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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

South Downs Way Day 7 - Housedean to Bo Peep Farm

After an hour or two scrambling to get yesterday’s blog up and running, I had a lovely breakfast with Claire and Stephen before he drove me back to Housedean campsite, where I finished yesterday. It’s been a day with various tech issues. I have a Garmin GPS that has InReach which means that I can call for help by satellite in case there’s no phone signal. That has mainly been turned off whilst walking as my mobile signal has been good. I use it at the end of the day to let special people know that I’ve arrived safely, but otherwise I’ve not needed it. For route planning, this year I’ve been using the Outdoor Active app on my phone, with the OS app as back up. And I measure my mileage, ascents and calories burnt using my Apple Watch. The calories burnt aspect is not for any sort of weight related reasons - I’m long past trying to adjust my weight! Instead it gives me a really good measure of the comparative amount of effort I’ve been making, so that I can ensure I eat enough to replace what I’ve burnt. Today I’ve been struggling with maintaining power to both devices, which has been a pain. Can windy weather create power drains on electronics?


For windy it certainly has been today.

Once I set off I was boosted by a lovely message from David saying he was proud of me, and then a hilarious one from my friend Nick, who had read my comment that I was going to ‘unusually eat meat’ to mean that I would be having a sausage whilst doing a handstand. It made me laugh, which was a very good thing, as the day started as usual with a big hill, and then not as usual a wave of sadness. Grief is a messy business, you think you’ve got it sussed and then it trips you up. But I take consolation that these waves are getting smaller and less frequent.


The weather was grey and miserable, there was a slightly concerning ache in my Achilles tendon, and climbing up past Newmarket plantation I was tired and puffed. The light was flat. Although the grass was the same as yesterday, it didn’t seem to bounce me along in the same way. Even the cows looked depressed.

I did take a moment’s laughter from realising I was walking along Juggs Road. And later enjoyed Home Bottom, Cricketing Bottom, and Breaky Bottom. Once upon a time I was sophisticated.


And then I got to the top, and the wind got going. Very quickly I was cold, so although it wasn’t raining heavily I decided to put my full wets on to give me an extra layer. Can I report that putting waterproof trousers on in winds of 45mph is no mean feat. They filled with air and flew out in front of me, whilst I clung on to the waist band and desperately tried to insert my leg. They flapped about like those bonkers skydancers people use for adverts, flying away from me as I progressed towards them. I knew that if I let go to ease my leg in they’d be off over to the other side of Sussex. Reader, it was not elegant. But I persisted. Then I had to put the rain cover on the rucksack. In the last windy day I had trouble with this as it’s too big, allowing the spare material to fill with air. Today it did that, but going sideways as the wind was coming from the south, my right. I was very soon having to fight against the rucksack inflated and determinedly heading off the Downs without any care for me going with it. I continued for about a mile like this, until I came to a high bank which I could shelter behind. In its lee, I could remove the cover and stow it. It might mean the rucksack got wet, but the contents were in dry bags anyway. It was remarkably calm down there, even though I could hear the wind roaring around behind me. I had some tea and looked down at Kingston, with the windmill, the church  and the farmer out in his tractor. It reminded me of Camberwick Green and Windy Miller from when I was a child (https://youtu.be/fCMlOBretzE?si=I6q8ymlp-mJS2Ua-)


I had no great desire to venture back into the roaring, so I cracked open one of the protein bars I’ve carried with me since the beginning as emergency rations, and put off the onslaught for a few minutes.

But eventually I had to enter the melee again, all possible layers on, gloves, head down. Mainly the wind was to my right, but at times the path would turn so that I walked into it, body bent over at a steep angle to drive forward. Inside my hood it was blowing round my ears, however tightly I pulled everything closed.


On the way to Southease the path turned onto a long straight farm track with the wind pushing me to my limits. I was never in danger, there were no trees that might have fallen on me, and it wasn’t quite strong enough to push me over as long as I steadied myself with my poles. But it was remarkably intimidating and so noisy. And exhausting to walk against.

The path dropped down through a little copse, and so I got some shelter. But I refused the temptation to rest under the protection of some trees just in case. I sat in the middle of a field pouring a bit of power into my tech from my power bank, and then decided to take a diversion into Rodmell as a tribute to Virginia Woolf, who lived here and ended her life here. The calm village was as if the tempest only a mile away hadn’t existed. Sadly her house was closed, but I was pleased to have at least stood outside.


