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On the road again - 11 - The South Downs, part 10 - Devil’s Dyke

The next day, cats gathered, we headed back along the lane to the main road. I turned right and continued on towards Steyning. We bypassed Steyning then turned into Upper Beeding and picked up the road for Henfield. A short distance on from a caravan park I turned right onto a road through the village of Edburton to Fulking. At Fulking, the road bends sharply left and climbs a steep hill past a pub. Just as we approached the bend, I suddenly spotted a spring. I stopped. A quick scan made it obvious that stopping was going to be obstructive, particularly given the narrowness of the road. A staff member of the pub appeared. I asked about parking. I was told that I could park alongside the pub if I was going to be quick. I did so, grabbed every container I could find and filled all to the brink, guzzling on much as I was filling bottles.

Loaded with water, I continued up the hill and followed the winding road through the village and across the downs to Poynings. On a left bend, by a church, I turned right and followed the road as it twisted and turned to a T-junction. I turned the sharp right. The road runs along a ridge with commanding views, particularly through Devil’s Dyke. There are a number of laybys along the way. I stopped at one to consult a map to see if I could figure out where the best park up was likely to be.

Continuing on, we crossed the South Downs Way, then turned right following the curve of the Dyke, running parallel with the Way and passing car parks and laybys. The road drops to a sharp left with a junction on the bend to the right. I turned into it and headed back up and round, recrossing the South Downs Way until we reached a sizeable car park adjacent to one of those gastro-pubs.

On arriving, it was obvious I had a problem. The car park was packed! I pulled to one side and left the hazard warning lights on while I went for a walk. Given the size of my combo, I didn’t have the luxury of wandering around the car park. I walked past the pub and round the side. There is loads more parking, but was also packed. Then I spotted some waste ground further on. There were some live-ins already parked there and room for me. I quickly headed back, then gingerly made my way around the pub and onto the waste ground. What I considered to be the best spot was already occupied. The area was also filling up fast. I squeezed into the only real sensible spot left. Actually, it was a very good spot. One thing that was absolutely certain; had I have been just half an hour later, I would have really struggled to get in! Within the hour , there wasn’t a space to be found. It’s one hell of a busy spot! And the reason why is obvious! Stunning!!!

Devil’s Dyke is a valley some 300’ deep and about a mile long. It is the longest, deepest and widest dry valley in Britain. The views are to die for. John Constable considered it the most beautiful place in England. The views across the Sussex Weald are stunning with the North Downs in the distance. It is even claimed that the hills of the Cotswolds of Oxfordshire can be made out on a clear day! The side of the escarpment is seen wending its way to the West.

I was treated to a beautiful sunset on the first evening.

One morning, I got up to witness the ‘Dragon’s Breath’. The entire Weald was covered. The morning dew rose up from the low-lying Weald and reached the top of the escarpment. As the Sun rose, the dew rolled back to expose the Weald once again.

Of course, I had to go down into the Dyke while there. So, one beautiful day I headed out along the dangerous path that leads along the edge of the escarpment and down into the valley. (By the way; accidents have been known to be fatal. I was told of a woman, recently at the time, who had gone missing on a walk. Her body was eventually found at the bottom of the steep escarpment.) The path leads down through woodland. There were one or two fallen trees along the path. Fortunately, they were easy to get over/under. Eventually, I came out in the valley. I then followed the path through the valley with the steep sides towering above. The valley floor then rises steeply as I returned towards the pub, coming out behind it.

I met a few people there and the staff at the pub were friendly and welcoming. On the day I was thinking of leaving, I got chatting to a bloke in a small van. I was considering unhitching the caravan, then running back down to the village where the spring is in order to fill up on water. I had decided that it would be easier and safer. I didn’t need to, though, as matey kindly offered to take me in his van. After a coffee, we headed off.

At the spring, it was busy. I waited my turn. Then, as I was filling my bottles, an Asian man with his family, stopped and asked me about the water. He said, “Is it safe to drink?”

I replied, “Of course. It’s spring water, straight from the chalk hills.”

I handed him a bottle of the water and said, “Drink that.”

He took the bottle and had a swig. He appeared pleasantly shocked, exclaiming something like, “Oh my god!” Then admitted that he had never tasted water like it. “Is it free? Can anyone take it?” He eagerly asked.

“Of course.” I said, “It’s Nature’s gift. A gift from the gods, if you like.”

After passing the bottle round to his family, he thanked me, handing my bottle back. I said, “ You’re very welcome.” He then went off to find some bottles to fill.

Once I was loaded, I returned home with matey. By the time we got back it was starting to get busy again. So, I decided to stay one last night and head off in the morning when it was not so busy.

I had another great sunset.

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