Peter and Andrew Harrington
August 12-August 18, 2010 - Winchester to Eastbourne
Having not hiked a long-distance trail since the 1970's, I was a little dubious that I was up for the task. I did complete it but was rather tired by the end. Andrew had never hiked over such long distances but hung in there. The mornings were great after refreshing evenings in our comfy accommodations and wonderful meals in the local pubs, but by mid-afternoon on most days we were tired and looking forward to the next stop.
We had great weather - it only rained on three occasions and for only 15 minutes or so at a time. Had some very sunny days and some cloudy ones (pray for the latter as it can get very warm and sunny up on the downs in summer). Glad we hiked the SDW from west to east as it was great to gradually walk towards the Channel and finish up on the seventh and last day with the Cuckmere River, Seven Sisters and Beachy Head.
The villages we walked through or stayed in were delightful as were the medieval churches. The bronze age burial mounds were fun to see as were the defensive ditches around the forts on St. Catherine's Hill, Chanctonbury Ring, and Devil's Dyke.
Our itinerary was:
Winchester to East Meon (Old George Inn)
East Meon to South Harting (Copper Beaches B&B)
South Harting to Bury, near Amberley (Hardaway B&B)
Bury to Truleigh Hill (YHA)
Truleigh Hill to Kingstonridge (Kingstonridge B&B)
Kingstonridge to Alfriston (YHA)
Alfriston to Eastbourne (YHA)
We can highly recommend all the bed & breakfasts and the youth hostels. All were within a mile or so of the SDW or on it. All in all it was a wonderful experience even though we expected a brass band to be playing and crowds cheering us as we descended into Eastbourne! - we had to settle for blue and red slushies at the kiosk! (but we've now received the very attractive certificates!!).
The trail offered a wide variety of different landscapes from fields to woods, to rivers, farms and downland. Views were spectacular over northern Sussex and south to the Channel, Solent and IOW. Signage was good although we took a few brief wrong turns before realising the fact (having a compass helped and the maps in Paul Millmore's excellent book, although not the narrative which was written for those walking east-west).
Now looking forward to the next national trail!
Thanks to everyone involved with the South Downs Way for creating such an excellent trail.