This past weekend was a Bank Holiday here in the UK (sorry Scotland) and the seaside town of Worthing was on the agenda to support friend, housemate and FRC-er Sophie at the Worthing Triathlon on Sunday. To make the most of the long weekend and give us time to explore, we booked two nights in a little AirBnB and stayed Saturday and Sunday evenings. Of course I had to plan a long run into our itinerary and after looking at our travel plans and the map, another fellow FRC-er Andy and I decided to head to Amberley from London on the train and run a section of the South Downs Way, before turning off and continuing on the trails into Worthing.
From Clapham Junction it’s just over an hour on the train to Amberley and when you arrive, turn your back to the station, take a right hand turn onto the main road and follow it up until you get to a corner of a field with the South Downs Way marker post pointing you in the right direction. As the South Downs Way stretches 100 miles from Winchester in the West to Eastbourne (in the East) we were jumping on mid-way through and heading in a Westerly direction for about 10km. From Amberley it’s up, up, up, past some rugged farmland and shady forest sections and climbing some pretty sharp but short hills.
After a few kilometers you reach the Downs themselves and the views stretch far into the distance, green and yellow fields for miles and, on a good day like we were blessed with, a cloudless bright blue sky above. The terrain is mostly good soft, chalky paths, single tracks and a few gravely bits, nothing too technical but oh so welcoming compared to the London pavements. After 10km we started looking for a turn-off, leading us off the South Downs Way and in the direction of Worthing. We reached a dense forested area in a clearing – a popular pit stop for cyclists it seems – and then came to a clear junction, taking us off to the right and heading South towards the sea as the Way continued West.
We were looking out for the Cissbury Ring on our journey – a National Trust site with the largest hill fort in Sussex dating back over 5000 years – and after a while we spotted a car park below a hill summit, so guessing we’d found it we headed up and into the centre of the ring. From the top we could see our destination, Worthing, but not quite the sea as the mist was hiding it from us. There are many paths to follow around the ring but we followed our noses and headed off in the direction of the seaside town, passing through some lovely hedgerows bursting with bramble bushes and alongside a golf course before leaving the trail and arriving onto the streets of Worthing. We’d promised to meet Sophie, who’d driven down to Worthing in preparation for the triathlon the next day, at the pier for ice cream, and after another few miles we reached the pebbled beach of the shore and ran onto the pier to see her. As I touched the end of the pier railings and looked over the edge into the sea I stopped my watch clocking just over 24km. A beautiful introduction to the South Downs Way with some history thrown in for good measure, the perfect start to our Bank Holiday Weekend!