Thursday was hot! (bit of a theme developing here, you might think….)
We bashed on. The target for today was Washington where there was a campsite and , as Dawn pointed out, a safe crossing of the A24, a murderously fast dual carriageway with no footbridge.
We rejoined the long scarp and, happily for the sunburn, much of the day was spent under the cover of trees. A short diversion bagged Glatting Beacon, a trig point in a deep plantation next to antennae.
And then we descended to Amberley Station – just four of your earth metres above sea level. This sad fact (we’d have to make up the height again) was relieved somewhat by the existence of a pub on the route at this point. We had butties and chips. (They were posh butties, but not very posh chips) The heat of the day grew quite intense. We bashed on through the contours to Rackham hill at 193 metres and Kithurst Hill where Dawn waited for me to bag the trig and then, after 19 miles, down the hill into Washington where the campsite was on the other side of the village, too far from the pub, but where we got a discount for looking exhausted.
Another wet and dewy night was followed by a bright blue Friday of more heat. We had to go back up the hill again. There were rewards here, though. We hadn’t a fixed target, except to say that there was a pub at Devil’s Dyke, and that we’d go some way beyond that.
In between we came across Chanctonbury Hill. This has a trig point and a small hillfort, the bounds of which hold a plantation of trees, mainly planted after a storm in 1987 destroyed the 18th century plantation that preceded it. The ring of the outer defences and the copse of trees, and the extensive and beautiful views makes this an enchanted place; just the sort of place to spend a night. We couldn’t have attempted this the night before, though, unfortunately. We just didn’t have enough energy to carry water way up here. Another time, though, perhaps.
After this the Way descends to the River Ardur, more or less at sea level again, before climbing, now in baking heat back to the scarp which continues past the tap at Truleigh and along the rolling ridge to the oasis that is Devil’s Dyke. Here was more beer and crunchy fish sandwiches and a descent to Saddlescombe where we stopped for a cuppa and where I noticed a National Trust sign on a fence had a picture of a tent on it. Dawn enquired (I leave all such business as enquiring to Dawn as she doesn’t seem to mind the prospect of rejection, something which I find a bit more difficult to do for some reason. Enquiries revealed a field with a tap and the location of some fairly posh toilets, and an honesty box for the depositing of ten quid for the camping. 14 miles today.
If the next day was Saturday, it was going to be a hot one. We had decided to have a wild camp. We knew where the taps were and we had a rough idea of our spot. It would be a long day.
We marched on once again towards the East, passing over West Hill and the A23 at Pyecombe, rejoining the scarp with the view for Ditchling Beacon, turning South at Blackcap to Housedean where we bravely ignored the campsite, tea van, petrol station and pub in favour of another uphill struggle over the Downs to Southease where there was another tap and, where we crossed from the Western hemisphere into the Eastern hemisphere. After this effort, we rested and drank the water. There was some kind of open day at the church. A village lady had her little dog, the ugliest little pooch you’ve ever seen with an overlapping bottom jaw and bulging eyes. I had a little chat with the dog and we got on quite well. This was Ollie. The lady’s relief from guarding the church gate, a young woman in a very naughty frock, called Ollie “The Gruffalo” A bit unfair. I took to the dog. Poor old Ollie. We collected water from the Southease tap.
We crossed the River Ouse, once more, quite near sea level and struggled up the steep hill back onto the Downs. On the edge of the Downs, overlooking Southease, on the border of a copse of hawthorn, we put the tents up and had a fabulous wild camp on a warm and breezy moonlit and starry night.
If you follow the vapour trails, you end up at Gatwick.