A select band of 9 Poly Ramblers undeterred by the heat and distance from London, turned out for a spectacular varied walk along the east sussex coast and inland through the beautiful south downs national park.
We started with a briefing on the Seaford seafront and then began the walk up the steep ascent of Seaford Head. Once on the top the walk was relatively flat and the sea breezes made the heat bearable. In the distance we could see the unmistakable chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. At Cuckmere Haven we turned inland, still on the Vanguard Way, until we reached Exceat bridge where we had to negotiate a busy section of road with heavy traffic. We crossed this and decided to stop for lunch at a magnificent viewpoint above Exceat overlooking the Cuckmere River as it made great sweeping loops out to sea. We felt a few spots of rain but it didn’t amount to much.
We continued through woods which provided much welcomed shade from the fierce sun. We eventually reached the village of Litlington where we walked along the banks of the river Cuckmere into the village of Alfriston. Alfriston is one of the oldest villages in the county and is full of quaint half timbered houses. We decided to treat ourselves to ice creams and sat and ate them on benches in the middle of the village high street. In Alfriston there were unisex public toilets that we all visited and I have to say they were the cleanest free toilets I have seen in a long time.
Refreshed by our ice creams we continued our walk. We passed by a white horse on the hillside, a reminder that this was chalk downland. We walked across magnificent fields of wheat and barley gently blowing in the wind. At the end of a field path was the little church of Berwick. Nothing out of the ordinary on the outside, we decided to make a detour to look at the inside of the church which is truly extraordinary. It contains the most brightly coloured and exquisite wall paintings, scenes from the scriptures, rural sussex life and a reminder they were done during the second world war with figures from the military. These paintings were done by members of the Bloomsbury set, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf), who made frequent visits to this part of the world.
A stone’s throw from the church was the Cricketers Arms, an eighteenth pub where we sat in the garden resplendent with summer flowers and were served with drinks at our table. Ida and Stephen decided to have fish and chips and pretty good they looked too.
From here it was a short walk across fields to little Berwick station, where we caught our train back to Lewes and London.
Mary King. Photos by Mary, Ida and Stuart