Day 6 of our South Downs Way walk had been tough. We’d covered 28 km in the driving rain but at least we had a roof over our heads that night. Although that said, I hadn’t slept in a dormitory for about 30 years and when we woke on day 6, most of our stuff was still wet!
Day 6. Truleigh Hill to Lewes
At this point on the South Downs Way, you are well over halfway and start to believe you can do it. And the route keeps getting better and better. We both woke up early on day 6 but as it was still raining, we took our time over breakfast and hung about. The forecast said it was going to clear up at 10 am and I for one was not going to leave until it did. We eventually set off just after 10 am into a misty, mirky gloom but true to its word, within half an hour, blue skies had returned and what followed was a fabulous day’s walking.
You start your day with a fairly undulating path via Edburton Hill up to Devil’s Dyke which is another spot shrouded in local folklore. If you have time and energy, explore the dyke itself or just watch the paragliders. There’s coffee and a restaurant here too although it can get busy. Then, it’s not far down to the Wildflour café in a little dip in the Downs at Saddlescombe. We used this as our first stop of the day (at about 6 km) and grabbed both coffee and cake. There’s a water station here too and a rare treat … functioning toilets with hot water! Wildflour is one of my favourite little cafés on the Downs, and sits in a pretty and floral courtyard with plenty of seating and tables.
From West to East
Of course, what you quickly learn on the South Downs Way is that what goes down, soon goes back up again and it’s a steep climb up immediately after leaving the café. As you ascend, you get increasingly fabulous views of Brighton, the windmills on the opposite hill and the path which you are about to travel (which is down again to the A23). The last hill before you cross the dual carriageway is one of those particularly poignant places where you get a real sense of both how far you’ve come and how far you still have to go. At this point, we were feeling really buoyant and strong although it should be said, as we were in no rush, we broke all the big hills up with plenty of stops to catch our breath.
The valley and bridge across the A23 seemed to take a long time (And we were amused at the presence of both condoms and pregnancy tests in the roadside litter. Things work fast in this part of the world it would seem). It’s then quite a steady uphill walk past the old church in Pyecombe and then on up to the golf course, where you follow the side of the course on a long (it felt very long) climb up to the Jack and Jill windmills at Clayton. A kind golfer offered to carry us. He knew not what he offered, so we plodded on.
We took a slight detour at the top and sat ourselves in the grass for a long lunch overlooking Brighton. It’s not often in this fast-paced world that you get to sit on the top of the world for lunch just admiring the views, and that lunch is another “stay with me” moment. Our stuff had mainly dried out by now and life really did feel good! From here, you pass the windmills on your left, and then before long, you pass the Sussex Border Path (that’s the second time, the first time is way back on day 3) and then you reach the Keymer Post which marks the border between West and East Sussex. It’s an important moment. Time for another little dance. It feels like the home straight from now on.
A slight misjudgment
It’s once again all about the incredible views for the next section as you amble eastwards. I used to walk a lot at Ditchling as a child but I hadn’t been back in a long time, so it was lovely to rediscover it. There are views left and right, south and north and from Ditchling Beacon you get the first glimpses of the start of the Seven Sisters as well as Seaford Head and (less surprisingly) the Amex Stadium. You also see the windmill. I say the windmill because it took us a long time to work out which windmill it was but it remained a landmark for two days. I’m pretty sure it’s Ashcombe Mill (near Kingston near Lewes).
You also spot the outskirts of Lewes and the hill ahead of you to the south which is tomorrow’s climb. It’s at this point, don’t tell Emma, but I may have misread the map and misled her into thinking there was only 1 or 2 km to go. Just before Black Cap, the path turns south towards the A27. As we walked, I started to realise that we could neither see nor hear the A27. It’s a sizeable and busy road and it slowly dawned on me that there must be something equally sizeable which was obscuring it. That thing was a chunky hill. We’d walked the best part of 20 km by now, and there’s nothing like an unexpected ascent to finish you off at the end of the day. I think Emma was counting again. I was swearing. I gave her another caffeine tablet.
Our finish point of the day was Housedean Farm and campsite at the side of the A27 just south west of Lewes. We weren’t actually staying there as Emma was being picked up by family to go home for the night and I was staying with a friend who lived nearby. What can I say, what followed was a night of total luxury. They ran me a bath, washed my very smelly damp clothes, fed me lasagne and wine, and provided a wonderful bed for the night and fresh coffee in the morning. Does life get any better than that?
- Jack and Jack windmills
- Crossing the border into East Sussex
- Ditchling Beacon
- Seeing the Seven Sisters in the distance
- Route distance 22km (unless you started at Steyning in which case closer to 24/25km)
- 480 m elevation
- Pub, toilets, and car park at Devils Dyke
- Wildflour café and water station at Saddlescombe
- Shops and a pub in Pyecombe
- Ice cream van at Devil’s Dyke
- The Pink Pits stop (when you are almost level with Plumpton)
- Campsite at Housedean (A27 near Lewes)
If you like this post about day 6 of walking the South Downs Way, you may find the following helpful:
Walking the South Downs Way. Day 7. – coming soon