Arun and the brooks near Amberley. This is a lovely place, mud and all.




There must have been a party on in

Amberley tonight, as there was no accommodation available anywhere. So it meant the adventure of taking my utterly filthy boots on the train to Arundel. If I'd had more time to spare, I'd have had a rest day here. Not because I particularly need a rest, but because it's such a magical place. After washing all my stinky clothes at my B and B I legged it up the hill to try to get to the castle and the gardens before the last entrance. Sadly too late. Looks great from the outside though.

Arundel was used as the setting for the film 'Wicked Little Letters' which David and I saw a month or so ago. It's done great things for the footfall to the town it seems. It's all very picturesque, and the river was looking especially lovely with the sunset. A good omen for tomorrow, the forecast is great.

It's not been a day of ecstatic joy like yesterday. Instead it's been one of quieter happiness. I've taken great pleasure in the people I've met, and just the experience of walking outside. It's felt like a more sustainable sort of contentment, and one that has been very nourishing. As was the spectacular dinner at the Parson's Table, a rather smarter restaurant than I'd realised, where the staff welcomed me with open arms despite my less than chic walking clothes and trainers, and periodically came and chatted with me to give me company, but also left me alone when they could see that's what I was after. I will return.

Stats

Distance travelled - 12 miles

Total ascent - 1444 feet

Calories burned - 1723


Local tipple - glass of Tinwood Estate brut (from near Chichester)


Dinner at The Parson's Table - fantastic


Duart salmon with asparagus and horseradish


Hake with jersey royals, courgette, tomato samphire and saffron veloute.


Video of the day

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11 commentaires


bh.inspiral
07 avr.

Aww you are right in the heart of my old stomping grounds - so many geography trips around Arundel, Amberley and the river. Today I was inspired to go on a longer walk from home to Aylesbury along the canal not least as a result of reading your blog 😁. It was muddy too! Your next 2 days will also be along paths I have often trodden and I can’t wait to hear about them. I spent most of my late teens up Cissbury Ring or Chanctonbury and along to Truleigh Hill and Devils Dyke. You’ve also got the amazing Seven Sisters ahead of you - amazing stuff, enjoy & hope the thumb holds up!!

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
09 avr.
En réponse à

How lovely to have spent so much time there, it’s such a beautiful place. X

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Kay Walker
Kay Walker
07 avr.

Oh that mud! It’s just the same round here in the Midlands where I live. Will it ever dry out again? Loving your tales of encounters with fellow walkers.

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
09 avr.
En réponse à

I’d thought it was drying, with all the wind, and then the heavens opened again last night…..

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jlburn
06 avr.

Yet more fascinating folk! I'm particularly impressed with Gail and her impressive undertakings to mark a landmark birthday - surely 50, not 70?!

Oh the mud - far from glorious - but an uplifting red sky to end the day, which as Will, aged about 3 said, guarantees shepherds pie - definitely a good omen for tomorrow! xxx

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justine.curtis
06 avr.

Sorry you missed the tulips at the castle but glad you enjoyed your time in Arundel. xx

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
09 avr.
En réponse à

Loved it, thanks for the recommendation! X

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sophie.holroyd67
06 avr.

Cor … you know how to eat. When I think of my walking food ….

Also, love the photo of the kite! Great shot. They are such aerial acrobats.

That mud!!

Hope thumb heals quickly. Mud cure?

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
09 avr.
En réponse à

I was rather lucky with my food that night! 🤣

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