Back in 2013, we (Martin, Jill, Colin and Ann) completed our walk of the full length of the South Downs Way. We did this over a total of five weekends, in a somewhat erratic order, and not always walking in the same direction. On each weekend we used rail travel to get there and back, leaving our cars at home, and we carried with us the minimum necessary for an overnight stay in a pub or B&B.
The diagram below shows the rail connections that make the SDW walk possible, the overnight stops we used and some cafe’s and pubs along the way. I’m writing up this Blog in the hope that others will find the map and other tips in this post useful.
Rail connections and overnight stops
Each weekend we walked about twenty-five miles – the South Downs way is 100 miles, the Eastbourne Loop adds 15 miles and then there were a few more getting on and off the walk.
On the first day we caught the train to Amberley and walked to Steyning, staying overnight and eating at the The Chequer Inn.
On the second day we continued from Steyning via Devil’s Dyke to Pyecombe, where we caught a bus down to Brighton and ate fish and chips on the beach, before travelling home from Brighton by train.
View west from Devil’s Dyke towards Fulking Hill
Joined this time by Stephen and Jill, we caught the train to Eastbourne and on the first day walked westwards across the town and then climbed Beachy Head, continuing along the Seven Sisters and up the Cuckmere River Valley to Alfriston.
We had stayed overnight at The George Inn in Alfriston. Huge breakfast!
The George Inn Alfriston
Unfortunately it rained this day – but we can’t complain because it was perfect weather on all of the other nine days! We ended up in a fish and chip cafe in Eastbourne before catching the train home.
In order to rejoin the South Downs Way, we caught the train to Brighton and then a taxi ride to the start point at Pyecombe.
We had to split up for our overnight stop in Rodmell because of limited accommodation. Supper was at the Abergavenny Arms in the village
To the Pub
On Day 6 we walked for part of the day with a young lady trekking home from university, before eventually arriving back in Alfriston (our overnight stop on the Eastbourne Loop) from where we took a taxi to Lewes and had some supper before catching the train home.
Southease and towards Alfriston
On the train to Amberley again, but this time walking west towards Cocking.
Good weather again and some lovely scenery. We stayed the night at The Bluebell in Cocking (sadly now closed), where we had an excellent supper and probably the best breakfast ever.
Some steep paths near Beacon Hill, before eventually leaving the South Downs Way and dropping down into Buriton for a pub supper.
Near Beacon Hill
The journey home involved a short taxi ride to Petersfield , then a London bound train.
Our last weekend and we caught the train to Petersfield and then a short taxi ride to rejoin the South Downs Way just above Buriton.
It was another lovely day and we were soon climbing up Butser Hill.
We stayed the night at Corhampton Lane Farm, made very welcome by Suzanne who kindly drove us down to The Shoe Inn at Exton for supper, and picked us up later. It was an enlightening experience staying on a working farm and the Bed & Breakfast was of a very high standard. To quote a previous visitor: in one word: ‘fantastic’; in two words ‘bloody fantastic’.
The next day we set off again with packed lunches, stopping en-route at The Milburys for a pint or two, and peered down their very deep well. We then trudged on past Old Winchester Hill before descending into Winchester.
Old Winchester Hill
Finally, a pub supper at The Vine in Winchester, having not been allowed into the Cathedral, before heading back home by train towards London.
We we’re all done and thinking about a new challenge for the next year – which turned out to be Walking the Ridgeway
We (Martin, Jill, Colin and Ann) have now completed another adventure – walking the Ridgeway, a route passing through ancient landscapes, through downland, secluded valleys and woodlands and used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers. This is a follow-up to our South Downs Way walk, where on each weekend we used rail travel to get there and back, leaving our cars at home. We carry with us the minimum necessary for an overnight stay in a pub or B&B.
The diagram below shows the rail connections that make the Ridgeway walk possible, the overnight stops we used and some cafe’s and pubs along the way. The walk started at Avebury and over four weekends we completed the full length, culminating in a small celebration at the top of Ivinghoe Beacon in May 2016. We hope you will find the map and other tips in this post useful.
On the first day we caught the train from Reigate to Reading and then Reading to Pewsey, with a pre-booked mini-cab taking us the last few miles to the Avebury Henge and Stone Circles. After walking about 12 miles, we stayed overnight at The Sanctuary B&B and had an excellent supper at The Inn with the Well.
Martin at Avebury
On the second day we walked a further 12 miles, leaving the Ridgeway and dropping down to the village of Ashbury, where we had a pint in the Rose and Crown Inn before getting a mini-cab to Swindon for our return train home, again changing at Reading.
On the first day we caught the train from Reigate to Swindon, negotiating a taxi fare onward to re-join the Ridgeway near Ashbury. After walking about 10 miles, we relaxed at the Court Hill Tea Rooms before continuing on a couple of miles to the Regis Bed & Breakfast and supper at the King Alfred’s Head pub.
Colin and Ann getting organised
The B&B kindly took us back to where we had left the Ridgeway and we then walked a fairly remote further 15 miles before descending into Streatley where we enjoyed magnificent views of the Thames sitting outside the Swan Inn. The train home was as short walk away from Goring & Streatley station, changing at Reading and then back to Reigate and a taxi home.
The Thames at Streatley
Having arrived by train via Reading we set off through the town of Goring, joining the Ridgeway, which for the first few miles follows the Thames before branching off in a North-Easterly direction.
Alongside the River Thames
Through the woods we came across wonderful bluebells and in the afternoon we were lured into the Holy Trinity Church at Nuffield where facilities were provided for making tea and coffee and cake could be found in the fridge (in return for a donation to support the church).
Bluebells alongside the Ridgeway
It was quite a long day, walking about 17 miles by the time we reached our accommodation at the Fat Fox Inn at Watlington at about 6 o’clock in the evening.
We set off from the Fat Fox and rejoined the Ridgeway – very easy walking initially and soon we found ourselves lured into Chinnor for a pint and sandwiches at the Crown pub.
Excellent signs on The Ridgeway, some with distances
After Chinnor the tearrain is more undulating and we got a few glimpses of blue sky and sunshine, as can be seen on the photograph below.
Fields of rape approaching Princes Risborough
The train back to London Marylebone was straightforward, although we picked up a lot of football fans exiting Wembley Stadium for the last leg of the journey. We rounded off the day with a Mezza supper at Tas in Borough High Street before returning home from London Bridge Station.
After an early start we set off walking from Princes Risborough Station at about 10:00am climbing steadily up to the view point at the top of Whiteleaf Nature Reserve
View over Princes Risborough and back towards Watlington
Along this section of the Ridgeway you pass through part of the estate surrounding Chequers, the country house retreat of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Chequers, the country house retreat of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
After quite a long day’s walking we eventually arrived in Wigginton, staying at The Greyhound where we enjoyed beer, wine and an excellent meal.
From Wigginton its only about six miles to the top of Ivinghoe beacon and soon the end was in sight.
Ivinghoe Beacon – the end in sight!
A brief celebration at the top and then we were on our way back down again via the The Valiant Trooper at Aldbury where we were made most welcome. Back home then on the train from Tring into Euston.