Walk completed August 16, 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12, 2014 -- Day 27, Kingston near Lewes to Alfriston, 13 miles

Today’s weather forecast was for clear weather, but I knew that before linking up with the South Downs Way, I would have to navigate the same local footpath I used yesterday. The local footpath is bordered by knee-high grass leaning into the path. Yesterday, the tall grass didn’t matter because I was already wet, but today the wet grass would soak me before I even reach the Way. So I needed a better plan. The plan turned out better than I expected.  


My plan was to walk into Lewes (pronounced “Lewis”) following the main road, lightly trafficked on Saturday morning. By the time I reached Lewes, the town was awake, and being a Saturday morning, High Street had been converted to Market Street. I bought a pastry from the bakery booth, and cheese from the cheese booth. Fully supplied for lunch, I attempted alternate transportation plans just in case I get tired of walking. Failing to reach a reasonable deal, I walked to the River Ouse (which flows through town), and followed the river all the way to its intersection with the SDW.

Thomas Paine's home in Lewes

River Ouse in Lewes

Alternatives to boots


The footpath along the river through town was in a park-like setting, but once outside of town, the footpath had all the charm of walking along an irrigation canal – nothing like the picturesque rivers I’ve followed so far. That said, the footpath was dry and flat, and I didn’t even have the usual morning climb up to the downs. In fact, by the time I reached the SDW, the downs had come down to me. (Not to worry, though, there was another climb up the escarpment after I crossed the river.)

Chalk cliffs along River Ouse


Footpath in Lewes

Immediately after joining the SDW and crossing the River Ouse, I was confronted with choosing between a long, hot climb onto the downs or stopping at a café for a break. I called upon all my hiking experience to decide.

The coin landed heads up, so I stopped at the café. While there, I met three folks having lunch. I’m not sure whether I was attracted more to them or their pizzas. Unfortunately, I had to limit myself to soup, because pizza would have finished me for the day.

Rosalie, Susan and Ronnie

Rosalie, Susan and Ronnie are from Crowborough, near where I'll be in early August, and Rosalie gave me her number to call when I’m in Edenbridge. She leads hikes in the Ashdown Forest, and has offered to show me around if our schedules work out. I never cease to be amazed by how helpful the local people have been to me over the years. That may be one of the reasons I like coming here.

 I couldn’t delay lunch forever, and eventually had to climb onto the downs. Today was the best day on the downs that I can recall. That may not be saying much, because my recollection is typically faulty, but the weather was sunny and warm, with cool southerly breezes from the channel. The trail was manicured grass, easy on the feet. The views kept improving, although slightly impaired by the humid haze.


I don’t normally get to meet cyclists, because they speed by me faster than I can talk.. Phil and Julie sped by me, but then had the good sense to stop for a snack. Phil recently cycled with a friend 1600 miles on a tandem from Seattle to Los Angeles. Perhaps that explains why he was with Julie today. They are from Tunbridge Wells, close to where I’ll be in early August.

Phil and Julie

The downs between Lewes and Alfriston seem to go on and on, offering beautiful scenery the entire way, and the wonderful experience of walking on manicured grass. As you walk, the hills keep rolling on ahead of you, but you don’t really mind the distance because the walk is so delightful. Before you realize, fatigue starts to set in. That’s when I met the four bravest women in the world.


Vicki, Abi, Charlotte and Adele were seated along the path with their four children. Two of the children were eight years old – the others were probably the same age. They had all left Southease (where I had lunch), and were headed to Alfriston, a distance of 6½ miles. Now, I can barely remember having eight-year-olds, but it seems to me that committing to a 6½ mile walk in the wilderness with one eight-year-old is adventurous. Walking with four seems to be tempting fate.

When I came upon them, the kids seemed still full of energy. One of the young girls accompanied me as I passed the group. She did cartwheels on the footpath to show me her athleticism, and when I told her I was from California, she said “I knew it, because you have an American accent.” That started a debate about which of us really had the accent. Before long, a young boy joined us, as the mothers fell behind. Two other kids then caught up, making me feel much like the pied piper. I’m sure that the four mothers could have caught up had they wanted to, but I suspect they were enjoying the free daycare.

My entourage and I eventually walked into Alfriston. I went to my hotel to take a nap. Moms and children are probably turning cartwheels together.

Reminder:  Click on any picture to enlarge

© 2014 Ken Klug


  1. Sounds like another perfect day on the trail for you. Really love the alternatives to boots!
    Those mothers must have really appreciated the free babysitting, can't believe you did not join in the cart wheeling. Are you loosing your sense of adventure?!? That will be the day!
    Keep having fun with the locals.

  2. Hi Ken - nice to keet you yesterday! Thanks for sharing your blog with us it's very good and your photos are excellent. Makes us want to drop the bikes and do some walking instead! Don't forget to pop into Tunbridge Wells if you have time. The Pantiles is less than 0.5 miles from the station. Bon Voyage! Phil and Julie