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Jay Walking

South Downs Way: Pyecombe to Washington

Heading back to Pyecombe the weather forecast was awful, I was expecting to get rained on all day, so I was prepared for a grim day of walking. After getting off the train at Hassocks, I started looking for the bus stop as one was due in about 15 minutes. I had considered getting a mini-cab for the 3.5 kilometre journey but as a bus was due, catching it was the better option, the problem was finding the stop as there are a number of them, only one of which operates on Sunday. I asked a vicar, and she directed me to one which turned out to be the wrong so (I thought she'd have known about the Sunday service). Another lady with 3 generations of black Labradors (grannie, mother and daughter) directed me to the one with the Sunday service and I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, which was lucky as the next one was in 2 hours and I would have had to walk. A short time later I was back at the petrol station near Pyecombe and back tracking to last week's finishing point. I was intending to walk the 32 kilometres to Amberley, but was not sure as the foot pain which had stopped me walking for a few weeks had returned, and I was not sure if walking that distance was either do-able or a good idea.

I got back to the spot where I’d left the route the previous weeks, set up my walking poles, had a drink and then set off along the route, crossing the A27 on a bridge. I got a bit disorientated but a quick check of my compass and the map put in the right direction and I set off past a large group of farm building mainly dedicated to horses judging by the amount of massive horse trucks about. After this the path turns West and heads up on to the downs, a gentle plod over a kilometre, with some good view's of the Devils Dyke, before heading down towards Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber Hill, both owned by the National Trust. There was a busy café amongst the farm buildings at the bottom of Newtimber Hill, with a steady trade of walkers, mountain bikers and day trippers, so I got a cup of tea and headed on, crossing the road and heading up to the Devil's Dyke.

Looking back East to Pyecombe Village
A view of Devils Dyke from Newtimber Hill

The Devil's Dyke was fairly steep and there were a lot of people about, even on this gloomy morning, some walking their dogs, others running and plenty of bikers struggling upwards. I like the idea of cycling along the downs, it’s faster than walking and looks like good fun and is good exercise though the uphill bits look like hard work, it’s certainly a popular sport. At the top you go past a radio mast and continue along the ridge for a while, it’s nice and easy walking and once away from the Devil's Dyke as the people thinned out, though there a few groups of bikers pedalling along in both directions. The chalk escarpment is towards your right and looking back you can see the wonderfully located Devils Dyke pub, though it was a bit obscured by the bad weather, it looked like a nice place to have a drink on a good day. The path continues on slowly descending till it reaches Perching Hill where is descends a little more sharply before heading up and down once more to Edburton Hill with it’s viewing point, though I didn’t stop but instead headed on to Truleigh Hill with its radio masts. A large group of around 20 teenagers were resting here eating and talking, all had large backpacks covered in red rainproof covers, a few of them wished me a good day, as I sat down to rest and have something to eat myself. They looked like a school group doing the Duke of Edinburgh award, they’d walked in the opposite direction yesterday and were walking back today, after a few minutes they left me in peace, one of them had been loudly cajoling the others not to leave any rubbish.

Sign for the Devils Dyke
View Eastwards of Devils Dyke
Fulking hill
View eastward from Truleigh Hill

After about 10 minutes I set off again, and very quickly reached Truleigh Hill YHA, which has a café and a campsite, I wish I had checked the map before I’d sat down as another cup of tea would have gone down well. Most of the group of school children has stopped here again, but a few were further along the track and I soon caught up and overtook them, mainly as they were all chatting, though possibly due to their massive backpacks slowing them down. After a kilometre or so there was a car park with views over the village of Upper Beeding, the route descends here to the River Adur, which is reached by crossing the A283 and crossed by a small footbridge. It was quite busy here with a lot of walkers, some bikers and a few people walking their dogs, though most of them seemed to be grasping cups of tea or coffee from the café in the car park. A little way before the bridge there was a water point, so I stopped and drank some water and then refilled my bottle and read the notice board about Upper Beeding listing some of its history and tourist sites. It appears that Upper Beading was a Saxon village and its major tourist attraction is the old cement works, which the notice board suggests you visit, which is of course what you want to see when visiting a Saxon village. Nothing says this is an historic ancient village than a trip to a cement works.

