PYW - Easter Weekend 2008

Eating and Drinking our way along the South Downs

The traditional Peterborough Younger Walkers Easter weekend saw 11 of us heading to the South Downs after Debbie’s extraordinary organisation miracle to get us into 4 different hostels and lodges over the busiest of annual weekends.  Our hotel in Eastbourne had four floors of interesting and colourful decoration but as we were returning there on the last night of the trip the lovely Buddha and tapestries eyed up by Debbie and Louise had to stay right where they were!  The planned figure of eight walk should account for about 42 miles but given that cats were pulling the string whilst the maps were being measured it all seemed a bit of a rough guestimate - they say the adventure is in the journey not the destination, which seems to be the motto of the group.

Maundy Thursday - Eastbourne to Alfriston

After Gordon finally finished his “super-size me” breakfast we headed straight up the first hill onto the downs and into the wilds of the countryside just to wear it off for him.  Paradise Street was the official entry to the walk and the town of Eastbourne and the coast pulled away quickly as we headed inland to our delightful lunch stop at the Eight Bells at Jevington.   It was one of the first times that we’ve turned up for a pub before it’s opened, but when is too early for the first drink of the day?  The delicious sounding dessert menu soon distracted the pudding fans of the club away from wholesome savoury main courses straight into the naughtier selection.  The bread and butter pudding chosen by Stephen and Debbie scored over 10 out of 10.  Never one to finish her food, Debbie changed the habit of a lifetime and ate every morsel even with Stephen begging for the leftovers.  Debbie may have been heard to say that she liked a man that begged but it still didn’t help his case! 
After dragging ourselves out of the pub we carried on across the downs via the Long Man of Wilmington, the original rambler of the strong and silent mould.  The weather quickly deteriorated so we didn’t hang around to admire the view for long before climbing again towards our overnight resting point of Alfriston.  The PYW tour of UK tea rooms continued with a stop at the Singing Kettle just to shelter from the rain you understand. After a few hours walking, the facilities proved popular but with one small toilet across a wet courtyard and with all our walking boots outside the front of the building we resorted to walking socks inside plastic bags tied around our ankles - very flattering and time consuming, one at a time.  A short walk in the rain via the Clergy House and the lovely buildings in Alfriston found us in the luxury of Dean’s Place Hotel for an unusually posh night’s sleep.

Good Friday - Alfriston to Lewes

The breakfast buffet at the hotel provided the first food challenge of the day by clearing them out of porridge, hot cross buns as well as the usual fruit, cereal and big fry-ups.  A short walk to the local deli for the next stage of choosing lunch from the great selection of local and home cooked food weighed our bags down enough for the first hours climb up the chalk walkway in the sunshine.  Question for Day 2: How many women does it take to fold a map?  In a strong cross wind, rain and with no idea where we were heading, three was the optimum number!
Half way up we got our first view of the sea for the day but also the head wind that would be with us for the rest of the day.  The Easter Bunny managed to find us in the shape of Roger Rabbit as we had a brief sit down in a dip out of the wind.  After the forecasts of a usual inclement Easter weekend it was a really nice surprise to find that we could sit outside a lovely country pub in the sunshine and out of the vicious wind.  Lou helpfully suggested that as it had been a lovely easy walk so far that we should extend it in the afternoon - a decision she was later to regret when she had a quick kip on the grass outside the Glyndebourne Opera house at the afternoon break!
There are always lots of aah’s and ooh’s when the lambs are seen on the annual Easter walk but on top of this usual treat, we weren’t expecting to see fields and fields full of Llama’s or push me, pull you’s as they are more commonly known.  They were actually Alpaca’s but we’re still not sure what the difference is, but nevertheless they were very cute. 
More hills up and over to Lewes just about finished everyone off before we realised it was another up hill climb to all the B&Bs in Lewes.  Unfortunately for once, one of the venues didn’t quite meet with expectations and looked and smelt like a set from TV’s Life on Mars when it was last decorated in the 1970’s.  The newspaper reports of three strange looking ramblers running down Lewes high street away from Fag Ash J with clothes falling out of bags are only allegations and can’t be proved.  For once there weren’t any photos either! Our guest walker of the weekend, Bridget must have wondered what she’d let herself in for with all the additional excitement on offer.

