Posted by: WalkingOurWorld
June 29, 2017
A cloudy but warm day in Brighton.
Im at my friend Lee’s flat not far form the city centre. Its quiet and cosy here and I’m glad I wasn’t out walking yesterday as it rained steadily for most of the day.
Quite a journey it’s been so far, since landing at Heathrow now almost three weeks ago.
First things were to sort out the tube in London and to find my way to Kat’s place in East London. She had let me know which trains to take to get to St Paul’s cathedral in the centre of London and arriving there, it began a little drizzle. Much warmer than I had been expecting, but that drizzle had me fairly promptly scurrying (as much as a scurry is possible with about 30kg of “stuff” draped all over me) to find a place with wifi that my phone could connect to.
I found Starbucks.
A short time later I’m hugging Kat in Starbucks and getting keys to her place and instructions on which buses to catch.
Quite a bit of walking in that first week and all around East London and to markets and Tower Bridge and the sights of London, though mostly only glimpses. Bought a hat to keep the sun at bay just before I set out walking and had some great highlights with people – reconnecting with Kat, catching up with Tara and trying valiantly to connect with Rebecca Rennie.
I found a “push chair” which we know as a stroller in Australia at a Muslim Aid Charity Shop near the London Mosque to carry all my stuff, did a cleanse of a few bits and pieces that really didn’t need to come with me after all, siad my goodbyes to Kat and took the tube to Morden station (the southernmost station on the London Underground) and set off for Brighton.
Its a bit tedious to give a step by step guide to what happened next because there are a lot of steps, but this is a précis of the walking journey that may just give a palpable translation of my experience.
From 30 to 35 degrees most of the day. The days are really long right now, starting at about 4am and continuing till after 10pm. So its hot, and I have a whole lot of stuff in my pack to keep me warm in the cold English summer (ha).
Right from the outset its interesting and eye candy to look at the houses in the English landscape. So very different to almost anywhere else in the world and lots of really impressive handiwork in slate tiles, stone walls, timber struts and supports, extensive brick and stone garden walls and fences.
First night I walked into a town called Ashtead and found myself at a local pub asking about accommodation. Nothing. (which was a good thing, because I could easily run out of money very very quickly if I embraced every whim I had for a soft bed)
I walked back to Ashtead Park and camped myself down very comfortably near the private fishing pond there, with the ducks and geese and some amazing birdlife to wake me in the morning
Needless to say I slept pretty well, because the first day of walking had me at the point of exhaustion well before the sun went down at about 10.30pm.
Next day off further south, buying a big litre of apple jiuce to send me on my way. Fruit juice has been a big part of the journey this time around. Better than the soft drink I was buying when I walked Fiji, which played havoc with my teeth.
Kept walking most of the day, from a start just before midday and watched a some amazing scenery go by in what is described as “An area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in the Surrey Hills to land at a town called Dorking and after stocking up on a few grocery things for dinner and breakfast, being guided by a supermarket assistant to the woods at the top of Denne Rd as a great camping spot, I found myself looking out over the town from a big grassed common area where every man and his dog came for an evening walk (met a lot of them) and slept well on a patch of grass near the woodlands.
Marched on the next day, by now its Tuesday and another hot one, but I’m well camped in the shade so its not too challenging to pull down my camp, chat with the morning people and dogs and keep moving.
Walked to the first road on the right after the main highway, guessing it would work based on a few seconds vision on my fading phone, google maps and a new southern England road map I picked up from the local bookstore. Turned out to be the right road and my dependence on electronics for guidance faded from about here. Time to begin talking to strangers along the way to check in on my direction and progress. It’s always better when that time comes, by the way. Always on google maps is a great way to find your way out of cities, but once you hit the country, it’s much much better to sidle in the general direction and ask along the way how you are going. Locals are always happy to help and most of those walking will be happy for a chat too.
Pretty short days walk today but full of danger. Its a back road I’ve chosen for sure, but one of those back roads that all the locals use to avoid the highway. Dodged a few trucks and fast cars on the narrow road and managed to come out alive. Until I arrived at a tiny Village called Rusper. A tiny old woman came out while I sat resting beside the busy intersection, my fresh carton of juice half drunk already. We passed a few comments about the traffic and how difficult it was for her to make it across at this time of day. When she came back she offered that I come to her garden for a mug of tea. I politely declined and sat a little longer, concerned about the traffic coming from the direction I intended to go, but certain I was going to make it through a few more kilometres.
So often I have found it best to say yes to the myriad “people” experiences that come along. I said no to this one and wondered why I had done so, but not until a few hours later. It turned out that the traffic was a bit too much for me. I started out down the road with the aid of a footpath that soon dwindled to absolutely nothing. I backtracked about a kilometre and found a shady green spot to rest against a tree and consider progress alongside danger.
I fell asleep.
Its a pretty good sign for me to take it a little easier when I fall asleep in the middle of the day. No later than 4pm, six hours of light remaining – I’m going to need to find a place to camp or something in the tiny village of Rusper. I looked. I looked some more. Nothing was presenting as it so often does, so I thought I’d visit the one and only pub back on that busy intersection and buy a beer and ask the barman. They always know that stuff.
