A few weeks ago I was contacted on the photo sharing app Instagram, by Elizabeth Bennett who was about to walk the Sussex section of the South Downs Way. Elizabeth’s reason for her walk is quoted below.
Elizabeth asked myself and others if we would like to accompany her for some of the journey. I was free on Saturday 2nd May and this date coincided with the Amberley to Botolphs Sussex section Elizabeth would be walking with a small group.
I had walked this section of the South Downs Way many times and was only too pleased to “find an excuse” to walk it again. Summertime, springtime, winter or autumn nature never disappoints.
Walking Amberley to Botolphs
We met up and started out from Amberley Station, in the village of Houghton by the River Arun. A small group of walkers amongst the many arriving by train to sample the delights of the South Downs. The weather forecast wasn’t good but we were promised a dry but grey start. This can be a relief in a sense as there is very little shade up on the South Downs escapement and spring sunshine can be very warm.
Walking at a pleasant pace there was time for photos, admiring views and interesting conversation. A mix of general election politics and Royal Baby news filled social media that morning, so it was a relief to be up on the South Downs Way with mobile technology on silent in a pocket.
Chilly Wind at Chanctonbury Ring
As we all walked and talked, both to the group and to individuals the miles underfoot quickly mounted up. We stopped at Kithurst Hill, close to the trig point and sat and admired the view over Storrington, Sullington, Thakeham and north to the North Downs. Elizabeth recited some songs connected with the area and we all sat and listened. Nice spot, a little too comfy. We had many more miles ahead.
Walking in good company it seemed only a matter of minutes before we were heading upwards from the Washington car park towards Chanctonbury Ring and the promise of lunch and cake. Though it was of course several miles and more than just minutes. Walking and talking as time flies by.
Our little group of walkers grew by two as we had been joined by South Downs Yarn‘s Louise and Andrew on the path from Washington to Chanctonbury Hill. Lunch and cake were enjoyed by all though as is always the way at Chanctonbury Ring, the wind was cold and inquisitive, tugging and tussling, asking the same questions.
Annington Hill – Squealing Pigs
With lunch consumed and more songs sung it was once more time to depart and walk towards Steyning Bowl, Annington Hill and the welcome drop down to Botolphs and the River Adur. Time sailed by on the brisk breeze as we all walked, skylarks sang at full volume eager to be heard above the footsteps.
As landmarks go Annington Hill has several. The obvious being Steyning Bowl the natural cul-de-sac popular with adventure seeking paragliders. Another landmark that Annington Hill is famous for is the sprawling pig farm. We were greeted by squealing piglets, brave enough to stop and watch us with inquisitive eyes but not so brave when the crows dived at them from above.
Leaving the delightful piglets behind, we walked off Annington Hill towards Botolphs and the River Adur.
South Downs Walk in Reverse
We stopped walking at the junction of the Downs Link, (the path that follows the now disused Guildford to Shoreham railway) and the South Downs Way at Botolphs. The remainder of the group were heading off towards Bramber whereas I had decided to walk back from Botolphs to Storrington as the weather still hadn’t closed in on me.
We said our goodbyes at this point, it had been an all too brief walk in a way, the hours and 13 miles had flown by. With another 11 miles to walk I unhitched my trekking poles from my rucksack and set off back up Annington Hill, saying hello to the piglets once more.
It was 4.30pm and I would have plenty of daylight left for the 11 mile walk back to Storrington, I did however have a weather front to race against. The English Channel was slowly vanishing under a darkening sky. The definition in the sky fading as the blanket grey was becoming ever heavier with rain drops.
Kithurst Hill Colour
I stopped briefly at Chanctonbury Ring on my return journey, enough time to consume an energy drink and food. Only a few people walked the paths now, the darkening sky threatening to spoil the fun for the hardy few.
I wasn’t expecting the return walk to be an amazing riot of colour but I was still surprised at how bright the rapeseed fields looked in contrast to the rain clouds above. Playing a game of cat and mouse with the weather front I allowed myself the pleasure of a few photos of the vibrant colours.
South Downs Bluebell Wood
Nearing a short footpath that would take me from the South Downs Way down the slopes of Kithurst Hill I stumbled across, that is the right word, a small copse. The floor was a dense carpet of bluebells. Unusual on this part of the Downs as much of the land has been ploughed over for agriculture.
As the raindrops fell upon the lush green canopy I enjoyed the scene and took a few lasting photos. The bluebells of Sussex are turning now, a few days beyond their triumphant moment of glory. Drops of water penetrated the foliage overhead and landed on the screen of my camera-phone. It was time to head to the village streets of Storrington and as always, a cup of tea.
Another Personal Best – 24.8 Miles
By the time I reached Storrington I had walked 24.8 miles, beating my previous personal best by a healthy mile. The first 13 miles of the walk were made easier by the great company. It is harder when walking alone to ignore the tired muscles and sore feet. With interesting weather, good company and colourful landscapes it is possible to ignore the moderate aches and pains for a few miles longer.
The next personal challenge will be 30 miles walked, I’ll save that for a brighter day nearer the Summer Solstice. Many thanks to readers of this blog for the words of encouragement and as always I do hope to see some of you up on the Downs to say hello.