I had been watching the Met Office forecast in the week for the south coast with dread. It was showing strong winds, thunder, and heavy rain. Not the ideal conditions for walking along cliff tops and I doubted I’d be able to attract many ramblers for what otherwise is, I think, one of the best walks in the summer programme.

We travelled down to Seaford in the pouring rain and I wasn’t feeling anymore confident as we approached the start of the walk. By the time we assembled on the seafront at Seaford however, there was a small but enthusiastic group of 10 Poly Ramblers raring to go whatever the weather might throw at us. As we set out to climb the steep path over Seaford Head, the rain eased but the gusts of south-westerly winds remained strong giving us an extra lift as we walked along the cliff tops. When we stopped for a group photograph with the Seven Sisters in the background, we had the added spectacle of stormy waves and their white tops breaking in the bay of Cuckmere Haven.

By the time we turned inland along the Vanguard Way into the South Downs, the rain had stopped, the sun was shining and we began to peel off our layers. The absence of rain meant we could stop at our usual lunchtime spot at the top of a bank overlooking the dramatic river Cuckmere as it makes its big meandering loops out to sea. A few people went into the South Downs Park visitor centre for hot drinks and snacks.

After a short lunch break, we continued our journey walking away from the sea into the rolling hills of the South Downs.  As we walked inland we were sheltered from the strong gusts which had buffeted us on the coastal path. We admired the views across classic undulating chalk downs countryside covered in ripening wheat fields towards a white horse cut into the hillside in the distance.

Eventually, after walking along a winding river footpath, we reached the village of Alfriston, one of the oldest in East Sussex and full of charming half timbered dwellings. By now we were enjoying warm sunshine and many of us opted to buy the excellent local ice creams on sale in the general stores. I hadn’t envisaged we would be able to do that. Instead I thought we would have been seeking shelter and warmth in one of the local tea shops.

After our ice cream break we continued up a small country lane until the Vanguard Way took us off the road and across a long stretch of fields swaying with wheat and the spire of Berwick church peeping above the treeline in the distance. As the wall paintings in the church by members of the Bloomsbury group, however many times we’ve seen them, still have the capacity to stir the emotions, we called in to have a quick look and marvel at them. From here it was just a stone’s throw to The Cricketers Arms pub. Here we had another refreshment break, this time of the liquid kind. As time was pressing, the group decided to cut short the time we spent at the pub in its beautiful garden resplendent with summer flowers, to ensure we caught the 5.09pm train back to Lewes and after a quick change there, back to London.

We all agreed that despite the initial poor weather outlook, we had been lucky, the storm clouds had gone in the direction of London leaving us with a much sunnier day than we could have ever expected. It had been another excellent South Downs walk.

Mary King.  Photos by Mary, Chris and Rochelle