The South Downs Way – A Sunday Picture Special

Published 14 February 2021

Walkers walk towards the sun on the South Downs Way
Walking into the sun on the South Downs Way.

Eleven years ago, on 12 February 2010, I set off on from Winchester to walk to Exton.

It was my first day on the South Downs Way National Trail, a 161km long National Trail.

Cuckmere Haven
Meandering delights at Cuckmere Haven

I was living in London at the time and had done many day walks in the area. I knew some parts of it very well. But I’d never tried to do the whole trail. Indeed the South Downs Way was only the second walking trail I’d done, coming after the Cumbria Way the previous summer.

I walked it over four weekends, the last with a group of friends, arriving at the end in Eastbourne two months later. A few weeks earlier, the trail found itself in the United Kingdom’s newest National Park. A much deserved addition to the countryside.

Birling Gap beach
Birling Gap beach

It remains one of my favourite trails, thanks to the stunning scenery of the South Downs. It features, for instance, the stunning white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. There’s sweeping panoramics from the downsland. Wonderful windmills. Big skies.

Oh those blue skies. The late winter sunshine. In many ways it was amazing how well I did with the weather on that trip given I was walking in the early part of the year. It didn’t rain once, and by the time I did the final sections in April, the weather was glorious.

Beacon Hill on the South Downs Way
Beacon Hill

True, it did rain at least once. And there was a lot of mud in some sections. And some of the fields were being ploughed and didn’t look their best. But that’s not what I really remember. I remember a wonderful landscape. I remember taking pictures of shadows on the hillside. A beautiful sunset near a partially built windmill.

I remember it with joy. With happiness. And with a deep, very distinct desire to go back and do it all over again.

Windmill (without sails) in the foreground, with a sunset in the background
A partially built windmill a few miles from Lewes. People walking past it now will see it with sails.


Vic Flange

14 February 2021 at 10:41 am

Oh, don’t taunt me.

I was going to do the South Downs Way as my “weekend” walk last year (I live north of London but can get to/from the trail by train in about 3 hours). I plan to do it this year, if it becomes legally possible: I don’t want to let another year go by without any “proper’ walks.

Any walks you’d like to do this year, Andrew?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

14 February 2021 at 8:47 pm

Hey Vic – I’d love to get a proper walk in this year. And I have a list a mile long. But right now wondering what on earth to do…

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