UPDATE: The South Downs Way may be 100 miles, but we actually added the extra 2 miles to avoid ending up as roadkill by crossing the A24 on an official diversion from the original route, as recommended. Then there was the necessity to go off piste to find our overnight accommodation. In all, the distance was 130 miles.
Furthermore, it was not a walk – it was a trek! My idyllic vision of skipping merrily on springy turf surrounded by twittering birds, beautiful meadows and bathed in the pleasantly warm rays of the sun was just that – a vision. The reality was borne in on me when I discovered that ‘Down’ comes from an old word, ‘dun,’ and that it means ‘hill.’ It was really gruelling. Any sponsorship was well earned!
A friend told me he’d biked it. When I returned, I asked him (somewhat mystified) why he hadn’t told me how strenuous it was. He replied that he didn’t want to be off-putting. Hmmm.
Our last day was a gentle stroll (irony here!) over the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. All of these are chalk hills above the sea. The beginning of the Way takes an uphill course climbing from Winchester on flint tracks. The comfy grass, cushioning my feet, never materialised. In fact, I threw my boots away at the end because the tread had gone.
That’s not to say there were no highlights! At the end, the sight of Eastbourne as it came into view like a mirage, was ecstasy-provoking (if I’d had the energy to be so roused by this time)!
We were on a well-worn path about a foot wide at one point and I told Ruth to stand still as, in front of us on the path, was a tiny little furry creature. It was larger than a mouse and very rotund, with rounded rather than pointed ears. Oblivious to strangers on its territory, or confused, it turned towards me and ran between my feet. Even better, it then stood still and let me stroke it! Delightful. Afterwards, I identified it as bank vole.
So all in all, a full experience!
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The trek is likely to exceed 100 miles as Sue will be going off track to find a nightly resting place each day. She is 70 years of age and is doing the trek over 7 days -- what an amazing thing to do!
Sue wants to raise money for the Stoke-on-Trent branch of Cats Protection because it is a deprived area with many food banks. Some people are choosing to feed their pets with the food they receive, rather than themselves. She would like to support these cat owners, and provide financial support to help deal with feral cats in the area.
Any donations you can give are welcome. Thank you so much for your support. Photos will follow after the event. Good luck, Sue!
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