The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
A Brisk South-Westerly
If our February trip to Kent was marked by snow, then our March trip to the South Downs was characterised by wind.
Our Saturday walk took us up high over the Downs, walking from the hostel at Southease over to Cuckmere Haven and then round along the coast to Seaford. On the stiff climb up from the hostel we were passed by a runner coming down: “It’s a bit wild up there!” he gasped. He was right. The wind got stronger the closer we got to the top, but luckily it was coming from behind us. The wind assistance was very welcome, but it didn’t stop our eyes streaming and our ears ringing. There’s not much shelter on top of the South Downs, but we did find a small clump of wind-blown gorse for a bit of respite. By this time our kidneys had been busy processing our morning coffee: bladders were filling up but finding a safe place for relief was going to be tough. Andrew was the first to break. An energetic rugby tackle after his hat started cartwheeling across the hill, proved too much for him and the gorse bush appeared just in the nick of time.
The annoying thing about permissive paths is that they don’t appear on the map, so how do you plan them into a walk? There was a stretch of National Trust access land between us and a viewpoint over the Cuckmere valley and it seemed likely there would be a path through, but where? Should we risk a walk through the access land only to find the way out blocked? Or take the longer route using public rights of way? We plumped for the PROW option, which meant a walk down and then back up the hill to the viewpoint via a busy, pavement-less road. We got to the top only to see the stile connecting to the access land. If only we’d known!
The viewpoint came with trees, bushes, a lovely bench, but curiously not much of a view. Given the windy conditions shelter proved more important than a view, so we stopped for a spot of lunch. The viewpoint was surprisingly busy, which was fine for lunch but less convenient for further comfort breaks. The pub might still be a couple of miles off, but we could hear it calling us.
A stiff walk down into the valley took us past a chalk white horse and alongside the river. We passed twitchers getting excited by some lesser spotted ebony egret, but it wasn’t enough to lure us away from the promise of a pint of beer and a flushing toilet.
Post-pub we were up on the white cliffs and heading into the wind. It was a tough last couple of miles, but we were rewarded by cake and coffee in Steamworks whilst we waited for the train (rail replacement bus) back from Seaford.
In spite of the wind, the weather was rather nice and we had blue skies much of the day. Sunday, however, was a different matter. If we had thought Saturday was windy, Sunday had us struggling to stand up. From the hostel in Southease, we walked up to the old village and the rather charming parish church. So far, so good, but then there was the teeniest little hill to climb before we could join the Ouse Valley Way into Lewes. It might have only been little, but we were being blown sideways, eyes streaming. We thought heading for lower ground would bring some respite, but the river valley was, if anything, a wind tunnel. It was head down into the gale the whole way to Lewes. With some relief we staggered into town and the welcoming arms of the first coffee shop we could find. After we’d scoffed down some cake and hot coffee, we felt sufficiently revived to do a quick walk round the town. The castle at the top of the hill was a fantastic vantage point, then we walked back through the medieval streets down to the train station for yet another rail replacement bus. We did rather well out of the rail replacement busses – not only was the service to Southease more frequent, but we were given (and given and given) ginger cookies as compensation. We don’t get that in Essex!
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