Green fields and blue skies on the South Downs Way

Spring is nearly here!

4th March 2015

It’s not officially Spring yet, but there is spring in the air around the South Downs. Crocuses and Daffodils our out in many of the villages, Lesser Celandines are blooming in the woods, lambing and calving are in full swing and here in the National Trail office we are planning the works for the year ahead.

It’s all change for me at home too with the arrival of Freya, my second child on the 8th of February. You’ll be please to know that she made it out onto the trails in her first week! Now I’m back at work and in the next few weeks have to finish off all the projects from this financial year and have planned our work for the next.

Work is nearly complete on surface improvements on the South Downs Way below Old Winchester Hill in Hampshire, where flooding caused bad surface damage last winter. Further plans for improving the surface condition of this section are pencilled in for next year.

Re-profiling a deeply gullied section of track near Truleigh Hill in West Sussex is due to commence in the coming days. The SDW will remain open during these works. It’s always a very fine balancing act to carry out surface repairs that will last, but also not look too urban. At Truleigh we are not importing any new material. Instead we are breaking up the existing track surface to remove all the ruts and gullies and repacking the material back down to form an even surface. This is both cheaper and looks better, but can only be done if you have a hard surface to begin with.

Other exciting news is that part of the SDW now appears on Google Streetview, so you can get 360 degree views from the trail. The section from Beachy Head travelling anti-clockwise back to Alfriston has been captured and published by Google as part of a pilot to capture rural trails. Over time we hope to have all 15 National Trails shown on StreetView. 

Here is the next poem from our poet in residence Lizzie Ballagher. You can read more of Lizzie poetry on her blog

Wings on the Wind

Only an empty sky and a sign stating the obvious: “Cliff Edge”.

No ledge. No shelter from the strident wind.

No cover from the lowering clouds—

Just a cavernous charcoal and cobalt canvas

Begging for a landscape artist.


Now a flyer appears in shadowed silhouette

Over Falling Sands: dark with distance, cruising

The coastal breeze, riding parallel and all along the Channel thermals.

Seen from half a mile away, it’s menacing,

Moving strange and thready wings.


Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

Or is it Superman?

No, far above us, yet none of the above!

Wait. Now another and another on the move.


A long parade of daring paragliders

Playing with and parrying the gusts off Beach Head:

Skilled mariners of sky, trawling, tacking, turning in tides invisible,

They balance, catch the updraft, sail the western blast

Defying unseen currents; flying fast.


Joyous lords of thin and rushing air,

Red and yellow, chirruping and chattering on the wind,

Gaudy and glorious as parrots!

Full five hundred feet above the sea,

They game with weighty gravity.


© Lizzie Ballagher

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SDW before surface improvements near Meon Valley Trail
SDW after suface improvements near Meon Valley Trail
Google StreetView screenshot