Diary: Saturday on the South Downs Way

south downs wayAfter what seemed like months of chill mist, damp and drizzle, the sun shone on Saturday.

A biting breeze cut its teeth on the still-bare trees but we headed east anyway, taking a circuitous route from home to join the South Downs Way at Breaky Bottom Farm, which nestles in a deep, chalky fold.

Cool, secret forests. The intricate map of jigsaw puzzle fields stretching north towards Surrey. The beach where your feet slip-slide-sink in warm flint cobbles. Sussex is very lovely. But the hard spine of the Downs, pinned under a bright sky by circling buzzards, must be one of the most exhilarating landscapes to lose yourself in.

Emerald sheep-shorn grass with arching spring-clear blue above, dotted with cotton bud cumulus spread into streaks by the wind. The loose bellowing of cows thrown our way on the buffety air. Occasional chattering groups of cagouled and booted hikers, red cheeked and cheery.

Curling wearily along the banks of the Cuckmere at low tide with a leg-sore cowboy’s lurching gait, we inch across the map towards the coast and catch a well-earned bus home.

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