sdw 2007: alfriston to lewes…or: cathedral of the south, pain on the downs, & a tarts in town

after a rather good night’s sleep we enjoy breakfast at [riverdale house b&b][] — mrs d starts flirting with jake, the charming and enchanting son of the house: soon they are playing together with his wooden trains (well, he’s just about three years or so). the weather has improved in that it’s not raining anymore — we collect our clothes from all over the house where they had been left to dry (luckily our shoes are dry as well!) and set off for a bit of sightseeing in alfriston:

* the national trust’s _[clergyhouse][],_ and
* the local church, [st. andrews, the “cathedral of the south”][st-andrews]

both very impressive; it turns out that the clergyhouse was the very _first property_ bought by the national trust back in 1896 for the sum of £10!

[riverdale house b&b]:

paragliding attempts...

after a bit of shopping (mineral water, apples) we start around 11:00 for our walk to lewes. the weather continues to hold, and we follow the “ridge” of the south downs. at the firle paragliding site we pause to watch student paragliders trying to become airborne — the wind is rather variable so this turns out to be a bit tricky and most just fly their paraglider like a kite…

astonished sheep
we do meet a couple of fellow walkers as well as some astonished sheep. the walk from rodmell to kingston turns out to be a bit of a chore: mrs d all of a sudden suffers from severe and painful cramps in her legs and only manages to continue with lots of stretching exercises. in kingston we take a break at _[the juggs][]_ before eventually continuing on. luckily the last bit is rather easy and level walking and we reach our b&b for today, _[berkeley house hotel][]_, where we have the spacious and nice twin bed room right at the top of the house.

[the juggs]:
[berkeley house hotel]:

after a shower and a short nap, we start our reconnaissance of lewes’s pub-with-food situation. the first attempt is at the _[john harvey tavern][]_ which is the pub of the local brewery — unfortunately it’s bursting at the seams and it seems a hopeless cause to wait for a free table 🙁 so, on we crawl from pub to pub (_sans_ the alcohol, though): one looks nice, but stopped serving food at 19:00; the next still does food but its patrons are on the wrong side of the shady–non-shady divide; another one was recommended in the guide, but seems to have changed owner _and_ clients the words “tarts” and “floozy in a jacuzzi” sprang to mind. after about an hour we are back at the _[john harvey tavern][]_ which by now has lost some of its high-pressure cooker character and, with a bit of luck, we manage to command a whole table in the non-smoker’s section 🙂 the beer is quite good, as is the food! we enjoy the evening…

[john harvey tavern]:

sdw 2007: eastbourne to alfriston…a wet walk, police in action, fantastic scenery

today’s the first day of our south downs way long distance walk! 180km lie ahead of us! to be honest, i am a bit worried whether i will make it — the distance is not what i am worried about, it’s the weight of my backpack (17kg!) and the fact that we have two “long days” ahead of us: one 30km and one 32km day. well…not guts no glory 🙂

at the start of the south downs way...180km ahead of us!after a quiet night (no [roundabout][] next to this b&b…) we have breakfast and then start our adventure: we pass through meads village and make our way to the start of the _[south downs way][]_ another couple is just leaving as we get to the official starting point and offer to take our picture 🙂 they are using a luggage carrying service and only have two small backpacks…

as we set off, the inevitable happens: it starts raining. at first it’s only a drizzle but then it becomes more serious about it and also calls in the help its friend, mr windy. strangely enough, though, i don’t really care: it just feels fantastic to be alive and part of the elements out there and i enjoy the day regardless of the rain!

the wind is not a rarely seen guest in the parts, it seems... view back to eastbourne

from eastbourne until we turn land inwards towards exceat, we are following the coast line with its sheer drop to the channel on our left. and it’s a roller coaster walk: up and down and up and down. the wind picks up speed and force and soon we keep a respectful distance to the cliff edge as we are pelted with gale force gusts saturated with rain. as we get close to beachy head we see a police helicopter, lots of police, and a winch going over the cliff. some of the police men and women wear gloves and it looks like a forensic operation is under way. increase the distance to the cliff edge 🙂

rain, police helicopter...action on the downs

the light is — inspite of the rain — rather interesting and the _[seven sisters][]_ are an amazing piece of coast!

when we reach cliff end it’s, well, the end of the cliffs for us and we turn inland towards exceat visitor center, which we reach after about 30min. the café looks eerily deserted, but we are wet, wet, wet and absolutely crave something hot — and, luckily, we can still order lunch 🙂 while we wait for our soup of the day along with a pot of tea, the couple we met earlier this morning in eastbourne comes in from the rain, then a group of ladies who refuse to sit down and just stand in a huddle, a bloke with his dogs comes in for a cup of coffee — we are no longer alone.

eventually we are recharged enough to continue to alfriston — but before doing so we take a look at the rather interesting visitor centre with its execellent explanation of how the coast at exceat has changed rather dramatically back and forth over the last 100 years!

