South Downs Way days 5 and 6 - Amberley to East Meon

Date walked: 25/04/2018

Time taken: 2 days

Wednesday - (Littlehampton to) Amberley to Cocking

After a day off spent mostly not at the seaside, and a morning wander by the strangely coloured river, I was having a bit of trouble getting back on track - I hadn't looked at train times until 10, and with one train an hour the next was at 10:55, and then I nearly missed that one because the machine refused to eat my fiver - a bit of a train to Glasgow moment with the guard, or whatever he's called these days, calling me to run to the one open door he was still standing at.

I wanted to wander down first to Amberley village, which was supposed to be very pretty, and seemed to be occupied mainly by men on ladders - one thatching a roof, two tiling another, and one painting window frames - I don't think I saw anyone else except the postman. It was pretty, with thatched houses and not-thatched houses and a pond and a church without a spire and a castle where a saint had lived, but I'd seen a few pretty villages by now.

Amberley houses

Back on track, I turned off the road to cross the railway line before briefly meeting the river to cross it - the Arun was once part of a canal route to London, and the raised path along its bank looked like it might once have been part of a towpath.

River Arun

I was walking parallel to rather than through the next village, Houghton, crossing a little road and heading quite steeply uphill to a bigger one, where a minibus was disgorging a horde of DoE type youngsters. About five minutes later, however, they'd stopped for a rest, letting me get past them and head on along the side of the hill.

I was getting used to the greenness, but it was still a real change from a week earlier in the north. Here the trees in the oddly angled plantation were a whole mix of kinds, and so a whole mix of colours - I love the bright green of the first leaves.

Varied trees

An odd junction first split around a clump of trees, and then produced another set of signposts splitting the paths again - my route was slanting uphill to the left, then up a track towards a hilltop.

Odd junction

Up on the hill it suddenly started to rain - or RAIN - one minute I was a little bit wet, and the next I was soaked.

There was no shelter anywhere, just open field, and as the forecast had been for a completely dry day my waterproofs were deep in my bag somewhere, so I could only go on and hope for shelter under the distant trees. But as I came to the far side, another road end car park, the school minibus from earlier arrived, and they very kindly let me come into the empty back to change and sort myself out - so much easier than trying to do it on wet ground in the rain!

The rain had looked like it was never going to change, but by the time I was all prepared against it it was easing, and by the time I reached the Roman signpost at the next junction - somewhere near a Roman villa - it was dry, and there was a bench, and I sat down to eat lunch in case I didn't get another chance.

Roman signpost

I'd noticed this on the OS map as well - that Chichester, for example, was also marked as Noviomagus, just in case any lost Romans came looking for it.

I’d lost my dramatic edges again, and to be honest they never really came back for the rest of the walk - this was a gentle descent over open farmland, although the views were improving a bit as the weather did.

Open ground

That was how it went on - sometimes open ground and sometimes patches of woodland, but the same unexciting landscape with the views often hidden by trees.

In the trees

The farm by the next road was making a most peculiar noise, and then it was another pull uphill and through woodland to patches of open ground inside it, past another marker post at Tegleaze. There was thunder in the air somewhere, and I was a bit worried about a storm coming on while I was inside the trees, because there was nowhere to go, but it stayed dry for quite a while.

It was pretty up here in a quiet way, just the colours of the trees and the grass and the earth.


When the rain came back it brought with it hail and then sleet, but it was neither so heavy nor so long lasting this time - it was still an almost unbelievable change from the weekend heatwave. I was able to shelter under a tree for the worst of it, and before I had left the woodland it was dry again, and I could sit down on a stump for a rest and a snack.

The next open area was a cow field which I skirted the edge of, and then I was through the last band of trees and onto the last slope downhill - after all the long days earlier in the week it didn't feel like I could be at the end yet, but the hill in front of me was tomorrow's, not today's.

