Walking The South Downs Way, Gluten Free. Cliff’s South Downs Walk
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31st May 2009 – 5th June,
Sadness and beauty; peace and noise; nature and construction; pathways and motorways
People enjoying its beauty and in so doing destroying that beauty
White cliffs, white horses, white wine, white windmills, cabbage white butterflies, blazing white paths, white cottages, white clouds,
Accurate maps versus hidden sign posts, off the map and extra miles,
Kestrels, lapwings, skylarks, falcons, woodpeckers, pheasants, crows, cuckoos, black headed gulls, goldfinches; blue tits; thrushes, sparrows and willow warblers
Painted ladies, red admirals, yellow butterflies and chalkhill blues
Hang-gliders; Chinook helicopters; model aircraft and high flying jets
Blue sky and grey sky; puffy white clouds suspended over yellow fields and red fields and green and white striped fields; green fields and golden fields
Fields of rape, fields of poppies, vineyards, unripe wheat and barley fields and fields already cropped for hay.
Abandoned industrial works and vibrant agricultural enterprises
Power lines and placid fish farms
Lambs and calves; sheep-shearing; even clay-pigeon shooting;
A hare desperately searching for its young
Winchester followed by watering holes at Meonstoke, Cocking, Amberley, Pyecombe, Alfriston, to Eastbourne
Via Old Winchester Hill, Whiteworld Pool, Salt Hill, Butser Hill, Sunwood Farm and Chanctonbury Ring
Beacon Hill and Firle Beacon, all the key beacon sites.
Calling in at The Bucks Head, The Sportsmen, The Black Horse, The Greyhound, The Plough, Hobbs Cottage
With Fresh pineapple; orange juice, fresh black coffee
Bacon and eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans,
Roast beef and fresh seasonal vegetables; Sea bass and salad; sea bream and new potatoes; Mexican pork and rice
Gluten free, sin gluten, glutenfrei,
‘The lie of the land’ crossing the M3, A24, A286, A283, A23, A27; crossing the railways and crossing the rivers. The Adur, Ouse, Arun, Meon, Cuckmere, each time walking down to the bottom of a Down and then climbing up to the top of the next Down,
Queen Elizabeth and the Seven Sisters Country Parks, lots of Nation Trust land, memorials to people who loved this land, and for some who died defending it
Pleasant English pubs, beautiful English food (fresh fish, salads, superb breakfasts, strawberries and cream) varied English cheeses for lunch with hard-boiled eggs; Stilton and Red Leicester and Cheddar and Cheshire; home-made nut, date and raisin goody bags;
Helpful landlords and friendly landladies, sociable walkers, hard-working cyclists and busy tourists
Cool green woods, baking hot downland, vistas to the sea and the Isle of Wight and vistas to the North Downs, the flats, the flood plain of the Arun, drained centuries ago, the meandering river, the sea, the chalk cliffs, the squawking chattering frogs
Steep hills up and steep hills down, flat rolling hilltops, steep escarpments,
Soft green sward nibbled flat by the sheep, genuine Roman road, flat springy floor under the beech woods, dirty harsh track, lumpy flint stones on hard chalk, flat tarmac, narrow ruts, slippery stones on steep paths
Busy places and empty places,
Historic places and literature places,
Religious places and druidic places
Iron Age places and electronics places
Freedom to roam versus locked gates and razor wire topped fences
Unmanned railway level crossing; rickety wooden bridge; tunnel under motorway; running across busy highways; running across busy minor roads; private bridges, walking along busy main roads after dark;
Over-cooked food or the finest cuisine; desperately gulping pints or quarts of water or sipping fine wines and delicate fruit juices
Laughing unicyclist; chatty tourists; sweating walkers staggering with huge packs;
Elderly ladies with Scotty dogs; haughty horse riders; sweating runners with water packs;
Local people with Geordie accents; people from Holland and people on a day out from London;
Welsh mountain goats visiting relatives in Brighton; people getting half an hour’s exercise from their busy lives;
And people who didn’t know enough English to read maps or signs;
Caps and hats and scarves and Nordic Walking sticks
People on their own; people in pairs; people in teams; people in groups, people in parties
Calm balloonists suspended in the sunset
Ferries plying out of Newhaven and Dover and sailing in the Solent
17000 ft of altitude over a 100 mile walk over a six day journey, 2000 paces per mile, 200,000 paces, one at a time, for a maximum seven hours per day, thirty fours walking.
