Arriving from France we end up in the village of Ditching in Sussex An ancient village dating to at least the year 765 AD. Ditchling has been owned at times by Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor. Basically the village consists of two roads that cross each other and a few houses on each road. Our Home Away from home was one house away from the only intersection in the village. Although a fair amount of traffic, inside our house it was very quiet. We stayed at ‘The Old Surgery’ and as the name states it was indeed an old surgery from which the doctor practiced. The building was three to four hundred years old. The neighbouring house and owner of the ‘Old Surgery’ was five hundred years old. Our little abode was the building squeezed in between the White House and the corner house. It was extremely nice and very comfortable.
Tuesday morning is our first day of walking so off we head to Ditchling Beacon. Ditchling Beacon is the third-highest point on the South Downs in south-east England, behind Butser Hill (270 m; 886 ft) and Crown Tegleaze (253 m; 830 ft). It consists of a large chalk hill with a particularly steep northern face, covered with open grassland and sheep-grazing areas. Situated just south of the East Sussex village of Ditchling and to the north-east of the city of Brighton, it is the highest point in the county of East Sussex. From our accommodation we started following various public footpaths across fields, gradually climbing in evaluation. Before long however our walking sticks became a serious necessity as the grade increased substantially. Reaching the top at 813 feet above sea level the views were incredible- thanks to the blue sky which helped!!) You could see all of Brighton and the coast to the south and Box hill to the north ( 51 kilometres away).
From the top we just walked along the ridge heading west until we got close to the village of Clayton.
From this point we then headed down the ‘Downs’ reaching Underhill Lane. Walking along this for a while until another public footpath came in to view- taking us back to Ditchling. A nice morning’s walk. Back after this walk before lunch as we had planned to meet Mary, Martin and the boys at the Bull pub in Ditchling at 1:00. Nice pub lunch and then up to the Ditchling Beacon parking lot for an afternoon stroll along the South Downs. This time we walked east towards Lewes.
Wednesday- started off being a sunny day but quickly you learn the English weather changes in a flash. Drove to the town of Clayton which is where we had stoppped our ‘South Downs’ walk the day before. We parked at the Jack and Jill parking lot. Jill is a post mill with a two storey roundhouse. She has four Patent Sails and is winded by a five blade fantail mounted on the tailpole. The windshaft is wooden, with a cast iron poll end dated 1831. Jill has two pairs of millstones, arranged Head and Tail. The compass arm Tail Wheel shows evidence of having been used as a Brake Wheel at some time. The main Post of Jill is made from four separate pieces of timber, a feature seen in some Sussex post mills and only found in this and Argos Hill Mill today.
Jack is a five storey tower mill built in 1866 to replace Duncton Mill. Worked as a pair with Jill, Jack worked until c.1907. Unusually Jack mill has a male name — almost every other mill in the country is considered female. In 1928, while a pit was being dug for a water tank, an Anglo-Saxon skeleton was discovered. It was later removed to the British Museum. Jack is in private ownership.
Up we walked to the top, though it was not any thing like the climb yesterday. Continuing west our walk to day was to the top of Devil’s Dyke. Devil’s Dyke is a 300 foot deep V-shaped valley on the South Downs Way. The hills surrounding the valley rise up to 725 feet and offer views of the South Downs, The Weald, and – on a clear day – the Isle of Wight. It is the site of ramparts, all that remain of an Iron Age hillfort. On a clear day maybe the Isle of Wight can be seen but today nothing was visible. The rain started as we were half way to the Dyke so we saw nothing of the views. Rather than walking all the way back on the same in coming route we decide to venture out on our own path to the left of the Dyke. All went well until the path started to head off in slightly the wrong direction. The OS map showed a little path going in the direction that we wanted. Following this it got narrower and narrower and headed straight down to the bottom of the Dyke. Extremely steep and very slippery due to all the rain that was coming down. Beautiful when we reached the bottom as the grass was as nicely cut as a golf course but done by the sheep rather than machine and two mountainous hills on each side just added to the picturesque scene. Fortunately the direction we had to take did not climb the full 300 feet but maybe a 100 feet climb. Back onto our path towards Saddlecombe Farms and the South Down Footpath that we were on earlier. Passing past the farm there was a treed path following a stream. Here there was enough shelter for us to eat our lunch standing under trees. Staple lunch – Camembert cheese, crackers, grapes .
