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#406584 - 26/09/14 08:53 PM SDW Trip 18th-21st September
Alan F Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/10
Posts: 66
Loc: Reading
A few notes on a South Downs Way walk over 4 days last weekend. This trip started off as either a C2C or PW Walk early in the summer,but a hip/back injury delayed that,and as it left me with a dose of sciatica to get rid of in my left leg,this was the last chance this summer to fit any sort of trail walk in.Picked the SDW as if my leg seized up,it was easy to get back home from,and can be done in a long weekend.
Usual minimalist camping gear carried,pack down to 10lbs before water,had thrown out all spare clothes,as wanted to keep the weight on my back very low.

Thursday 18th September 21 miles 7hour40min walking time
Set off from Winchester 11.00am in the only rain shower of the trip.Most of the first day was field and woodland paths,but improved once near Butser Hill,where I wild camped the night,stopping at 7.20pm,and it was pitch dark before 8.00pm.

Friday 19th September 29 miles 10hour40min
Off by 07.15,with forest paths in thick mist for the first 3 hours,through Queen Elizabeth park to start,then tarmac and stony tracks.Diverted off the path to Cocking for the village shop and pint in pub.Scenery gradually improves through afternoon with some ridge walking. Diverted into Amberley in the evening,to find the (in)convenience store already closed (shuts 5pm), and the village pub shut down,so no evening meal! Back to the chalk ridge and camped one mile further at 7.15pm in the hillfort earthworks with a great view over the Weald.

Saturday 20th September 28 miles 10hours 20min
Off at 7.10am into thick mist again for the first 3 hours,then finally brilliant sunshine for a superb chalk ridge walk for rest of day over Ditchling Beacon and Devils Dyke.I had to divert into Washington in the morning to get some much needed food, and there is a village shop attached to the pub.In the afternoon,I felt my toes starting to rub badly inside my trainers, due to zero training and foot preparation beforehand, so I tried removing my outer socks, and did the rest of the walk with just my inner socks, which seemed to work well. I recall Slogger's wise words of saying his feet expanded after a couple of days hard walking, so maybe I have to allow for this in future as well! Finally camped the night at Housedean Farm at 6.35pm,a lovely traditional farm camping site directly on the route.

Sunday 21st September 25 miles 9hours 30min
Off at 6.45am to ensure making the train home from Eastbourne.Another superb ridge walk over to Southease and Alfriston (nice village with shops and pubs),then field and woodland paths to the coast at Cuckmere. The final sting in the tail is the slog up and down over the Seven Sisters coastal cliffs,where it is either steep uphill or downhill for several miles.Then finishes over Beachy Head,and down into Eastbourne,where I finished at the Pier at 5.10pm.

Summary
An excellent enjoyable walk,probably much under-rated as a National Trail.Despite a dull first day section,the final two days were superb,with long high level chalk ridge walking with extensive views.It does lack facilities on the route. The first camping site I passed was the one I stayed at Housedean at 76 miles.The first shops on the route are Alfriston at 89 miles,so you need to divert off the ridge by one mile or more at all earlier points for food,refreshment and accommodation.The other downside is an excess of flinty,stony paths,not recommended for sore feet. The normal problem of chalk uplands,being lack of water,is solved by taps being installed about every 6 miles or so.Much of the route is quite isolated, and so no problem for wild camping.The route is generally easily graded with no steep climbs, aprt from Seven Sister, and my average speed at 2.7 was almost identical each day.The stretch of 3 miles before Housedean could almost have been the Cheviots, as completely open rolling hill scenery,with not a single building or habitation in sight in any direction- not what you expect in Southern England.
All in all a very enjoyable trip
Alan

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#406585 - 27/09/14 10:22 AM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
lightweightmick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 18/11/04
Posts: 1690
Loc: North Derbyshire UK
Interesting read Alan - especially as I have a soft spot for the SDW and would agree it's underated as an LDP. I seem to remember relying heavily on cheese and ryvita lol
Assuming you used the 'new' footbridge to divert into Amberley and missed the Pub at Amberley Station or is that closed now as well?
cheers
mick
_________________________
St Bees or Bust!
A Walk in the Park...s

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#406586 - 27/09/14 11:31 AM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
Les + Heidi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/09
Posts: 327
Loc: hertfordshire
Very interesting Alan, I live down south and havent done this walk. Sounds like a few dehydrated ration packs needed for those wild pitches!