Tomorrow's hill

Of course it wasn't as easy as that - it looked quite bright as I came downhill, and then suddenly the black clouds were in and the rain on as bad as ever. I hurried down hoping to find shelter at the farm at the start of the road, and stood under the edge of a barn roof while the rain pelted down outside and everything dripped and trickled around me, and then it started to ease a bit and I plodded on down the track to the church with its flame coloured trees and into the village.

This was the start of the B+B half of the route, rather than the hostel half, and I felt very untidy, not allowed to come in with my wet shoes or my waterproof trousers on - but eventually I was allowed upstairs, and it was nice to have a corner to myself and be able to spread all my wet possessions over the heaters and the airing cupboard.

The pub in the village had closed, so rather than going to another local one I got the bus right into Midhurst and went to Pizza Express for the change I'd meant to have in Chichester and forgotten about - Midhurst was a little old place that it would have been nice to have time to prowl around, but I didn't really, just the restaurant and the shop and dash back to the bus, rather than waiting for the last one.

Thursday - Cocking to East Meon

I had never really sorted out where I was going to stay for the next night, because I kept dithering about it - the place I'd first had my eye on had closed down at least temporarily, a pub almost on the route was expensive and had a menu so posh there was nothing I wanted to eat, going up to Petersfield had advantages and disadvantages - but now I had to make my mind up, and with a really awful forecast for the day after I decided to push through to East Meon and hopefully reduce time spent in the rain.

To start the day I was retracing my steps, back past the church and out of the village.

Flame coloured trees

The lane was no longer running with water, but it seemed quite a lot of uphill for the start of the day, and the barn where I'd sheltered was no longer dripping, although there were still deep puddles about.


Various buildings around the village had bright yellow window frames to show that they belonged to the Cowdray estate, which I'd been reading the tragic story of the night before - I'm not quite sure what the point is of marking all your property like this, but it did look striking.

Yellow window frames

As usual, the day started with a fairly steep climb onto the downs. This first section was like a look back at previous days - the view to the north wasn't quite the flatlands of the Weald, but at least it was a view.

A view north

I even had a definite edge, reminding me to the section around Chanctonbury.

The edge

A track down through the woods brought me to the odd line of tumuli known as the Devil's Jumps - he seems to have been busy in these parts.

Devil's Jumps

I then came out into farmland, crossing the access track and heading up again along the edge of a field - although I wasn't quite sure what harm free range chickens were likely to do me.

Free range chickens

The path skirts around the next Beacon Hill - there are quite a few Beacon Hills along the way - but I wanted to climb it, so I did - not much effort for a nice little summit.

Beacon Hill

This is the line of the early 19th century semaphore telegraph from the naval base at Portsmouth to London - there's a Telegraph House at the bottom of this hill, although the house is newer, and the next hill to the south is Telegraph Hill.

Beacon Hill summit

It was nice to have villages to look down on again and geography to puzzle out - East Harting around a tangle of roads, and South Harting with a green spire to its church.

South Harting

Now I was on my own tangle of roads, crossing one onto a path heading steeply down to cross another before I expected it, onto a farm track - more rain here, but at a junction a farm building with an overhanging roof made a good lunch stop.

I was about to make my second county border crossing, downhill into Hampshire - no marker, but it was just after where a smaller lane turned off near the bottom of the slope, and then I was onto a minor road lined with lovely autumn coloured trees.

Hampshire ahead

Road and a track that was really a road - lots of cyclists along here - and road again and I was at the junction above Buriton - not on the route, but it sounded like it might be worth a detour.

And it probably was, except that it started to rain heavily again as I was on my way down, so that I dashed to shelter in the church doorway, where I met a man who had been stationed at Faslane and compared the South Downs unfavourably with the Scottish hills - I thought they were quite nice for a change, and said so!

Otherwise it had thatched ducks, and a pond for real ducks, and pretty houses, and a manor house where Edmund Gibbon had lived, but despite the prettiness I seemed to be off the tourist trail - in general, I felt that the South Downs Way could do with a few more tearooms and a *lot* more toilets.


Still, I knew there was a tearoom at the visitor centre in the forest park, so I headed on up the road and into the trees - a confusing place, because there were four different named routes running through it beside local paths, and the waymarked SDW route seemed to be another one again from any of the tracks marked on the map.

