Not my first walk in England but my first on the South Downs Trail which stretches a long way from Winchester to Eastborne on the south coast of England.
With only three days to walk I was limited to but a small portion of the trail. I started on the outskirts of Brighton and walked eastward toward Lewes covering about 5o km of beautiful countryside.
Unlike other walks I’ve done in England and Portugal, this one was not organized by a walking company. I visited the South Downs walk web-site, got some maps, made a first night reservation and set off. Most importantly I packed very light, small back pack and a camera.
I followed the trail with a slight detour (OK so I got a little lost) along the ridge of the Devil’s Dyke enjoying the warm sunshine and the slight mist of low lying fog. On I went, up and down, through villages and farmers fields until I arrived at Pyecombe where I had arrived later than planned. I politely called my accommodation to say I would be late and Sally Brown owner of the Shepherds Hut offered to pick me up at the local pub which rescued me from the dark. Only ten or so minutes from Pyecombe, her lovely farm would have been difficult to find so I was very grateful for the ride. Sally is a great hostess and served an emense full English to get me started on day two.
I walked about 16 km through fields and up and over the Downs and back down into the valleys. Lots of other walkers and plenty of livestock to keep me company. Although it was the last of September there were still beautiful gardens and wild flowers and walking along the ridges of the Downs allowed me to look down on the misty fields below.
At Housedean Farm I caught a bus into Lewes which is off the South Downs but I really wanted to see this lovely old village. It is well worth the detour to see the medieval castle, the Tudor buildings and the town garden. I stayed at the White Hart Inn on High Street so I was close to everything I wanted to see. Henry VIII gave Anne of Cleve’s a house in Lewes before he chopped her head off and I even spotted Frida in a shop window sporting a very unenglish unibrow. An interesting display of pre-war children’s books and magazines caught my eye as did Dutch pottery and doors for very short people.
On my last day of walking, I managed to return to the South Downs Trail from Lewes. It had rained in the night and some of the paths were muddy but the sun was out and things soon began to dry.
I walked to Rodmell, the town where Virginia Woolf and her husband had a cottage near the river Ous. This is where Virginia waded in with her pockets full of rocks. The National Trust has opened the house and visitors can see where Virginia spent her last days before her suicide. It was quite stirring to realize that she lived in a time when women were very devalued and those attitudes combined with her immense intelligence must have made life unbearable for her.
Having short distances to cover each day meant I was able to visit and enjoy many of the sights along the way. Definitely something to consider when planning my next walk.