My pack at 18lbs compared with others at 12lbs, 27lbs (camping) and 55lbs (camping)
And average speed approximately 3mph including stops and breaks
No blisters, no stinging nettles, no sunburn, saved with the taste of banana-flavoured lip salve
Walking all day and then going for a stroll in the evening or then fetching the morning paper
Castles, turrets, look-out towers, churches, inns, small houses, mansions, cafes, shops and windmills
Archimedes Screw for making holes for fence posts;
Pythagoras Theorem for calculating the extra distance going round a field.
The Ghosts of Anglo Saxons, of Gauls, of French, of Roman Legionaries, of Norman Conquerors, of English long-bowmen, of religious leaders, of civil war, religious revolution and of royal escape
Oaks for our ships, limestone for our concrete,
The Greenwich Meridian ‘0’ Longitude, the start of navigation,
Admiralty Charts, free to the world, with Greenwich Meantime,
Trig points and mapping, chalk cliffs and lighthouses
Telephone calls on the top of the Downs,
My family joining in and having dinner with me at The Sportsmen and The Plough,
Socks from my sister, rucksack from my son, concern from my daughter, and support from my wife
And who would have thought that there were so many ways of fastening a gate, even for those gates standing proud and independent and separate from any fences
England, our England
A superb week
Feeling fitter than I’ve felt for years.
12th June 2009
28th May 2009. Yesterday only six miles but raining and cold and SW Force 5-6. Today walked the long way round to The Old Tollgate, now moved the pedometer to a better place on my belt, probably 16 miles, with 16lbs weight, 2300ft altitude. That’s the weight I’m now targetting for. A lovely walk and maintained speed to the end. Result.
26th May 2009. First time I’ve packed everything, or I thought I had, but I had omitted the GF bread. So whilst it was all OK though weighing in a twenty pounds, it now means that I don’t have room for the eeePC. Back to notebook and pen. Anyway I carried the full twenty lbs, for six and a half hours covering eighteeen miles with 2800′ altitude. My new Technicals shirts are superb. Now using OS Maps. Also I’ve adopted my old yachting routine of entering the log (Lat, Long, log reading, wind etc) and having some refreshment every hour. It works well.
22nd May 2009. Been carrying on with preparations. Upto 16 miles in five hours, with 2300ft altitude, down to 12lbs weight and going well. Still experimenting with the menu. Now to get lightwieght clothes etc I’d like to get the weight to 14lbs including my eeePC (at 3 lbs.) I’m unhappy with the Harvey South Downs Way map. I’m a traditionalist I like to see Lat and Long not some other convention and I want a wider view of the surrounding area so that I can identify distant points of interest, may be even calculate my position rather than using my GPS. But yes I reckon it needs four maps.
14th May 2009. I’ve booked the final night at YHA in Alfriston. Separately I’ve tested the a small modern rucksack, thanks to my son. I can just get the minimum gear into it and then in total the weight is less than 20lbs. I wore it for five hours with a 18lb load. Lovely. On gluten free I’m just concentrating on GF bread for toast at breakfast (with bacon and eggs etc), for the rest lunches will be water and something simple; for dinner I expect it’ll be meat, cheese or fish with salad plus new potatoes. Anything better than survival will be wonderful.
12th May 2009. Booked the next night at Pyecombe. Tested the 30lb loads and they are heavy, mind you my rucksack is a Bergans Hi-pack maximum capacity. I think it’s too big so I’m going to test a smaller pack. I completed a 15ml walk with a 30lb pack so I know I can do it. Can I now get fit enough to be able to enjoy the walk.
