In between walking the South Downs Way we have continued to pound the pavements around Petersfield with Sally our personal trainer, which also involves visits to the Plump Duck at the Lake and the Townhouse in the High Street. This leg of our Odyssey has taken quite a bit of planning. The plan was to drive to Devil’s Dyke, then get the bus to Brighton station and from there the bus to Ditchling Beacon to walk back to the car.
However these buses only run at weekends and on bank holidays.
Our drive over to Brighton was good, although loads of cyclists were creating mayhem on the roads. We then spent a while in reconnaissance of the area, ie we couldn’t find the road up to Devil’s Dyke, having thought it would be obviously signed from the A27. We just missed the first bus of the day which gave us a chance to have a wander around and to come to the conclusion that Devil’s Dyke of today is a far cry from the days of Victorian splendour. The first part of the bus ride, (with the most miserable driver ever) felt like being involved in Whacky Races as it tore along the lane, leaving a trail of cyclists in its wake. But no matter because we were able to use our bus passes! At Brighton station we found a flaw in our plan – the next bus to Ditchling was not due for another 45 minutes. Fortunately, a station is a good place to get a taxi and for £20 we were soon at the Beacon, where there was more cycle madness.
Finally we were on the South Downs Way again, which to start off with seemed more like Picadilly Circus, but we soon left the lightweights behind as we walked towards Winchester. Excellent elevation research had shown that we should find it easier walking this way and so it proved, although we had one very challenging hill, and two other shorter ascents. But before that we had glorious views, wonderful buttercup meadows, hawthorn trees and almost biblical scenes of sheep at dewponds. Hawthorn, or as it’s also known, May, has been common in Britain for millennia, pollen counts showing its presence here before 6,000 BC, and of all our native trees, it is perhaps the most enshrined in myth.Usually white, the blossoms may also be a light or deep pink.
We passed the Jack and Jill Windmills then realised we had been talking so much we had missed our turning so had to retrace our steps, fortunately only a few hundred yards. It was now pretty hot as the cooling breeze had disappeared but we found a spot of shade for some lunch, overlooking Pyecombe Golf Course (there must be some pretty fit golfers here, or else they all use buggies).
On we went, with the landmark of crossing over the A23 and past some stables before tackling the lengthiest ascent of the day.
This was tough!! We stopped for some more refreshments, the view was superb with the iconic windmills, but sadly a lot of traffic noise from the A23. We continued on to Saddlescombe and found an oasis serving teas, a really delightful spot.
Another testing ascent as we neared Devil’s Dyke, we were pretty tired now and didn’t exactly speed along, but a final push to the summit and we were back at the car.
We started the return journey but diverted to the Steyning Bowl to relax and appreciate the stunning view, and to reflect on a great sense of achievement today.