The Rest of the trip home was just wet!!! But after 13 kilometres we were home and getting boots, jackets, clothes etc dried up ready for the next day.
Thursday – headed off to Brighton early to pick up Mary for a ‘sister catch up day’. Drove to Seaford with the thought of walking Seaford Head. The problem however was that the winds were gale force. We started walking up to the Head but unless you positioned yourself as if in starting blocks there was no way you could stand up.
Cancelled that plan!!. Drove off inland a bit (6kms) to Alfriston. We had stayed there a few years back at Deans Place. A beautiful little village with a population of 829. From here we walked along the Cuckmere river towards the coast ending up in the village of Westdean. Had our usual lunch up on a forestry area before heading down to Westdean for the start of our walk back to Alfriston.
Thanks to Mary we had a lovely cappuccino in a little cafe garden in Alfriston before heading back to Brighton to drop Mary off. That night we had a quick dinner in the Bull pub before settling into our abode.
Friday- woke to a blue sky so drove of to Eastbourne to hike to cliffs. Starting at sea level we hiked up to Beachy Head. The cliff is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 metres (531 ft) above sea level. The peak allows views of the south east coast from Dungeness in the east, to Selsey Bill in the west. Its height has also made it one of the most notorious suicide spots in the world.
The headland was a danger to shipping. In 1831, construction began on the Belle Tout lighthouse on the next headland west from Beachy Head. Because mist and low clouds could hide the light of Belle Tout, Beachy Head Lighthouse was built in the sea below Beachy Head. Walking west we reached Belle Tout lighthouse and had our lunch sitting behind a wall to get a little shelter from the wind. Onwards to Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters.
We walked maybe four of the seven sisters but knew that we had to walk back the same way that we had come and knowing just how many serious up and downs there were we decided to turn back. At least walking this way the wind was at our back so it was more comfortable than having the wind beating at your face. It was a tiring walk back though and we were certainly very glad to be back to the car.
Saturday after having had a fairly strenuous day the day before we thought we would take it a little easier. We drove off to Horsham in the morning to look for a wedding dress and believe it or not we found one fairly quickly!!. By the time we got back to our abode the rain once again was coming down heavily. By 5 though it looked promising so we drove up to the Devil’s Dyke to see the views we had missed a few days before. Out we got and within 5 minutes of walking it started to rain but we could see it was not going to last and the worst of it was moving off to the side of us. We waited in the car for 15 minutes and then started off on a walk again. It turned out to be a beautiful evening and we saw everything we had missed. In a couple of the pictures taken down the Dyke there are a couple of people walking. They are so small but it gives you an idea of just how big the sides to the Dyke are.
Sunday we drove off early to Brighton to have a coffee with Mary and Martin and to say our farewells to them and then drove off to see Toni in Guildford. Arrived at their house around 11:30 and Kevin opens up the Champagne to give us a Kir Royal – very nice. Emma and Hollie turned up first. Last time we saw Hollie was 7 years ago. Since she is only 8 she has certainly changed!! Katie arrived with Theo and Romey both of whom we had not met before. It was lovely to see all my family and catch up on all their news. Some pictures of them all!
Monday packed up and moved out of the ‘Old Surgery’. We will miss this place as it really was so comfortable and had everything you would want. It is truly amazing how small a space you need to live comfortably. Two and a half hours later we arrived at Anthony and Roseanne’s house. For those of you who might be reading this Anthony is my stepbrother and lives in the house that used to be my father’s in Donhead St Mary Dorset. Again had a lovely lunch with them both and got an update on all the happenings in their life. After lunch we went over to the church (across the road) and visited Betty’s grave (my stepmother) the last time me I was there was at her funeral. We left Anthony’s and started our way down to Cornwall. Not before however paying a visit to my grandmothers grave who is buried at Wardour near Wardour Castle. The grave stone has worn away so much that it is impossible to read it. I must try and get it redone.
Off again and two hours later we arrive at Sourton Devon to spend the night in a quaint hotel- the Bearslake.
Tuesday up early and after a good English breakfast we go for a walk up and on to the moors.
We are always amazed at the different scenery and this place was no exception. Leaving here we drive off stopping for some shopping before arriving at ‘The Pigsty’ in Portloe, Cornwall. Yes indeed the place we are staying is indeed the Pigsty named appropriately as it was once the pigsty!!