Queen Elizabeth Forest

But as long as I did follow the markings it was fine, and after a while I found myself coming down the other side again, although a bit precariously, because the path had been badly churned up by mountain bikes which were supposed to have kept to their own path - eventually in a particularly muddy bit I slipped and fell, and just felt generally fed up with it all.

And I was doomed to further disappointment, because although it was only just after 5, and the visitor centre was advertised both online and on the side outside as being open to 5.30, a lady was closing up the shop and all the staff were coming out to go home, and the door to the cafe was locked. The toilets were open, at least, but otherwise I could only sit down and eat blueberries, and decide to have a proper rest on Butser Hill instead.

I'd crossed a variety of main roads of different sizes, but this was probably the biggest yet, heading down to Portsmouth, and the first underpass.

The masts on Butser Hill were in view from the far side of the road, and the summit didn't look far away, just a smooth climb between two patches of scrubby woodland and some sheep determined to be herded - but I was wearing out after another long day, and it was harder work than I expected.

Butser Hill

At the top of the bushes I followed them round to the right towards the summit, and found myself following a dogwalking couple round the edge of the hill - I didn't want to leave the path for rough grass wihout a reason, but it started to feel like I was never going to get any nearer the top before I saw the trig point and could head over to it.

This is the highest point on the South Downs, and on the walk, but it didn't feel like it - I think what had happened was that the land to the north had risen up to meet me, but it definitely didn't give me that earlier feeling of being raised above the world.

Butser Hill summit

I headed back straight to the masts and the car park and sat down at one of the picnic tables for a rest - a lovely countryside view to the north, although the clouds were beginning to gather again.

There were about five different ways from here to East Meon, all unhelpfully sprawling across the join of the next map, and with the shortest ways now meaning the longest walk in the rain tomorrow - I went for a middle one, not the road turning down from the bottom of the access road, but the track after it, steeply downhill past a fence which seemed to have been yarnbombed by sheep, while the skies opened again and I decided just to get wet since I would be able to get dry again soon enough.

Gathering clouds

After jinking round a farm the track led onto a very anonymous road, so that I had to fish out the new map to check which way to go, and then it seemed a long way still to the houses of the village.

I was staying in a fairly posh kind of pub, which was not just comfortable but thoughtful - milk for tea, and a fridge on the landing for food you had with you, and a stock of portable heaters in case you were cold or wet while the automatic heating hadn't clicked on - and had a bar smelling wonderfully of wood smoke. However I decided that although the food was no doubt good, a place which felt it had to specify a hen's egg on its menu probably wasn't catering to my tastes, and wandered along to the other pub, named after Izaak Walton, and ate ordinary but tasty lamb shank.

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User avatar
Location: Edinburgh
Activity: Wanderer
Mountain: Eildon North Hill
Place: Tarbert Loch Fyne

Munros: 6
Corbetts: 6
Grahams: 5
Donalds: 16
Wainwrights: 162
Hewitts: 94
Sub 2000: 19
Long Distance routes: West Highland Way    Borders Abbeys Way    Fife Coastal Path    St Cuthbert's Way    Berwickshire Coastal Path   

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Trips: 13
Sub2000s: 3
Hewitts: 1
Wainwrights 5


Trips: 30
Munros: 1
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 2
Sub2000s: 5
Hewitts: 17
Wainwrights 24


Trips: 23
Munros: 1
Corbetts: 1
Donalds: 5
Hewitts: 16
Wainwrights 23


Trips: 25
Munros: 2
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 2
Donalds: 8
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 17
Wainwrights 38


Trips: 20
Munros: 2
Sub2000s: 3
Hewitts: 21
Wainwrights 40


Trips: 16
Corbetts: 1
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 10
Wainwrights 11


Trips: 15
Distance: 90.5 km
Ascent: 395m
Grahams: 1
Donalds: 1
Sub2000s: 3
Hewitts: 8
Wainwrights 21


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