Two Short Walks on the South Downs Way

I feel like I’ve been suffocating this summer: sitting indoors, every day the same, becoming so bored that I pretty much stopped walking. At the start of August, I decided to waste no more days sitting inside. Last Saturday (the 15th), I headed to Pyecombe with a couple of friends and set off east towards Ditchling Beacon.

The day was overcast and cloudy, with visibility heavily restricted. Coming up from Pyecombe it felt as if we were heading in the wrong direction until we reached the ridge on the Downs.

It was another day of excellent foraging. The brambles were thick with fruit, all freshly-washed by the rain.

We stopped for lunch under a thorny tree where the ground was dry, just near an empty dew pond, and shared our picnic lunch. It was a place I’ve stopped before.

The coffee wagon was at Ditchling Beacon, same as it had been the last time I’d been here, just before lockdown. We bought drinks for the next stage of the journey, cutting back through the hills to the woods near Stanmer Park. Here, someone had written ominous messages in chalk on the trees:

The Stanmer estate was as lovely as ever. And it was good to see the sculpture near the house, which we used to refer to inaccurately as ‘the bear tree’.

It was a good short walk, and I’d avoided the promised storms once again. I was starting get complacent, telling my friend on the Sunday walk that the weather would be OK, whatever the forecast said. (Besides which, as they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only a poor choice of outfit).

We took the train to Southease where we joined the South Downs way, intending to walk west until we reached the A27 crossing, when we would head back into Brighton.

It’s a familiar stretch of path, but one I love. There is the Norman church at Southease, with its round tower, currently closed:

Between Southease and Rodmell is a lovely valley, which heads towards Telscombe if followed all the way.

As we headed onto the yellow brick road, we could hear thunder behind us, and Seaford was blotted out by the clouds. We were going to be caught in the rain. It wasn’t the epic storm we’d been promised, with a disappointing lack of lightning, but it was wet. The choices were to head straight to Lewes (2 miles away), head to the coastal fringe to get an Uber (3 miles), or carry on the the current walk. My friend was getting soaked so we decided to head down the hill to Kingston and, from there, aim for Lewes Station, guided in by the This Way markers. The route led us along the meadows to the edge of Lewes.

The highlight of the walk was the wild sunflowers growing near the yellow-brick road. Two short walks across a weekend, but good opportunities to explore small slices of the South Downs Way. And both walks, despite the weather, were better than staying cooped up indoors.

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