Tag Archives: walk

South Downs Way: Southease to Falmer

19 May

South Downs Way sign

It felt so good to be out walking today, it was a short walk from Southease (between Lewes and Newhaven in East Sussex) and Falmer (between Brighton and Lewes in East Sussex), only about seven miles in all.

As it was a shorter distance than usual it meant I didn’t have to rush, or worry about whether I was going to be able to get back in time for the last bus home. It gave me time to have a look around the parish church at Southease. Although the churchyard is a bit overgrown, the church is still a joy to look at with it’s unusual round tower, and best of all it was unlocked.

Southease church

Although the sky was clear, hardly a cloud to be seen, there was still quite a bit of mist, which once again made some of the views disappointing, it seems to be my fate never to have crystal clear views across the county. However not everything was lost, the mist itself led to some interesting views, like the one below, which shows Beddingham Hill and Firle Beacon shrouded in mist.

Firle Beacon and Beddingham Hill disappearing in the mist

The route of this section of the South Downs Way was generally in a north-westerly direction and apart from the short climb up onto the hills, about a mile from Southease, the path was quite level, or is it just me getting used to the rise and fall of the hills?

It is always interesting to see something different whilst out walking, whether it is natural or man-made. Today I was surprised to see the construction site at Falmer that will eventually become the home to Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club.

Falmer Stadium under construction

Of course this took my thoughts back to family history, because the proposed site for The Keep (the new East Sussex, Brighton and University of Sussex archive) is quite near to the new stadium.

Finally a word of warning. If you are thinking of going walking near Southease in the near future then make sure you check the National Trails website because the bridge over the River Ouse is soon to be closed for a week during restoration work.

Finding my way into Kent

18 May

I am currently in the process of walking two long distance paths, the South Downs Way and the North Downs Way. The South Downs Way is pretty nearby (I can see the South Downs from the edge of the village where I live) but the North Downs Way is not so close.

Last Saturday it took me three hours to get to the start of the next section of the North Downs Way, and I had to question whether it was worth the time and money getting there.

Of course it is always going to be good to get out into the countryside and challenge myself with a climb on the hills, plus there is the challenge of exploring somewhere different and the joy of new discoveries made (like hill figures) and sights seen. Also there is going to be a sense of achievement from completing a long distance path, even if it is in short sections.

However most of this I could get much closer to home, there are lots of places much closer than Kent that I haven’t really explored fully. But is it worth me going walking in Kent?

When I ask “is it worth it?”, what I have at the back of my mind whether it is benefiting my family history in any way, which I can use to justify my walk. I would have to answer with a definite “yes”.

I have quite a bit of research to do in Kent, several branches of my family tree are stretching into Kent, and it is a county of which I have virtually no experience and if anything an aversion to researching in.

What I am finding with these walks is that I am getting a good feel for the county. Although I am only seeing a small part of the county, I am starting to build up a picture of the landscape, the locations of the larger towns, the transport links between them and the natural features (rivers and hills) that have shaped the county and the people who have called it home.

This walk is helping me get my bearings, from what I have seen so far the Kent landscape is very similar to that of Sussex. I expect I will find that Kent has more of a nautical history than Sussex, but really they are not that different.

So I think this walk is proving quite useful, although there is very little direct connection with my family history, it is helping me find my own way into Kent, convincing me that it is not something that I need to be afraid of. I just need to go armed with good map to guide me.

North Downs Way: Wrotham to Halling

15 May

Today my friend Chris and I completed another section of the North Downs Way. Today’s route took us from Wrotham along to Halling, both in the county of Kent.

View from the North Downs near Wrotham Water, Kent

The actual distance along the North Downs Way was about seven miles, but on top of that there was about a mile and a half at each end, to and from the railway station to reach the North Downs.

This is one of the furthest sections of the route from my home, so it took me almost three hours to the starting point (Borough Green & Wrotham station). Things should start improving next time when we turn the corner and start heading south again.

The weather was pretty good today. At the start there was a clear sky and bright sunshine, but it didn’t last and the sky clouded over in the the afternoon, looking like it could rain any minute, but it was still warm enough for walking in a short-sleeve shirt and shorts.

