We Did It!
Our charity walk went ahead on the 29th June and, despite the wind and the rain, we made it! The route covered 26.8km/16.6 miles and between us we walked a total of 366.4km/227.67 miles on the night. Click here to see photos of our escapade!
We started with a pre-walk drink in the Black Horse Inn in Lewes where the staff and clientèle boosted our fundraising effort with some generous donations. After a couple of photos we left at 8:45pm and started the 5km uphill hike onto the top of the South Downs. Unfortunately the clouds prevented us from witnessing a great sunset although the sky flushed orange for a few minutes. Once on top of the Downs we progressed along the South Down Way past fields of wild flowers whilst being serenaded by Skylark overhead under a still bright sky with the moon occasionally peeking out from behind the clouds.
A number of bemused looking cows seemed rather surprised to see anyone mad enough to be up on the Downs disturbing their sleep, and one startled deer took off quickly the moment it saw us. We were able to walk all the way to Ditchling Beacon (an SWT reserve and the highest point in East Sussex) without needing our torches as the sky was still light enough for us to see our way ahead.
We were greeted at Ditchling Beacon by a single Glowworm on the grass bank of the car park and by Sarra who drove up to provide sustenance to us. In the car park we donned various glow-in-the-dark paraphernalia and took photos and had a rest before heading onwards. Nine year old Rex called it a day at this point; he did really well to cover the first 9km at such a good pace and kept everyone's spirits up with his banter. Unfortunately Amanda also had to stop due to the fact her knees had broken! Although she wanted to head on it would have just done even more damage and we were all sorry to say goodbye to her.
As we left Ditchling Beacon we had a nice downhill walk towards Pyecombe and on the way we found an amazing looking Violet Ground Beetle as well as seeing a number of bats and loads more wild flowers. In Pyecombe we visited our intermediate food and drink stop (the back of one of our work vehicles) and, suitably fuelled up, we then started the hardest uphill of the walk from Haresdean. The hill went surprisingly well although as we neared the top we encountered a rain shower that called for the quick unpacking of waterproofs. We continued down into Sadlescombe and then took the path up the side of Devil's Dyke before reaching our final refuelling stop.
After taking on even more calories we then started on the home stretch from Devil's Dyke to Woods Mill via Truleigh Hill. The rain started to come down heavily again so we all donned waterproofs and it was a case of heads down to get over the next few hills. The hardest part of the walk came near the end as we descended the scarp slope of the Downs, loosing 50m of height in roughly 140m of walking. A few people slipped and tripped down there!
Once at the bottom we had a lovely flat 2.5km walk to reach our final destination at Woods Mill. As we walked through Tottington Woods the rain eased up and although the sun wasn't up dawn started to break and head torches could be turned off. We finally got to Woods Mill itself a couple of minutes before 4am; it took us 7 1/4 hours to complete the walk with about 6 hours of that being walking time at an average rate of around 4.5km an hour, a pace which we were mighty pleased with.
Thirteen of us made it to the end where we were met with some posters congratulating us on our achievement and we then proceeded to tuck into a well earned breakfast. We are really proud of our achievement on the walk and at the current time we have raised just over £5k for the charities we are supporting once promises of cash have been taken into account.
On the walk we recorded more than 180 different species of plant, beetle, moth, mammal and bird showing just how diverse the wildlife of the Sussex Downs is. If the wind and rain had held off we could have probably got close to 200!
It was a really great experience for everyone involved and although it was a tough hike, particularly the last downhill which finished a few people off, its something we can all be very proud to have done.
We want to say a really big thank you to all our families and friends who supported us before, during and after the hike and put up with our afternoon naps over the weekend. But the biggest thanks of all go to all the people and companies who sponsored us and enabled us to raise more than £5,000 split between the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Dave, Jo, Bo, Lisa, Paul, Amanda, Laura, Shaun, Katie, Ali, Nicky, Lee, Di, Evie, Rex and Lucinda (who came to wave us off!).