South Downs Odyssey
Odýssey n. a long, wandering and eventful journey!

South Downs Way legs

Leg 17

Ditchling Beacon
to Housedean Farm (Falmer)
5 miles

Go to aerobics or go walking on the South Downs Way?  It was no contest – the weather was set fair, we had the logistics in place, and most importantly, our walk would be using up 5 times more calories than aerobics.  After the previous day’s rain, the clouds were still lifting as we drove east along the A27 to find, easily, as it turned out, the layby (the old A27 road) at Housedean Farm.

We now needed to get the bus back into Brighton, ok where is the bus stop?  Over the bridge and down to the other side of the A27 as it happened, but we hadn’t seen any buses since we had arrived. Technology to the rescue!  On the bus stop it said “for bus times text esudgpdw to  84268” so we did, to get an immediate response “29B in 4 mins” and the bus duly arrived, complete with another unfriendly driver!  Bus passes were flourished and off we went to Churchill Square where we found a taxi straight away, with a very friendly driver!  And having estimated that we would be able to start walking at 12:00, there we were, at Ditchling Beacon at 11:59.

Two things were immediately striking. There were fields and fields of poppies, which were being grown for their medicinal purpose (!) and which provided a fantastic sweep of colour.  And Ditchling Beacon carpark, having been overflowing on the last occasion, was almost empty …. apart from the ice cream van (no we didn’t).  Being out walking on a Tuesday instead of a weekend made such a noticeable difference, we didn’t meet a single cyclist during our walk, and very few walkers.

Ditchling Beacon is the third highest point on the South Downs with stunning views.  Today’s walking was, it has to be said, easy!  Very little up, quite a bit of down, but mostly walking on grassland with stunning scenery all the way round.  Not that we are interested in football, but there was a great view of the Amex Stadium at Falmer.  Further along we could see Plumpton College which provides courses in a variety of land based and related subjects.  The College is Britain’s Centre of Excellence in Wine education, training and research, and it is the only Higher Education Institution to offer undergraduate degrees in Wine Business and Production in English in Europe.  A master’s degree in Viticulture and Oenology is also offered (uh??) Even from our elevated position we couldn’t see Plumpton Race Course which takes its place in racing history books, as it was the track where Tony McCoy rode his 3,000th winner.

Our team’s Agricultural Adviser came into her own today in identifying various crops, including wheat infested with wild oats a grass species with the latin name Avena fatua.  Farmers have, since ancient times hated it because it is a weed that devalues their cereal crop, its seeds have always been difficult to separate from the crop grain and so tend to survive and multiply from year to year.  The only way to remove it was to tramp the fields and hand-weed.  Even today it’s still a problem, despite modern seed cleaning and selective weed killers.   So sowing wild oats was the archetypal useless occupation, indeed worse than useless.  It’s not surprising that the phrase sowing wild oats was applied figuratively to young men who frittered away their time in stupid or idle pastimes (and other activities!)  And no sooner had the AA (this title could be misunderstood!) said that we hadn’t seen many sheep today, we were alerted to several choruses of Baa Baa Black Sheep to find a sizeable flock all penned in waiting to be drenched i.e. the process of delivering oral de-worming medication.  The friendly shepherd asked if we were hungry and did we have the mint sauce with us!!

One nasty little climb was waiting for us, fortunately in woodland, from which we emerged to a brilliant sight – a very distant view of a white cliff which was Seaford Head.  Then a long descent to the car and another leg completed, just 5 miles today!  

Home we went via Chichester, a coffee in John Lewis and the purchase of a bargain microwave, as you do.

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