Last weekend Martyn, Luna and I layered up and headed out to explore the countryside. We started our adventure in a car park on the west side of the A286 on the South Downs Way near the village of Cocking.
From the car park, we turned west along the South Downs Way (SDW), on a wide surfaced track. As we climbed steadily pass Hill Top Farm, another 400m further and we were nearly at the top of the slope with sheep fields surrounding us, we turned left, leaving the SDW, passing a large chalk ball (one of several in this area made by the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy).
We couldn’t see much because of the drizzle, but on a good day you can clearly see Goodwood racecourse over to your left. Turning back around to survey where we came from the view over varied farmland was stunning, even in the drizzle. Walking into magical woodland we followed our directions “turning left at the next the three finger post turn left onto a wide chalky path.”
We walked further into the wood staying on the main track. The wood was alive with nature from various bird species, squirrels and deer. Luna was quite disgruntled not being allowed to pursue the deer.
Gradually the forest enclosed with tall spruce trees, after about 800m we reached an open area with hunter’s hideouts, not so hidden in the tree canopies.
Heading down a steep bank the path was covered in leaves and we were not sure we were on track, Luna seemed to know where she was going and soon enough there was a blue sign which indicated we were on track, well done Luna!
With our bellies rumbling we were now near our half way stop at Singleton and the Partridge Inn.
With beautiful beech trees to our left, spruce on our right it felt like something out of the Faraway Tree Books I read as a child. We kept wandering through the trees until our path popped out into vast views of farmers’ fields as far as our eyes could see. We took the path to the left down the farmers track towards a lonely isolated house.
Our path ran through Colworth Farm and then took a left back up through varied fields full of crops. We could see Singleton below and were excited about our lunch stop at The Partridge Inn. We followed the path down the right-hand side of a meadow, the path was steep and at the next stile Luna had to be carried by Martyn, as she was too big to go under the stile and too much of a wimp to go over it!
A steady march through the mud over the disused railway bridge, through cow fields until our last gate brought us out in Singleton. Finally the pub stop!
This dog friendly pub was a great find. With a big roaring fire and delicious sandwiches in front of us the idea of going outside to finish our walk was not
We left the pub around 3.15pm with only 45 minutes of light left we would probably be finishing in the dark… little did we know the adventure that was about to unfold.
Walking down the little lane to the side of the pub, just after a river crossing and before the school, we turned left at a signpost on a wide track, passing a cemetery it was very muddy!
The path steeply climbed an open grassy field until we reached another wooden gate. This new open field had a wood to the right so we headed towards it and through another stile where sheep were grazing, with a Levin Down information panel on our left we were sure we were in the right place…
Our path descended down through black thorn bushes, as we reached the bottom we had a niggling feeling we had gone wrong, but where? Our instructions had stopped making sense and so we back tracked up the hill and took a different path, this turned out to be the off-piste route through scrub land and prickly bushes, a dead end.
Time ticking on we continued into a field with ponies grazing through a new gate and over a large grassy pasture the light was dusky and we couldn’t find a way out. Reaching the far side, google maps was needed to get us back on track! Martyn’s excellent map reading skills we found our path, a sign post showed the direction to each neighboring village which helped get us back on track. As a double check, the path had a wire fence on the left and a hedge on the right, which was mentioned in our instructions. Heading towards the dark and mysterious forest with only 30% battery left we waited until in the pitch black before turning on the torch to light our way.
Counting my steps Martyn and I walked silently through the trees aware of the silence and stillness around us apart from the odd cracking tree branch, what was lurking in the pitch black? After 700m we entered a clearing and the eerie light from the moon cast shadows and made the trees look very spooky indeed. Looking back from where we had come was like looking into a well. Crossing the chalky path and on into the dark woodlands Luna was on high alert watching the darkness, ears pricked and aware of every sound and smell around her, she stuck close to my leg as if she could sense my nerves.
We kept going until we reached the South Downs Way; from here we could not go wrong. Knowing this section well from biking the views are incredible in every direction. In the dark we just enjoyed the peacefulness of walking through the countryside just the three of us, our road lit by torch.
This mini adventure right on our door step, was a cheap and fun day out spending time with the people I love in the fresh air and stunning South Downs. I would highly recommend a trip to the South Downs.