Tag Archives: hills

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 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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A taste of the South Downs on the BBC

4 Mar

I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but occasionally a programme comes along that justifies taking time out to watch on BBC iPlayer. Such was the case with The Great British Countryside which saw Julia Bradbury and Hugh Dennis exploring the South Downs.

The hour long programme gives a wonderful taste of the South Downs, never lingering long in one place and covering the length of hills from the Seven Sisters on the East Sussex coast, through to the watercress beds of Hampshire.

There is some wonderful scenery, as one would expect, but also some explanation of how the Downs were formed and some of the properties of chalk and flint. Hugh Dennis climbs the chalk cliffs (presumably one of the Seven Sisters) and sees just how soft and crumbly the chalk is. We also learn how the chalk impacts on things like horse racing and growing grapes.

Subjects are varied, taking in the history, agriculture, industry and leisure aspects of the South Downs, in short a real cross-section of how man has interacted with the Downs over the centuries.

This programme is a great introduction to the South Downs and even those like me who have grown up in it’s shadow may learn a thing or two about this wonderful landscape.

This episode of The Great British Countryside is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until Thursday 15th March 2012.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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Something Sussex: The Seven Sisters from Seaford Head

4 Nov

This view was taken by me on the 21st June 2010, the row of cliffs in the distance are the Seven Sisters and the path leads down from Seaford Head to Hope Gap, where a set of steps allow access to the shoreline.

This photo has been my desktop wallpaper since the day it was taken, but I think it is probably time I changed it now. Summer has well and truly passed and it is probably time to find something more seasonal (and I don’t mean dancing snowmen and bouncing Christmas puddings) to act as my wallpaper.

This picture embodies so many happy memories for me. Although this wasn’t part of my South Downs Way walk, it is part of the South Downs and the South Downs Way does run across the top of the Seven Sisters. My enduring memories of 2010 will be of my time spent walking the South Downs, making the most of my unemployment.

The walk on 21st June was quite a short walk, probably only four or five miles in distance and only a few hours in the afternoon. The weather started out quite dull, but the sun came out as I started to climb up hill away from the town of Seaford, East Sussex and it was absolutely stunning to see the white chalk cliffs shining brilliantly in the sunshine.

I spent probably an hour or so at the foot of the cliffs, picking my way among the rock pools, searching for unusual stones and looking up in awe at the towering cliffs. It was really interesting to see the cliffs up close (although not getting too close), it was like seeing a cross-section through the hills that I had spent so much time walking upon.

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.

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