Tag Archives: south downs way

Postcard Album: Saddlescombe and Devil’s Dyke, Sussex

27 Jan

I have moved a couple of miles south-west along the South Downs (compared to last week) for this postcard. There is no publisher named on this card and rather bizarrely it was not posted in Sussex, but in Cambridge on the 5th September 1927 and sent to an address in Coventry.

Here we are on West Hill looking west towards Devil’s Dyke. The clump of trees on top of the hill hides the whereabouts of the Dyke Hotel and by this time most, if not all, of the amusements on the hill-top had long since closed down.

For me the real interest in this picture is not the Dyke, but the hamlet of Saddlescombe and its National Trust owned farm nestling between the hills.

What I really like about this image are the giant haystacks, as big as some of the farm buildings among which they were built. The buildings may have preserved but I think you would be lucky to find a haystack these days, let alone enough people with the skill and expertise to build one.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
.

Wandering: South Downs Way – Exton to Winchester

26 Sep

After a break of almost a month my wife and I were back walking the South Downs Way last Saturday. This was the last section taking us from the tiny village of Exton to the city of Winchester, both in Hampshire and although the distance was only twelve miles they did seem a world apart.

The highlight of Exton for me (apart from it being an ancestral village) was the River Meon (see below), a beautifully clear chalk stream and I could have stood for hours watching the trout feeding in the shallow waters. Winchester has its own river (the Itchen) which is quite pretty in its own right, but Winchester also has a motorway, crowds, shops, cafes, noise and everything we had been blissfully free of on our walk over the Downs.

The weather wasn’t perfect, visibility was pretty poor on our journey down and we wondered whether we would actually be able to see anything once we reached Exton. Fortunately the sun did come out as the weather forecasters predicted and started to burn of some of the mist and fog. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before the sky clouded over and we were left with slightly better visibility but by no means perfect.

The sun did reappear after lunch, but it was a little too late in the afternoon. I had hoped for a clear view of Winchester as we descended from the hills, but instead we were greeted by a rather dull and grey jumble of buildings, rather disappointing in the end.

Footbridge over the River Meon at Exton, Hampshire

We passed through many places with ancestral connections during the day, both whilst walking and whilst getting to the start. It is a beautiful part of the country and one which I have ever intention of visiting again and exploring further. Public transport is not brilliant among the small villages and hamlets, so some careful planning is need.

So that is it, the walk is over, we reached our destination but it did take an incredibly long time. It was actually only ten days, which works out at ten miles a day, but we didn’t have the luxury of lots of free time to complete it, so it was stretched out over many more months than we would have liked. Next year I will try to do it all in one go.

So here is the final set of facts and figures for the walk:

Starting point: Exton, Hampshire
Finishing point: City Mill, Winchester, Hampshire
Distance walked: 12.0 miles
Highest point: Beacon Hill (659 ft)
Places of note: Exton, Beacon Hill, Lomer, A272, Cheesefoot Head, Chilcomb, Winchester
Number of trig points spotted: One – Beacon Hill
Number of sandwiches eaten: Two halves (egg and cress, cheese and onion)
Number of times I said “my ancestors used to live here”: I lost count, but probably too many times!
Number of bus journeys taken: One (we had to get an early start so my wife drove us to the station)
Number of train journeys taken: Five
Number of ice creams eaten: None
Shorts or long trousers: Long trousers (although it did get quite warm once or twice)

The River Itchen and City Mill, Winchester, Hampshire

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
.

Wandering: South Downs Way – Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Exton

27 Aug

My wife and I were out and about again today, walking another section of the South Downs Way. The weather was reasonably good, slightly cooler than previous walks and mostly dry. The photo below shows the first climb of the day, as you can see there was lots of broken cloud, but around midday the cloud became thicker eventually leading to some light rain and ultimately one heavy, but very brief shower.

There had obviously been some very heavy rain recently because there were some very large (almost unpassable) puddles and many patches of mud, which made some of the paths a little awkward.

Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Hampshire

I like this particular section, partly because of the almost continuous views of the village of East Meon and that it finished in Exton, both of which have family connections, partly because there are some superb views to the south to Southampton and the Isle of Wight and partly because it is a section I am not that familiar with (unlike some of the Sussex sections).

The biggest surprise of the day was the state of HMS Mercury, last year when I walked this section the site contained many derlict buildings that made up this naval establishment. Today although the security fences were still there but the buildings had gone, or rather they had been reduced to big piles of ground-up rubble. I don’t think there was anything architecturally outstanding about the buildings but it was still sad to see them gone.

