‘You came, and look’d, and loved the view long known and loved by me: green Sussex fading into blue, and one gray glimpse of sea’. – Green Sussex by Lord Tennyson
Our first spring time walk of 2017 took us to the beautiful Black Down in Sussex – amusingly this was a spot we’d seen many a time when reaching the top of Leith Hill in the AONB of the Surrey Hills, often squinting into the distance asking each other – ‘What is that, what is it called?”
Well on this occasion we found out and our course was set for our March walk!
The highest point of the South Downs National Park at 280 metres (919 feet) it is perhaps less well known than the coastal Birling Gap and Seven Sisters but it is nonetheless beautiful.
We aren’t the only ones to think so either – “Alfred Lord Tennyson fell in love with the Black Down Hills and would stride out through the heather, wrapped in his cloak….through Black Down’s beautiful woodland and heathland.” – National Trust
Being in such esteemed company we began our walk through the heathland on somewhat overcast morning (I see a theme emerging in 2017 walks so far and hope to break it soon!) and soon met some of the local residents to the area – the rather stoic looking Belted Galloway cattle who were far more interested in the local vegetation than the ‘trespassers’ traipsing through their home.
At this point I should mention, Jo, our marketing director, has what she likes to call ‘a healthy respect for cows and their space’ in other words if we are ever in their proximity you will find her at the most furthest point possible to them – however she allowed us long enough to grab some snaps before leaving these gentle giants to their morning munching.
The route I’d planned, in part, followed the Sussex Borders path and as we traversed through dense woodland we once more enjoyed the peace that comes from having the luck to see very few other walkers.
I’m a great believer that walking really is ‘chicken soup for the soul’ – during the busiest times I find a great peace in walking amongst nature whether it is in the Sussex countryside or Welsh mountains.
However I’m not completely nice as I’d decided we’d first descend Black Down so that the final part of our walk was actually to ascend up it again – provoking some choice words from our group when on our way back up!
Emerging from the woods we took in the views of the peaceful and sedate Marley Common heathland (also to home to cattle) and enjoyed a quick break before continuing.
Heading once back into woodland we were fortunate to see large plots of Wild Garlic (although not yet out) thriving against its tall neighbours. I think one of the things that really struck us with this walk was the sheer diversity of trees through the different woodlands from beech trees to birches.
It was almost claustrophobic and mesmerising at the same time – somewhat reminiscent of Frodo and his company of dwarves as they go deeper into the eerie Mirkwood Forest in The Hobbit before he finally finds salvation above the trees. However in our case the woodland opened out into an area recently logged but we were happy for the ‘open’ space.
With our stomachs rumbling we made our way to my strategic lunch spot – The Red Lion in nearby Fernhurst for some well earned grub before the dreaded ascent back up Black Down.
Four roast dinners & pints later our bellies were full and actually needed to walk off the many roast potatoes we’d been scoffing.
Throughout the walk it had been particularly muddy underfoot and in a post Sunday Roast haze we found the terrain particularly challenging but our persistence was to be rewarded with not one but two beautiful view points as we reached the top. Keen to hit the ‘official’ viewpoint we marched on towards the Temple of the Winds which is named after a Bronze Age circular bank..
Approaching the viewpoint we were treated to spectacular views across the county – due to the discovery of flint artefacts it it is believed that people had settled here as early 6000 BC. It always fascinates me to think that someone has trod the steps as me hundreds, if not thousands of years before and how different the landscape may have been then before the advancement of agricultural farming and the changing climate.
Our walk was now at an end but just over 17.5km later we left with a profound sense of humility, realising once again we’re just the ‘tourists’ passing through these much revered places that will still exist long after we are gone, enchanting generations and generations of more people to come.