DAY 4 OF THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY : COCKING TO AMBERLEY
Today was a day of panoramic vistas and quintessential English cottages set against a background of constant historical references.
The lovely T dropped me off back on the SDW above the village of Cocking and I took the climb up along Heyshott Down. There was a fine view from the Trig Point at the top of the hill but then trees obscured the long distance sight on either side and I was enclosed walking along for several miles.
I passed alongside Heyshott Down nature reserve and several tumuli. I am still amazed when I think how ancient these burial mounds are – some over 4000 years old. A Bronze Age burial ground was particularly apparent among the tussocks of sheep grazed grass.
Eventually the track left the woodland behind and I was rewarded with views across to the North Downs which I had treked on my gratitude pilgrimage of the old Pilgrims’ Way last year.
I walked across pasture land and kept stopping to take photo after photo so inspiring were the views. I could see the whole valley between the North and South Downs ridges and the continuation of the South Downs which I would be walking in coming days.
Just as I thought the views could not get much better I started the climb up to Glatting Beacon and reached the masts which had been apparent for several miles. I then entered the Slindon Estate and across to the right I could see the sea.
The eastern edge of the Isle of Wight could just be picked out in the distance. I could also spot Chichester and in the far away distance some wind turbines set in the sea near Brighton. I bumped into a couple eating their sandwiches and enjoying the view. They had been out walking the day before during the thunder and hail storm and had not had a good experience! – I was glad I had made the decision I had.
I eventually crossed the old Roman Road of Stane Street which had run from London to Chichester and began the final climb up Bignor Hill. The terrain was stony and flinty and it was easy to imagine Roman soldiers traipsing along the way many centuries ago. The sign at the Car Park showed the destinations in Latin.
The views just after Bignor Hill continued to surpass all my expectations. I had to keep stopping just to stand and stare.
Just after passing a memorial to Toby the descent began and I found a little hollow by an old dew pond to sit and eat my lunch.
There had been several people around the Bignor area but as I moved on I found myself completely alone and happy with my own thoughts for a few miles before dropping down to the extremely busy A29.
After crossing this the descent still continued and I caught sight of the village of Bury nestled near the River Adur.
Houghton Bridge could be seen over to my right as I made the approach into Amberley. First stop was the amazing Tea Room. This had been converted from an old butcher’s slaughter house and the meat hooks were still hanging from the high ceilings. Despite its gruesome history the place had a happy and peaceful feeling to it and the proprietors were charming. I lingered a while.
The village of Amberley itself claims to be the prettiest village on the Downs and I could see why. It boasts the remains of a Castle and a church built by Bishop Luffa between 1091 and 1125. The church contained some medieval wall paintings and interesting stained glass.
Amberley House itself with its perfectly cut yew and privet added a further air of history to the area as did the many old cottages.
I eventually tore myself away from the main part of the village and walked along to my delightful B and B another half or mile or so down the road. Tired, achy but buoyed up by the fresh air and beauty of the landscape.