SOUTH DOWNS WAY: Alfriston to Eastbourne
The mist was just clearing above the beautiful Fourteenth Century Alfriston Church as I set off for my final section of the South Downs Way.
The route follows the River Cuckmore as it wends its way via ever wider and wider meanders down to the sea at the start of the Seven Sisters.
I was slightly apprehensive about this day’s walk and how I would find all the ascents so I sent a text message to T with a number on it as I climbed each hill!
I hardly passed a soul; the day was fresh and peaceful and the views in front and behind became more and more spectacular.
Sister number 4 appeared to be the hardest, and then I tackled what I called four and a half. My fitness held out well. I was taking a roller coaster ride in slow motion. Nature’s thrills much more intense than any from a man made attraction.
As each Sister was conquered Belle Tout Lighthouse drew ever closer. Once I had descended back down to sea level at Birling Gap the climb up to the lighthouse began. (Another ascent to add on to the seven and a half sisters).
By this time I began to come across crowds of various tourists and my peaceful walk was not quite the same. However, I took pleasure in seeing people out and about walking and after passing the lighthouse dropped down into what is known as Shooters Bottom, ascended again and was rewarded with a spectacular view back along the “Sisters”.
After walking up so many hills on the SDW just one final ascent awaited. Beachy Head was tackled amidst scores of other people and at the summit I met with many day trippers – one of whom kindly took my photograph. There was a police presence and chaplaincy service available and I thought again how very fortunate I was to have overcome my own mental health issues in the past.
I stayed to take a few photographs, quietly gave thanks for my life and the ability, time and funds to have been able to walk the SDW and to those who preserve and maintain it and within ten minutes or so soon found myself alone again.
The descent down into Eastbourne was beautiful.
The sun had broken through the clouds, the path wended its way through woods showing all the signs of a fruitful early Autumn and the views both over Eastbourne and eastwards beyond far-ranging.
I slowed my walking and with a slight pang of regret that this adventure was drawing to a close clambered down the very steep last hundred steps to the sign showing the “beginning” (“end”) of the SDW.
Just as I entered the conveniently situated kiosk at the bottom and ordered my cup of tea – the heavens opened.
Ten and a Half spectacular miles. I was blessed to start my walk in early morning on a weekday, away from the crowds. The atmosphere and peace of those first few miles was surely spiritual – and the highlight of the ten days.
An index of walking the South Downs Way and my afterthoughts can be found here.