south downs way 9

Balancing coffee on my knee after an early start I boarded the Chichester to Midhurst bus soon after 8.0 am. Sunshine and the occasional shower was forecast and a chilly wind greeting me at Cocking for the 12 mile leg to Queen Elizabeth Country Park.  Soon away from the farm buildings I climbed up onto Cocking Down, Linch Down on open farmland with views north over Midhurst and south to The Solent and Isle of Wight. The path sides were full and buzzing; fields however were another matter. I was struck by the contract between fields with single grain crops and those grain fields with a 3-4m edge of wild flowers planted specifically to encourage corridors for wildlife. The former silent and the latter buzzing with bird and insect life.  Linchball, Winden, Venus Woods, were south of the path. I plunged from light to dark woodland into Philliswood Down ‘peopled’ with several beautiful old Beech Trees and Hazel passing signs to The Devil’s Jumps; the best example of a Bronze Age barrow formation in Sussex.  A drink stop before taking the short-cut over Beacon Hill (242m) before dropping into Harting Down.  South Harting marks the original end of the SDW, it was just over half way for me. Much of the walk between South Harting and Buriton was on roads and tracks with few views north and south but the hedgerows were glorious.  My lunch stop was on a grassy bank near Sunwood Farm. I strolled into Queen Elizabeth Country Park forest at tea time under a darkening sky.  12.5 miles in 4.5 hrs.  Only two more walks to Winchester.

© sue orton

South Downs Way 8

On the trail again at last after the stresses and strains of my weaving diploma final show. How different and delightful the South Downs look in late June 🙂 The route: Amberley to Cocking 12 miles.  An abundance of green growth, flowers, butterflies and skylarks met every step, all spilling into my senses, brushing bare legs, and testing my nature recognition skills. Train to Amberley and then following the Arun river valley where Water-voles have been introduced; they are an endangered species so very precious. The Wetland and Wildfowl Trust are leading their revival.  Climbing up hill, skirting Coombe Wood to Westburton Hill; the first big view of the day: the Weald and Amberley Wild Brooks and in the far distance the Solent.  On up to Bignor Hill, Stane Street, Leper’s Path, and Gumber Lynchets wonderful names with echoes of Roman Soldiers on route between London and Winchester.

Lunch on a well placed National Trust bench in the shade before walking on towards one of the highlights of the walk Graffham Down Trust chalk downland reserves.   Wild flowers including my favourites, Orchids (Common Spotted and Pyramidal) and Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Brimstone, Speckled Wood and (I think) a Silver-washed Fritillary.  The reserves were a wonderful diversion from the rather disappointing path which followed. Mile after mile of straight road without much view or interest except buzzing helicopters! Eventually the valley of the A286 appeared.  A bus to Chichester and the train home.

© sue orton

The Peace of Wild Things

I’m in the thick of warping for my South Down’s tweed. It’s concentrated work with over 1600 threads to go on. I’m enjoying the systems and concentration required.  I have not had time to walk my next section of the South Downs Way yet, so reading Wendell Berry’s poem this morning with my coffee was a lovely reminder.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

South Downs Way 7

My longest day on yet on 19th February, Botolphs to Amberley 13 miles; good preparation for the longer walks as I head West.  I loved it. A clear cold morning with sunshine as I crossed the Adur to begin. Slow meanders then I was soon climbing out of the valley  heading for the Bostal road crossing between Sompting and Steyning.  Hat and gloves were on as I crested the ridge onto the tops and a bitter wind made finding a spot in the lee for coffee difficult. I sat by a patch of snowdrops nestled under a tree on the north side of Chanctonbury Ring.   As I descended towards Washington and the A24 a wave of walkers or even rush of ramblers climbed past me. I opted for the short crossing of the road and was soon back on the ridge heading for Amberley. One surprise; the path stayed south of the ridge of the downs for most of the way, I had expected views north and south.  Amberley came into view under the sound of skylarks. Tea and a cake filled the gap before the train via Ford home.

© sue orton