South Downs Way: Southease to Pyecombe
I’d not be able to get out walking for a couple of weeks, I’d somehow developed a real painful strain on the instep of my right foot which prevented my walking, and then I’d had other things getting in the way of getting out for a work, but after 3 weeks away I was once more heading to the South Downs Way, picking up at Southease where I had finished last time. The weather report hadn’t been good, with a good chance of rain forecast, and luckily I remembered to pick up my waterproofs before I left home. Looking out of the train window, the sun seemed to be in danger of breaking out, so I spent some time applying sunscreen to my face and neck. We arrived in Lewes on time and I got a cup of tea whilst waiting for the train to Southease, arriving at the station around 10:15 AM, but having started a chat with my sister I didn’t start off straight away. After gassing for some time the heavens opened, I rushed into the shelter on the platform, cutting the phone call short, struggled into my waterproofs and set off.
There were already a fair few people around, some on mountain bikes, others running and a smattering of walkers, I set off along the road towards the village of Southease. Stopping at the 11 century church of St Peter, with its rare 12th century round tower, to drink some water and refill my bottle at one of the water points along the way. It had stopped raining by now, but still looked overcast, so I continued along the road through the village, once out of the village, the route gets onto a short descent on a chalk path, though I had to wait for 5 or 6 mountain bikers to make their way up. I headed along the valley floor to the base of a short climb up on to the downs, thinking that the rain had ease off, I took off my water proofs and packed them away, only for the rain to start coming down again as soon as I had started walking up the hill, so I had to stop and put them on again, as it had started raining quite heavily again.
Heading on past a few wet looking walkers and a few runners the path was now fully on the downs, heading in a North West direction for around 3 - 4 kilometres, until the path reaches Jugg’s Road, not a road but a track, which can be followed in the other direction to the village of Kingston near Lewes, which can be clearly seen from the path, as can the window which sits on the downs behind the village. I didn’t take too many photos as the weather was still bad and generally grey with poor visibility. The route traverses round the top of Cold Coombes a steep sided Combe, not really keeping track of where I was I thought I’d wandered of the trail, which is nigh impossible as the route is very well sign posted here. By the time I’d got to the Western end of Juggs Lane the sun and come out again, and I was starting to feel quite warm, I walked on a little further and sat down to eat my lunch of 3 boiled eggs and a cheese sandwich.
Heading off again, there is a long ascent down the far side of Cold Coombes, before a steeper descent though a wood which brings you to a tunnel under a train line and then the A27 into view and is crossed near Housedean Farm via a bridge. There is another water tap here, so I stopped to have a drink and fill up again, before heading uphill toward the North. At the top of the hill I bumped into a couple of women walking a friendly young dog, and we chatted for a few minutes mainly about dogs before I headed off going slightly uphill, reaching a gate where I sat on a stile to let a few bikers though and had another short chat with a mother and her son who had walked from Pyecombe and were gradually doing the whole of the South Downs Way over a number of weekends, starting around Easter time. They were planning 2 more days of walking to finish the route, but today they were going to finish at Housedean Farm and presumably get a bus to somewhere. I thought this was a good thing to do with your child, my parents had never done anything like this, I found myself wishing that they had. This seemed to be a bit of a high traffic area, as a little way on I bumped into an older Indian lady well wrapped up against the weather, having walked from Brighton, she was also heading to Housedean Farm where she was going to get a bus back to Brighton.
A little while later I reached Blackcap where the path heads off towards the West along a well-marked track. It was a nice area only spoilt but a very noisy cow who made some very loud mooing sounds, maybe the cow equivalent of having a good shout. The path was pretty flat now as we ere heading along the top of the downs and I made good progress towards Ditchling Beacon, passing various tumuli, some of them more visible than others but testifying to how long these routes had been in use. About 500 metres from Ditchling Beacon the rain started to come down again, and I got into my waterproofs once more, this time the rain was pretty heavy and there was very limited visibility from the Beacon. The car park was full and luckily there was a well stocked but expensive ice cream van, I got a vegan chocolate ice cream and cup of tea for a whopping £5.80, but it was nice to sit down and have a hot drink (and a cold snack). There were only about 3 miles to Pyecombe, so I was nearly finished for the day, it was only about 3:15 AM, so hopefully I’d be finished in an hour or so.
Once the tea was finished I headed off, getting barked at by a young dog as I went through the gate to Ditchling Beacon proper, and then headed off. There were a fewer people this side of the car park, I guess the rain had driven people off, though I did pass a large wet looking group of walkers. After a kilometre or so the way starts a slow descent towards Pyecombe, I passed a dew pond at one point, the only one I’d seen that actually had water in it and then made a mistake and went off the path towards the Clayton Windmills. These are a pair of windmills called Jack and Jill, which is quite rare (apparently, I’m not a windmill expert), as most windmills have female names. I took a few photos and got back on the correct path, heading off through a golf course towards the busy A283, where I dashed across the road during a break in the traffic and headed off to the village of Pyecombe, passing by their Normal church and heading off to the bus station next to the petrol station. Quite rarely for me, I’d managed to arrive in the nick of time and a bus was due in 2 minutes, it was exactly 4:30 and the bus arrived at 4:32, and I was able to get on the 5 PM train from Brighton station.