Sorry for the delay in writing this walk up. The trouble is that it was devised, planned and walked over many times by Harriet until it was perfect but ten days before the due date Harriet had a minor misstep at home and fractured her patella! So I have taken time to pluck up the courage to tell you, those of you who were not on the walk, that it went really well and turned out to be the best walk I can remember! Yes, it was hot (25°C) and there are three steep slopes to be climbed, but there was a soothing breeze and the climbs are not that long, really! We have walked it before in different weather and I still remember the icy wind in my seaward ear as we walked along the ridge of the Downs one winter’s walkover! The group (10 in all) entered into the challenge of the occasion, taking seriously the fact that we had to keep up a steady pace in order to get to the tea shop in Glynde by 4pm to allow time to eat our delicious home-made cake and drink our speciality tea in appropriate style! Once through charming gardens and past the historic buildings on the edge of Lewes, including Anne of Cleves’ house, which we vow to visit each time we pass, over the bridge above the A27, we started on the relatively gently slope up to the South Downs Way, past a solitary windmill and then onto the chalk path up to the ridge. We remarked upon the number of lone lycra-clad cyclists in circulation during the course of the day.
Our first landmark was the Abergavenny Arms at Rodmell where we stopped briefly for refreshment. No time to visit Virginia Woolf’s house at Rodmell although we saw the signs to Monk’s House – another place to put on the list of future visits. Instead we strode purposefully onwards to the church of St. Peter, Southease. A family was spread out over the benches there but they had finished their lunch stop and when they went in to look at the church some of us were able to have a seat for our picnic, contemplating the main steep climb up from Southease station in the distance, beyond the River Ouse, and the A26. Refreshed and inspired we set off towards the daunting hillside! As it turned out, the breeze must have been behind us and helped us up the steep slope, ‘admiring the view’ on the way! After a pause to catch our breath, we set off along the South Downs Way again. No British White cattle with black ‘eye makeup’ this time, that had stared at us on walkovers in the past but we did pause for a photo op at the Meridian marker – some of us in the eastern hemisphere, some in the west. As we strode along we admired the views of the countryside on either side of the ridge, the hills, villages, clumps of trees, hedges and rolling fields of wheat already quite dry, some harvested and some awaiting the combine harvester.
So, eventually, we came to the turn off, round the grassy bowl where paragliders have been seen in the past, down towards Glynde, picking up speed as we went, taking care when crossing the dual-carriageway, at which point Mary offered to summon up her youthful running expertise and sprinted ahead of the group to assure the tea shop lady that we really were on our way as we had confirmed to her in the morning. Even Geoffrey put on a spurt as we passed Glynde station and was not the last to arrive at The Little Cottage Tea Room! We toasted Harriet with tea and wished her a speedy recovery. I find it hard to decide between the different flavours of cake so this time I chose a fresh scone, jam and cream, promising our hostess that we would come back again when Harriet’s knee has fully recovered, which will probably mean we will just have to do the walk again next spring!
That was not the end of the walk. We had to prepare ourselves for the not inconsiderable slope up behind the village which we had seen earlier from a distance. Up and over, down into a grassy valley where there are usually sheep, and up the other side. Once at the top of that heathery slope by the golf clubhouse, we strolled along the top of the chalk cliff overlooking the River Ouse and down the lane into Lewes, pausing to chat briefly to a lady tending her plants in front of her hillside cottage and commending her on the view as the sun got lower in the sky. She asked us about the walk because she thought she had seen us at the station in the morning so, as a walker herself, she was impressed at the route we had followed. So were we! Pausing no more, we made our way to the station and were soon on a train back to London, admiring the Downs in the distance, thinking of the next time we would walk that way and if we would be so lucky with the weather.
Pam. Photos by Pam and Stuart