South Down Way

Living so close to the South Downs and having spent so much time walking over them, it was inevitable that one day we would think about doing the whole lot in one go. We knew the area from Bramber to Eastbourne extremely well, doing day walks, as well as using it as a training ground to top up our fitness prior to walking holidays in the Lakes or Scotland. However, we had never walked a long distance path before, carrying all our own kit and staying overnight at a B&B. We had walked on consecutive days before when hill walking but we always had the option of not doing so if the weather or our fitness was not too good. We thought about doing a dummy run of an overnight stay but ultimately decided against it, hoping that in the event we would be able to cope.

How and when were the next things to sort out. We decided that we would have a rest day after a couple of days to take stock but also we wanted to make use of any bank holidays to reduce the amount of time taken off work. Easter seemed the logical time to do it from a bank holiday point of view but with that came the problem of booking accommodation over that weekend, as it would no doubt be extremely busy. As, seems to be common, B&B’s often wanted a minimum of 2 day stays over bank holidays, which ordinarily might be a problem but for us it all fitted quite well as we could have a rest day on Easter Sunday. So a plan started to emerge. We had already worked out that a week was all that was needed to do the whole walk and so by perhaps starting on Good Friday it would all dovetail in.

We live in Haywards Heath which is on the main Brighton to London railway line. Both Winchester and Eastbourne are accessible by train from Haywards Heath so transport to the start was easy. We decided to start from Winchester and end at Eastbourne, whereas the original route at it’s conception was the opposite. We wanted to do it our way for three main reasons. Firstly, we live 30 odd miles from Eastbourne so it seemed natural to walk towards home and the area we knew. Secondly, we felt it made sense to finish at the dramatic cliff tops of Beachy Head, where it is impossible to go any further, a natural and fitting end. To finish at Winchester in the middle of a town appeared to us to be a bit of a let down. Thirdly, if the weather was bad, in theory it would be behind us pushing us towards our goal.

The next step was to source our accommodation. We had purchased Along The South Downs Way, a fairly basic and quite old fashioned type of guide book, but it also had an accommodation guide in the back. It was a good starting point but it was slightly limited, so we turned to the Internet. The National Trail website was a good source of information as well as also having an accommodation list. Having worked out suitable mileages we arrived at an itinerary which also had suitable overnight accommodation available.

The plan was as follows:

  • Good Friday - Winchester by early train and then walk to Meonstoke (12 miles)
  • Saturday – Meonstoke to South Harting (14 miles)
  • Easter Sunday – Rest day at South Harting
  • Bank holiday Monday – South Harting to Bury (18 miles)
  • Tuesday – Bury to Bramber (14 miles)
  • Wednesday – Bramber to Kingston (18 miles)
  • Thursday – Kingston to Alfriston (11 miles)
  • Friday – Alfriston to Eastbourne and then train home (13 miles)

 

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