The one where we acted like teenagers!!
WEATHER: A mix of hot, windy and cool.
DISTANCE: 18 miles (according to Jason or 20.4 miles according to my watch!)
LOCATION: Truleigh Hill to Lewes
A fantastic day and lots giggles, especially at the end of the day!
THE LONG WINDED VERSION:
6 am - I slept like a log last night in my nice private room in the YHA. I open my curtains and can see Jason’s little tent in the garden. I wondered what sort night he had had. It turns out that, in his words “I had a restful night, but sleep was lacking”. Apparently, some youths returned from having a fun night in Brighton at 3.45am. Their car lights shone straight through his tent and then they drunkenly tried to get back into the YHA. Jason and Keith (another camper) were not happy when they both relayed the story.
8.30am - With bellies full of a fry-up, and many coffees later, we were once again on our way. Just 15 miles today so we intended to take it easy. I felt fine, but Jason had sore hips. Little did I know that I’d soon be developing the blister from hell!
9.30am - Only an hour after leaving the hostel we took our first break. An elderly eccentric paraglider was gracefully gliding over the bowl known as Devils Dyke. Wow! He looked so peaceful flying with the birds. Jason was like a school kid as paragliding was a past hobby of his many years ago. He ran towards the guy when he saw that he had landed and the discussion about technical stuff was a bit of a giraffes fart for me (ie: it went straight over my head!). The guy told us he was waiting for a puff before he could fly again to which Jason responded: “well, it shouldn’t be too long as we are near Brighton”.
10.26am - Today’s Walk was heavy going underfoot. This hard chalk service gives your whole body an unwelcome workout. The attraction of a cute little coffee shop called The Wildflour was too much to resist. It was a slice of heaven in the middle of nowhere and the breakfast looked amazing. If I was camping, I’d stay here rather than the YHA (mental note!). Two black coffees, chats with other walkers including a local guy with a very cute staffy dog. We can’t stay here all day though, we’ve got miles to do. Onwards and upwards! I’m sure there were more ups than downs!
11.45am - We reach the very quaint village of Pyecombe. Today it looks superbly English as it is hosting a flower festival. The church is laden with little stalls and mini gazebos. We briefly chat with a bunch of youngsters who are carrying much heavier packs than us doing DofE. We pass an exhausted-looking scarecrow dressed in cycling gear. They even had a bike leaning up against the tree to complete the scene. A sign dangled from the bike claiming “Sweaty Betty”. I knew how she felt! As we exited Pyecombe we stumbled across a box claiming “Emily Brownies”. I’m not a fan of brownies, but Jason grabbed an expresso brownie and dutifully paid his £1 donation in the box.
12noon - The sun was beating down as we meandered through Pyecombe golf course - Umbrella time! It was here that we saw the first of the cyclists that were completing the South Downs route. Ding ding! These guys have no idea how to use a Friggin bell! After a while, we became very immature and shouted “ding ding” each time they sped by us without ringing the bell. It became a little game and passed the time!
1.15pm - We pass cows that are wallowing in the pond and a group of around 20 walkers who are all looking and pointing at something in the water. My curiosity gets the better of me and I ask an elderly lady with a big floppy sun hat what was everyone looking at... check out the tadpoles she said. The way they were all oh... and ahhhing I assumed they had never seen a frog before. We ask another walker how far was it until we found a bench. “There is an ice-cream van about 1km from here”. Jason and I grinned at each other “perfect” says Jason. “That has given me a bit more motivation”..... “ding ding,” I say and another three bikes whizz by us. “Ice-cream it is!”
30 mins later and there is no van in sight, nor any benches. The “f” word is now being used! I ask another hike who has no top on and was quite the FGA (Fit Guy Alert). “Any idea where the ice-cream van is?” I asked. “Yes, it’s not far, about a mile or so”. I thanked him then looked at Jason “another f**king mile!!” He simply raised his eyebrows and declared “that’s another mile closer to the end”. He always looks at the positive!
1.04pm - We finally spot the now-famous ice-cream van at Ditchling Beacon Car Park. We find a comfy wall to sit on as, surprise surprise, there are no benches. Next, to us are two ladies sitting on the ground under a tree. They have a collection of beer cans and they are tracking one of their husbands who is riding the South Downs Way (I hope he has a bell!). We got chatting and discovered that the riders name was Tim, number 53. This knowledge came in handy a bit later.
We both grab our packed lunch that the YHA provided and Jason showed me his cheese sarnie, that looked just like a toasty! The cheese had melted into the bread and was all floppy. I was the same but it still tasted good. I couldn’t say the same about the chocolate bar though! After lunch, we indulged in a 99 ice/cream each, waved to the now rather intoxicated spectators of the bike race and we were on our way again.
2.20pm - we trudge up and down vistas, squeeze through kissing gates (easier said than done when you are carrying a massive rucksack), walk single file through small woods and continuously stopping the pet bikes through... ding ding!
Behind us, we could hear a swarm of bikes so we stopped to let them through. As they approached I tapped Jason to say “It’s Tim! Number 53!”. As Tim rode by Jason and I clapped and cheered whilst whoop 🙌 and called “Go, Tim, Go Tim!”. His face was a picture and you could see him trying to figure out who were these backpackers and how on earth do they no my name? That gave us a few minutes of distraction away from aching feet, ankles and shoulders.
16.00 - Jason has walked this trail previously (9 years ago) so as we were hobbling up yet another hill he warned me about a huge hill we still had to climb before we began our descent into Kingston. By this time, Jason was now using my walking pole to help take the stress out of his tender ankles and I was using the spare pole that I have for my tent. We emerged from the woods puffing and panting and Jason pointed his stick to a big escarpment that was in front of us. “We go up that incline, then follow it all the way round in a loopback. It’s one hell of a climb”. I looked at the hill but it didn’t seem any steeper than other hills. If anything it just looked longer, but a fraudulent incline. I could cope with that. Or so I thought! The “f” word came in to play a few more times. OMG! When will this hill ever end? Once we reach the horizon it just goes up again! I’m not happy and neither is my body. Jason is unusually quiet which tells me that he is also suffering in silence!
17.00 - Finally we reach the gate that takes us off the South Downs Way and into the village. It was very steep and each step sends shooting pains through my ankle and hips. My shoulders were also beginning to hurt and I was getting grumpy. Where’s that pub? A few locals told us that it wasn’t far, less than five mins walk. It was the longest 5 mins I’ve ever felt!
17.40 - We reach The Juggs Pub in Kingston on Lewes and sit quietly in the corner. We couldn’t decide if we should order a beer, go to the loo or take off our shoes first. The beer won! Once we had eaten, which included two massive burgers and then a huge slice of banoffee pie, we ordered another beer which would help us make plans for tonight. We just need to figure out where we are sleeping. We knew that the local campsite had gone out of business and was no longer open, so our choices were limited. As the beer flowed we make the courageous (or stupid) decision to go back up that steep hill onto the escarpment and wild camp! Yep, I’m not kidding! With feet, ankles, shoulders, knees and every other part of our body in pain, we still thought it was s a good idea to wild camp! We set off about 8.40pm and made our way through the church graveyard. We then crossed a cricket pitch and I had a go on the rope swing! All of these places we contemplated camping! But the thought of watching the sun go down tonight and then again tomorrow from the top of the Downs was too luring.
21.40: That climb was stupid, but we did it! We are all pitched up but the sun went to bed without saying goodbye. I hope we see a beautiful sunrise in the morning.