In All Weathers

We’ve been on the South Downs again.

That’s why you haven’t heard from me for a while. Here’re a few pictures.

We began walking from Amberley this time, and on the first day the weather was pretty meh. It was either raining or starting to rain or just deciding when to rain. But, as always, the Downs looked fantastic. This view reminded me of a Roland Hilder painting:

But it got steadily wetter throughout the day. We took a very welcome break in the Frankland Arms in Washington and if I was writing a pub review it would get five stars – especially as it served Harvey’s Old Ale. But I only allowed myself one of those, as we still had some serious mileage to do. And it was, as noted, getting wetter. We approached Chanctonbury Ring:

And as we began the descent from the top, the saddest part of the journey. We walked among a large number of ash trees, all of which were dead or dying from Ash Dieback disease. It looked like a picture of the Somme.

The next day was dull, but at least it was dry. We walked past the Devil’s Dyke which I never seem to be able to get a good picture of, no matter which angle I take it at. The Devil’s Dyke is so-called because for some reason the Devil wanted to destroy Sussex, and got talking to Saint Dunstan and asked him the best way to do it. Why he did that I can’t imagine. Never ask a saint for advice if you’re the Devil. It won’t end well. Anyway, Saint D suggested he dig a channel through the South Downs and flood it. Right, thought Old Nick, and set to work. Saint D let him toil away for a few hours and then caused all the cocks in Sussex to crow. Thinking it was morning, Old Nick threw down his shovel, twirled his moustaches and hissed ‘Curses, foiled again!’

Alternatively, it might have been caused by melt-water during the ice age, but why spoil a good legend?

And the best weather? During our rest day in Lewes. And, oh look! There’s the Harvey’s Brewery! What a good rest day.

The following day was dull again as we left Lewes, and by now quite a sharp wind was blowing – into our faces too, unfortunately. But we had a pretty decent day and passed this church in Southease, one of only two (I think) in England with a round tower outside of Norfolk. The other is in nearby Lewes.

The final day began sunny but again with a sharp and unkind wind. We left Alfriston with its church on the edge of the village by the river and headed towards the coast. On the South Downs away to our right we passed a white horse carved into the chalk.

Soon we were up onto the Downs again, for the final walk into Eastbourne over the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. I tend to forget how tiring this leg can be, going continually uphill then downhill for the best part of six miles. For some reason, although we could see the Belle Tout lighthouse in the distance, it never seemed to get any nearer. Once I could do this leg of the walk easily, but…getting a little older…

An always fantastic view, though. Here we’re looking back across the Seven Sisters towards Seaford Head.

After all that, we could do with a holiday.

50 thoughts on “In All Weathers

      1. John Bainbridge

        Bob Copper’s book is amazingly good. In paying tribute to Belloc he manages to create a classic of Sussex walking of his own. His routes occasionally differ very slightly to avoid the deadliest of the main roads. Very readable.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I attempted to trace Belloc’s route using large scale OS maps from the early 1900’s, although there were several places I couldn’t work it out (especially the woods where they all sleep in a convenient hut). I shall definitely have to get Bob Copper’s book.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. What a splendid post! I’ll admit I was feeling a bit tired at the end, just from thinking about all that walking. I need to do more myself; I never could have managed this. At least, I don’t think I could.

    The last photo is my favorite, although the white horse appeals. I was intrigued to learn about the paucity of round towers over there. Was it a matter of fashion? Tradition? The complexities of ‘building round’?

    Just as an aside, there’s a place in western Kansas where the same sort of chalk formations have been revealed over time. They’re from the same time period — an era when the whole of America’s midwest was covered by a shallow sea. You can see a few photos from my visit to the area here.

    The closest I ever got to this area was Dover, where I took the ferry to Calais. If I ever make it there again, I’ll take some time to see the sights!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would seem that chalk is pretty well the same as the chalk we have here. Interesting that the same conditions would have prevailed so far apart – not just temperature, but the sea depth and the animal life within it. Out of curiosity, are there bands of flint in that chalk? If so, I would imagine the native inhabitants would have made tools out of it, as they did over here; very much the preferred rock for all their needs.

      The explanation for the round towers I’ve read seems a little odd, in that it suggests that building a round structure is easier and more stable if you only have small building materials (i.e. flints) to hand. I don’t wholly understand the logic of that, especially as the rest of the building is done in brick so why not the tower?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure about flint at that particular place, but it’s worth noting that not far away, also in Kansas, one of the most famous features is the Flint Hills. It’s all tallgrass prairie today, or mostly so, because the land was so flinty it couldn’t be farmed.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Appealingly varied post, Mick, evoking the changeable and often surprising British landscape. Taking of change, I was about to comment how your photos of treelines resembled the watercolour that headed your post when I noticed it had been replaced by another. Have you found a way to recycle these, I wonder?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, the horse is cut into the hillside, so it has several hundred feet of chalk beneath it – quite a good supply even if it rains for the rest of the year.

