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Ashley Heeley's South Downs Way Diary
Day 4

Day 4 Arundal to Clayton 23 miles

When Carol Kirkwood, bless her, talked about monsoon weather this morning we knew our worst fears were going to happen. The forecast the night before looked bad and it hadn't changed by the morning.

We wanted an early start and had breakfast at 7.30am and we managed to arrange for Karen, Mike, Matt and Mark to join us, as they couldn’t get an early breakfast where they were staying. We did look out of place as we were stopping in a ‘proper’ hotel and it was full of business people. We got some strange looks again as 6 smelly walkers really didn’t fit in. The hotel were OK with us though, the duty manager bent over backwards to accommodate everyone which was very kind. As the weather looked so bad Karen et al succumbed to the dark side and had 2 rucksacks join our bags with the baggage carrier. By doing this it lightened the load and the rucksack carrying duties could be shared out. Very sensible in the circumstances. After breakfast (9 it had black pudding) we got lunch supplies from the co-op and headed for the station for the short train ride to Amberley.

Like all the days, the day starts with a climb back onto The Downs. The rain was unrelenting and the only option was to get your head down and walk. We missed trig points and there was nothing to see. The weather was terrible and it wasn't long before the feet were wet along with anything else. It was not fun. The only alternative was to route march in the wind and rain. It was a shame because a lot of the walk today was on top on the downs which on a good day would be terrific, but today it was exposed and there was no shelter at all except an open barn where we stopped for 5 mins to just get out of the weather.

There was a little light relief when we reached Truleigh YH where thankfully we could get out of the rain to eat our co-op packup. Also sheltering was a oldish lady who talked in a mix of Austrailian and a Black Country accent who had her hair dryer on to warm the room and insisted she dried Dale's and Mike's hair. Very funny I only wish I had taken a picture. She certainly lightened the mood. The mad hairdryer woman was also of a certain age when they don’t really care what they say and she asked whether we were from the army!!!!!!! I said something like “do we look like army types” and she looked at my belly and laughed. Fair cop.

We started after lunch in high spirits as we realised how much we had done and what we needed to do. Despite being soaked to the skin we were happy. The rest of the day was ok. We stopped for 5 mins at the Devils Dyke pub (no drink) and it was tempting to catch the open top bus to Brighton that was waiting. There were no handgliders talking off on Fulking Escarpment today. It eventually stopped raining at about 4ish and we were on the last haul. We took photos of the Jack and Jill windmills and found our way to our B&B which is very nice indeed.

South Downs Way 2008 78
Jack Windmill near Clayton (first photo of the day at about 5pm due to the really, really, bad weather that day. The rain had just about stopped)

South Downs Way 2008 79
Jill Windmill near Clayton

South Downs Way 2008 80
Jack and Jill windmills near Clayton

South Downs Way 2008 81
Mark (aka David Bailey) taking his (many) photos of the Jack and Jill windmills

When we arrived at the B & B (Dower House) and went to our rooms, we found that Dale and I had the twin room with the facilities across the landing, while Mark and Matt had the twin with the on-suite facilities. Can't be right we thought. We booked first. After telling Mark that obviously a terrible mistake had been made and that we had originally booked the en-suite and therefore could he and Matt move out, Mark checked his booking and it was right!!! We had the dash across the landing room, while they had the en-suite room. So with Mark and Matt having right on their side Dale and I had to resort to other tactics to get the en-suite room. Unfortunately, we had to resort to playing the seniority card and basically a little bit of bullying. Mark and Matt know when they are beaten by inferior argument and childish tantrums and swapped rooms. Having done all that, and going second to the bathroom, I had just run and got into a lovely hot bath when there was a shout of "10 minutes to the taxi" so I never had time to enjoy the ill-gotten gains.

We took a taxi to the pub in the village as it was quite some distance away, along a very dark narrow country road. The taxi driver joyfully told us we had made the right decision as we would have certainly got killed had we walked. He then told us that often deer would leap over the hedges causing untold mayhem to his car. He was happy in his work. Thankfully we got to the pub safely and had a good dinner, although the sticky toffee pudding was served cold and was more like cake. Still musn't grumble. We are all very tired after a long wet day. It was probably the wettest we have had. Still we did it.

Tomorrow is another 20 mile day but the weather looks better so here's hoping.

As for wildlife, not a lot to report due to the weather and head down. We did see though, rabbits, skylarks, a newt on the side of the path but that was it.

Looking forward to a dryer day tomorrow.


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