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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

South Downs Way Day 6 - Bramber to Housedean

I wrote this blog entry last night, and saved it as a draft, only to discover this morning that it had disappeared. So I’m writing it again, and it’s interesting how the act of downloading it to tye blog the first time has made it harder to access from my memory again a second time. As if I have filed it ready for the new day. So, I’m having to recall with more effort now.


Today has been perfect walking weather. Sunny without being too hot, breezy without being windy. There has been lovely springy grass under foot, and no mud.

The pub served an unexpectedly exotic breakfast of crumpets with guacamole, eggs and chilli jam to which I added toast. I had decided to eat big today. Which, to my friends, would be seen as no surprise. I really like my food. Whilst I was enjoying my breakfast I then also enjoyed the company of Mary and Richard. Mary is walking the SDW, and Richard is accompanying her for a couple of days. They are clearly old friends, and their easy friendship was lovely to be part of. I promised him that I wouldn’t repeat what he said that made Mary and I laugh in female solidarity…. We talked of writing and creative projects. I look forward to seeing her work in print one day.


Although generally I am doing pretty well physically, there are odd niggles emerging. I always have a problem with the fourth toes of my right foot after repeated walking, so that needs strapping. The skin of my ankle where the boot rubs is a bit sore, so needs attention. My thumb still needs covering before going outside, and my back is sporting various mild pressure sores from where it’s getting used to the rucksack. Nothing major, but if I don’t deal with them all it could become so.


Having taped and strapped myself up I walked through Bramber and into Upper Beeding, the village on the way back up to the ridge. There I met Sue, who described herself as the oldest litter picker in the area. She was doing a fantastic job. We ended up having a really good conversation about grief and mourning, the value of the Samaritans as well as other counselling organisations, and she shared memories of her husband Ben. He sounded a lovely man, and much missed. I left feeling that the ten minutes with her had enriched my life.


The route up to the SDW from Upper Beeding follows Monarch’s Way. This is the route that Charles ll took to avoid Oliver Cromwell. It has associations for me that made me reflective as I walked on it. But only reflective, not broken. At the top of the hill I could see down to what I thought was Lancing College, together with the tower of the disused concrete works.



Finally walking along the top, the wind got up a bit, but nothing compared to yesterday. And after a couple of miles, I encountered the best thing a walker can find, which is an unexpected cafe attached to Truleigh Hill youth hostel. The young member of staff was fighting with a broken coffee machine, but he managed to produce for me an Americano of such intensity that it propelled me forward for the next hour.


I returned to my seaside postcard sniggering following Cocking and High Titting whilst passing Fulking Escarpment. It entertained me. As did my conversation with Carly shortly afterwards. She had touched base, and I had texted back with an emoji that I thought demonstrated that I was hot and sweaty. I didn’t have my glasses on, and apparently sent one that said I was furious. I don’t think people who wear varifocals should be allowed emojis.

The grassland was open and comfortable underfoot leading over to Devil’s Dyke, and to my right down towards Brighton I could see the off shore wind farm seemingly hanging in the air.



In my conversation with Carly I’d been saying that I’d not yet encountered any cows that weren’t behind a fence. I spoke too soon, as round the next bend there was a large herd right across the path. But whereas before I would have been extremely alarmed (I really don’t like cows) this time I confidently walked through them. They didn’t trouble me.


The views were clear and extensive today. I could see the path winding up New Timber Hill over to my left, but that wasn’t one for me today.

Instead my path went down to Saddlescombe Farm, a National Trust property which has a cafe. I’d got hopes of a supplementary drink to add to the caffeine boost, but the walking gods, having given with one hand then removed with the other. The cafe is closed on Mondays.

There was a steepish climb up East Hill, and then the most delightful descent on springy dry turf towards Pyecombe, where I was going to stop for lunch.


On the way to my pub I called in at the Shepherd’s Church, a place that has welcomed travellers for 850 years. In it I discovered that Pyecombe is on an old drovers path. Shepherds would gather her with their flocks before driving them to market in the small towns around here. And the Pyecombe crook is a particularly well respected type of shepherd’s crook, I discovered. The other remarkable thing about the church is that it has a Tapsel gate. This is particular to Sussex, and is designed to swing from the middle. The aim of this is to allow a coffin to pass through whilst also stopping animals from entering the churchyard. I spent a bit of time experimenting to see if I could work out how this would work, imagining sheep on one side and a coffin on the other.


