On the 15th September was a marketing conference called Brighton SEO which I had booked a couple of months in advance. I decided to extend the stay into the weekend so I could spend a couple of days walking in the South Downs.
Unfortunately, a few days before the trip, I split with my partner of 8 years. It was an extremely upsetting time, I was not in the mood for the trip at all but I decided to be brave and go anyway. Brighton was a place we’d been to together many times and so as soon as I got there the tears came flooding in.
I arrived Thursday night and checked into an AirBNB house which was lovely. So that was a good start in a way but I was sad and lonely. On the Friday I attended the conference that I had came for.
It sucked. None of the sessions were applicable to my business and I found myself bored, my mind wandered to my ex and I was on the verge of tears for the entire day. I just about managed to get through it but I left a few minutes before the (boring) keynote ended so I could grab my stuff from the cloakroom and get the hell out of there before the crowds unloaded from the auditorium.
I then went and sat on the beach, found a quiet spot and cried for a while. This got the sadness out of my system for a while, and I headed back to the house I was staying at, watched some telly and actually got a decent night’s sleep.
The next day I was actually in fairly good spirits to start with and I headed to the train station where the bus to the South Downs also stopped, and had breakfast. I’d researched a nice cafe beforehand and had this Mexican breakfast which was as good as it looked!
The bus stop was just outside of the cafe which was very convenient, and within a short while I was dropped off outside the Devil’s Dyke pub.
The views were amazing right off the bat and I hadn’t even gone anywhere yet. That morning a local handgliding (or is it paragliding?) club was assembed outside the pub and I watched them in amazement for about half an hour. It looked absolutely AWESOME! I spoke to one of the guys doing it and promptly added it to my ‘bucket list’! He told me, “it’s the most fun you can have with some string!”
So after watching them for a while I set out… and then had to turn back. Without going into too much detail, I had a very bad tummy! I’d had problems back at the house and then I had to go to the toilet again at the train station which I’d hoped had been the last of it but nope! I was about half a mile in and if you have ever attempted to walk whilst at the same time had to clench like you’re trying to crack a walnut with your butt cheeks you’ll know this is NOT easy!
I think that ‘walk’ back to the pub was possibly the most physically uncomfortable I have ever been aside from physical pain. I made it, only just! I then sat outside the pub trying to decide whether to just cut my losses and go back to the house or to risk starting again, bearing in mind that there were no toilets for several miles.
I took the risk. Luckily it was worth it and my tummy problems seemed to be over.
I was using a guide from a book I had bought and it was well directed and although it was a bit of a pain having to constantly pull the book out of my pocket to check every little track, it was good and I didn’t get lost.
The views were stunning, I could see for miles…
As you can see from the pic, I’m up reasonably high here. There were some gentle climbs which I had to take quite slow but I felt an improvement in my fitness over some of my earlier walks.
After about 2/3 into the journey I came to a pub where I stopped and had a proper rest, treating myself to a half of cider and some snacks.
One thing that I was concerned about was that the forecast said it was going to rain. It wasn’t due to start until about 4pm but because of my toilet troubles and getting distracted by the gliders I was way behind schedule and it was already gone 4 by the time I got to the pub.
As I sat outside with my cider it started to rain… just a bit at first and then it poured. I hurrired back inside the pub and contemplated what to do.
By this point I was tired, I was starting to get lonely and upset again and I was rather fed up and just wanted the day to be over. I contemplated getting a taxi back but I thought no, I’ve come all this way and booked these days just so I can walk these downs so I decided to continue.
I started out into a meadow with the rain pouring down. Shortly after I entered a wooded area which had of course become extremely muddy from all the rain. I was very thankful for my sturdy walking boots! The mud actually splashed right up to my knees!
However, on the other side of these woods was finally the start of Devil’s Dyke itself which had been my goal destination from the beginning. Also, the rain had started to slow down now.
Shortly after this came the most challenging part of the walk. There was a hill which looked fairly short but rather steep for me. If you’ve read some of my previous posts you’ll know that I get out of breath very quickly on hills!
I really had to take this one step at a time. I was struggling and breathing hard but I did it! I got to the top! The view from up here was quite something. Even though it was still raining, the clouds were starting to clear and the evening sun was flowing across the valley. In this moment even though I was wet, muddy, exhausted and very sad, I was able to find a few moments of bliss just looking out over the landscape at this gorgeous view.
Well, I thought I was at the top but then I got rather confused by the guidebook. It said that at the top of the hill I should meet the track of the South Downs Way but I couldn’t find it.
I found a sort of track but it didn’t look right. I wandered around a bit and then realised that I wasn’t at the top of the hill at all, I was only about half way up! But the upper half was a more gentle slope that went quite far back. It took me a while but I finally found the track and then it was a very easy walk back to the pub where I started.
I ordered myself a large coke, nibbled on some Kendal mint cake, got out my laptop and did some work for about an hour and a half before taking the bus back to town. The wifi at the house wasn’t very reliable so I had planned this in advance.
By the time I got back it was around 9pm. I’d had been an emotional couple of days and I knew that I had done what I came to do. I decided to leave the next morning and go home rather than walking in the downs again.