Walking the South Downs Way (SDW) Exton to Amberley

Friday 10th May was our second day of walking SDW and, after a very good breakfast, our very amenable landlady took us by car to the village shop in Exton for picnic food and then delivered us back to where we’d left SDW the previous day. Unfortunately, we then soon lost all traces of SDW signs and ended up walking back virtually to the village shop! In Exton we discovered a clutch of SDW signs that seemed to match up with neither the OS map we had, nor with the two routes for the SDW given in our guide book. After Exton, back on the SDW shown on the map and in the guidebook again, we climbed Winchester Hill, from where we could just glimpse the Isle of Wight. There then followed a fairly long stretch of countryside walking, past a fly-fishing centre where we stopped for lunch

Fish pools near Whitewool Farm

Fish pools near Whitewool Farm

and up and over Downs that took us past HMS Mercury and the high point of the Way, Butser Down 270m. Then we descended to cross the A3 and entered the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and on to Buriton where we stayed in a pub. This was probably the least well-appointed of our stops and probably our longest day at around 29km. The weather was mostly dry but we had some not too heavy showers.

Next day, it was continental breakfasts all round – cooked cost extra – then off to take a look at the very pretty Buriton Church, and duck pond containing massive carp, before a climb up through old quarries to join SDW again. This was a shorter day over Harting Down and another Beacon Hill where we had breathtaking views over the Solent, Southampton and the Isle of Wight and, to the north, over South Harting.

Village of South Harting

Village of South Harting

The SDW signs skirt the top of Beacon Hill but if you follow them you miss the treat of the views from the top and the earthworks of the ancient hill fort. Shortly after Beacon and Pen Hills and just before the Devil’s Jumps we left SDW for a considerable detour to our B&B in Chilgrove. The day was only about 19km, but it rained heavily around midday and we were very relieved when we arrived at our B&B, earlier than expected. We found our self-contained bungalow accommodation ready and waiting for us, with the heating on. It was needed! The bungalow, one of two, had been recently converted from stables and was very warm, dry, spacious and comfortable. I watched some of the football cup final while our clothes dried off and we all showered, seperately, in the spacious wetroom. That evening the landlord drove us the km or so to the pub and apologised for not being able to collect us later. The pub was extremely disappointing. The food was tasty (I had sea bass), but haute cuisine, and not adequately substantial for walkers. One of the dishes arrived luke-warm and then it took the bar staff 4 attempts to get the bill correct; not a good experience and we had to walk back in the rain.

On Sunday, after an excellent cooked breakfast, we walked back up to SDW joining it around Cocking Down. This took about an hour of what was another quite long day of about 27km. We soon passed the Cowdray estate with its yellow doors and window frames.

P1050047Then up to Bignor Hill where we had more coastal views including, in the distance, the white tent-like structure at Butlins, Bognor Regis. After a sunny morning the rain started around 4 and we were very pleased when we found a tea shop still open, just before 5, in Amberley. Amberley claims to be the prettiest village on the Downs and it certainly has its fair share of pretty houses. But prettiest? I reserve judgement. We took some hot drinks and cake there and left behind a few puddles. Our B&B for the night was about 1km off the SDW but not too far from the tea house. It was very comfortable and clean (we had to bundle all our wet gear into giant plastic bags when we arrived!) and we had views of fallow deer on Amberley Wild Brooks from our bedroom windows. That evening we met E and P in the pub where we had reserved a table some weeks ago. The food and beer were good, I had bangers and mash.

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