Overall the walk was not particularly outstanding. There were some quite impressive views to the south and east, but again it was hazy in the distance. There were a couple of quite challenging climbs, but on the whole the route was pretty flat.

Sheep at the foot of the Downs

Apart from a few sheep grazing at the foot of the Downs east of Wrotham (see above) there was not a lot of interest along the route, either that or we missed it all. One thing we wouldn’t have missed were the flies that seemed to be lining the route. It might be that they had just hatched, but they really were a real pain at times and many of my photos are ruined by black dots scattered across them.

South Downs Way: Exceat to Southease

6 May

South Downs Way sign

Yesterday I walked another section of the South Downs Way (SDW). I have no walk planned for the coming weekend and the weather looks to be getting worse, so I thought I would seize the opportunity and get another section of the SDW under my belt.

This section of the SDW began at Exceat between Seaford and Eastbourne in East Sussex. There is a visitor’s centre at Exceat, with a shop selling souvenirs (including postcards!), a restaurant/tea shop, cycle hire and toilets. The SDW heads north from the centre, with a steep but short climb up to the edge of Friston Forest. The views looking south towards Cuckmere Haven (see below) are well worth the effort.

Cuckmere Haven from Exceat

About three miles north of Exceat is the village of Alfriston. It has been quite a while since I last visited Alfriston (probably due to the infrequent bus services), and as I was only passing through I didn’t spend long there yesterday, just long enough to get a couple of bottles of water and explore the independent bookshop Much Ado Books.

Much Ado Books It is a wonderful bookshop selling both old and new books, that had a nice selection of Sussex books on it’s shelves, including a copy of Thomas Geering’s Our Sussex Parish, it always pleases me to find a copy of that “out in the wild”. It was a shame that I didn’t have long to browse, but I did come away with a copy of Walking the Triangulation Points of Sussex by David Bathurst.

From Alfriston the SDW heads west and then north-west up to Bostal Hill, another steep climb. Sadly by this time the weather had become decidedly overcast, the sunshine had vanished behind a thick blanket cloud and there was a cold wind blowing across the hills.

I wasn’t alone on the hills, apart from a few other walkers and paragliders (jumping off the top of the hill), it was good to see flocks of sheep on the hills. Aside from the cuteness of the lambs, it was so re-assuring to see sheep on the Downs where they should be, and have been for decades, if not centuries.

What ewe looking at?

Continuing west across the top of the Downs took me across Firle Beacon, Beddingham Hill and Itford Hill, taking in two trigs points on the way. From Itford Hill the SDW descended into the river valley (River Ouse), but crossing the river will have to wait until next time, because at the foot of the hill was Southease railway station which was the end of my walk and the start of my journey home.

Lewes from Itford Hill

The view above was taken from Itford Hill and is of the town of Lewes under cloudy skies, with the River Ouse and the Lewes to Seaford railway line in the foreground. It is such a shame that it turned into such an overcast day, compared to the view at the top of this post.

North Downs Way: Otford to Wrotham

1 May

Another stretch of the North Downs Way was completed today, this was only a short section (6.7 miles according to the guide book) because we were limited by access to the railway and impending rain.

The good news was that it stayed dry until we were on the train on our way home, although it was a lot cooler and cloudier than last week. I could have done with a little more sunshine, otherwise it was pretty near ideal conditions. There were some bright moments, as the photo below illustrates.

Blue sky and cloud

The route took us along the North Downs Way from Otford to Wrotham both in the county of Kent. The walk began with a pretty steep climb almost straight out of the railway station at Otford. After that the path levelled off somewhat, and the going was quite easy.

About two miles from Wrotham the path dropped down from the hills and we followed the route of the Pilgrim’s Way along the foot of the North Downs into the village. From Wrotham we had to made a short diversion south to Borough Green to catch the train from Borough Green and Wrotham railway station.

Bluebells near Cotman's Ash

The most outstanding part of the walk were the areas of woodland that were carpeted with bluebells. I saw a few dotted about last week, but they really have opened up over the last few days.

More wandering, starting the South Downs Way

27 Apr

As if walking the North Downs Way wasn’t enough, I have started walking the South Downs Way (SDW) as well. I say started, but I don’t know when I shall finish, or indeed when I shall walk the next part, but I have at least made a start.

