Tag Archives: south downs

Sussex Day 2012: Part 4 – Where I needed to be

21 Jun

Sussex Day 2012

Leaving the church I continued on west, parallel to the Downs themselves. The road continues for several miles along the foot of the Downs, creating a string of small villages.

The rest of Poynings passed quickly by, mostly houses and one pub, The Royal Oak, which looks a little too trendy for my liking.

Soon the houses lining the road ended, or at least became more isolated and the views to the South Downs really opened up, this was where I wanted to be.

The road rises and falls gently on its journey west, occasional footpaths shoot off southwards to begin their assent of the hills, all the time the range of hills stretching out ahead as far as the eye could see and the haze would permit.

This really was where I needed to be. For many months I have gazed longingly from a distance, now they were almost within touching distance, not long now and I would be upon the hills at last.

For the last couple of years I have wondered about the feasibility of an alternative South Downs walk, not on the top of the hill, but from the foot of the hills.

At the foot of the South Downs – Where I needed to be

Roads like this stretch many miles along the foot of the South Downs, unfortunately they don’t provide a complete link, and many of them are probably too busy to contemplate walking along now.

They may not offer such far-reaching views as can be found on the top of the hills, but with views like this the route would be by no means boring.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Sussex Day 2012: Part 3 – Church visiting

20 Jun

Sussex Day 2012

The footpath passed down the side of a school and emerged onto the road. Climbing slightly the road took me south to Poynings church, sitting at a junction of roads.

Poynings church has always seemed quite big to me, at least when seen from a distance, however up close it didn’t seem quite so big, although it has to be said that the square tower is quite impressive in size.

Having never been inside the church I thought I should take advantage of the opportunity and was surprised to find myself being congratulated by the vicar/rector for finding my way to the church.

She seemed a little surprised that I wasn’t there for the meeting or the florist come to set up for the wedding, but had just wandered in off the street, but was made welcome nevertheless. After a brief spell to admire the interior I took a stroll around the exterior.

The churchyard seemed quite small, smaller than I had expected. There were a few standing headstones, but try as I might I couldn’t remember anyone in my family tree who might be buried here, in fact I couldn’t remember any family connection with Poynings.

As unlikely as it seemed this little string of villages at the foot of the Downs seem to have been largely overlooked by my relatives, but then I suppose they were always more Wealdsmen than Downsmen.

Holy Trinity Church, Poynings, West Sussex

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Sussex Day 2012: Part 2 – Chasing butterflies

19 Jun

Sussex Day 2012

Across the road from the bus shelter the footpath leads across a wheat field, still green at the moment, but if the sun stays out long enough it will soon be turning golden-yellow.

The path follows a more or less straight path south towards the parish church at Poynings, but a little less than halfway it splits in two with one path continuing south and the other path heading west.

I followed the path west, this field was of grass, kept short by the sheep. A simple wooden bridge took me over a ditch, over a stile into a field of taller grass.

It was here that I spent a couple of minutes trying to capture an image of a little butterfly, a Common Blue I believe. It flitted here and there, almost getting trodden on once or twice and no sooner had it settled on a clover flower than it was off again.

Some of this was my fault and the approach of my camera, but some of this was also down to the wind which was buffeting everything in sight. Eventually I caught it.

Catching butterflies

Not far away to the south the huge bulk of South Downs dominated the skyline, but my attention had briefly been captured by this tiny little creature.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Sussex Day 2012: Part 1 – One of my favourite bus stops

18 Jun

Sussex Day 2012

I knew I had to take the opportunity presented by Sussex Day to get out onto the South Downs, but when I set off I hadn’t really decided where to go.

I was on the bus heading to Brighton, which narrowed down the range of options, but still with another bus and/or train ride I could pretty much be anywhere in Sussex. Not only that but if I got the right bus I could even be on top of the Downs with minimal effort, but what would be the fun in that.

The South Downs didn’t look terribly inviting it has to be said. The weather was overcast, it looked and felt like there could be rain any minute, even though the forecast said it would stay dry. I could see the odd break in the cloud, but even as we got nearer the Downs remained hazy and indistinct, not the crisp clearness that I had longed for.

As the bus headed towards Brighton I formulated a plan, I would get off before Brighton near the village of Poynings, by the roundabout, and make my way along the foot of the hills and then when the time was right I could ascend the hills and continue along the ridge.

This would not only give me a different view of the hills, getting up close to the northern face of the hills that I normally only see from a distance, but would also give me the opportunity to have a quick look around some of the villages that lay at the foot of the hills.

As I stepped off the packed bus at Poynings, leaving the shoppers to continue their journey to Brighton, I stood and admired the Downs. The bus stop is well within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park, and practically on the foot of the hills. It is the closeness to the hills that makes this one of my favourite bus stops.

One of my favourite bus stops

In the background of picture above is Newtimber Hill. To the left, albeit some way off, is my old favourite Wolstonbury Hill. To the right is Devil’s Dyke and the range of hills stretching all the way out to the west and Chanctonbury Hill with its distinctive crown of trees.

I will be the first to admit that the bus shelter may not be much to look at, but for me it represents an important gateway to the South Downs and the start of my Sussex Day walk.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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The Opportunistic Wanderer

28 May

For the second time in two days I have seized the opportunity and gone for a walk. Yesterday morning I took advantage of the fact that my wife had to work and got a lift to work with her and walked home, about four and a half miles.

This evening as I made my way home on the bus I could see the South Downs as clear as they had been for weeks, and instantly I knew I had to go and get a closer look.

So when I got home I swapped my work shoes for walking boots and headed out the door. I didn’t have time this evening to go far, so no need for a map or rucksack, only a mobile phone and digital camera.

My destination was Betley Bridge, which once took the railway over the River Adur between Partridge Green and Henfield, West Sussex. From just north of the bridge the southern horizon is dominated by the South Downs, from east to west.

I mentally named the hills one by one as I scanned the skyline from left to right and straining to see them disappearing to the west. I recalled the many hours spent walking along the ridge in the last two years and looked forward to the chance to walk them once again this year.

It felt so good, such freedom. I could quite easily have carried on walking, within a couple of hours I could have been up on the hills, but it would have been getting dark by then and I have to get up early tomorrow so I retraced my steps home.

It was probably only about three miles in all, so no great physical challenge, but standing in the warmth of the evening sunshine and admiring the Downs did a great deal for my sense of wellbeing.

WW2 gun emplacement north of Betley Bridge near Henfield, West Sussex

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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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)

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Postcard Album: Steep Grade Railway, Devil’s Dyke

27 Mar

Just over a week ago I showed you a postcard of the “station” at the top of the steep grade railway that used to run up and down the side of the South Downs at Devil’s Dyke near Brighton, Sussex. The rather battered postcard below shows pretty much the full extent of the track.

It wasn’t a particularly long railway and in contrast to the little engine shed at the top there was nothing other than a platform at the bottom and a short walk to the nearest village, where visitors were supposed to be taking tea. I suspect however most probably just went up and down for the novelty of it.

The postcard was used, but unfortunately the stamp has been removed, taking most of the postmark with it. Just enough is left to see that it was sent in 1906. This card was published by Frederick Hartmann, a national publisher of postcards based in London.

Last week as I returned from Lewes and Brighton on the bus in the late afternoon the path of the track bed was incredibly well defined on the hillside, because of the short grass and low angle of the sun. There are more trees on the side of the hill now, but I wish I could have stopped the bus and jumped out and taken a photo.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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