Saturday, 31 May 2014

South Downs Way Day 4 Saturday 31 May

Miles walked 21.

I slept very well in my wood. I was actually heading for an open barn which I had marked on my map. Access to it appeared to be through the wood as there was a clear path. However, it was quite a walk to it and the wood had a wide clearing just inside so I bedded down right away at 10pm. I saw the silhouettes of a couple of cyclists pass by heading for home and went straight to sleep. There were a few squawks and snuffles of wildlife in the early hours. I woke at 5.20 and was away by 6.50.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. I dropped down to Amberley. It was quiet as I passed through although the trains were quite frequent even at that time. There was then a long climb up to Amberley Mount. I stopped for breakfast and coffee at 8 and restored the energy levels. Walking along the ridge for most of the day, bikers and joggers were out in force. As yesterday, the coast and sea were in view only a few miles away, Worthing and Brighton, I think. It got very warm as the day progressed.

There are water taps every few miles, each one indicating on a sign where the next tap is in each direction. With my new Ortlieb water belt, I was able to carry two litres and not feel the weight so I never ran short.

Elevenses were had at Chanctonbury Ring, the site of an Iron-age hill fort. I took the opportunity to phone and wish my mum a happy 93rd birthday.

In the afternoon, I was hoping that the YH at Truleigh Hill might have a café but no such luck so I stopped and brewed some tea which was a real restorative. Above Devil's Dyke I stopped to cook whilst enjoying the view of the hill fort and beyond. On then to Saddlescombe where there is a National Trust campsite. I filled up with water and pushed on. I'm camped above Saddlescombe with just some distant sheep for company.


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Friday, 30 May 2014

South Downs Way Day 3 Friday 30 May

Miles walked 17.

The day got off to a bumpy start. I was dropped off at yesterday's finishing point only to have pointed out to me that I was minus my Pacerpoles. After a quick drive I was back less than half an hour to set off at midday. The weather is looking good for the next few days.

Much of today's walking was through woodland. There was a hard pull up Beacon Hill. My planned route was over the top but the official route now goes round the hill for some reason. There were great far reaching views to both north and south for much of the day.

At Cocking I refilled water at a roadside tap by a farm shop. It was easy walking through Graffham Down wildlife reserve. Plenty of no camping signs but it was much too early at 5pm to even consider it. I stopped to cook around 6.30 and then pressed on. Around 8pm I was tempted to stop for the night as there many perfect wild pitches. A while later, I stopped to pass the time of day with someone already pitched in a field of sheep but it was right next to a vehicle track and rather too obvious for my liking so I went on. I finally came to a halt at 9.30. I'm in a wood in just my sleeping bag and bivy bag and nothing is going to disturb a good night's sleep. It's not going to rain tonight either.

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South Downs Way Day 2 Thursday 29 May

Miles walked 9.5.

I set off early at 6am. Still quite misty. Dropping down to the A3, I went through the underpass and stopped for breakfast at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park café. It wasn't open that early but I found a water tap and there were picnic tables. The park is quite big and forested. It made for good walking. A few joggers and dog walkers around.

South of South Harting, I left the SDW and made my way by lane and field path to Nyewood. I was heading to Rogate to overnight at my son's house where my wife was childminding one of the grandsons while his parents are on honeymoon! From Nyewood, it was a road walk of a couple of miles to Rogate. As I was off the SDW, I didn't feel guilty about hopping on a bus that came along at that moment. A short day, arriving at Rogate at 11.30am.

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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

South Downs Way Day 1 Wednesday 28 May

Distance walked - about 20 miles plus 2 getting to the SDW.

As I'd overnighted outside Winchester last night, it seemed like too much faf to go into the city to find the official starting point of the SDW, which runs from Winchester to Eastbourne, a distance of 108 miles. I therefore made my way to the village of Chilcomb, about 1.5 miles along the Way.

Here's where I joined the Way
There was light rain but it made for pleasant walking. The SDW is quite well used, being a National Trail in the south of England. As I was starting mid week, I expected to have it largely to myself. Two pairs of cyclists passed me, both using B&Bs. I intend camping, apart from tomorrow night. The walk should take five days.

Just past Cheesefoot Head

The next village was Exton. Before I reached it, I met a couple coming towards me, having walked from Eastbourne, today being their last day. They said the Way was extremely muddy the other side of Exton. When I got to the village, I planned a slightly different route which I hoped would avoid the mud. It was rather a waste of time though. Along a narrow lane, there was a flood of around 100 yards so I removed footwear and walked through bare foot. After that, when I headed back to the SDW, there was plenty of mud.

The Way passes over chalk downs and so water can be scarce. I've marked on my map where taps can be found. It hasn't been a problem so far.

I later met a young couple walking the Way but they seem to be using hotels. Light rain came and went but I didn't always bother with a waterproof. I stopped at 5.45 to cook a meal and then walked on till 8pm to camp on Butser Hill, looking down on the A3. It's a bit foggy but very still and quiet.

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Friday, 23 May 2014

South Downs Way

I shall be walking the South Downs Way, from Winchester to Eastbourne, in a few days time. I'm quite excited, not having done a week's backpack since last June. I plan to wild camp each night, using a tarp (Golite Cave 1) but also intend taking a bivy bag for those nights when it's not expected to rain so that I can watch the stars. A new bit of kit I shall also be taking is an Ortlieb water belt. When wild camping, I have to pick up water well in advance of stopping for the night, especially in an area where water may be scarce. Carrying, say, two litres of water in a pack adds considerably to the weight of a pack. Carrying it not in a pack can look a bit conspicuous. Wearing it like a belt seems a good idea. I've tried it out at home and it's very comfortable around my waist and the weight wasn't really noticeable. I'll report back on this after the trip.