the walk to alfriston takes us through wood then over typical down hills and finally through litlington, where we unfortunately ignore the bridge over the [cuckmere river][] in the erroneous belief that there will be another one closer to our b&b for tonight, the _[riverdale house b&b][]_… we end up walking through a lovely peaceful valley along the meandering cuckmere river all the way to alfriston, past it almost until we reach a bridge across the river and then it’s all the way back through picturesque alfriston (picturesque but wet) back to along the cuckmere river until we reach the sign post for _riverdale house_. the permeating light rain has turned into a down pour by the time we reach _riverdale house_. our landlord and landlady for the night, rory and pippa menzies, are fantastic and help us get to grips with our soaked through clothing (the bottom compartment of my backpack has delveloped the ill-conceived notion that it’s a “spa”…) — our room is comfortable and newly decorated, we feel right at home.

after a hot shower we make our way into alfriston again — true to form, it has stopped raining! the _[george inn][]_ catches our fancy and we have a nice dinner!

[riverdale house b&b]:
[cuckmere river]:
[seven sisters]:
[south downs way]:
[seven sisters]:
[george inn]:

sdw 2007: cologne to eastbourne

after a really good night at the [hotel eden früh][] and an likewise good breakfast, we check out and make our way to the main station again. the [thalys][] to brussels leaves cologne at 10:14 and we arrive at the station with enough time to buy newspapers and mineral water.

[hotel eden früh]:

the trip to brussels is fairly uneventfull and we arrive on time at brussels midi at 12:38 — the eurostar is scheduled to depart at 14:59, so over two hours to pass. [brussels midi station][] is dark and dreary as ever, the usual warning against “thieves operating in that area”, lots and lots of people. belgium’s reputation of having a good cuisine is not really reflected by the assortment of fast-food places at the station… we settle for a café close to the eurostar departure lounge and read the papers.

[brussels midi station]:

at 14:20 we move over to the eurostar departure area, check in, check through belgium border control, through the x-ray-thingy, through UK border control and — wait for the bording to begin.

the [eurostar][] leaves brussels almost on time and we are racing through belgium and france before we reach the channel tunnel, having late lunch at 300kph is not something we do every day 🙂 the ride through the channel tunnel takes just 21min (that’s almost the same amount of time it takes from zurich through the [zimmerberg tunnel][] to [thalwil][]) and shortly after we get off the eurostar at [ashford][] international — a rather typical small town railway station in kent. we wait away the time until the next train to [eastbourne][] leaves an hour later in the lovely, well-stocked café-with-a-view on the platform — well, kind of…

the weather seems to be undecided on whether to start raining or hold back when we arrive in eastbourne — and we arrive on time! which is rather amazing after a journey by train across half of europe…

our b&b for the night is the _[beachy rise b&b][]_ in meads village, just east of eastbourne: it turns out to be a nice little b&b, nothing too fancy nor to frilly but instead a nice little room at the top. there are a couple of shops and two pubs around the corner (along with an ATM at the little supermarket) — we opt for the _[ship inn][]_ as the _[pilot inn][]_ seems to be a bit too “atmospheric” for our taste: food is good, beer is as well.

[zimmerberg tunnel]:
[beachy rise b&b]:
[ship inn]:
[pilot inn]:

sdw 2007: erlangen to cologne

DSC03888.JPGwe are staying for the night in cologne in the [hotel eden früh][] next to the cathedral. tomorrow it’s a long train ride with the thalys from cologne to brussels, then a 2 hour break, followed by a eurostar ride to ashford internation in kent, southern england, from where we will hopefully take the last train for the day to eastbourne. starting tuesday morning we shall be on our way to winchester, following all 160km of the south downs way — on foot and carrying all our stuff on our backs…

the original timetable had us leaving erlangen tomorrow morning with a train leaving erlangen station at shortly after 5:00 (in the morning) — yes, not really our cup of tea. so we booked a double in the [hotel eden früh][] and took an early afternoon train to cologne. that way we get a good night’s sleep and don’t have to get up before waking up…

the hotel is quite nice, location is perfect: just around the corner from the main station, 100m away from the cathedral and lots of places to eat just around the corner. oh, and the beds are really good (we are preparing ourselves mentally for the chevy-style 1.40m “double” beds we are sure to encounter over the next 10 days).

[hotel eden früh]:

for dinner we went to the pub belonging to the hotel, just left of it and had good beer along with some rather good regional grub…

off to the south…of england

tomorrow we’ll start on our [south downs way][] adventure: a 180km walk from [eastbourne][] to [winchester][] — not only will we walk that distance but we will also have to carry our stuff ourselves: at the latest weigh-in it was round about 15kg each…we are not entirely sure, whether we can pull that one off…(or should i say, carry it through?)

[south downs way]:

anyway, i’ll post more or less frequent updates to [my twitter account][twitter] which you can either keep an eye on or which you’ll also find in the sidebar on the left — so, if you’d like to find out what happens: stay tuned 🙂