I was seen off (in the nicest possible way) from Brighton Station, the start of walk 6, by Rudy, the four legged barista at The Coffee Counter.
A huge colourful portrait of Rudy adorns the wall by the entrance. I chatted with Haden (Rudy’s boss) and Ellie as they were setting up gazebos and tables outside. I told them what I was doing and they offered me a coffee on the house. What a lovely start to the day! The sun was shining and half-way down West Street the fresh, salty smell of the sea reached my nostrils and I felt as though I was on holiday. The sea couldn’t have looked more different from when I’d last been here on Sunday. Today it was like a mill pond: no surfers; no waves.
I walked eastward along the front past Brighton Pier – normally buzzing with holiday makers in early July – maybe it was just too early in the day. Brighton’s most famous and loved attraction, the Brighton Palace Pier is visited by millions of sightseers, day trippers and holiday-makers every year and has been since it was first opened, nearly 120 years ago. I continued along past the Sealife Centre and then along Marine Parade and gazed down onto Marine Drive Promenade – the start and finish locations for both the Brighton Half and Full Marathons – at the bronze of Brighton-born Steve Ovett sculpture by local artist, Peter Webster.
I recalled the excitement of many starts – and exhausted finishes – down there. The Brighton Half Marathon is organised by and in aid of The Sussex Beacon, the AIDS/HIV hospice in Bevendean which I’d planned to call in on later today.
I stopped for a cool lime thirst-quencher with Duncan and Fran Stewart in the lockdown manicured garden of their beautiful house on Marine Parade. Duncan is one of the current nine completers of the Sussex Hospices Trail. He raised a huge amount for his efforts in sponsorship for FSH. Duncan recalled some very muddy interludes when he walked the trail two years ago. I slapped on some sun cream, said my farewells and headed on eastward.
I continued past the Nudist Beach, the Volks Railway and into Brighton Marina. The guide notes warned not to take the Undercliff Walk if the weather was stormy so I strode on. Once past the Marina this was excellent meditation territory. A long, long stretch of nothingness – a concrete pathway between the very tall chalk cliff and the sea. I was distracted momentarily by the cooing of a pigeon who was standing at the entrance of his cave nest in the cliff and I stopped to say hello and took his photo.
I met up with Juliet Smith in the car park near the Saltdean Lido – she welcomed me with a delicious fruit drink and a protein bar. Juliet sponsored this section of the Trail in memory of her late husband Martin and her step-daughter, Rebecca. Juliet has been my “coach” and walking companion in the run up to this venture and we had in fact walked the remainder of this walk a month or so ago.
On leaving Juliet I headed up onto the Downs. Fabulous views taking in the coast and rolling verdant hills. Poppies edged the path across the fields and I walked on through grazing sheep and descended into the village of Telscombe. This charming village is unusual as there is no road down to the coast, which is why it seems so isolated even though it is so near the sea.
On leaving Telscombe I climbed back up onto the Downs and spied this amazing snail colony in a derelict wooden gate post. It was fascinating and wouldn’t be at all out of place in Tate Modern – not sure the snails would be happy in Tate Modern though.
I continued down into a large valley, through South Farm – chewed the cud with a dairy cow – and up into Southease where I met up with my friend Alice who gave me a delicious sandwich and drink and took my finishing photo. We sat and talked on a bench outside the church, one of only three in Sussex with a round tower. It has a fascinating history, dating back to the 10th century – alas, it was closed due to Coronavirus, so I couldn’t look inside.
I headed towards Southease Rail Station and the end of this section of the Trail. On my way home I met up with Richard Lintott, Chief Executive of Leo House at Home. This section of the Trail is nearest to Leo House which funds specialist nurses, caring for life limited children in Sussex. It operates as part of the Chestnut Tree House community team and receives no government funding. It was good to catch up with Richard – he and his wife Angie had tracked/charted several sections of the Sussex Hospices Trail as part of its creation.
I then called in on The Sussex Beacon at Bevendean where I was greeted by Bill Puddicombe, Chief Executive and Sarah, a member of the nursing team. It was good to connect and catch up on their news. The Beacon has cancelled pretty much all their fundraising events for the remainder of the year and were hoping that the Brighton Half Marathon would go ahead next year as it generates significant income for the charity.
When I eventually got home there was a message on my answerphone from Alice saying that after I left her at Southease she chatted with a man on a nearby bench and told him about my walk. He gave her a donation of £5 for FSH. Aren’t people wonderful! A lovely end to a fabulous day.