8th May 2009. Plotted the route on my GPS unit, (‘crow flies’ distance 82miles) and plotted the daily distances with the altitude changes. These distances are still just my estimates. In fact they’re all reasoned estimates.
Day 1 14miles 250m 812ft
Day 2 22miles 1140m 3705ft
Day 3 13miles 540m 1755ft
Day 4 19miles 1260m 4095ft
Day 5 19miles 1400m 4550ft
Day 6 11miles 860m 2795ft
Totals 98miles 5450m 17712ft
Correct me if I’m wrong but this looks like climbing two mountains over the course of the six days. What is good news is that my first practice walk almost matches that first day.
7th May 2009. Had my first training walk today just 11 miles with 30lb pack. Just as well that I’ve got 24 days to go, for more training. The key to fixing the night’s accommodation is finding somewhere for dinner then arrange a pub or B&B. I’ve booked the first three nights – The Bucks Head in Meonstoke; B&B with Ruth Higgins in Cocking, with dinner at the Greyhound; then the Sportsman inn in Crossgates, Amberley. Then the next night is somewhere between Steyning and Pyecombe and the last night at Alfriston.
5th May 2009. Getting gear organised: boots and socks OK; got rucksack repaired today; found compass and binoculars; set up GPS on PDA; now to get some training in carrying a 35lb pack and also checking out the remaining overnight stops. I may have to revert to carrying a sleeping bag and waterproof bag.
4th May 2009. One of the key calculations is how far to walk in a day. On my planning schedule I have daily distances of 13, 19, 14, 16 then 20 and 17. I’ve just reconnoitred Rodmell the start for the 20 mile day to see whether the pub ‘The Abergavenny Arms’ serves evening meals and I found out that it closed on the 1st January 2009. This means that I need to start that day at Alfriston 7 miles further East and this in turn means that the previous day I need to be (preferably) at Pyecombe. The daily distances then become 13, 19, 14, 22, 20 and 11.
3rd May 2009. It looks as though it’s about 99 miles. I’ve decided to tackle it starting at Winchester so that I’m ‘walking home’ until I’ve got into the swing of it. (I live in Shoreham By Sea so I’ll have to go within about two miles of our home before doing the last third of the walk, passing on towards Lewes and the finish at Eastbourne.)
I reckon I can do probably 15+ miles a day so I’m planning on six days walking. Rather than using OS maps, I’ve found Harveys maps as they show the whole route on one document and to a slightly larger scale than the OS ones. At the moment my planning extends to guessing distances and to plotting some of the pubs on the route!
I’ve decided that I’m not camping because I don’t want to carry a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear and all the extra food. I will try to get my clothes, emergency gear and food, and everything into a maximum thirty pounds ….. gone are the days when I used to carry sixty pounds! Will the weight allowance cope with my eeePC and the charger for my PDA.
My next step is to identify all the places I can stay at and to find out how and whether they cater comfortably for Coeliacs. My main need is for potatoes, eggs, meat, salad or vegetables without processed foods, bread, cakes, biscuits and I’m very wary of mayonnaise, chips, crisps, ketchup, vinegar, malt.
I reckon my breakfasts will be orange juice, bacon and eggs, fried potatoes or baked beans (some makes), tomatoes, mushrooms and I’ll take my own bread for toast and marmalade. Coffee’s fine.
Snacks will be chocolate, fresh fruit, compressed dates, Kendal mint cake, pea nuts and sultanas.
Lunch will need to be eggs, salad, potatoes, GF crisp-bread.
Dinner should be fine, there’s usually something, the normal fall-back position is fish or steak with salad and new or jacket potatoes. Normally sweet’s are a complete no go, unless they have sorbet or fresh fruit salad.
The next step is to reconnoitre the route to see what I can find out and to load my PDA with GPS software.
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