Tag Archives: keymer post

Longing to return to the hills again

25 May

I know the time has come once again. Sub-consciously I have begun taking guide books to the South Downs Way off my bookshelf and reading the odd snippet here and there.

Every morning on my bus journey to work I gaze increasingly longingly at the ridge of the South Downs. This morning it wasn’t there, hidden in mist that will no doubt burn off in an hour or two, but by then I will be miles away, with only the clock to gaze longingly at.

It looks increasingly like that my plans to take a week off work this year and walk the SDW are going to have to wait another year. Barring a huge win on the lottery or an unexpected redundancy it doesn’t look like I am going to have the time to do it this year.

This was going to be my challenge this year, but this has been pushed out by London 2012 Olympics and the challenge to remain interested in whatever sporting activity I am watching, despite the crowds and exorbitant prices.

Somehow I am going to have to find some time to walk the SDW this year, having walked it the last two years I want to try to keep the momentum going but it is looking increasingly difficult this year.

I have even contemplated walking it at night, I mean just how much sleep do I really need? Couldn’t I catch up on sleep during the week and spend Friday and Saturday nights on the hills. Probably not, but that is a sign of how desperate I am becoming.

I need to keep reminding myself that it isn’t even June yet and there are probably another five or six months of decent walking weather ahead of me and I only need eight or nine days out of those five or six months.

Looked at like that it doesn’t sound quite such a tall order, but I need to get out and start getting a few more longer walks under my belt, I have really done very little this year so far. I would have started this week, but it has been insanely hot this week, maybe next week will be better.

Keymer Post, South Downs Way (25th May 2010)

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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South Downs Way: Falmer to Pyecombe

25 May

South Downs Way sign

Today’s walk was unforgettable, but mostly for the wrong reasons. The start from the A27 between Falmer and Lewes in East Sussex, was inauspicious after the bus driver failed to stop at the right bus stop, apparently he thought I had pressed the button by accident. Guess not many people take the bus to the South Downs Way.

Ditchling Beacon

The walk itself was very good, the hills seemed pretty gentle although one of the hills on this walk, Ditchling Beacon (seen above), is said to be the highest point in East Sussex, but it didn’t really seem like it.

The weather was pretty good too. The sun shone and there was very little cloud, but once again things were a bit hazy. There was quite a strong breeze at the start, but that seemed to disappear later in the day.

I had really been looking forward to this part of the route, I have never walked it, there was so much to see along the route (and nearby) and of course it is close to real ancestor territory (Lewes and Hurstpierpoint to mention but two).

Trig point and Mount Harry

There were three trig points either on the route or nearby, the one pictured above is on Blackcap (with Mount Harry in the background). The views from all three were good, but because of the haze they weren’t as spectacular as they could have been.

There are two hill figures on this part of the route as well. One has been lost, known as Ditchling Cross, it was originally carved into the chalk on the hill side above Plumpton. I took a detour (just north of the path) to try and find it, having found traces of it on aerial views on Google Maps and Bing Maps. It is now marked by an indent in the hill side, the upright being more visible than the cross-piece.

The other hill figure was grown on the side of the hill, rather than cut into it. In 1887 to celebrate the Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee two rows of trees were planted in the shape of a V. From the hill top there is not much to see, and I wasn’t going to go down the hill and climb back up just to get a photo. I have several postcards of it, and it can be clearly seen on Google Maps, albeit upside down.

There were many dew ponds along this section of the route. Dew ponds are a vital source of water for livestock on the Downs, and I shall probably write a fuller description in the future due to their history and importance, especially if you come from generations of agricultural labourers like I do (although I am not sure if I have any hill farmers in my family tree). For now you will just have to make do with the photo below.

Sheep drinking at dew pond

Along with trig points, dew ponds and hill figures, there were also to two windmills (Jack and Jill) on the side of the hill above Clayton, near the end of the walk. Jack is in private ownership (and in quite bad shape by the looks of it), but Jill is open to the public on Summer Sunday afternoon. Another important part of our agricultural heritage.

The walk ended at Pyecombe in West Sussex. In theory this should have been the most convenient part of the walk for me, I could catch a bus home from Pyecombe without any problem. Unfortunately it didn’t go according to plan.

I arrived at the bus stop on the A23 with five minutes to spare, but knew that the bus would almost certainly be late because of the heavy traffic coming out of Brighton. It was late, about 20 minutes late, and to my dismay the driver didn’t see me waving franticly on the roadside and drove on past.

I couldn’t stand another hour in a lay-by with nothing but a bus stop for company and the thunder of traffic passing just a few feet away. Rather than risk another bus passing me by I decided it would be better to get away from the main road and walk about a mile up a quieter road to the next bus stop, where I could guarantee I would be seen.

Keymer Post

The finger post on the left is known as Keymer Post, and it marks the boundary between the counties of East and West Sussex. North points to the village of Keymer (where my grandparents were married), south is Brighton, west is Winchester and east is Eastbourne.

So far I have completed almost 33 miles of the South Downs Way, which is about a third of the total distance, and now I am walking in West Sussex, my home county and the landscape of many of my ancestors. The idea of walking all the way across West Sussex seems almost inconceivable, but it is not much further than I have already walked. After that there is still about 30 miles of Hampshire to go before I finally reach Winchester.

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