Our next leg of the South Downs Way began with an early start from Brighton in order to catch one of the rare and illusive buses from Petersfield to Buriton. After a bit of a wait (the transport connections aren’t exactly seamless) we arrived at Burtion pond only to have a bit of a confusing conversation one of the residents about the Milky Way (as it happens a local path up to the South Downs Way, but without the view). We were helpfully pointed in its direction but proceeded in the opposite one, as we didn’t want to go that way. We had to get to the Way where we left off last time and also see the view!
We crossed at last from Hampshire into West Sussex, the one county we’ll walk all the way across, and on up to Harting Down, a good place to stop for lunch, to look at the view and watch the gliders, hang gliders and model airplanes flying about.
Once again we found ourselves walking through a landscape that has been influenced by humans for thousands of years. Harting Down itself was inhabited 5000 years ago while the Iron Age Hill fort at another Beacon Hill dates from about 500BC. A memorial to a German Second World War pilot (Hauptman Joseph Ostermann) and Telegraph House which commemorates the sending of semaphore messages from the area during the Napoleonic Wars are more recent. But then we were catapulted back into our ancient past walking past cross dykes and onto the Devil’s Jumps the best preserved group of Bronze Age burial mounds on the Downs. A visit to those was slightly curtailed by the presence of some frisky looking bullocks but we got the feel of this impressive burial site. It was slightly different from my previous visit back in 2003 as trees have been cut down and the grazing is to assist its conversion back to chalk down land.
Onwards and nearer Cocking was a more modern addition to the landscape in the form of Andy Goldsworthy’s “Chalk Stone” sculpture, there are a whole group of them but as we were dusty and hot the Blue Bell Inn in Cocking beckoned, what a treat. Again this place is somewhat changed since my last trip along the South Downs Way when it was cheap and cheerful. Now it’s still cheerful and welcoming but, with a former Masterchef Tony Bale and his partner Julia Dent in charge, not cheap. In fact we enjoyed a very fine dining experience, followed by a comfortable night in a bed supplied by the Victorian Bed Company (apparently)!