South Downs way, end-to-end, TBC

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  • I crossed the main road the other day coming from Heyshot heading to Bepton and the little shop there that seemed to have been inactive for a while was up and running with a couple of people outside at a table with tea. Is Hill Barn the one referred to earlier -right on the SDW with a sign for ice-cream and a shepherd's hut.

  • Would you mind sharing a link to the route if you have one?

  • funnily enough, i was drawing up some potential routes for a club ride, connecting those 3.
    my unverified version

  • quite similar to this -­rnighter/

    have ridden. good route.

  • cheers, yes this is it. i was looking at a single big day out - one can dream - hence the western start

  • Dropped into the cafe just south of Cocking this morning. What a lovely spot. Plenty of space to park bikes, good benches and a nice menu. The owner was really chuffed that the cafe had had a mention on here. They’ve only been open 5 weeks so it’s early days but the signs are promising.

  • What're the conditions running like on the SDW at the moment? Contemplating a dawn-dusk ride next Saturday. Latest photos on Instagram look very dry so hoping might be able to do the whole thing

  • Did it yesterday @Brain-Stew

    The conditions are prime.

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  • That is great to hear about the cafe near Cocking /snigger/. Stopped for lunch up in the village while walking SDW a while back, felt like a real desert for anything to eat or drink apart from the pub we went to (which was fine). On foot, the schlep down to Cocking off the path seemed a ball-ache (hangry vibes) so nearer is even better.

    Might go down there this week …

  • Thank you! Totally missed this but now pinned. Will let you know once attempted.

  • Sorry, I missed the requests for the route.
    This is the one I followed:

    I'm experimenting with this one at the moment, which links the latter part of the SDW from just before Chanctonbury ring to the point where it drops into Shoreham by Sea, with another favourite of mine, the route from North Stoke to Arundel, although I'm going to try following the River Arun rather than crossing the valley between North and South Stoke. All in all it will be a 40 mile ride which would either make a great day ride introduction to the South Downs or a good basis for a sneaky overnighter.

  • This is the Shoreham loop.
    Not ridden yet. I'll give it a go this week if the weather holds.

  • Ace! That looks properly primo.

    Did you ride the whole thing in one go? Would be great to hear a bit of a ride report if you have a sec

  • Hi again. Yes, Winchester to Eastbourne. Early start, rode the 9 miles to the nearest station to me (Tonbridge) for a 6.01am train. Met a friend at Waterloo and then onward train to Winchester which arrived at 8.37am.

    My friend attempted in a day a few weeks ago but had a mechanical at Southease (about 15 miles from Eastbourne) and had to abort so wanted another crack at it. He said that whilst it was frustrating not to complete it last time, he actually couldn't have been more relieved at the time as he'd been running on vapour that day for about 40 miles already at that point so was secretly relieved when the fatal mechanical struck. Particularly as there's a train station at Southease!

    Anyway, given how hard he struggled last time he requested we took it at a very easy pace from the start. TBH this is the only way to tackle it anyway in my opinion. You can't "win" it in the first 10 miles, but you can certainly lose it then.

    Given that there are so few places to get food along the route we decided to be more or less self sufficient and bring the food we needed. Or at least some savoury food as there are quite a few vans selling cakes/ice cream along the way. But we've both found that we crave savoury food (cheese sandwiches or whatever) on these types of ride and get sick of sugary drinks, energy bars etc pretty quickly and the stomach craves something salty.

    There are few cafes on or close to the route now that will do a panini or whatever, but we found they often take too long (important this time of year with the shorter evenings), plus you don't really want a huge lunch in one go, better to stop frequently to admire the view and have a smaller snack. Which is what we did.

    We did stop at "Alan's Coffee" van which is only about 17 miles in, so didn't really warrant a longer stop at that stage in the ride, but Alan is a really nice bloke, his coffee is good and he does good cake. He's there pretty much every day of the year rain or shine so I always like to support his business when we're passing through. He said since the King Alfred's Way has opened up most of the cyclists he sees are doing that now rather than the SDW. Which does tally with what we saw on the trail with far fewer cyclists than we've encountered when doing the SDW before.

