Walking in the South Downs

We continued our stay in the South Downs National Park (formerly two adjoining Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) moving from Small Dole to Kingston, near Lewes a little further to the east. The campsite is nothing more than a field behind a row of houses but a great location for accessing the South Downs Way.

We managed two full days of walking 10 plus miles each time, following various paths, crossing the Greenwich Meridien on several occasions and clocking up a few thousand feet of ascent.

Where East meets West

The photos and my words cannot really do the area justice! We were lucky with the weather as our walking days seemed to be the drier ones, but the South Downs are a stunning place to go walking.

We also walked from the campsite into the town of Lewes where every house seemed to have a plaque with a historical reference attached. Sadly as this was the final week of lockdown restrictions, many places were still closed but it was still worth the visit.

Lewes

From Kingston we moved a few miles east again to the village of Alfriston. We have been here several times before and, obviously (!) like the area. The village also gives easy access to the South Downs Way although beware, any walk on the ridge will begin with a long climb out of the valley!

There are three separate camping areas but all reached via the same access road and next to each other; firstly The Stables CL where we stayed, then a camping field for C&CC members and finally a general camping field. The CL is well maintained and provides EHU as well as water and dumping facilities. We were warned by the owner the CL was next to the camping field but we were not disturbed by any noise from there.

Beachy Head

We continued the pattern of walking every other day and repeated a walk we had done previously (over 10 years ago when preparing for the Inca Trail) along the South Downs Way to Eastbourne, Beachy Head, the Seven Sisters and home along the Cuckmere Valley. Our longest walk for sometime at a fraction under 20 miles / 32 km (we just couldn’t find the extra yards/metres to round the numbers up!) and we were pleasantly exhausted when we got home back to the van. Our last walk of this distance has been at home on the towpath of the Grand Union Canal so none of the 2,000ft of ascent we did today.

The following day was our 10th wedding anniversary so a day of relaxing around the van and then for a change, dinner in a local restaurant, Deans Place. As we were still under lockdown rules, the menu was limited and we had to sit outside but apart from an issue with the main course, which was handled well, we had a great evening. Even better was the short walk back to the campsite!

We did a couple more walks along the South Downs Way, the second of which bought us into the Cuckmere Valley on the opposite side to the Seven Sisters and gave us great views of the chalk cliff faces.

If you want something flatter, then the Cuckmere Valley is also a great place to walk, starting at the rocky beach and then moving inland through small lakes and waterways to pasture lands. The Seven Sisters Country Park in the valley offers parking, a restaurant and a visitor centre and circular walks start just across the road from the Visitors Centre. Lots of birds and wildflowers to spot.

The Litlington Tea Rooms were recommended to us and as they were just a short walk from the campsite, it would have been wrong not to have paid them a visit. We managed to get out in the only gap in the rain and enjoyed a cream tea (although in our case, coffee replaced the tea but at no extra cost) in leafy surroundings.

We had an amazing two weeks exploring the eastern side of the South Downs and walked over 100 miles in total! It’s a beautiful area to visit and if the weather is on your side, you can’t have a bad day.

From one extreme to another, we left the rolling fields of Sussex for a quick visit to see our daughter in Norwich where she is coming to the end of her first year at Norwich University of The Arts. Being a student we knew we wouldn’t see her until after lunch so we had the morning to explore a little of the city. We didn’t go into the Castle as there was a wedding going on and we decided to keep out of the way, but the cathedral is worth a visit as is the area around it where there are many historic buildings to see as well as a riverside walk.

An afternoon’s shopping was the order of the day with Amy’s birthday coming up – that was more exhausting than hiking miles across the country! We had a great dinner at Jorges, a Portuguese restaurant in the city. If you’re looking for something different to eat then I would head there for good food and friendly, helpful staff. It’s quite small so making a reservation is advisable.

We stayed at the Norwich Camping and Caravan Club site which is located about a 25 minute walk outside the city centre (uphill from the campsite but fortunately downhill after dinner!). We didn’t have hook up although it was available on a number of pitches and didn’t use the facilities so cannot comment on them other than there was a reasonably priced washing machine and tumble dryer. We had one of the central pitches which felt a little cramped with motorhomes, caravans and tents seemingly haphazardly placed, but we were only there for two nights and the site was ideally placed for getting into the City, which also contributes to the price. Access to water and the grey dump was also awkward so as we didn’t really need either, we left the site without using either.

Sites used:
Newholme CL: £8 per night, no EHU and all grass. Water and dumping facilities. Note re campsite access – it’s only from the south of the village as there is a width restriction if coming the other way.


The Stables CL, Alfriston: £15 per night, EHU, water and dumping facilities. All grass pitches

Norwich CMC site: £20.65 per night, no EHU (but available). Water and dumping facilities available. Laundry.

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