I’ve done a fair amount of walking in my life and explored places near and far. This however, was the first time I’ve ever walked a long distance path from end to end.
It really was a great experience to be able to appreciate the changing landscapes, the histories, the different uses and of course the length of time that the paths and the land has been trod and inhabited by humans.
It seems hard to think that the tops of these hills used to be; sanctuary from the wild, wooded valleys below and the super highways of their times for precious raw materials, goods and food. Or that they were witness to marching hoards of invaders, settlers from the continent and the sites of historic battles. Of course in more recent times they have been part of the front line defences against possible invasions and post war were farmed on a more intensive basis to make up for food shortages. It is far easier to understand that they have also been the home and inspiraton for many artists and writers.
These days it is still a working landscape but once up on the Downs you have a chance to get away from the hurly burly of 21st century life. The lack of noise pollution (yes it is possible to get away from the roar of the traffic) means you can listen to the birds singing, bees buzzing around the wild flowers, wind blowing, squirrels rustling in the dead leaves, or the rain pattering on your waterproof. You can speed along them on a mountain bike or take a more leisurely stroll. Alternatively as many people do you can throw yourself off them and suspend yourself above the landscape soaring like a bird.
For me the South Downs are a place of inspiration and fascination. Doing the whole Way means I now have a long list of places I’d like to go back to and given the chance just to sit and absorb the essence of the place and scenery around and now I know where those perfect benches are!