As the sunshine remained settled no settling at a desk this week. Once again the Downs beckoned and off we trotted to another well trod peri-urban path. Setting out from the dog-eared dog poo decked car park on top of Falmer Hill past ditches brimming with rogue rubbish. We find a deflated dinghy marooned with a cargo of beer – 600 feet above sea level….. a sign of very poor navigation or a very high tide indeed?
Once past the reach of not so furtive fly tippers, the track forks down the steady curve of Bullock Hill. The Downs frame the sea and sights of Rottingdean, as we follow a sheepless path to the quiet depths of Standean Bottom. The sounds of distant Brighton disappear, and a lone hawk hovers on no wind. Picking a way on a path booby trapped by badgers with ankle busting burrows, the trees now bare, in the bottom, fringe a half planted field of winter green.
Broken buildings guard the gateway to Castle Hill. The only sign of life is some scrappy shavings of sheep. The rusting remains of redundant farmyard tools look alien in this landscape. The valley fields, that in August glowed as Brighton’s bread basket, are now fringed with churned up chalk.
As the sun sinks behind the hill we start a slow ascent, and swing round past gorse and grazing ponies, who watch, and munch.
Tucked in a valley corner, where the sound of cars creeps in, a dew pond reflects the sounds above as contrails cross the sky, surrounded by a Blair Witch thicket.
A steep and not too clear a climb, on narrow pony pitted deep mud tracks, leads up towards the more popular path. And, as the sun sets over Woodingdean, we can barely see the signs that we are heading home – an empty bag from Cyprus Airport duty free, and other dumped detritus, mark the trail to ‘civilisation’.