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Jay Walking

South Downs Way: Amberley to Cocking

Another Sunday morning and another train trip to the South Downs Way, this one was fairly simple, a direct train from Victoria to Amberley, no having to catch the Sunday morning bus to get to the start of the walk. I took the 8:32 am morning train, which was fairly busy, there were a number of hiking types on the train, including a large group of a dozen or so, and we all seemed to get off the train at Amberley. I set off following another lone walker, but let him get away from me as I stopped to sort out my pack. The day was already hot and looked to be quite sunny, I’d put some sunscreen on whilst on the train but I’d manage to forget my sun hat and was hoping to avoid getting burn’t.

View Westwards towards the Downs
Water point

I quickly reached the spot where I’d left the path last week and continued on, taking a sharp left towards the downs in the distance. The route crossed the flood plain of the River Arun and after a few 100 metres I passed a water point and stopped to take a drink and fill up my water bottle, before continuing to cross the river via a bridge. After walking through a field and crossing a small road, the route started to lead up on to the downs, initially taking a gentle path upwards before steepening up as it approached the A29 on a worn out track. There were a number of bikers coming down the route but no other walkers but looking back there was no sign of the other hikers who’d left the train at the same time as me.

Looking back to the village of Amberley
View down Westburton Hill

After crossing the A29, there was a bit of climb until the top of the ridge was reached. It seemed to be getting hotter and hotter and I was working up a sweat, there was no respite from the heat as there were no trees or bushes. The path started a long, slow descent from Bury Hill to a small group of farm buildings at the base of Westburton Hill. I was passed in both directions by a number of bikers, though those going down seemed to be having more fun than those going uphill. The path was quite narrow here with some low vegetation meaning it was quite hard to pass each other, but as the bottom of the slope was reached the path changed to a wider track.'

View East towards Glatting Beacon
A field of sunflowers

The path head up quite steeply again and I once I got to the top I sat down, to check the map and drink some water. I didn’t check the map very well and made a major mistake in my map reading and headed off in the wrong direction, it wasn’t until I entered a wood that I realised I was lost. I ended up checking my position on the Ordnance Survey app and found I’d manage to detour on to the Monarchs Way. Feeling a little annoyed at myself, for this error, which with hindsight was obvious (I’d missed a sharp turn to the NW), I figured out a new route that that take me back to the South Downs Way by continuing along the Monarch's Way. It was quite pleasant to be out of the sun for a bit and I quickly made it back on to the correct route just south of Glatting Beacon with it’s two radio masts. I had a dim memory of walking here many years ago, when I was camping near Arundel, a friend and I had come down to practise our map reading skills, we got lost then as well.

Littleton Downs in the distance
A large harvested field

There were quite a few people out walking around here, some just out for lunch and others out for some hiking, and a couple carrying heavy looking rucksacks who looked like they were doing a multi day trip. The route continued on for a few kilometres along the ridge, passing over Burton Down and Sutton Down, where I passed a field of small sunflowers which looked incredible in the bright sunshine. A little further on there was a sign indicating that there was a cafe in 500 metres, and the path descending quite steeply to the A285 and Littleton Farm where the cafe, which was quite busy with mountain bikers, was located the cafe. I ordered a coffee and a slice of carrot cake, I’m usually left a bit disappointed with coffee that I get at cafes, but this was actually good, and the cake was pretty nice as well.

I set off again going steeply upwards along a track before entering a field where the crops had been harvested, it was hot walking and after crossing climbing Littleton Down, it was pleasant to enter some woodland of Crown Tegleaze for a bit and get out of the heat. The path continued with gentle undulations, passing a large field whose crops had been harvested, leaving only the base of the plants. It made me realise how long I’d been walking the South Downs Way, on the first day from Eastbourne, I’d passed fields where the crops were barely knee-high. I’d be glad to get this route finished and hopefully have some easier journeys to and from the start of whatever walk I was doing. After a couple of kilometres the route reaches Graffham Down and continues through a large section of woodlands which goes on for a couple of kilometres. Around Coombe Bottom the route passed through a meadow of wild flowers next to some obvious tumuli before making a sharp dog leg turn and heading on westwards. I used a trig point in a field, just off the route, to get a better idea of my location and checking my watch I saw that there was about 45 minutes till the next bus to Chichester and only about 3 kilometres to the bus stop. I had my last sandwich and a drink and headed off to catch the bus, continuing along the path with woodlands on the left and a hedge to the right before finally emerging on to Manor-farm Down, where there were great views across the Downs.

Looking down hill towards Cocking

I got to the road with about 15 minutes to spare, passing a couple of walkers heading uphill, one of them carrying an absolutely massive backpack, I didn't envy the steep walk she was about to undertake with all that weight. There was another water point here, but I left it and headed on to the road, where there were a number of walkers waiting for a coach in the field. They were all part of The Annual South Downs Way Walk which is an organised 9-day walk of the whole route, getting picked up and set down each day, a lot easier than getting the train and various buses each day. My bus arrived on time and half an hour later I was in Chichester waiting for the train. It had been a good day, despite getting a little lost at one point, the weather had been good and I'd had no problem with my foot.

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