The One With Hundreds of Cows!
I am writing a travelogue book for this particular trail, which will be too long for a blog entry. Please enjoy the highlights below and I will keep you posted on the final development of the book.
And I'm off...
So today is the day when I try something new. I’m excited but also a little apprehensive as this will be my first multi-day hike whilst camping. My intention is to experience wild camping but I’ll see how I feel. At 6 am this morning I messaged a campsite near Exton to ask if they have any spaces. “Perhaps I’ll use a campsite on my first night”. And breathe...
7 am - Matt drops me off at Milton Keynes train station and I kiss him goodbye. “I’ll text you later to let you know how I’m getting on”. As he lifted my heavy rucksack out of the car he raised his eyebrows! “You crazy lady,” he said. “Don’t be proud, if it gets too much then just come home”. I promised him I would and with a cheery farewell, I made my way into the station. Now my adventure begins!
9.02am - I arrive at Waterloo station (my train is 9.05am so I made it just in time!) after navigating my way through the London tube system (which was challenging with a 25llb rucksack). Some poor guy got stuck in the doors and as I turned round to help him I clobbered a student round the head with my pack! Oops
10.20am I’m on my way to Winchester.
Guthook is ace!
Guthook is the navigation system/app that I’m using for this trail and it’s working a treat! If you have walked any of the big American Trails then you would have heard of Guthook, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of the UK National Trails are also on the app. It is super simple to use and I was able to navigate whilst reserving battery on aeroplane mode. Yep, it uses GPS, not your phone signal.
10.45am - I finally arrive at the antiquated train station of Winchester and I must have looked a bit lost as a lady tapped me on the shoulder "Are you doing the South Downs Way?" she asked excitedly. "Yes! Have you walked it?" I responded, hoping that she may have some sort of clue as to where the start of the trail was! "Yes! about 4 years ago, you are going to have a fabulous journey, and you have picked a good week for walking" as she looked up to the sky. "Do you know where you are going?" she asked. "Not really, can you point me in the right direction please?". She gave me some directions, it was then that I remembered the Guthook app. I nodded enthusiastically whilst not really listening beyond "down there, turn right, follow the road, turn left....blank! I thanked her and she patted me on the shoulder and wished me luck as she headed off in a different direction. Guthook is telling me that the City Hall is just 0.3 miles away.
I find The City Hall then follow the picturesque river trail. Every time I stop to take a photo a local person is asking me if I am ok, and pointing saying "South Downs is that way"! I’m loving this route until I hit the bridge that takes me over the M3 motorway! I cross the loud motorway bridge and then find myself in a wheat field that is laden with poppies! This is rather surreal!
99 Miles to Go
I spot another South Downs Way sign..99 miles to Eastbourne! Have I really only walked one mile? Best up my pace!
11.20am - a thoughtful person gave walkers access to their outside tap with a lovely sign Water tap - thanks Appletree Cottage!
11.30am - I can hear fireworks! I can’t figure out why someone would want to set off fireworks at this time of day. Then I see the sign for “Live Military gunfire, do not pass if the red flag is flying. Omg! This is quite scary!!
Starting to meet people who are going the other way. One lady had Parkinson’s and walked all the way from Eastbourne,... amazing!
2.30pm - I’m catching up with two older gentlemen that are also walking the SDW. I end up chatting with them. Pete and Ian have known each other since school days (Australia). Ian now lives in the UK and Peter is back in Oz. They walked the Coast to Coast together and they obviously enjoy their adventures. We stopped and looked at quail eggs, heard peacocks and had a break in a pub garden (even though the pub was closed). Ian (also known as Gandalf (he has a big stick!) produced two gloves on the table and then pulled out two mini beer shot glasses. He filled them with whiskey and they enjoyed an afternoon tipple...
We continue our journey together and witness the sea... I mean fields of bright blue linseed plants. Wow! I’ve never seen anything like that (thanks mum for explaining what the plant was!)
3.45pm One mile to go. I reach Beacon Hill which rewards me with some amazing views. As I entered the woods a small child turned to his mum” Why is that girl wearing an umbrella when it’s not raining! It was Friggin hot!
5 pm - I made it to camp! I’m the only customer here. It’s ok but has limited facilities. After pitching my tent I walked the extra 1.3 miles back to the pub and had dinner with Pete and Ian. We had a lovely evening and I’m looking forward to seeing them tomorrow.
An Uber ride back and I’m now snuggled up in my quilt in the tent and ready for sleep.
NIGHT NIGHT XX