Radio mast at Truleigh Hill
View of the Adur Valley

On the other side of the river the end of the Downs Link walk meets the South Downs Way, the Downs Links, fairly obviously links the North Downs Way at St Martha Hill to the South Downs Way, but extends further south all the way to Shoreham by the Sea. I spent a few minutes talking to a woman with a young French Bulldog, who was very friendly and fascinated by the sheep in the field The weather had cleared up by now, it was quite sunny, maybe it was going to be better than the weather forecast suggested. The path continued on joining the road through the small village of Botolphs and heading up to the tops of the downs again, towards the top of the ridge there was a very large piggery with lots of outdoor reared pigs lounging around or eating. This was a first for me, I’d seen plenty of sheep and cows along the downs however these were the first pigs I’d seen and there were plenty of them to see, and also a very distinctive smell. The piggery followed the route for about a kilometre before it was left behind and could no longer be seen or smelt. Reaching a small road where the path headed off towards the North, I sat down again and had another sandwich and a rest while checking the map. My foot was hurting by now, I was unsure whether I would be able to get all the way to Amberley today, but I’d see how I felt a little further on.

The Adur River
Signpost at the junction of the North Downs Way and the Downs Link
Looking back toward the River Adur
Some pig stys and some pigs

The route headed North following the road which it crossed after a few 100 metres, emerging on to a wide bridleway, there were a lot of bikers going in both directions, around this part, many of them looking muddier than their bikes, walkers were few until I got near to Chanctonbury Ring, which was quite busy. Chanctonbury Ring is a prehistoric hill fort, later the site of Roman shrines and more recently has some connection to the occultist Aleister Crowley, but is now a tourist attraction. I passed another group of school children with large backpacks and once I was past Chanctonbury Ring, caught up with a group of scouts, whom I followed for a while, until they continued straight on, and I followed the South Downs Way towards the village of Washington, descending steeply towards the A24.

Chanctonbury Ring
 St Mary's Church, Washington

While descending I had a chat with a German lady who was walking the whole of the South Downs Way over 8 days, camping and occasionally using hotels, she was heading to Truleigh Hill YHA today, staying in the camping ground there. She had managed to pick up a Chinese made tent that was around 1 kilogram for around £20, which is pretty good, I’d brought a tent for nearly £300 which weighed about the same, but hadn’t had the chance to use it yet, due to Covid and other problems. She was walking with a group who were doing the walk over 6 days, which seems a do-able pace if you are reasonably fit, though with the current state of my feet, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do to it. It seemed like they had experienced a fair bit of rain during the day, though I’d not seen a drop so far, she told me that she excepted one more, and she was right as I got to the bottom of the hill, it started raining and, I stopped to put my waterproofs on and headed on.

The South Downs Way crosses the A24 here, there is a direct crossing which is best avoided as it’s a fast and busy road and another one which goes through the village of Washington and I choose this one. The walk to the village didn’t take long, I stopped to ask a couple if there was a shop in the village as I was feeling a bit hungry, but they didn’t know, so I headed on till I got to the village church and sat down on a bench considering my options. As I sat down it started raining quite heavily, I checked the map, it was around 10 kilometres to Amberley, around 2 hours, it was already 3 pm, and my foot was feeling quite sore now, so I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and decided to head home. I packed up my walking sticks and headed back to the village and to search for the bus stop, as there was a bus in about 30 minutes. The journey back was a bit of a nightmare as I should have got the bus towards Worthing but took the one to Crawley which took ages and seemed to be a tour of all the housing estates round West Susses. I guess it prepares you for the joy that is Crawley a town I’d been to a few times when I was younger, but had gone downhill since then. I went looking for something to eat, the high street seemed to be comprised of kebab shops and the only other option was McDonalds, not the sort of food I normally eat or want, so I went without and eventually got a train to London.