Start of the South Downs Way

The photo above shows the start (or end) of the SDW, in Eastbourne, East Sussex. It is right on the western edge of the town, and is about 1½ miles from the railway station mainly through residential streets.

I have decided to do this walk alone, in fact it was partly the solitude and time to think that I wanted to experience and was my reason for starting today. It also means that I can go at my own speed and stop at places of interest on the way, without having to worry about inconveniencing anyone else. I know that when I get further west I will be in ancestral territory and my pace will no doubt slow down dramatically.

This first section was according to the guide book 7½ miles, from Eastbourne to Exceat, by way of Beachy Head, Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters. I have been to all these places before, but have never walked them all in one go.

There is so much history in this landscape. From prehistory to the Second World War. The cliff top at Beachy Head is littered with monuments and other features that attest to this rich history.

My pace today wasn’t particularly fast, partly because I haven’t done much serious walking yet this year, but mainly because I kept stopping the take photos. I had forgotten how beautiful and striking the landscape was. The photo below is of one of the most striking features, Beachy Head lighthouse.

Beachy Head Lighthouse

Birling Gap is a small group of buildings that have gathered around an access point to the beach. The buildings are gradually disappearing into the sea as the cliffs slowly erode, but whilst they remain they act as a honey pot to tourists and visitors to the coast.

Heading west from Birling Gap are the Seven Sisters, a range of cliffs with which I have something of a love-hate relationship. I love the challenge of tackling the rise and fall of the hills, and admire the fabulous views, but once I get started I usually regret it, when my legs start to complain. Every year they seem to get steeper!

Seven Sisters

The best views are of course not from the Sisters themselves, but from Birling Gap (shown above) or Seaford Head (on the far left of the photo). It is possible (although I am not sure that it is advisable) at low tide to walk along the foot of the cliffs.

Last year after my holiday in South Devon I thought that the Sussex coastline was quite dull in comparison to that of South Devon, but today I have changed my mind. I think I have definitely fallen in love with chalk!

All wandering and no genealogy

24 Apr

Today my friend Chris and I continued our walk along the North Downs Way. It was our first proper walk of the year, but hopefully the first of many. We picked up more or less where we left of last year.

We are slowly working eastwards along the North Downs between Farnham in Surrey and Dover in Kent, although we are generally heading eastwards, each section seems to have been walked from east to west for some unknown reason.

Today was no exception, we started from Otford, Kent and made our way westwards to Oxted, Surrey. The total distance was about 14 miles including the final stretch from the hills to the centre of Oxted and the railway station. Despite being on hills, most of the route was pretty level with only one steep climb at the start.

I quite liked Otford. It was the first time I have been there and it is quite a charming place. We counted four pubs within the first mile of our walk, three or four antique shops and a small pond in the centre of the town/village. There is even a heritage centre, which wasn’t open when we went past. I wish I had an excuse to go back again, perhaps one day I will.

The weather was absolutely fantastic, the sun shone and remarkably I was in a short sleeve shirt and shorts. I can’t believe it is only April and I am already wearing shorts. The ground is incredibly dry, we haven’t had any proper rain for three weeks now. This fills me with optimism about the summer weather, but I am trying not to get my hopes up, rather I am making the most of the good weather whilst it lasts.

There were only two negative points from today’s walk, the presence of the M25 motorway, the noise of which was a constant companion throughout the day. The other drawback was that there was still a slight haze, so the views were not as spectacular as they should have been.

View from the Surrey hills

The most interesting feature of day were a couple of groups of young women (probably students), armed with maps and wearing large backpacks. They appeared to be on some sort of orienteering challenge, but were seemingly hopelessly lost. Hopefully I was able to put one group back on the right track, but as I write this I wonder if they are still wandering across the hills?

So genealogy took a back seat today. Although we were walking in an area where my GASSON ancestors probably came from, I can’t really claim any genealogical connection. Weather and aching muscles permitting we will be back in Kent next Saturday to complete the next section, that will be two Saturdays in a row without genealogy, so I will probably start suffering withdrawal symptoms and have to get back into an archive the following weekend.

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