    I've ridden all but about 20 miles of the SDW already this year, the west end of the trail when we did KAW and the much of the rest of it on a 2 day trip using Steyning as a base (one day riding east from there and the other west). And on all previous occasions this year (all in the "Summer") the trails have been bogging. Muddy, slippery, just plain hard work. Currently though they're running perfectly. There's a few puddles, but in 100 miles they're few and far between and easily avoided. It's basically running as well as you can possibly image in peak Summer. Aside from the shorter days, it's a great time to do it.

    Despite our steady pace my mate really started to struggle again from about 50 miles. At this point anything too steep and he just got off and walked as not to burn too many matches. I tended to ride along side him at his walking pace, or ride on to get the next gate.

    It was only about 22 degrees yesterday but it felt muggy and there's little to no shelter from the sun so it was important to refill the bottles at the various taps. Around 5 o'clock it got a little cooler which was welcome. The huge views are absolutely stunning in the bright sunlight, but things got even more beautiful as the sun started getting low in the sky. There's something special about being in such huge scenery with barely anyone else around and that amazing last of the daylight time into twilight.

    The hills never stop coming. And it's not just the amount of altitude gain that makes it a tough day, it's that nearly all the climbing is off road, on broken surfaces or energy sapping grass. And the gates, so many gates.

    By the time we got to Southease my mate was (in his own words) "in the death zone". Pure mind over matter kept him rolling at this point. I had to be very persuasive to stop him bailing onto the train again. I told him it was only 2 and a half more hills to the promised land in Eastbourne. And with lots of encouragement we continued.

    By the time we rolled into Alfriston it was now pretty dark and lights were required. Bombing down the chalky descent into Alfriston by bike lights was pretty awesome, and probably the fact that he could no longer see what still lay in front of us was a good thing. I kept him going with "only 1 and a half hills to go now".

    Once up the climb out of Alfriston I think he was expecting to see the lights of Eastbourne. We couldn't see them which didn't help his morale. It was amazing though - we were the only signs of life we could see in every direction. It was pitch black. Considering we were in the SE of England at a pretty high point on the landscape it felt really remote. I liked it. He didn't :) I said Eastbourne must be just over the "half a hill" so we dropped down again in readiness for that last climb of the day, up to the golf course above Eastbourne.

    At this point I'm running on fumes too so it's every man for himself. I remembered from previous rides that this last climb seemed shorter than the others and shallower too. But it seemed to go on forever, and was rough AF, and pretty unrelenting on the gradient too. I drag myself to the top and turn around to see how he getting on. No sign of his light. No sign of him.

    Eventually he rolls over the brow. He's not impressed with me: "half a hill my arse".

    We roll into Eastbourne about 8.45pm and that immense sense of satisfaction floods in. He gets his last train with less than 5 mins to spare. He's already text me this morning to say "Eastbourne to Winchester next time", a good reminder that pain is temporary. It's an epic day out. Definitely do it next week. Take lights though.

  • At this point I'm running on fumes too so it's every man for himself - I attacked hard and crushed him

    You monster!

  • Ha, it wasn't like that @Howard Just doing what I needed to finish it off. We were both pretty broken by this stage.

  • Awesome stuff @yetidamo. Sounds like a banging day out in all the right ways. Thanks so much for going into the detail and providing the encouragement to make it happen. Booking the Saturday trains out to Winchester now :)

  • Excellent. You'll love it. Didn't want to bore you to tears but glad you read my tome. Hoped it would encourage you make plans. Have you ridden it (or any of it) before? Fingers crossed the weather gods continue to serve up favourable conditions.

  • Thanks for that write up. I've never tried to ride the whole thing in one day. Maybe now I should..
    Next year of course!

  • No it'll all be new. Done plenty of off roading through Scotland, Pennines, dales etc. I've ridden both the Ridgeway trail and north Downs way e-e in a day this year. But I suppose some knowledge of the trail might be useful! One of the handy things is the network of stations that the route crosses making a bailout pretty simple.

    Paying close attention to the weather this week but looking good so far

  • Great report.

  • The Rob Warner video on you tube is worth a watch.

  • Got a rough idea of how long this takes? Thinking of doing it, audax/touring pace.
    Maybe camping at that proper campsite mentioned. 2 days of 5hrs or substantially faster/slower?

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South Downs way, end-to-end, TBC

Posted by Avatar for Dammit @Dammit