HMS Mercury (23 June 2010)

HMS Mercury (27 August 2011)

As with previous walks here are some facts and figures for today’s walk:

Starting point: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean, Hampshire
Finishing point: Exton, Hampshire
Distance walked: 10.1 miles
Highest point: Butser Hill (889 ft) [said to be the highest point on the South Downs]
Places of note: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Butser Hill, HMS Mercury, Wether Down, Coombe Cross, Meon Springs, Old Winchester Hill
Number of trig points spotted: Two – Wether Down (although we didn’t get up close) and Old Winchester Hill
Number of sandwiches eaten: Two halves (egg mayonnaise and cheese ploughmans)
Number of taxi journeys taken: One (from Petersfield to QECP) [quicker than waiting for the bus, meant we could start walking sooner]
Number of bus journeys taken: Four
Number of train journeys taken: Three
Number of ice creams eaten: Three! (a bumper section of the SDW for ice creams)
Shorts or long trousers: Long trousers (a few warmer spells but not warm enough for shorts)

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
.

Wandering: South Downs Way – Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park

7 Aug

My wife and I completed another section of the South Downs Way on Saturday, after a few weeks break we finally made it back down to Cocking, near Midhurst in West Sussex to carry on heading west towards Winchester. The weather wasn’t particularly brilliant, for about the middle third of the walk we were accompanied by light rain, not enough to make us wish we had waterproofs, but just enough to be annoying.

The temperature was still pretty warm even though we only saw the sun for a couple of brief moments, there was a slight breeze, but not enough to make it cold. We should have had some spectacular views to the south across to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, but the conditions meant that although you could see some vague outlines it was far from clear.

Looking east from Pen Hill nr South Harting, West Sussex

The second half of this walk was one of my least favourite parts last time, not particularly difficult just uninspiring. The only real notable feature of this section was the crossing of the border from West Sussex into Hampshire, but even this is easily missed because it is not marked in any way except on the map.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park at the end of the walk was a welcome sight bring with it toilets, refreshments and most importantly a bus stop from which we could start our journey home (the sound of the traffic racing past on the busy main road wasn’t quite so welcome).

Like the last time I wrote about our walk along the South Downs Way I am going to give you some facts and figures for Saturday’s walk:

Starting point: Cocking Hill Car Park, Cocking, West Sussex
Finishing point: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean, Hampshire
Distance walked: 11.1 miles
Highest point: Linch Ball (813 ft)
Places of note: Cocking Down, Linch Ball, Didling Hill, Monkton Wood, Treyford Hill, Pen Hill, Beacon Hill, Harting Downs, Queen Elizabeth Forest
Number of trig points spotted: One – Linch Ball (although we didn’t get up close)
Number of sandwiches eaten: Two halves (egg and rocket, cheese and cucumber )
Number of unusual place names: Two (Mount Sinai and Milky Way)
Number of bus journeys taken: Four
Number of train journeys taken: Two
Number of ice creams eaten: One
Shorts or long trousers: Shorts (still warm despite the lack of sunshine)

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
.

Still loving the South Downs

16 Jul

Whether it is walking them, reading about them or just looking at them, I am still in love with the South Downs.

The South Downs and the Weald, looking West from Devil's Dyke

Over the past few weeks my wife and I have continued our walk along the South Downs Way, we are now about two-thirds of the way along, with only three more sections to go. We have seen the South Downs in all sorts of weather, from the stinging wind-driven rain to the baking hot sun. We have watched as entire Wealden villages have been blocked out by sheets of rain and watched fields shimmering in the heat. We have enjoyed moments of silence and solitude on the tops of hills and shared the path with groups of walkers or cyclists rushing past.

I am now finding myself straining for my fast glance of the South Downs every morning on the way work. There is a part of my journey where I can get a brief view of the Downs, despite the fact that the bus is in general heading away from them. Every morning I am looking to see what they are looking like, whether they are clearly visible or just a grey bulk on the southern skyline. Sometimes the trees and bushes seem so crisp and clear other times they are just a dark grey outline and on one morning recently it was so misty that I could barely see over the hedge let alone to the hills seven or eight miles aways.

I have also been reading about the South Downs and in particular the South Downs Way and its history. I have been looking at old guides to the route, looking at the variations in the route over the relatively short life of the path. One day I would like to write my own guide and perhaps history of the route, but that is not really a top priority for me now.

I keep looking for a personal connection through my ancestors to the South Downs, and I guess the MITCHELL family who ended up at West Dean, Sussex would probably be the best fit, but really the strongest personal connection with the South Downs come through me.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 119 other followers

%d bloggers like this: