In the growing light I looked out on a very murky world. Shreds of mist flowed over the hilltop, obscuring the valley below. In the trees above my head a rook croaked sardonically. A chill wind blew from the southeast, bringing more rain from the sea.
There seemed little point in waiting for the weather to improve, especially as I was already cold, so I put on my wet clothes and packed up as best I could. Then I started off along the ridge, sliding through the mud. I came upon a flock of disconsolate sheep huddled together. They didn't look as though they were enjoying themselves either.
All in all it was a depressing morning. I dropped down to the A24, splashing through the puddles, then on and upwards through damp fields. The path for the most part kept just below the top of the ridge, so that even when the mist broke there was little to see. I squelched along, feeling distinctly sorry for myself. In the eight miles to Amberley it never stopped raining.
As I approached the village the clouds were parting. The wet surface of the road steamed gently in the sunshine. It was no more than a temporary respite, however. Another weather front swept over, and the sky darkened once more. As I reached the Bridge Inn the heavens opened. Embarrassed by my bedraggled appearance I sought shelter in the bar. I need not have worried, however - I was made very welcome. And I was in need of all the kindness and sympathy that was going! After a fine meal I sat in the corner with a pint, trying to decide what to do. Outside the rain continued to fall, and the forecast was for more of the same. Had I been carrying a tent I might have chanced it, but my sleeping bag was already wet and if I carried on there seemed little hope of getting it dry. In the end it seemed better to leave the rest of the walk for another day.
At the end of October I stood once more in the bar of the Bridge Inn. I should have been walking, in order to make full use of the few short hours of daylight, but I felt that it would be a good idea to put a little more custom their way before I set off. The pub was as friendly as I remembered it. When I left it was growing late; I had just enough time to find somewhere to sleep before nightfall. After the experience of the summer I was much better equipped. In addition to warm clothing I carried the flysheet of a tent, a stove and enough food to last me for several days. It is possible to take liberties with the weather in August, but not at the onset of winter.
From Amberley I followed the river, tranquil under the evening sky, for a short way upstream. The countryside had changed dramatically in the last two months. It was barer, more open, and the ground was slippery underfoot. A few brown leaves still clung to the trees but there was little birdsong. The light was failing as I crossed the A29 and approached Langham Wood. I pitched the flysheet in semi-darkness and crawled inside, dragging my pack onto a poncho spread out as a groundsheet. When I had eaten it was still only half past seven. There was little to do but sleep, however, so I settled down. Somewhere close by an owl hooted.