The South Downs Way


Monday 17th September 1973

Camp 4
Camp 4
Up at about 9:00.

Trains started thundering. We set off for Amberley and bought a Mr. Kipling "Manor House cake" and consumed it, followed by a bit of chocolate. [I wrote 2 postcards to Gran and M&D etc. and AJT wrote to Helen]. We had a discussion about Youth Hostels, and there was a slight disagreement about what we should do. AJT wanted to wash in Arundel, but I was unwilling to spend 1.50 for a wash and a bed.

Anyway, about 11:00 we decided to walk to Steyning and had to climb a pretty steep hill to get to the downs. We were halfway up when it started to rain, so we donned Kagoule and plastic mac [good views of North and the sea - v. wide] and we trudged through half-hearted rain and drizzle and took two photographs on Kithurst Hill. We had lunch of Ryvita, cheese and chocolate on the other side of the Washington Road (2:00 - 2:15) near a quarry.

It was still drizzling a bit when we set off up the hill to Chanctonbury, up a very long hill, which was quite steep at the top. Chanctonbury Ring, according to AJT, according to John Hillaby, is spooked during the full moon. It was really quite a striking place - a dome of twisted trees, with a mound in the shape of a ring inside. In daylight, it looked fairly spooky. I'd like to spend the night there sometime. It was grassy inside, except for a bit, fenced off twice with barbed wire, which was full of nettles etc. - as it would be without cows etc. It was quite beautiful really (poetic ecstasy).

We left Chanctonbury Ring and headed for Steynings, which we reached at about 4:45. We left the S.D.Way and went by road into the outskirts of S, but we carried on into Bramber and another tea shop which was tea bags (not as nice as yesterday) but we had scones and butter / jam and cream (one each and one small pancake each) and four bits of dry cake - I could only take one, AJT had two, and it all cost 33 pence - pretty expensive. Then we chose a place for a doss - an old railway line, collected some firewood, then headed for the Gents, a wash, then to the Castle Arms Hotel for a pint of brown ale each. Then we went next door to the Briars Cafe where we had two beefburgers, chips and peas and a cup of ground coffee for 43p. The proprietor was a good bloke - he had a puppy labrador whom we met on the track while we were collecting wood. His first words were "Did you find a place then?" "Yeah, it'll do". Then we left the cafe. We went back to the camp and made a fire. We were going to keep between two large black drainpipes, with polythene over the top. We went to bed about 10:00, and let the fire die down. AJT then kept complaining that he was on a slope. "Ohh! You don't know what it's like" etc. He sounded just like Oliver, and the scenes that ensued were just like prep school - after lights out scenes. Eventually got to bed about 11:00 or so. It was a miserable night, and AJT soon moved his bed to the other side of the railway track. About 2:00, he woke me up, or rather I woke up at the same time and he thought about shifting to the other side of the road into a small cabin and making a fire, but we stayed put. By 6:30, it was so cold and damp that we got up and made a fire, and decided to wait until the cafe opened for some tea or coffee. We had breakfast of dry nimble and crumbly cheese. AJT decided at about 8:50 to burn his poly sheet, but it was so wet and thickly folded that by 9:30 it was still smouldering, so we broke it up into pieces and covered it with ash until it was only smoking. Then we hotfooted it, rather sleepily, to the cafe where we supplemented our breakfast with beans on toast and cups of coffee and tea. Left cafe at 10:30 for wash and talc over the road in the Gents.

After this, it was about 11:00 and we set off after I had bought bread and matches. It was quite a steep and long hill from Upper Beeching. Near the top we overtook two hikers from Sussex University. They had already overtaken AJT while I was washing. We rested at the top, carried on for a while and rested again as the route became quite hilly in this area, at Truleigh Hill by the barn, where we were overtaken. Then we carried on to Devil's Dyke Pub, where we met the two hikers again. Apparently, they had walked from Chanctonbury Ring today - about 10 miles, compared to our 5-6 miles. They started at Petersfield on Sunday afternoon, whereas we started on Friday. Last winter, a group from Sussex University had tried to do it in 2 1/2 days with somebody dropping tents off at their various stages. Only two people made it! It also snowed at the time. It takes all sorts. We reached the pub around 12:45 - I had 1 pint of Blackthorn Cider [same stuff I had in Cornwall with H and C] and AJT had 1/2 lime and lager and 1/2 cider (32 pence each time) followed by a ploughman's lunch [20p each] which was a large piece of flute bread, cheese, very nice pickle and a very small bit of cheese. We discussed splitting up for a day, as AJT wanted to get to Patcham Place in Brighton which is a Youth Hostel. I would walk to Ditchling Beacon and meet him some time on Tuesday [in Alfriston at 6 o'clock in the Dog and Shepherd]. Then we went and had coffee in the cafe in the pub.

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Left about 3:00, but lost the route so we went through Saddlescombe. On the other side was an accident - 3 wheeler Reliant upside down - squashed and one mini on the kerb - seemed OK. Reliant seemed to have skidded upside down from one side of the road to the other. Eventually found a route - but not marked as S D Way - I think was ??? we split - A to Patcham, me towards Ditchling Beacon. I headed across hill, last farewell to AJT, and came to large road. Couldn't find the S D Way, only marked by a few milestone things. Went up A273, past golf club - too far. Took short cut up first track on right - only led to hut. Went through nettles into field. Could see a path and windmills (???????? - funny symbol here). Up path over hills. Met a few people. Ist?????? tumuli looked was very boggy - saw two others - looked pretty damp, walked across one - very soft. Reached Ditchling Beacon about 5:30, 2 hours after leaving Anthony (6 miles?). Quite cold North wind. Can see the sea and can still see Chanctonbury Ring. Beacon says it's 12 miles, Devil's Dyke is 5 miles (by pub) as crow flies I suppose. Small inscription at bottom right reads:

"This plaque was erected by the Brighton Corporation 1958 on the site of an early iron age earth work.

Littleden Down (??) 24 miles, Beacon is 813 feet up.

Carried on about 5:45 after a few photos. Carried on over road. At top of first hill was BBC Overseas Broadcasting van. Bloke inside was watching TV (set amongst lots of dials and switches etc.) He was watching ITV. Carried on until about 6:00-6:15 when it started raining. Came across 2 donkeys just as I was about to start off again. Photos. Very windy. I had my cape on - it was flapping around like a sick (???) sailing ship coming into harbour with sails flapping. N/NE wind, more North at first. Soon (i.e. about 7:00) I reached a wood, biggish on right side of the path - south side (???). Got in and made tent out of poly sheet. Quite cosy, but noisy 'cos sheet flaps. Supper of bread, cheese and ham. I am not making a fire as it's very wet, and I'm going to crash early. Long walk tomorrow. Bed at 8:05. Couldn't sleep well - I could see the trees above, through the polythene, very dark against the sky, crashing into each other. I seem to remember waking up each hour, and sometimes more often. I woke up about 7:30 to 8:00, and got up fairly soon. Wind was still up, but had changed into a more Easterly direction.

Camp 3
Camp 3
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Camp 4
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Camp 5

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