      Stamina? Not on the last day, Jill. I’m still recovering from it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dad and I did the way starting at Beachy head and ending in Winchester. 1988. I was 30 something he 60 something and we took a week. Delightful though the mysterious bagpiper near the Dyke confused us a bit. And the 87 storm had punched the teeth out of the beeches in the Chanctonbury Ring making it look motheaten. Thank you for such a delightful memory jogger.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve done it a couple of times that way, which I prefer. With all due respect to Eastbourne, Winchester feels like more of a destination. And a week is damned good going. I was beginning to feel I was going to take a week to get over the Seven Sisters. Glad to jog that memory!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We nearly got trapped at the Brewey Tap by thr Harvey’s brewery- one of dad’s top three bitters. They’d just launched a bishop’s tipple or some such and he was pretty dusty the following day.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done for that long a hike in less than perfect conditions. I’m more a fair weather fan for walking around, even if I finally got around to upgrading my wet weather gear. It’s wet again here today, so I’ll probably sit back and maybe have a nice glass of ale…

    PS: I like the chalk horse and cliffs. Reminds of a few Terry Pratchett books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you’ve got the gear, Dave, you might as well take the opportunity to use it! Get out and sample some of that Portland rain.

      I’m not surprised it reminds you of Pratchett – presumably the Granny Weatherwax ones, which are all set in a chalkland landscape obviously based on the landscape around the area where he lived in Southern England, a landscape that is an extension to the one we’ve just walked. I’ve always felt he loved that land; you can feel it in his writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve never been to this part of the country, Mick, so I really do enjoy seeing your photos, as I can almost imagine I am there with you. I must admit, I’ve hardly been anywhere in the UK. I’ve not been to Scotland, Ireland or Wales – I think I am missing a lot. The furthest north I’ve been was Blackpool about 40 years ago!

    My favourites out of your photos are the last image of the white cliffs – what a glorious view and I also like the white horse in the cliff face. There must be an awful lot of chalk below the horse for it not to have eroded away by now.

    It’s so sad to see the ash trees like that. I know Ash Dieback is a problem everywhere over here. I used to have a few ash trees in my garden, but they’ve long since disappeared.

    I’m glad you enjoyed your walking, albeit we get tired more easily when we get older. I don’t know how old you are, but I think, at 65, I might be older than you. I guess I’m fortunate in that I can get about in Alfie, my wheelchair, so rarely get tired when I’m out and about. Having said that, journeys are often fraught with access problems, so I can’t go very far, which is always an annoyance.

    Hope you and your family are well, Mick.


    1. Hi Ellie. There are hundreds of feet of chalk below that horse, so it should be with us for a good while yet. You can get a good idea how much chalk from the cliffs. What you can’t really tell from that shot, though, is how undulating the land is. The Seven Sisters are old dry river channels running out towards the sea, so crossing them you go steeply up, then down…then up…then down…seven times.

      The only bright spot with ash dieback is that there are a few trees that seem genetically resistant and can survive an attack. Although we are going to lose huge numbers of ash, hopefully we can regenerate just as many from the immune ones.

      And, ha! at sixty five you’re just a spring chicken, Ellie. I’m sixty eight shortly and feeling every year at the moment!

      We are well, thanks. Hope you and yours are doing well too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s very good to know there are some immune ash trees left. I do hope they can regenerate new ones that will also be immune from the disease.

        I’m very happy to be a spring chicken, although not by far. I am 66 in September – I hate getting older, but I am looking forward to this birthday as I get my pension then, which will make things much easier financially. What a relief.

        I am well, thanks, albeit still very tired from travelling to London for the protest. It was a very long day from leaving at 7.30am and not getting back till 11.45pm, as we had dreadful trouble on the trains with endless access issues. It took us over two hours to get home from London. It should have been not much more than an hour. I wouldn’t let it stop me going again, however 😊.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Like you, when I got my pension it made things much easier. It’s interesting that although we managed perfectly well when we were working, although our income could be a bit sporadic at times, due to my work being freelance and seasonal, since retirement we’re better off than we’ve ever been before. This is obviously due to neither of us having expensive tastes!

          Liked by 1 person

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