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Self-guided walking from Eastbourne to Winchester, King Alfred's ancient capital of England.
Day one: Arrival in Eastbourne.
Day two: Introductory meeting after breakfast before first walk. Eastbourne to Alfriston 10.5miles.Starting at the western end of Eastbourne promenade, the walk rises steeply onto the downs with the Channel to the south. The route goes along Beachy Head, with tremendous views of the Seven Sister cliffs. Then walking back inland you will take in views over the Cuckmere Estuary, Friston Forest and walk alongside the Cuckmere River, before arriving in the village of Alfriston.
Day three: Alfriston to A27 Crossing 13.5 miles. On the way to the Grade II listed Southease Swing-bridge you will enjoy far reaching views of the Weald, Firle Tower, Piddinghoe Pond and you will probably see some local hang-gliders and paracenders too. At Southease the church with its unusual Saxon tower is a special place to visit. Continuing on to Kingston Hill, passing the Amex Stadium, you will step in ancient footsteps, as you follow a route used to carry fish to Lewes market in times gone by.
Day four: A27 to Pyecombe 8.5miles. This morning you will see the huge Celtic field system of Balmer Down, the grandstand of the old Lewes Racecourse and woodland planted in a ‘V’ in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Ditchling Beacon is the next place of interest on today’s route, with its nature reserve where you should encounter plenty of flowers and butterflies. Then as you enter West Sussex you will see (and can take a detour to visit) the Jack and Jill windmills of Clayton. The day ends in Pyecombe with its unusual Norman church.
Day five: Pyecombe to Washington 13 miles. Today you will get a real sense of the isolation of the downs and heading up over the hills you will look down into the impressive deep valley of Devil’s Dyke and the first of several Iron Age forts that you will encounter today. Shortly after enjoying splendid views into Steyning Bowl you will see another Iron Age fort and ramparts of Cissbury Ring and afterwards the beech trees of Chanctonbury Ring Iron Age fort. As you get to the end of today’s route in Washington you are bought back to civilisation by the noise and smell of the gas-pressure-reducing station.
Day six: Washington to Amberley 6 miles. A short day today taking in views of Worthing and the sea, the shrunken village of Sullington and Parnham Deer Park, will leave you with time this afternoon to explore Amberely. You can visit the museum and heritage centre with its narrow-gauge railway and demonstrations from traditional craftspeople, such as the blacksmith and potter. The 900 year old Amberley castle is enclosed behind a 60ft medieval curtain wall, it has a rich history and now operates as a luxury hotel with contemporary cuisine and traditional afternoon teas, which can be booked in advance.
Day seven: Amberley to Cocking 12 miles. Today Houghton Forest gives a different character to the landscape, a peaceful walk interrupted only by skylarks. You will get a view over Chichester Cathedral and the sea beyond before reaching one of the highest points on the Sussex Downs at 830 feet.
Day eight: Cocking to Clanfield 15.5 miles. Chalky tracks, flinty trails and sunken lanes cut deep in the chalk will take you over the ups and downs of the way as you head towards Queen Elizabeth Country Park, renowned for its National Nature Reserve and forest scenery. Its open all year with café, gift shop and park centre. A short detour from the trail and you reach your accommodation, originally a barn, its now a lovely pub, with contemporary guest rooms.
Day nine: Clanfield to Beauworth 14 miles. Superb views again today, into river valleys, expansive northwards vistas and over rolling downland. The way takes you over chalk streams and an old railway line. In Exton a pub (for some well-deserved nourishment) and the church with its headstone showing the Angel of Death summoning his scholar greet you. Towards the end of the walk you will pass Hinton Ampner, an elegant country house owned by the National Trust.
Day ten: Beauworth to Winchester 8.5 miles. A shorter walk today will allow you time this afternoon to enjoy what Winchester has to offer. Tantalising views over Winchester will let you know you are nearly at the end of the 100 mile ancient route, as you tread Telegraph and Deacon Hill before crossing the River Itchen and completing the route by walking south alongside the river to the Abbey of St Cross, here if you knock on the door of the Porters Lodge you will be given the ‘Wayfarer’s Dole’ – a glass of ale and piece of bread from the oldest charity in England, now you can explore the medieval streets and admire the history of Winchester Cathedral, Wolvesey Castle and the City Mill. If you aren’t too tired you can end your day with an evening of comedy, theatre, ballet or opera in the cultural quarter of the city.
Day eleven: After breakfast, depart from Winchester.
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