Day 6 of our South Downs Way walk had been a fabulous day of walking and we’d both had a good night’s sleep and a good evening meal. And yet, the start of day 7 was one of the toughest so far. We’d had a spring in our step every morning until now but the first hour or so of day 7 was a slog. I don’t know why.
Day 7. Lewes to Alfriston
The Lewes to Alfriston stretch includes some monster climbs. But once you’re up, you’re up for a good long time. From the bridge that crosses the A27 at Housedean, at the start of the day, the 4 km climb up Swanborough Hill and the ridge above Kingston is a bit of a killer. And I honestly thought I might be sick. But as always, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and the rewards for the rest of this stretch were fantastic. We had our first stop of the day at 5 km overlooking the Ouse Valley from where you can see the pylons at Firle, Beddingham Hill, Mount Caburn, Lewes Castle, and, of course, that windmill from yesterday (almost behind you now).
We watched a few paragliders take off and became aware that there was some sort of challenge going on as the first of what turned out to be thousands of competitors went past. This was in fact the South Coast Challenge from Eastbourne to either Hove or Arundel (50 km and 100 km options). It was a very hot day, and we spent much of it chatting with the many, many competitors that we passed.
This ridge of the South Downs from Kingston to Rodmell and Southease is one of my favourites. But comfort breaks are a challenge because there’s not much cover and I only hope that those down in the valley below can’t see the detail of what’s going on above! It’s also on this stretch that you cross from the western hemisphere to the eastern. There’s a post to mark the spot and another little dance was done. Then you drop down into the valley near Rodmell for what feels like a long flat meander.
Another lingering lunch
I had done some of this section before and knew there was a water stop at Southease and a café and Youth Hostel just before the second monster climb of the day, up Beddingham Hill. We took our shoes off and lingered with a lunch of burgers and more cake! A sign in the courtyard at the Youth Hostel tells you that it’s only 19 miles to Eastbourne. And suddenly, you don’t want the adventure to end.
The climb up Itford Hill and Beddingham is another one of my favourite stretches of the South Downs Way as the county starts to come into context. You can see Lewes and its castle, set strategically in a gap in the hillside and on the River Ouse. You can see Newhaven and the ships coming in (how small Newhaven Fort looks) and Rampion Wind Farm. But you can also see the Seven Sisters. As you walk further towards Firle Beacon you can see Hastings and the wind turbines behind Eastbourne. On a sunny day (as it was) it is just utterly magnificent.
We took a couple of breaks along the Firle section because we just wanted to soak it all up as much as we could and it was too beautiful not to pause. We started our long descent towards Alfriston at about 4 p.m. and finally passed the last of the competitors who had been coming thick and fast for most of the day. I’m not sure some of them were going to make cut off and some were clearly in a lot of pain so massive respect for the effort they were making.
The campsite in Alfriston is just south of the village on the opposite corner of Dean Place and up a track. It felt a long, long way. We’d taken bets on the distance of day 7’s walk and Emma said it would be 24 km. My Garmin pipped 24 km at the campsite gates. It’s a great little campsite but we had missed the pizza van and only had a tired sandwich from the day before for dinner. We went to sleep to the buzz of campers enjoying the last Sunday of the summer holidays. Emma is a much better person than I am and she didn’t mind the kids who kicked a ball at our tents a couple of times.
- Watching the paragliders take off
- Views from above Kingston
- Views from Beddingham and Firle Beacon
- Route distance 24 km
- Elevation 525 m
- Water stations in Southease
- Café and Youth Hostel at Southease
- Carparks at Firle and Bo Peep
- Pubs, hotels, a campsite, and shops in Alfriston
If you like this post about day 7 of walking the South Downs Way, you may find the following helpful: