North Hampshire Downs Group of the Ramblers

NHDG of the Ramblers - Members  Reports



                        North Hampshire Downs Ramblers Holiday, Eastbourne,

                  3rd to 6th June 2018

Sunday 3rd June 2018 in lovely sunny weather 23 members of the North Hampshire Downs Ramblers group met at Battle and sallied forth to begin their annual walking holiday with the first walk of the programme, the 1066 Country Walk which passes the site of the Battle of Hastings. The intention was to begin the walk at midday but due to road accidents and horrible traffic jams some members of the group, including the walk leader, were unable to get to the starting point until after 1 pm. Walk leader Paul was a bit frazzled by the journey and not quite champing at the bit to get started.  None the less, and in spite of never having done this walk before, Paul did an admirable job in guiding us across quiet fields and woodlands passing the places where once men fought for king and country. Walking is a thirsty business and so at the end of this pleasant 5 mile walk some members of the group laid siege to the bar at the Abbey pub in Battle. We spent a happy hour in the sunny pub garden, a fitting end to our first walk.

Monday 4th June 2018 dawned not quite so warm and sunny as the day before but perhaps just as well because we had a long hard walk ahead of us. Fortified by the splendid breakfast provided by our B&B, Mike especially happy – 2 slices of proper fried bread – 25 of us (I can count, 2 more members of the party had arrived) set off to the start of the walk at the Seven Sisters Country Car Park at Exceat.  This walk was described as one of the most attractive stretches of coastal scenery in South East England with a section of mixed woodland in Friston Forest and 2 smart pretty villages. (The Tiger Pub at East Dean was pointed out by Tony C. as a future destination.) Mike was our walk leader and a few folks seemed to be getting a bit ahead of themselves so yellow warnings were issued - anyone ahead of the leader at the end of the walk would stand the leader a pint. The first section of the walk took us to Birling Gap where we stopped for lunch, many of us very glad of a break. After lunch we set off to walk the rolling, grassy down land section across the Seven Sisters, the views were stunning and the larks sang above the chalk grasslands. Occasionally plaintive inquiries of ‘how many more sisters?’ could be heard.  By the end of the walk many of us were dragging our feet a bit and strangely no one was ahead of Mike. A lovely day, a great walk and very memorable views.

Tuesday 5th June 2018, a cooler day today but dry and just right for the long climb up to Beachy Head. The party met at the band stand on the sea front and set off at 10am. The first part of the walk took us along the seafront where large Victorian hotels speak volumes about Eastbourne’s past. “A resort built by gentlemen for gentlemen”, said the Duke of Devonshire who was responsible for rebuilding much of Eastbourne in the latter half of the 1800’s. The arrival of the railway accelerated growth. Today, new buildings sit uncomfortably beside the old. We arrived at the kiosk at the foot of the first part of the climb and here Fleur, our walk leader for the day, reminded us not to go too close to the edge! So up we went, slowly at first because legs were still tired from the previous day. At the top of the first climb we halted and were advised that we could either take a slightly more inland route away from the edge or go around the edge of the cliff on a narrow but well-defined perimeter path and to be careful if we took that route.  We would all meet at the top. Many of us took the path around the perimeter and we were entertained along the way by a Spitfire performing aerobatics. All went well until we were met by a party of German students who were on a route march in the downward direction. We gave way to the oncoming force, self-preservation being paramount. At the top the views were becoming spectacular but the wind was cold and we huddled together for a group photo before setting off again. At the next viewpoint John Evemy unfortunately stumbled on the uneven ground and took a sideways dive into the wooden boundary fence on the edge of the cliff. Fortunately, no real damage was done but a nasty scare and a bruised arm resulted – ouch - all caused by too much scenery. (Hope your arm is not too sore John.) After a five mile walk we arrived at Birling Gap by lunch time and here the group split, half going on to East Dean for lunch at the Tiger, spotted on the previous walk, and the other half retracing their footsteps back to Eastbourne. The views always look different when the walk is done in the opposite direction! Along the way many of us commented on the chalk grassland flowers, one of the most attractive plants with distinctive blue flowers is Viper’s Bugloss. This was a very bracing walk along a section of coast line where the Beach Head Chaplaincy Team patrols every day with the aim of preventing tragedy. You can read more about them here

Wednesday 6th June 2018, a warmer day with sun promised for the last walk on the programme. The leader today was Ed who was taking the group on a 9-mile circular walk starting from Alfriston. A small digression – Alfriston is an ancient town recorded in the Domesday Book as Elfricesh-tun. There are 3 pubs in the village, (pub spotting is an important part of a walk) and one of them, The Star Inn, was originally a religious hostel built in 1345 and used to accommodate monks and pilgrims en route from Battle Abbey to Chichester cathedral, it became an inn in the 16th century. Now it must be said that the walk leader, Ed, is very good at finding footpaths (and pubs) but it turns out that he is not so good at finding car parks. After a small diversion, up a bridle way (?), a group of 13 eventually arrived at the Willow long stay car park in Alfriston. The party size had dwindled somewhat, the day was warm and some had decided to go swimming whilst others had left for commitments at home or in one case to go to work. The walk began gently enough taking a path though chalk grassland to the Long Man of Wilmington, a huge outline figure cut into chalk. Some say it is prehistoric others that it is more recent, it probably had agricultural or fertility significance, or thinking as a cynic, perhaps it was done as an ancient tourist attraction. Half way round the walk there is a little village called Jevington. Here in the quiet churchyard stands an ancient yew tree with an enormous trunk and branches supported by stout wooden scaffolds. John Evemy discovered that this tree is 1600 years old, incredible to think of any living thing that ancient, I wish it could speak. Lunch was taken at the Eight Bells in Jevington and suitably refreshed the group continued on completing the walk in about 5 hours.  This was a quiet walk of long inclines across grasslands and through woodland, rough underfoot in places, but always accompanied by the sound of larks and with beautiful vistas across green pastures towards distant villages nestling in woodland. A lovely end to our programme of walks.

In summary, our walking holiday this year resulted in the following statistics:

Fantastic walks 4

Quiz done? Yes, Position last (where were you Richard Keast?)

Number of walkers 25

Number of sore feet 50

Aching muscles? Yes

Did we enjoy it? YES

Will we do it again YES PLEASE

Many thanks to Mike and Maureen for again organising a great walking holiday and thanks to our brave walk leaders for guiding the group on these walks.

Sue Juon