Many remarkable people found their identities on rivers: Cleopatra on the Nile; Lewis and Clark on the Missouri; Mark Twain on the Mississippi; Jeff Bezos on the Amazon. This is the story of my 600+ mile walk along the waterways of southern England in the summer of 2014, and the remarkable people I met along the way. It is best read in chronological order, so I recommend starting with the earliest posting in the Blog Archive list in the right margin.
Walk completed August 16, 2014
Thursday, July 10, 2014
July 10, 2014 -- Day 25, Amberley to Bramber, 13 miles
been so busy exploring the past two days (not to mention laundering, blogging,
eating and drinking), that I didn’t have time to enjoy the tea room at my
B&B. I’ve had breakfast there, of course, but the mornings are too cool to
sit outside. Today, as I was getting ready to leave, I noticed that the riverside
garden was planted to a tropical motif. Apparently this part of England rivals
the tropics for temperature and precipitation. I didn’t see any hula girls, but
they were probably preparing a luau in my honor.
Amberley from South Downs Way
walk started as they all seem to do, with an uphill climb to regain the
escarpment that runs along the downs. Everyone was predicting rain today (well,
at least the locals were), because a heavy cloud cover hung overhead, and high
winds blew from the west. Fortunately, I’m heading east, so generally the wind
was at my back. At this point, the South Downs Way is never more than a few
miles from the sea (the English Channel) to the south, but the coastal communities
were obscured in the darkness.
(wheat and barley) and grasses are farmed on one side of the path, while sheep
and cattle graze on the other. Perhaps because it was morning, or perhaps due
to the wind, but a herd of cattle I passed had arranged themselves with the calves
all hunkered down in a tight group, encircled by grazing cows all facing
outward. I don’t believe there are any predators in the downs, but the scene
reminded me of pioneers circling the wagons.
Cows encircling calves
not very often that locals stop me, but Robin did. He went on to point out
landmarks on the horizon, much like a park ranger might do. Robin is from nearby
Tillington, and is understandably enthusiastic about sharing the scenery in his
own backyard. Thanks, Robin, I do appreciate the tour.
I came upon John and Bob, from Devon and West Sussex, respectively. They described
themselves as former Royal Navy buddies, both having enlisted at age 15, having
received their commissions together, and having retired together. Now in their
upper 70’s (WAY upper 70’s) they’re out walking the South Downs Way together.
They pretended to be in a hurry because of the impending rain, but considering
the navy yarn they were spinning, I don’t think they were in much of a hurry.
John and Bob
and Helen, from Swindon, and I played tortoise and hare most of the morning. I
passed them shortly out of Amberley, and they passed me when I stopped to talk
with Robin. I passed them again, and they passed me when I was stopped by the
Navy. I finally caught them again, and got a photo.
Simon and Helen
South Downs Way seems to have drinking water taps conveniently spaced to allow topping
off of water bottles. I don’t recall seeing that on other national trails, but
the SDW is the first national bridleway, and perhaps the water is for horses as
well as people and dogs. Funny, though, only some of the taps have horse
Water tap (no horse trough)
to the limestone base of the downs, there is no standing water. In the mid-1800s,
shepherds and ranchers built “dew ponds” with an impermeable lining in order to
capture water for the livestock. Over time, other wildlife became dependent
upon the water sources, and now the local community is restoring the ponds to
benefit the wildlife.
circles are everywhere in England. Chanctonbury Ring, along the SDW, is an iron-age earthwork that was planted with trees in 1760. Many of the trees
were damaged by a storm in 1987, when it was discovered that the Romans built a temple there in the 4th century AD.
Presently, it’s a pleasant park, with spectacular views down the escarpment. I
didn’t see any stones, but perhaps they were deeper into the woods.
before leaving the SDW for Bramber (and my hotel), I met Joel, from Brighton, who
has been able to take a few days out of a busy schedule to walk a portion of
the SDW. Finding a few days for a walk doesn’t seem to be one of my problems,
but I’m still working on finding somebody to carry my pack. Are you still