It was a grey and drizzly morning and I have to admit my step didn’t have much spring in it as I set off from Southease and headed up onto the Downs. I took the steep path up to the top – stopping for breath at intervals – and was rewarded by the stunning panoramic view. Despite the murky weather and shifting mists I could see down to where the Ouse spilled out into the sea at Newhaven; the little village of Southease nestled in trees; and pretty much all of Lewes. Lewes is home to Gorringe’s Auction House, wonderful supporters of FSH, who organised a fantastic auction for us in 2016.
I could only imagine how magnificent this view must be on a clear day. My only companions up here were sheep and cows – who seemed to take their surroundings very much for granted. The knowledge that the South Downs were created by the same tectonic forces that lifted up the Alps and Himalayas, made me feel how small the world is and how connected we all are. The mist closed in as I walked the well trodden grassy path across to Firle Beacon – good for the meditation process, no distracting panoramic views – I could hardly see the sheep! I don’t find it easy to switch off my mind and go within but I have been able to on most of the walks so far.
Firle Beacon brought back memories of many jogs and walks I’ve done around here with my friend Louise in all seasons over many years – often with our dogs Daisy and Bumble – both sadly now in doggy heaven. We’d talk and talk and we hardly drew breath. We meet up less often these days – usually over at Ditchling Beacon – we still talk and talk but there’s more walking than jogging now.
From here I could just make out the wind turbine at Glyndebourne. Gus Christie, its Executive Chairman, is a Patron of FSH and we’ve been very fortunate to have received the generous support of Glyndebourne over the past 20 years or so. It has hosted a Christmas Fair, numerous Bridge Lunches, and three very successful Christmas Concerts featuring The Sixteen, raising a huge amount of money for our Sussex hospices. Dame Felicity Lott, another FSH Patron, who has often performed at Glyndebourne, sent me a lovely ‘wave’ photo today.
FSH has a cluster of Patrons along this stretch of the Trail. Just to the right of Glyndebourne I could spy the village of Firle and Firle Place, the stately home of another FSH Patron, Viscount Gage, who hosted a memorable Summer Concert for us in 2010.
After a slight incline at Bopeep Bostal (bostal means a small road leading up a hill) the path carried me at a faster pace down towards Alfriston, a lovely, usually bustling, village on the Cuckmere River. Today there were a handful of people in the square and the tea shops and pubs were very quiet – probably a combination of the weather and Covid-19.
These walks are all so different. This really was a quiet and contemplative walk for me which I doubt would have been the case in finer weather.
Walk 7 was sponsored by Jan Salter in memory of her husband Richard, who was cared for by both St Peter & St James Hospice and St Catherine’s Hospice.