If you are one of the thousands of people who have promised themselves they will walk the South Downs Way sometime, this could be the year to do it.
The trail was officially opened 40 years ago this summer and the annual walk in June promises to be a special celebration of the anniversary.
In 1972 the trail linked Buriton, on the Hampshire borders, with Eastbourne at the foot of Beachy Head. It allowed walkers, horse riders and cyclists to enjoy an 80 mile journey across East and West Sussex along the high ridge of the chalk hills. Just eight years later the first large, organised walk took place with a green ‘southdowns’ double-decker bus running everyone back and forwards to each part of the trail. Over the years that walk has become an amazing annual event with up to 200 people talking part every June.
The event is organised by Footprints of Sussex and as Sally Dench explains “ The trail was extended westwards in 1991 and now runs for 100 miles between Winchester and Eastbourne. We allow nine days to walk that distance comfortably; it gives time to stop and look at things along the way, to enjoy the views and to just relax occasionally ”.
And the event has grown in other ways. Tea shops, pubs, farms and even churches open up specially to welcome the walkers as they pass through. Keith McKenna added “ Two wonderful recent additions to things on the way have been the tea & cakes at Pyecombe Church and the Victorian ice cream lady at Harting Down. There’s pretty well something happening every day – my own favourite is finishing with the organic sausages at Manor Farm !”
The South Downs Way is unique in being the only national trail completely within its ‘own’ national park and the celebrations at the end of the event will be as much about the new park as about the trail itself. If you’ve never done the walk this 40th anniversary could be the year to try it…
More details and booking forms on the website or call : 01903 – 81 33 81
Published 4th April 2012
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