Saturday - Lewes to Alfriston

The start of our return trip to Eastbourne was slightly delayed by a visit to the Harvey’s brewery but then headed along the River Ouse out of Lewes with the view of the Downs rising upwards in front of us.  The weather deteriorated again and it was a fight against time and wind to get the wet weathers on in time.  The wind on the river was competing against the incoming tide highlighting some very strange currents all the way along the walk.  The champagne Easter Eggs were a particular highlight of the weekend!  Jane’s usual local knowledge was further extended by the bedtime reading given at last night’s B&B and she kept us entertained when her voice wasn’t being blown away by the wind.  Our ‘au natural’ toilet facilities proved to be next to the busiest cross roads of the weekend with other walkers, cyclists and the odd dog roaming around, but nothing deters our Karen when nature calls.  
The climb back up onto the Downs towards the sea at Newhaven was made much more interesting with a hailstorm and killer headwind all rolled into one, but nothing stops PYW’s intrepid ramblers.  For anyone that thinks the South Downs are nothing more than just a chalk hillside, the variety of scenery on offer all weekend meant there was always something new to see to keep everyone’s interest. I think it was the first time that we had watched a snow storm being blown up a ridge and over the trees that we were walking behind so that we were completely sheltered whilst watching the resulting rainbow and inclement weather at altitude - well about 200 metres anyway - for Peterborough based ramblers this constitutes altitude!  Back on the cute lamb theme, Karen was heard to make comment on the New Zealand leisure centres dotted around the Downs - they consisted of sheep on a hay bale - I leave the rest to your imagination.

Our second visit to Alfriston didn’t involve any luxury, the Youth Hostel just outside the village was the opposite to a tardis - on the outside huge, but lacking space and tranquillity on the inside.  The 6 girls were jammed into a room for 4 which meant that only 3 girls and 3 bags could be on the floor at any one time.  The boys had 4 beds for 3 of them which was positively palatial while Sarah and Stephen in their luxury bunk bed room had Chinese puzzle-like games just to get from one end of the room to the other.  I found their case outside the room in the hall just so they could stand up together.  It was an entertaining evening but for all the wrong reasons, with some of the highlights in the quiet lounge including the YHA songbook (a real shame we couldn’t light a fire anywhere), incomplete games and puzzles and balloon football before other guests wanted to gate crash our party.  Mind you at £17 per night for a bed and three course meal you can’t ask for too much.   At least the showers were hot which always puts everything right.

Easter Sunday

Now little did we know that Easter Sunday would turn the world upside down from all the things we were used to:

1. Debbie ran up hills - the rumours that illegal substances in cold remedies were used again, could not be proved.

2. Sarah and Jane with a bit of help from a tail wind beat everyone else down hills.

3. Stephen made a MISTAKE which was later changed to an error in judgement.  The fact that everyone else was dry in their wet weathers and that he had to out-sprint Bridget to the lunch stop to dry his pants out was just a little error in judgement - yeah right.

4. Already obviously having a bad day - Stephen took a bit of a tumble on wet grass but was hidden from everyone seeing it behind Louise, so unfortunately there isn’t any photographic evidence in existence.

5. Roger, Claire and John arrived in Eastbourne last which was probably the result of a little bit too much alcohol en route and a few too many tree stops (that was just the boys).

It wasn’t just a weekend of eating and drinking so getting back to the walking, our final day walking was really saving the very best to last.  Our walk over the ridge from Alfriston in the wind and rain was just great - honestly.  We walked down the Cuckmere Valley estuary to join the popular Seven Sisters walk over the chalk coastal cliffs.  The weather made the walk really invigorating and one of those days you’re glad to be alive (well when you’re nice and dry, which most of us were).  On a sunny day the route would have been very busy but we had the whole place to ourselves.  After a short lunch time stop in a very steamed up tea room we headed up to Beachy Head.  For our last afternoon walking the sun came out so we could really take our time and admire the view of the coast and the lighthouses.  What Gordon mistook for concern over his safety at the edge of 200ft high cliffs was just that he was getting in everyone’s photos and ruining the view.  Mind you with a tally of near to 600 photos between the group then there should have been at least a couple he wouldn’t have appeared on.

From our last stop at the top of Beachy Head, the South Downs Way is probably one of the only walks where you can see most of the upland walking route that we’d taken over the 4 days in a visual review of the weekend.  So in a day of 15 ascents and approximately 460m of climbing we wandered down the last hill and along the final coastal path back into Eastbourne.  Most of us wandered, however after Gordon’s rugby tackle of John, they rolled most of the way down the hill.  The weekends away are always so good that you think they can’t get any better - how wrong can you be?

Thanks Deb, from all of us LIKE! x