Where Cuckoos Soar: The South Downs

My Dad and I had long been looking to do some walking together on the South Downs, but our schedules and the weather had never managed to match up. However last Saturday our plans finally came to fruition and we drove to the village of Fulking with the intention of doing a coupe hours walk along the South Downs Way.

We parked at a lay-by just outside Fulking and from there we followed a mud track path that led up to the Fulking Escarpment, which rises above the village. This first few minutes of walking required a bit of heavy breathing as, like anywhere on the Downs, the path rose up rather quickly, plus it was an incredibly hot day with a burning sun and I was quickly sweating buckets. However at the top of escarpment we were both greeted with a strong warm breeze and the ground quickly leveled out, leaving just a long easy path that stretched over the Downs.

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The Fulking Escarpment

From the Fulking Escarpment we headed west to Truleigh Hill and its huge aerial towers, from there we could see down to the urban mass that is the Sussex seafront, one of the UK’s most densely populated areas, stretching from the city of Brighton and Hove to the town of Littlehampton. Pressing onward we walked pass the nearby Youth Hostel and onto a tarmac road that led to Beeding Hill.

Along this length of road, all the trees and coverage fell away, allowing us a vast uninterrupted view of the Sussex countryside.

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Looking out over West Sussex

However when we reached Beeding Hill, our eyes could no longer take in the beautiful landscape and were instead drawn to the cathedral-like out-shape of Lancing Collage and behind that, Shoreham Airport. Just as we were leaving for the walk we had received news of the terrible plane crash at the Shoreham airshow. A Hawker Hunter jet, whilst performing, had crashed into the busy road A27, killing at least eleven people. Fortunately we had not been there to witness the event, unlike so many thousands of others who bore witness to that horrific event, including my own friends and work colleagues (for more of my reaction to that tragic day see here). Luckily, by the time we got to Beeding Hill we could see no sign of smoke or the wreckage, but the sky, which we hoped would have been filled with performing planes, was eerily empty.

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Looking towards Shoreham Airport and Lancing Collage

Eventually we resolved to carry on with our walk and continued down to Erringham Farm and from there on to Southwick Hill. During this stage we were created by a huge variety of Sussex birdlife, including House Martins, Sand Martins, flocks of Starlings, Buzzards, Kestrels and even, perched on a fence post, a Cuckoo. I’d actually never seen a cuckoo before, though I’ve often heard their calls and searched for them, so come across one so unexpectedly was a rare treat. This particular Cuckoo wasn’t hanging around though and quickly swooped off at the first sight of us.

At Southwick Hill, the ground, which had been gradually slopping downward, suddenly rose up before us and we forced into a short slog to the top of the hill.

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Our last look at the seaside

From here, our path turned back towards Truleigh Hill, and we headed along the, thankfully straight path, to Thundersbarrow Hill, enjoying our last view of the coast as we left. On Thundersbarrow we briefly admired, what we assumed was, the old neolithic barrow. Annoyingly we could not stop for a closer inspection, as a look at the clock told us that we had less than an hour to get back to the car, as we dinner booked for seven and it was already half past 5. So we effectively power walked our way back to Truleigh Hill and down the Fulking Escarpment, which proved to be a killer on our tired legs.

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Farmlands dominate the South Downs

However we made it back to the car by six and had time to go home and shower before going out for dinner (curry, yummy). Despite the last rushed hour, I greatly enjoyed my walk on the Downs, the first in a long time and hopefully I’ll be doing some more walking along the South Downs Way before returning to Snowdonia.

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We head back down the Fulking Escarpment

Thus concludes my tale, if you enjoyed this story feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.

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