DAY 6: WASHINGTON TO UPPER BEEDING
I broke my fast early and with the exception of a few timid pheasants cut a solitary figure making my now familiar daily climb up to the top of the escarpment. I was drawing ever closer to the outskirts of Brighton and my thoughts were constantly pulled towards a past time when as a woman in a profound state of despair I had found myself on the beach there. My reverie was broken when I met a couple of young farm lads herding their sheep into a nearby field. What a quintessentially English downland scene.
It was a short but very steep climb up to Chanctonbury Ring – but worth every hard-won step. I passed a dewpond surrounded by grazing sheep and then caught sight of the Iron Age hill-fort. It is famous nowadays for the copse of beech trees that were planted on top of the hill in 1760 and became one of the famous landmarks of Sussex.
Sadly several trees were damaged by the 1987 hurricane. However, the copse still makes a distinctive sight. I was so glad I had started the climb early. I was alone amongst this small glade of trees known for its folklore and fairies and I felt a mystery about the place.
The views were stunning. I could see back to Washington, where I had spent the night and then across the Weald to the North Downs (which I walked last year on the Pilgrims’ Way). Further around and slightly South I could just make out Brighton town and its afore-mentioned beach and if I followed the coastline further back the settlements of Hove and Bognor Regis could both be discerned.
A calm stillness filled the air as I took in the unspoilt beauty of the early morning. The mood of this scene filled me with the spirit of being “alive”.
After the hard initial climb the rest of the walk was fairly flat along the top of the Downs and I continued to enjoy the splendid views.
Eventually after passing the grassy valley of the Steyning Bowl on my left I could spot my destination of Steyning. This village nearly runs into Upper Beeding and it was agreed that I would meet T there and we would spend the afternoon taking in the delights of Brighton.
The climb down the chalky footpath to Steyning was probably the steepest that I had undertaken on the SDW yet and I was glad that it was not wet underfoot.
I soon, however, found myself in the centre of this delightful downland village and enjoyed looking at some the black timber framed buildings before heading in the car to Brighton.
A short but spectacular seven and a half mile walk, best taken in the early morning alone, I believe. Again this could be combined with one of the other shorter stages I split my trek along the SDW into.
Brighton Beach – seen through “a new pair of glasses”.