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
Friday, July 11, 2014
July 11, 2014 -- Day 26, Bramber to Kingston near Lewes, 17.5 miles
was to be a long day, so I had an early breakfast at 7:00 am, and was walking
by 8:00. I’ve grown accustomed to the long uphill each morning as the
escarpment of the downs must be regained. This morning started with blue skies
over the valley of the River Adur, but as I climbed ever higher onto the
escarpment cold winds from the north increased dramatically. The winds carried
with them rain clouds that would reach me at noon.
River Adur in Bramber (tidal)
Footpath ascending the downs
the morning, with the blue sky, the South Downs Way reminded me of the South
West Coast Path – constant ups and downs in extremely high winds. When the rain
arrived and the temperature dropped, the Way reminded me of the Pennines –
without the bogs.
in all it was a good day to sit by fire with a warm drink and read a book. But,
of course, I didn’t have a fire or a book, so I plodded on – and for most of
the day I was the only one plodding on. I did find the warm drink, however, at
Devil’s Dyke. Devil’s Dyke is a formation formed during the last glacial period
– perhaps yesterday, if today’s temperature was any indication. Geologists
theorize that glacial melt pooled along the escarpment until it finally broke
free and swept away water-logged chalk beneath it, while adjacent chalk was
still frozen in place and held its position. Thus, the valley left behind appears
more like a river “V” valley than a glacial “U” valley. I found the geologists
explanation very interesting, but not as interesting as the hot chocolate I had
at the Devil’s Dyke Hotel. Perhaps the geologists can explain why the Devil’s
Dyke Hotel is not called the Devil’s Dyke Restaurant – since it serves meals
but hasn’t any rooms.
I arrived at Devil’s Dyke, the “hotel’s” car park was full with hang gliding
enthusiasts, eager to launch themselves into the fierce north wind. After my
hot chocolate, the car park was nearly empty, the enthusiasts apparently
deciding that hang gliding in the rain wasn’t nearly as much fun as walking in
camera was safely tucked away in a plastic bag most of the afternoon, but I took it out to document my arrival at Ditchling Beacon, a high point on the path, even though there was no view.
Marker at Ditchling Beacon
The camera came out again when I
met Hugo and Georgina, from Winchester, who thought that the day would
turn out better than forecast.
Hugo and Georgina
an hour later, a 10-member group calling themselves the Portchester South Downers came along. They are walking the South Downs Way in four days for
charity. (For comparison, I am doing it in 8 walking days.) At the time, my feet were tired and wet, and the day was
fairly miserable, but they so brightened my spirits that I’m making a contribution
to their charity, Rowan’s Hospice, on their behalf. You can too, by going to their website, https://www.justgiving.com/matthewdbarnes/