I passed the Southease church with its rare circular tower, and decided not to divert to have a look. I had a mission, to get some lunch at YHA South Downs. To get here involved crossing the River Ouse, and also the railway line. The hostel cafe is well used by hikers and also people on a day out, as it’s next to the A26. They supplied me with an excellent jacket potato and a massive piece of cake, and also two sockets to recharge everything.


I love people watching, and it’s a cause of continuous embarrassment to my daughters. But they weren’t there today, so I could fill my boots. I was particularly observing a pair of women together. One spoke continuously, recounting stories about her life, looking frustrated when she was momentarily interrupted by the waiting staff. The other woman didn’t utter. She was given no opportunity, she might as well not have been there. Her body language was telling a story though.

Feeling recharged in all directions, I had to walk a little way along the busy road. It reminded me strongly of some of the road walking episodes last year. I definitely don’t miss those. And then it was a steep climb up Itford Hill. I passed a man flying a model glider with two friends hiding from the wind in the bushes. The little aircraft was whirling round in the wind, skilfully controlled by its owner who was making it do loop the loops across the wide expanse of sky to the side of the hill. At the top there was a good view down to Newhaven, and ahead a pair of huge radio towers.


The wind had died a bit, though it still got my hair going, and the sun sometimes broke out.


The long ridge coming up to Bostal Hill was easier walking again, which was good, as my Achilles was grumbling. The improved weather meant I could get my head up and look around me more. In front of me I could see two laden walkers who were also managing a dog each. Victoria and Marguerite started walking from Pykeham for this section of the Way that they are completing. We talked about other walks that they might do next, and about the importance of doing your walk the way you want to do it.


From the car park just before Bostal Hill there was a long walk down the steep hill to my farmhouse B and B. It felt a bit frustrating as I could have stayed on the path and walked into Alfriston instead, which would make tomorrow shorter. That’s the problem with planning a walk in a hurry and when your head is in a mess. But my hosts could not have been more welcoming, and when they saw my bedraggled and windblown state they moved my room so that I had a bath, so that’s worth a lot.

And then a treat later. Claire kindly came to pick me up to take me to a pub for dinner. Ok the way we called in at Berwick church. This has the most spectacular murals painted by members of the Bloomsbury set. We really enjoyed examining the paintings, which used members of the local community as the faces in the Biblical scenes. And then we reverted to our much younger selves whilst looking at one by Quentin Bell that was described as ‘the wise and foolish virgins’. We were grinning about how we couldn’t tell which of the virgins were wise and which foolish, when all of a sudden the church lights went out. There’s nothing like laughter with an old friend who laughed with you like that when you were both teenagers.


So tomorrow is the last day. It’s a big one with lots of climbing, but the forecast is pretty good till mid afternoon. And David will be at the end waiting for me.


Stats

Distance travelled - 13 miles

Total ascent - 1900 feet

Calories burned - 1700


Video of the day


Local tipple

Numb Angel lager from Gun brewery

Fish, chips and mushy peas at The Sussex Ox pub - very good


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Holding post

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

7 Comments


James Fischer
James Fischer
Apr 10

Your blogs bring back happy memories for us of walking the South Downs way a couple of years ago, although not all in one go like you. You will soon be coming up to the spectacular Seven Sisters ( apparently Eight Sisters now according to a sign on the route) which has marvelous views ,although the walking is rather up and down . We hope that the weather is good so you can enjoy the panorama. Best wishes for the remainder of the walking experience. Carol and Jim.

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sophie.holroyd67
Apr 10

I walked up the Ouse at the crossing to finish my day’s walk tho. Got to see this CLASSIC under a bridge



which I gift to you as today’s special message!!

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sophie.holroyd67
Apr 10

It’s so fascinating how you and I find different things to dig into in the same walks! I loved the Pyecombe detail from y’day (church closed when I tried), and all the Virginia Woolf / Bloomsbury stuff. I walked through Charleston grounds … do you? Did I divert off the route to do that? I visited a few years ago and remembered (amongst other things !) their loo and cafe 💪

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valbaty
Apr 10

From gentle wind yesterday you've moved on to a wind which is fullsome and fierce. It's really hard walking whilst being buffetted by a strong wind, so well done for battling it out. I would love to see the church with the murals painted by the Bloomsbury set. Brilliant idea to use faces from the local community. I hope the sun shines on your final day.

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Kay Walker
Kay Walker
Apr 10

You’ve done really well this week Jane coping with the challenging weather - a super hero indeed. I hope on this final day that nature is much kinder than it has so far been. Absolutely loved your description of trying to get into waterproof trousers in strong winds - not an easy feat. It’s made me laugh over my breakfast- a good start to the day. Enjoy your final trek of this trip.

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