Thursday was going to be another long day. Once more we where heading uphill. By now we getting to grips with covering distance. The heat was something different, especially in the afternoon, it was relentless. Heatwaves are not something we are used to?!
Good walking with panoramic vistas, the valleys below shimmering in the heat haze. Long descents followed by equally long ascents. The heat was relentless and we had to drink regularly to avoid dehydration. A pub lunch at Amberly and then a long haul up to Rackham Hill.Possibly the heat was affecting me, but I found myself mentioning to Mike a few times that there was a diversion down to Washington to avoid a dangerous road crossing?The camp site at Washington is very up market, with caravans and camper vans, some of which looked more like luxury coaches. The facilities on offer where luxurious too.
Ditchling Beacon was our high point and then on to Blackcap before descending down to Housedown farm. There is a camp site there. We had miles yet to cover though and after filling up with water and a short break, we strode on. If anything the temperature was even higher than yesterday, whew!
As we climbed the hill following Juggs Road, a herd of cows stood listlessly on the track. They where totally unfazed as we eased our way through them. Dropping down to Southease, we stopped to stock up with water and have a break by the village church. Chatting to a lady organizing some form of church event we made friends with her dog. Not a cute, pretty dog, some may say ugly, although I would disagree. Ollie was a polite, well mannered dog with character, posing for Mike as he took his photo. At this point I was not feeling good and we still had another hill to climb. My energy levels had fallen through the floor. Plenty of water drunk and some sticky, cloying chocolate consumed and we shouldered our packs to head off once more. It was a slow plod up Itford hill. A combine harvester droned in a field close by, enveloped in its dust cloud. Finally we reached our goal and set up camp. It took me a long while to get the tent up but we both agreed, this was our best camp yet.
Sunday was our final day of walking. An amazing sunrise, the bonus of our first morning with dry tents and it was not long before we where away. Following tthe ridge line, past the masts at Beddingham Hill and on to Firle Beacon.
We had intentions of breakfast at Alfriston. However, the place was totally geared to the tourist trade and prices reflected that. We opted to make our own sandwiches and washed them down with a bottle of soft drink. In some respects it seemed incongruous, the local church bells where ringing out, calling the faithful to worship. Some of whom where arriving in very posh, classy cars! All around though was this materialistic drive to make money. Tea shops, restaurants, pubs, antique shops and so forth, driven by commerce. From Alfriston the trail divides, one branch goes inland, the other heads for the coast. We followed the coast route. On past Litlington, plunging in to woodland that offered some cool relief from the blazing sun A couple of steep climbs where taken very slowly. Suddenly though a style led over a low wall, there below us lay Cuckmere Haven.
The place was awash with humanity. Filling up with water and an ice lolly from the ice cream van,we moved on. With our packs and boots, looking hot and trail worn, we presented an odd sight in comparison to the throng of folk around us, all heading to the beach. Push chairs, buggies, excited children, everyone out to enjoy the day.
Our route soon saw us heading up hill once more. We where now on the Seven Sister, a series of rolling switchbacks high above the sea. We pressed on, both of us suffering somewhat from the blazing heat radiating off the surface of glaring chalk. Ascending, descending until finally we made Birling Gap. In need of more fluids, we stopped at the cafe, I had to ask the lass who served me if she would carry the glasses to the table for me. Tired, and with energy levels low, I had a case of the shakes.
The wind picked up and sea fog clouded the sky as we came over Beachy head. Finally we reached our desired goal as we descended down to Eastbourne. Once again Harvey's map proved inaccurate In an insert it indicates the youth hostel in town. We had seen a sign post for village shops and headed in that direction in search of a cash point. The co'op cash point was broken but a kindly gent had offered to guide us in the direction of the hostel. Guiding us through the back streets, he then gave detailed instructions on how to get to the hostel. Unfortunately they went against the map. We stuck to the map, a mistake. The map was wrong and the chap correct. Muddle finally sorted,we eventually found the hostel on the outskirts of town. Mike looked wearied, I felt wrecked, but we had achieved our goal and felt pretty pleased with ourselves. On Mike's estimation we had covered roughly 108 miles over the course of the week and in a heat wave too!
A pair of North Face Hedgehog mids, less than a year old. Not up to the job??