Steve and I completed our 100 mile South Downs Way run from Winchester to Eastbourne over seven days in June. We loved every wonderful, horrible minute of it !
Setting out from King Alfred’s Statue in Winchester , ominously seeing a sign saying ‘ Eastbourne 99 miles’ we had soon crossed the infamous Twyford Down (of ‘Swampy’ fame) motorway cutting, and headed for Cheesefoot Head , the place where Field Marshal Montgomery addressed the Allied Troops before D-Day in a magnificent natural amphitheatre.
Then a stop for a Guinness at one of the very few pubs on the trail, making us feel even better ! We were soon atop Old Winchester Fort hill, a 3000 year old Iron Age fort with sweeping views over the Isle of Wight and Chichester Harbour. A night in a B & B in East Meon followed.
Next day our ambition was to run another 20 miles to Cocking, so that we could be collected by Angela and taken to Tim & Wendy’s wedding reception at Grittenham Barn. We made it to Cocking, this time consuming three litres of water but no beer !
Sunday morning saw us returning to Cocking to run 19 miles to Storrington via Graffham, Duncton, Upwaltham and, I’m told, those coming out of the church service strained their eyes to the Downs to see if they could see us. By lunchtime, we had reached the Amberely Industrial Museum where we had food (no beer!), and we stayed at Storrington with John Nicel that evening. Next day we ran through Washington, then past Chanctobury Ring ( one day after the Solstice) , and began to enjoy the incredible panoramic scenery, skylarks singing , miles of rolling grassland and views towards the North Downs and south towards Bognor , Worthing and the English Channel beyond. We passed Devil’s Dyke with Brighton to the South but “ the best view in England “ ( John Constable ) was the other way with a sweep from Bexley Hill Mast (Midhurst) in the West to Tunbridge Wells in the East.
Staying near the Jack & Jill windmills ( still with sails flying) at Clayton that evening, we ran on the next morning over Ditchling Beacon towards Kingston ( near Lewes) where once again the landlady exclaimed that she had met many walkers of the South Downs Way but never runners. We began to feel quietly confident.
Accepting a packed lunch as there were no hostelries on the way, we were approaching Mile 85 when disaster struck. Up to that time Steve and I had been meticulously watching every one of our 366,000 steps carefully so as not to trip on any stone, flint or rut. Just as we looked up to see the next sign post taking us over the bridge over the A26 , Steve stepped into a large pot hole , a tearing sound ensued and he yelped into the bushes holding back swear words. Alas, the ankle was swelling in front of our eyes, but with remarkable fortitude he hobbled on to our next stop of Alfriston.
Here, First Aid of a cold bucket of water, elevation of leg and much applying of bandages and ointment by the good landlady. However, next morning, with things still bad, Steve, determined to finish the adventure, hobbled through the beautiful village of Alfriston (where coach loads of tourists come to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’),and on and upwards to the Friston Forest , planted in 1919 to restore wood stocks lost in WW1. Emerging from the trees, we were rewarded with a delightful view of Beachy Head, Cuckmere River meanders, happy school children exploring on the last days of the term and a great feeling to be alive and live in such a country.
Six miles to go – would Steve manage it ? Up and down, up and down (those Seven Sisters have a lot to answer for), we neared our target of reaching Eastbourne by 3pm where Angela was going to meet us.
Our 100 mile mini adventure was achieved; photos taken and hugs all around.
Back at Tillington, a mini Reception Committee had been spontaneously formed, balloons hoisted, welcome signs erected, family and friends assembled. Later that evening to the Horse Guards for a steak, a round of applause as I entered with a bottle of fizz on the house. Could not be better.
A massive thank you to the generous people of Tillington & The Flyers for exceeding our target of £1000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital by over £400, proving once again how good it is to live in Tillington.
Article originally published in the Tillington Parish magazine