South Downs Way – belated notes from day 7

(Southease to Eastbourne)

Day seven was an even longer day and another one with limited stoppage time and no note making, so I’m catching up at 3.20am the morning after because my throbbing, aching feet woke me up a while ago.

Proud to report that when I didn’t suffocate H from NZ last night!

trig point #1 of the day – Beddingham Hill

The morning began with a steep climb up towards Firle Beacon. Came across sheep and a deer but no cows so I had chance to stop and enjoy the views. The highest point was some way off and of course there were about 50-60 cows on the path further ahead but I wasn’t phased. I strode bravely ahead to my second trig point of the morning – albeit on the other side of the fence with just some sheep for company, with a bit of barbed-wire negotiation at the top!

trig point #2 of the day – Firle Beacon

There something about finding a trig point that really makes me smile. They’re pretty ugly I guess but by necessity they’re always in the most high up places and therefore usually surrounded by beautiful scenery. I will miss them when I’m home.

Ever since I started planning this walk I was certain I wouldn’t try the Seven Sisters route (going inland via Jevington instead) As the walk went on, and vertigo kicked in more often, I knew that I wouldn’t go over the cliffs, but decided to walk down to the Cuckmere Estuary anyway, before turning back to Alfriston and then on to Jevington. As I was walking there I started to believe that I could do the cliff section, and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try.

Cuckmere

When I got to Exceat (just above the river) I bumped into the only other walker I had met on the way who was also doing the whole thing in one go. I had seen him on day 4 but then not since and I had been wondering how he had got on. Turns out he got to Exceat 10 minutes earlier and was just going for a coffee with his wife (who had met up with him there) before taking the cliff path to the end. So nice to see a familiar face.

I made it this far…

So long story short: I grabbed a vegetarian sos roll from a cafe, topped up my water and headed for the cliffs…and then I got to the start of them, saw someone standing on the edge, burst into tears and sat down to consider my options:

  • feel the fear & do it anyway
  • walk back up to the road and walk along the edge of it as far as Eastbourne
  • take a short-cut to Jevington and continue from there
  • retrace my steps back to Alfriston and complete the SDW via the inland route

I felt that the only honourable thing to do, given that option one was beyond me, was to retrace my steps and finish well without cutting corners… even though this option added more than 8 miles to my daily total.

The Jevington route was definitely not the easy option – it was actually my biggest number of floors climbed on any day of the whole walk! Once again I was so thankful for my Pacerpoles for keeping me going on these steep inclines.

Sadly I missed seeing the Long Man of Wilmington on Windover Hill. I had expected him to appear above me somewhere en route, but by the time I realised I would need to walk above him and look down the hill, my vertigo legs were back in play and I decided to give him a miss. I can always drive by and see him some other time!!

trig point #3 of the day – Eastbourne (with rain clouds)

The result was a 26.1mile walk that day, two painful blisters and much emotion when I finally sat on my bed in Eastbourne. I didn’t feel any sense of achievement at that point – it was more relief – but I did it! I walked a total of 133 solo miles, travelling only by foot, from Winchester to Eastbourne.

The biggest mistake I made on day seven was not eating enough. I had an almond bar and an apple for breakfast before setting off at 7.20am; grabbed a couple of mini pastries as I left (eaten on the way to Firle Beacon); ate part of a slice of cake when I got to Alfriston; ate part of the vegetarian sos roll and threw the rest away; ate a spinach & something pastry on the way back towards Alfriston, and then almost nothing else until I arrived at the YHA in Eastbourne 6 hours later.

I think the emotions of the day really got to me and I was just so tired and desperate to finish that I didn’t want to slow myself down by eating anything, and actually I was beyond hungry too. Now I’m back home I’m still struggling to eat anything other than crisps, but I’m sure that will ease over the coming days.

I’ll add an update for day 8 soon…I still had a way to go after Eastbourne!!

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