Some of my own response to the Covid-19 crisis and the restrictions we all find ourselves under is to revisit my favourite places, in books or thought, films or photographs, or even old blog posts. It is sobering and depressing to realise I may not be able to go more than a few miles from home over the coming months, but this does help a little.
The South Downs are a favourite, so I’m going to re-post this short series I put up a couple of years ago after our most recent walk along the South Downs Way:
Once upon a time, or five or six years ago, if you prefer, I thought I would start up my own outdoor adventure company. It never happened in the end, largely due to the cost of insurance. However, if I had gone through with it I have to admit it would have been largely so I could go on long distance trails both in the UK and overseas without having to pay for it.
Oh, well. It was a nice idea.
The South Downs Way is a long distance footpath of one hundred miles in length, running from Eastbourne to Winchester, or Winchester to Eastbourne, if you must, along the top of the South Downs.
Hence the name.
We walked it in May.
It is usual, when writing about a journey – especially a long distance walk – to write in some detail about the scenery and the route, in sequential order. I don’t think I’ll do that this time. Instead I’ll probably jump about all over the place writing about odd things we found particularly interesting. And post one or two photos of the stunning scenery…
Such as this one.
So, a few points of interest.
This, then, is a dew pond:
Chalk is a porous rock, allowing any rainfall to rapidly soak away, so the only way of providing water on the top of the downs is by artificial means. Dew ponds have been made up there for hundreds of years; a hollow is dug and lined with clay, which then fills naturally when the rain falls. Dew is probably not a significant contributor, despite the name. The downside to this simple system is should the pond dry out, then the clay, too, will dry out. When this happens, it will shrink and crack, and subsequent rainfall will leak out.
And while on the subject of rainfall, we didn’t have glorious weather all the way:
We were forced to seek refuge in a convenient pub at the Devil’s Dyke for a couple of hours, but we made the best of it. This was clearly A Good Move because although it was still pouring with rain when we eventually left the pub, it began to clear up in about an hour and then we had sunshine for the rest of the day.
These are cowslips. The word comes from the Old English cuslyppe, which means cow dung, because, yes, that’s where they like to grow, apparently. Years ago, before the coming of intensive farming practices and industrial weedkillers, our fields were full of cowslips, but they seem to be met with now primarily in the more open landscapes – like downland. For the first few days of our walk, especially, we saw lots of cowslips.
We had a rest day at Steyning, although we stayed at nearby Bramber.
Bramber Castle is a strange and mysterious place, which magically energises the over sixties and causes them to revert to their childhood.
Although not for long, sadly.