It feels like a very long time ago that my pal Hannah and I caught a train to Lewes and hiked the South Downs Way. We were training for the West Highland Way – making sure we could actually carry everything we needed for a 4 day hike in the Highlands, checking out gear all worked ok. Because we’re clever, right?
We started on a sunny day, rolling green hills, many sheep.
No rush, taking breaks in the sun probably more than we needed to.
This is a really good spot to stop and sing The Sweater Song by Weezer at the top of your lungs. Try it some time and tell me I’m wrong.
In Spring, everything is green and yellow.
We had found a good halfway spot in Alfriston, a very quaint town.
It was a really nice spot – we hired a fire drum, cooked up some chow and settled down for the evening. Or tried to, some kids in a camper van had a party a few pitches up from us, so sleep was hard to come by. Dramatic eye roll.
(Campsite details are here, in case you want them)
The next day we awoke, keen to get back on the way. First – you have to walk through Alfriston, which as you can see is just awful.
Along the river, with nice views looking back on the town and everyone out for a Sunday walk with their lovely doggos. I could live in Alfriston, I think.
There is a white chalk horse in the nearby hills. Not sure which one this is, probably one of the fake Victorian ones.
We found some nice hidden houses in the woods.
And walked up a frightful flight of stairs. Who puts stairs in the middle of a forest. I almost died.
This is called a Meander. Much nicer than an ordinary river.
This is called a sheep rub. Or probably it is. I feel like thats right.
Eventually we came out at the sea. The weather had turned grey, which means the colours were very nice and muted, but the walk became less enjoyable at this point. Gone were the rolling hills and sunshine.
That is the edge of a cliff. You know, those white cliffs? That’s the edge.
We had reached the Seven Sisters. I would like to complain to whoever named these – there are way more than seven ups and downs to navigate. It was SO windy, I had to concentrate really hard to get up without dying and then forgot there was a wavering edge that I kept ending up way too close to for my liking. Loads of people were out doing this for FUN. I mean, sure its beautiful.
Get away from the EDGE.
I feel like if I had gotten a bus here and not walked 20km and had zero sleep I might have enjoyed this view a lot more.
I did enjoy this girl in her red coat, sitting and writing. You would, if you lived here, wouldn’t you.
What this sign really says is “To a Cup of Tea and a Sit Down” – which at this point was very important.
We reached the Birling Gap and had a cup of tea and a sit down. We also had to do some time maths because we had a train to catch in Eastbourne which was SOON. We considered catching the bus, but we had missed it. So we kept on going.
The colours at Birling Gap were all very pleasing. I would go back here for a cup of tea again.
Important note – this lighthouse is apparently on Air bnb. Lets book it for New Years?
I was so tired at this point. Look at this soothing countryside. So soothing.
The opposite of soothing.
We decided to make it as far as Beachy Head. That’s Beachy Head lighthouse. So close.
And that’s where we finished. From there, it’s a boring walk through Eastbourne, so we didn’t miss much (right?!). I was DONE with the wind, and carrying a pack, and we got a taxi. THAT’S RIGHT. WE GOT A TAXI.
But lets take a moment to look at how far we walked, in the last few hours of the day. Being able to look back on a big, painful section of a hike like this is a joy. I may have wept. I may have wept with joy because it was over.
BUT WAIT – The most important part of this whole hike was that right at the end, a small shrew was also walking the South Downs Way. Go on little shrew! You can do it!
I’ve called this Part 1 because the truth is we only did half of the South Downs Way that weekend. We’re planning to do the rest another time – which I am very much looking forward to. Huge shout out to Hannah for being my hiking pal this year, and for putting up with my soft wimpering as I walked up and down the Seven Sisters.
There is way more than seven. WAY MORE.