And then to continue my ‘eat big’ campaign, I had a proper sit down lunch of fajitas at the Plough. What a great place. Ali and Waleed were so welcoming, the food was excellent and in the back of the cubicle in the ladies there was a poster that spoke to me. I hope to make my life count, and this week has certainly been memorable.



With a positive spring, I headed up the hill out of Pyecombe, applauding golfers on their excellent driving, congratulating mothers on their beautiful wobbly legged curious calves, and walking past the Jack and Jill windmills.

At the top I met Jane, Nicole, Nick and Rick who were heading in the other direction, ready to stay at the Plough tonight. I hope they had as good a time as I did.


Now up on the top, it was a pretty easy walk along the ridge to Ditchling Beacon. Many years ago I did the London to Brighton cycle ride. I am not a great cyclist, and the ascent of this hill was too much. I realised that I was cycling slower than I would walk, and got off and pushed. Seeing the road again made me very grateful that I was walking it instead. As I got to the top the sun was shining. I sat with my thermos, returned some messages from friends, ate an apple and smiled. Life felt hopeful, and I felt that everything was going to be ok.


And then the gods smiled on me again. Walking away from the top I thought what I saw was a mirage. I squeaked to a walker next to me in excitement. And she confirmed that it was indeed true. There was an ice cream van on the top of Ditchling Beacon.

And one that served high quality ice cream. A double chocolate one, no less.

The unexpected sugar boost meant I positively bounced along to where I was going to stop, at Plumpton. The approaching storm clouds and cows lying down didn’t materialise in rain. And I had lots of miles in my legs.


The forecast for tomorrow is not great, and today’s weather was brilliant. So I decided that I would adjust my mileage today, walking another three or so miles, in order to reduce my mileage tomorrow. I could do this because my lovely friend Claire was picking me up, so as long as I could get to a road then everything could be changed.


So I walked down the hill away from Plumpton and meandered (this walk doesn’t always go in a straight line) towards my destination. My feet were beginning to tire, so I put on my favourite piece from last year. Twentieth Anniversary Jigs by Skippinish. If you’re a new reader and haven’t heard me rave about this piece, may I strongly suggest you look it up? It’s joy in the form of pipes and Scottish loveliness. I walked, danced, twirled and sang my way down the hill, and within moments Claire was there to greet me.

And then a wonderful evening with her and Stephen and their glorious daughters Megan and Ruby. So wonderful to catch up with them after many years. And they did my washing too!

Stats

Distance travelled - 16.6 miles

Total ascent - 2283 feet

Calories burned - 2508


Local tipple - excellent gin and tonic made by Claire

Dinner cooked by Stephen - excellent!

Spinach and ricotta lasagne with vegetables.


Video of the day































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Holding post

All well, but I have WiFi issues - today’s blog will go up in the morning!

7 commentaires


sophie.holroyd67
10 avr.

What a fab day! And a fab blog too. Laughed out loud at the icecream van. Special message: DON’T LET ANYONE STEAL YOUR HAPPINESS ❤️ 🥾 ❤️ Live you, Jane xxxxx

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mkaustin53
10 avr.

Absolutely worth the wait - we ended up going out for dinner so did not get to bed till late. My husband was not overly delighted that I refused to turn out the light until I read your latest blog. Your writing brings such joy to us. Thank you x

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valbaty
09 avr.

You've had less mud today, which must have been a blessing. I now know what a Tapsel gate is and can see that it's a clever idea. As with your previous blogs, you write about the people you meet along the way.. The photos always show lovely, friendly people with big smiles. I do like the words on the poster. I'm going to copy them for myself.

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Janna Ruth Holder
Janna Ruth Holder
09 avr.

Love the words on the back of the door... and glad you managed to find an ice cream... reminded me of the ice cream van I booked during lockdown and the treat that felt ! Xx

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
09 avr.
En réponse à

That was a lockdown highlight!

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Richard Jones
Richard Jones
09 avr.

Well done Jane, you walked 10 miles further than us yesterday. Thanks for your nice comments and your discretion! Your blog is excellent, much better than Mary’s 😊

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
09 avr.
En réponse à

That made me laugh a lot! I’m sure Mary’s writings are excellent! Really good to meet you both.

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