What a difference a good night's sleep makes. That morning I awoke stiff from the exertions of the previous day, but otherwise feeling great. I lay in bed for a while, enjoying the feeling of not being in a hurry, then got up and wandered down to the dining room for some serious calorie packing.
One of the many good things about Hobbs Cottage is the breakfast. On arrival you choose what you fancy from an extensive list and it arrives supplemented with cereal, juice, coffee and as much toast as you can eat. From Pyecombe I walked twenty-six miles to the Cuckmere river and needed nothing more. Now that's a breakfast!
I set off in cheerful spirits. My walking clothes were dry, and for the first time since leaving Winchester I felt clean. From the village I followed the trail past the golf course up onto the ridge. There I stopped for a last view of Pyecombe.
It was a cool, grey morning, but the clouds were high and thin and would soon burn off. The long South Downs scarp ran on ahead; and I followed it, striding along to Ditchling and Black Cap. The going was good, the air invigorating and the views tremendous. I felt on top of the world.
At Black Cap the Way bends south, descending in a wide curve before climbing onto another ridge. From the top you can see for the first time the end of your journey. In the distance, beyond the Cuckmere river, is a wide tableland tilted slightly to the south. On the further side lies Eastbourne.
I wrote elsewhere that Win Green far to the west is the finest of the chalk uplands. I would still hold to that, but these Sussex hills come close. High above the Weald they stand, gazing out on the world. They are remote, detached; and when you walk there you feel something of their serenity.
I sat for a while on a sunlit upland watching cloud shadows sliding over the fields far below. Then I followed the Way south-east, over the shoulder of Swanborough Hill. Rounding a corner I came across a bull straddling the track. I read somewhere that they can legally be kept on a footpath, provided they have cows for company. The idea presumably being that they have better things to do than attack walkers.
I don't know much about bovine psychology, but I treat any animal that weighs three-quarters of a ton, has big horns and can run faster than me with great respect! I bypassed this one with a neat flanking movement and continued on towards Rodmell.
I had planned to visit the pub at Rodmell, of which I retained fond memories; but I was told that it had closed, like so many country pubs. So I kept to the official route, down past the Saxon church at Southease to the muddy Ouze. The afternoon was warm and I was running low on water, but I couldn't find the tap marked on the map. So I pushed on, up the long, hot slope leading back onto the ridge.
Once on top there is another magnificent section of downland walking, over Beddingham Hill and Firle Beacon. For the most part the Way keeps to the crest, so there are views north over the Weald and south to the sea. After Firle Beacon the ridge bends sharply south-east, descending steadily to Alfriston on the Ouze.
I wasn't struck with Alfriston the first time I visited, but I liked it much better this time round. I was seriously thirsty after so many miles of sun and wind, but the shop in the village sorted out that little problem. I thought about looking for somewhere to stay, but in the end decided to carry on to the Seven Sisters country park.
It was a wise decision. The pleasant campsite at Foxhole lies in a dry chalk valley leading away from the river. There was no warden, but a fellow camper told me to put up my tent and pay in the morning. Bed sorted I walked over to the Golden Galleon for dinner.
I stayed at the pub until the blue of evening was fading to purple and white stars were pricking the eastern sky. Then back along the river, where geese drifted on the dark waters, and to bed. It had been a memorable day.