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South Downs Way - June 12/13

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Saturday


After setting the date months ago, suddenly the weekend had arrived to ride the South Downs Way. The route follows old routes and cattle ways along the top of chalk and flinty ridges of the South Downs, it’s almost all “off road”, bypassing towns and villages and free of traffic once leaving Winchester until you reach Eastbourne, 160K and 3500M of climbing later.


Some of the team (Clive, Colin, Fran, Richard, Kieren, Pat, Stew and Ted) nearly missed the train, so it was a relief to all board the 6:37 train heading towards Winchester, we sat back and relaxed in the early morning sunshine before arriving an hour later.


The statue of King Alfred has become the official start of the South Downs Way from Winchester and it’s a classic photo before heading off

The first 35K to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park go through rolling hills with views of ancient burial mounds and Hill forts and we made good progress. After an amazing descent on the grass slope of Butser Hill we arrived at the QE2 café, where we refilled our water and took a short break.


This area was busy with walkers, mountain bikers, a half marathon event was in progress and also an ultra-marathon, the “Centurion”, running/walking event of 160K over the SDW, the quickest finish in sub 16 hours !


On leaving the café we lost our way in the many tracks going through the forest, but as we climbed out to a clearing we found the route and continued, more climbing and the sun getting hotter as we headed towards Cocking, our lunch stop at the Blue Bell. It was a welcome sight, arriving just before 1pm, 60K in. After a few sandwiches, some refreshing beers and we were ready to go, except we discovered Clive had puncture , our first one !


After some more epic climbs over chalk, gravel and grass trails with amazing views in all directions we passed Chactonbury ring and neared our overnight stop, we turned off the SDW when we saw a signpost for Steyning, which we would regret the next day !


We arrived at the Castle Inn, Bramber soon after, it had been a great days cycling. In the evening we walked through ancient Bramber and Upper Beeding to The Rising Sun which served good food and drinks, after an entertaining evening we headed back to our hotel for a fairly early night.


Sunday


During breakfast, Richard and Fran noted that we had missed 2K of the SDW the night before and after some debate, we retraced our steps, it took a good hour and half, but we had now covered all of the route. Moving in an easterly direction now, we climbed up to Truleigh Hill, stopping for water at the YHA.

There were now more concentrated spells of climbing, much of it on grass which was more comfortable and there were many great views of the coast and Seven Sisters. We stopped at the YHA South Downs for lunch , then on through the lovely old town of Alfriston and onwards until we saw our first views of Eastbourne and eventually arriving at the Kiosk café, the official end at Eastbourne.


We were happy to finish, but also felt a sense of achievement, satisfaction and pride to have ridden the entire South Downs Way, every inch of it !


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