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#406587 - 27/09/14 09:08 PM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
Alan F Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/10
Posts: 66
Loc: Reading
Mick,
I did take the new footbridge,so missed out Amberley station and pub,as I was intent on heading straight for the village centre.The shut down village pub was The Black something,Bear,Dog or Sheep maybe.
I'd certainly go back to do the Cocking or Amberley to Eastbourne section again as I'd rate it as probably the best walk anywhere in Southern England,with long,continuous ridge walking.Just need to make sure plenty of provisions are carried!

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#406588 - 27/09/14 10:21 PM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
lightweightmick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 18/11/04
Posts: 1690
Loc: North Derbyshire UK
The Black... Horse, ha ha, just shows it's no good relying on Google as the years roll by - like a map it's out of date st away. They were open when I did the route but, goodness, that's 11 years ago!!! ...and they didn't do food till 6pm, and I didn't fare any better for food at the station pub (Bridge Inn).
Going the other way, I was making for Gumber Farm (NT site-just off route) and had to make do with my emergency snack pot curry as they cooked something smelling most scrumptious over at the bunkhse!
Did you hear anything about the route extended to Weston-Super-Mare?
_________________________
St Bees or Bust!
A Walk in the Park...s

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#406589 - 28/09/14 12:06 PM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
Slogger Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/05
Posts: 2891
Loc: West Lancs.
Good read Alan. I have had the guidebook for a couple of years and have had intentions of doing the route. I know it's a popular MTB route too. You make it sound more interesting than I had imagined it to be.
My son lives in Crawley, not too far away, maybe I could drop my wife off there while I b---er off and do it sometime, just a thought.
Dave.

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#406591 - 30/09/14 10:57 PM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
lightweightmick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 18/11/04
Posts: 1690
Loc: North Derbyshire UK
Originally Posted By: Alan F

Usual minimalist camping gear carried,pack down to 10lbs before water,had thrown out all spare clothes,as wanted to keep the weight on my back very low.


Out of interest Alan what sac did you use for that 10lbs of basic kit?
_________________________
St Bees or Bust!
A Walk in the Park...s

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#406612 - 05/10/14 04:50 PM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
Alan F Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/10
Posts: 66
Loc: Reading
I used my normal pack I've used on all trips the last 5 years. It's a Karrimor Hot Rock 30 litre pack,so it did have a little spare space inside.As it's really a rock climbing sack it's narrow depth wise, so keeps the centre of gravity very close to my back,so fits close,but still ventilates my back, and is OK for running in (when I can!).No side pockets (just a top one),so the tent poles/peg bag (375 gram) straps on one side and a cag on the other side,and rest of the tent (Jack Wolfskin Gossamer 1025 gram)goes inside at the top.Still summer conditions, so only needed my one season sleeping bag at 600 grammes,with a piece of Karrimat.

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#406613 - 05/10/14 05:01 PM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
Alan F Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/10
Posts: 66
Loc: Reading
The bridleway sections of the path does get busy with Mountain Bikers,especially at weekends,so if you like solitude,go during the week. Lots of day trippers out as well around Seven Sisters and Ditchling Beacon/Devils Dyke.I did pass about 25 people walking the entire path west,most doing it over about a week,and using B&B/pub accommodation,all off route.
Overall, I'd rate it as the best National Trail in the south,better than Ridgeway/North Downs/Thames Path,about on par with Offas Dyke,but a bit below the PW and C2C Classics.

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#406617 - 07/10/14 11:11 PM Re: SDW Trip 18th-21st September [Re: Alan F]
lightweightmick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 18/11/04
Posts: 1690
Loc: North Derbyshire UK
I haven't had a Karrimor sack since my Jaguar 50 litre in the late 70's and dare say I'd still be using it if we hadn't left it at the back of the car before driving off when the kids were little...
_________________________
St Bees or Bust!
A Walk in the Park...s

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