Except for this one. I asked the barman and he just poured my beer and said that there was nowhere he knew of.
I drank my beer pretty slowly in the beer garden listening to four men talking together brashly with strong enough accents so that I didn’t understand everything that was being said. Thought to interrupt and ask about their ideas for a spot, but something stopped me, perhaps the line of sports Mercedes they all seemed to be driving until my beer was gone and I picked myself up and set out to look for a little patch of green somewhere nearby.
Only 50 steps from the pub and the same barman came rushing out to ask where I was going. I said I wasn’t sure. He pointed to the trees behind the pub and said that under those trees would be OK as no-one owned the land, so please go there.
So I did.
It wasn’t the best spot in the world, but I managed. Birds put big poos on my tent through the night and there were quite big slugs living under those trees in the leaf and can litter, but they couldn’t get into my tent, though they left trails all over my boots.
Ever onwards, the piece of raod that had looked impossible the night before was just fine once I had the benefit of rest and after a pretty short wander, I found myself beside a street vendor van, with a bunch of truck drivers and a woman called Helen (Hell’s Kitchen) and ordered myself a Heaven and Hell burger for breakfast or maybe brunch.
Chatted with the other guys there, one called Richard talked a while about his travels while asking about mine, then donated some funds and wrote down my website. Told me he was inspired to get walking again…and thanks.
Somehow managed to choose the right road, more by guessing the general direction than anything else (another thing that returns once I get down on the ground and walk – the ability to sense direction) and found myself on a mighty busy road that would get me to where I wanted to go, but with the constant roar of and danger of “TRAFFIC”.
Went shopping in Horsham at the biggest Sainsbury’s supermarket I had seen up to now. A monster it was! Left my trolley and all my stuff with the customer service lady and just grabbed some essentials then after a “hot day” pause, kept moving.
Busy highways aren’t a great place to walk, so the next one I came to found me crossing it on what looked like a path never used. I stopped to eat an orange and a man came onto the path and suggested I head straight to Southwater to connect with the “Downs Link” – a walking path that would take me the rest of the way to the sea!
Now that was a great chance meeting right there!
So I wandered on as instructed and found myself in Southwater, couldn’t quite work out where the track was, so I asked a passing man, who said he wasn’t sure and suggested I ask in one of the local shops. There was a hairdresser right in front of me. Coco’s of Southwater proved to be a really lovely “chance”.
The young women in there were just so welcoming and helpful. They asked me all about the journey, searched my website, friended me on facebook, took up a collection to donate, bought me a sandwich and even gave me a really excellent haircut. I have the photo’s to prove it. Their boss came in and it turns out the whole business is dedicated to things like balance, peace and freedom, operating a support programme for underprivileged kids in Africa.
Left there feeling pretty uplifted and found the track start, went the wrong way, got a slow leak on one tyre, which saved me going even further the wrong way, turned back and found a safe place to park my gear, off the track and hidden away. Did my best to repair the tyre, getting help from cyclists on the path in the manner of patches and glue – but it was a pretty damaged inner tube, so after meeting some lovely folk on the path and chatting, got some sleep and woke to a cool morning (first this trip) on the public path near an open field of private land
Next day a mission on the bus back to Horsham to get inner tube, repair kit and puncture protection and back again. Early afternoon I’m packed up, tyre is holding so I decide not to install the new inner tube just yet, rather pump it up at regular intervals and head off further down the track. Interesting moment for me in this was a woamn who obviously owned the pastures beside which I was camped. She looked relaxed and chilled out, with long dreads piled high on her head and layered clothing but she was pretty adamant about finding out exactly when I would leave my campsite. She seems to have rushed to a conclusion that I was a wandering vagrant or gypsy that was about to make a permanent home out of her back paddock, which was populated by two horses.
I reassured her several times but didn’t break through the “hard” exterior, so I dropped trying and got my things done, packed up and left.
Really a lovely lovely walk along the bridleway called the Downs Link. Kept moving for a pretty long walk today, the miles being eaten up by the presence of shade, cool breezes, easy surface and no vehicles. No map checking required either as the Downs Link is well signed and there aren’t many alternative ways once you are on it. Intersections are rare.
Pretty long walk from Southwater to Steyning and beyond on this day. Must admit I thought I might go without a good spot to rest so started asking the Creator or Universe to provide me with a safe and comfortable place to rest, and in the midst of lots of open space and some busy roads, I stopped down to sit on a bench and there, right behind me was a place dedicated to singing around a campfire and story telling. Tonight it would also become haven for a peace walker. Pretty blown away that it just seemed to turn up at exactly the time I thought I had no chace at such a good spot.
Next day, walked through to Southam by Sea, just up from Hove and Brighton. The walk along the sea front was pretty tough at times. There is a section there where its all industry on one side, from timber to steel and a lot else and that was tough after all the serenity I had been experiencing. Managed to set in for a coffee at a little place at Hove and book a hostel right in the centre of Brighton, so got myself up and dropped into the hostel beside the nightclubs.
The story continues in the hostel without a kitchen, friends of friends as host, an unexpected workshop, host with a friend, and much more. Looks like I have a new friend walking with me from Brighton this Friday!