Our Hiking Adventure Along the South Downs WayPage 3
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July 5, 2010: Day 5
Our long anticipated walk begins. Again, the day dawns clear and beautiful for our 14 mile day.
"Eastbourne, 99 miles that way." Glenn, suddenly aware of the magnitude of our undertaking.
We walk along the ridge with pastoral landscapes on both sides. We take frequent “shoes and socks off” breaks, study our essential guide book, that maps out nearly every nook and cranny, and eat our packed lunch. Our path from South Downs Way (SDW) into the village of Exton led us over several stiles built especially for the purpose of passing through private farmland from the SDW.
Glenn using one of the many stiles on the SDW to crossover a fence. England has a long history of public right of access to private land.
We call Mr. Hall, our B&B host for the evening and are soon picked up and taken to his farm. Mr. Hall gives us a tour of his well diversified farm estate, where his son has now taken over the main management. He shows us some ancient Roman coins and other artifacts (cloak clasps, remnants of jewelry) found in his fields from time to time. Glenn is enthralled to be on a site which was once dominated by the Romans he has studied for years through their coinage.
July 6, 2010: Day 6
We arrive early afternoon in East Meon after a short 6 mile walk for the day.
A typical thatched-roof cottage in East Meon, probably dating from around the 17th century.
We are staying at “Ye Olde George Inn” and have a large room with a lovely oriental rug, perfect for my morning exercises and Tai Chi Chih. We spend a good bit of time in a small church built initially in the 1100's, with many changes and additions since. Because it is the only “attraction” in this small village, we take a lot of time piecing together its 1000 year history. In one area there is an 11' by 4' quilt of the village on display. In 2002, a team of 30 embroiders was formed to work on the 107 houses depicted. It is such a labor of love and pride in their village. In the evening I enjoy my first “fish and chips” dinner. We talk about how thrilled Gen would be to know we are celebrating our 25th Anniversary by visiting her and Ralph’s adopted country. I can see why they loved it so much–the charm of the villages and the manners of the people are all so delightfully English. We also begin to give our days a name. This was “poppy fields” day.
A beautiful poppy field in the English countryside; kind of reminds one of the Wicked Witch of the West's handiwork.
July 7, 2010: Day 7 (Pimms Day)
After our 13 miles on the trail, it was another mile or so down to the village of South Harting. We walked on and on to the other side of the village away from the trail to finally arrive at our B&B with tired feet and a blank look in our hostesses’ eyes. I had failed to confirm our reservation and on the tail end of a 4-day party for 20 or so people celebrating our hostesses’ mother’s 100th birthday, we were not expected! Oh, woe is us!! Her husband, David, made us tea, while, Joyce made bed and bath ready for us. It was a very lovely home and we were in an extra bedroom. After cleaning up and feeling thoroughly in the way, we were sitting on the terrace with an incredible view of the ridge we would be walking the next day when David introduced us to the English cocktail of Pimms, a liqueur served with soda water poured over slices of strawberries, blueberries, lemons and cucumbers. It was so refreshing and immediately made us feel welcome. We had an interesting conversation with them in regards to American politics and education in general. The English are so knowledgeable about our current events. Our gracious hostess even offered to throw our trail clothes into her wash and let us use her computer. In retrospect, I think I would call this “Pimms Day”, as it was to begin quite a lovely ritual drink for us, whenever it seemed to be “Pimms o’clock” as the English put it.