By this time next week, I intend to be more than halfway along in my hundred-mile trek following the South Downs Way. I find it surreal and a little bit scary to think that, come this weekend, I won’t be home for several days… Each twenty-four hour period may prove to be a challenge; but also, somehow rewarding.
There is a temptation and desire within me (although not great in size) to just take the week off and do nothing… I often yearn for a break from the daily grind. But my plans are in place. I have committed to facing this long walk and my finalised plans differ slightly from my previous itinerary.
Day One: Winchester to Upper Parsonage Farm, Petersfield
22 miles – 8.5 hours of walking
After a two-hour drive to Winchester, I aim to start my walk beside the cathedral, early in to the day. It is going to be a long one… I’m not entirely keen on the idea of walking more than twenty miles with my rucksack at is heaviest but, it does lessen the following days (a little) and this is a perennial problem with backpacking (finding accommodation).
I haven’t officially booked my pitch at this camp site and it’s not a huge distance north of the trail. I have been told by the owners that, even though they expect the night to be busy, they should be able to find a space for me. It is only one night and it is not a youth hostel!
Day Two: Upper Parsonage Farm to Manor Farm, Cocking.
18.6 miles – 7.5 hours of walking
I have only very recently established my accommodation for this evening and it is with thanks to a recent follower on Twitter, who shared her own list of potential campsites. Within which, I found a name and location that I was previously unaware of.
I’d enquired with three other campsites nearby – two of which were an hour’s walk north of the trail, meaning a long uphill slog would entail the next morning. But Manor Farm is very close to the South Downs Way. My pitch has been reserved and I’ve been told that they now have working showers.
Day Three: Manor Farm to Washington Campsite, Washington
18 miles – 7 hours of walking
Booking my pitch here was easy enough and, while I’d normally steer-clear of caravan sites where possible, this looks to be a very practical option. They may even have evening food on site, as it’s a Bank Holiday weekend… Or, there’s a pub a short walk back down the road. If I wanted to pay an extra £5, I could also make use of their WiFi services!
Day Four: Washington Campsite to Claysend Barn, Westmeston
18.7 miles – 7.5 hours of walking
By this time, I hope to feel accustomed to walking for eighteen miles each day and with a progressively-lighter rucksack on my shoulders. Claysend Barn was an almost-secretive site that I discovered through the National Trails website. I cannot find much about it at all but I’m expecting it to be fine.
After four days on the trail, I part-expect to be in some discomfort… Whether that’s physical or psychological. I haven’t actually backpacked for more than two consecutive days and my longest solo camping trips (with a car) have not breached the fourth night. I think I found that other local campsites had already booked up, with many kids off school next week.
Day Five: Claysend Barn to Alfriston Camping, Alfriston
19.7 miles – 7.5 hours of walking
A fairly typical-looking campsite that also appears to sell camping kit… Although, I’m hoping not to have to pack a mallet and, if I have forgotten any of my sleeping kit by this point, I’ll have probably left the trail early anyway! I look forward to staying here and I’ve heard that Alfriston can be picturesque. Another long day but that does free me up for the finale…
Day Six: Alfriston Camping to Eastbourne
10.75 miles – 5 hours of walking
No more than eleven miles my sound like a stroll by this point… But I will have to negotiate the Seven Sisters Country Park and Beachy Head. A day spent walking along the south coast (the only coastal section of this trail) and one that may rightfully end with fish and chips near the pier.
Getting back to my car will involve a train journey of around two-and-a-half hours; changing once at Clapham Junction and then following a line destined for Southampton. Or Portsmouth. They’re close enough to each other… I estimate that this may only cost £40. It could be even cheaper if I was to hang around in Eastbourne and travel ‘off-peak’. But I don’t fancy getting back to my car too late and I would like to avoid the likely rush-hour chaos. I’ll then have a two-hour drive to get home.