south downs way
me and my brother in law have never done anything like this before, but we are thinking of walking the whole south downs way. we live in eastbourne so are thinking of starting in winchester and ending at eastbourne, we will be wild camping where possible and want to try and complete it in 3 days. so my question to you lot is do you think 3 days is possible? we could stretch to 4 days if need be though.
we are thinking of doing this next year around august time so we have plenty of time to prepare.
thank you for any advice you can give
without practice you'll find it a trudge. you could practice by walking the northern loop of the SDW from eastbourne to alfriston and back long the southern loop via exceat and the seven sisters. now do that for four days.
if you want to walk the SDW you could do it in sections or if a solid jaunt is a must then be aware that wild camping isn't as simple as you may think - you must be very discrete and pick your spot carefully. also, apart from a couple of taps along the western end there is no water so you will have to make detours to get water - which isn't necessarily a problem as water can be found in a pub.
if you look up "downlander southern railways" on google it will point you to a £10 daily special ticket that coevrs all trains and a fair few buses in the south downs area. don't waste your time trying to find it the southern site without the search.
I walked the SDW earlier this year in six days with four wild camps and one night just off the route at a friend's house. After five days I was only four miles from Eastbourne and could have finished that day but my Downlander ticket was for day six.
The distance is 100 miles so three days means at least 33 miles per day: doable if you are fit and travel light enough but it turns the whole journey into something of a slog; any excursions off route for food or ale will add to that mileage.
I see no problem with the wild camping: your schedule would enforce camp late, leave early anyway. By attempting the route in August you are guaranteed sufficient daylight, you may even have too much when looking to set up a discreet wild camp but you can always have a midday siesta. You may find the going dry and hard with little escape from the sun on the hilltops.
Some sort of water filtration system such as the Travel Tap can be useful in increasing the number of sources of water available to you such as the inlet to animal troughs on grazing land.
Good luck. Let us all know how it turns out for you.
I've done up to 24 miles in one day on a day hike, and when doing long distance paths around 20 miles a day for 3 days, and that frankly was enough for me. I generally prefer an average of around 18 miles a day where possible, 20 if necessary based on campsites (I'm not confident enough to wild camp) and time available.
In general though I would say you need to work out a few things in advance, namely how far you can both realistically walk in one day, and why you are doing the route. If you are simply going to walk the route for the challenge of finishing it as quickly as possible, then you'll need to get in plenty of practice in advance. If you actually want to enjoy the route, take photos, see any nearby sites and so on then you should relax and take 5-7 days to complete it and not worry much about speed.
I generally prefer to take my time a little, that way I enjoy the walk more and have plenty of photos to remind me of what I've seen, but each to their own.
If you can, try to get hold of the National Trail Guide for the route because they're a great guidbook with lots of information and O/S maps included. I used the NTG when I did the Hadrian's Wall Path and only took a wrong turn once. Sometimes you can pick up older versions of the book in discount bookshops for £5. Whilst nothing can really replace full O/S maps, if you're not looking to make any diversions from the route the book will be all you'll need.
Its been a while since I posted this question and I thank you all for your advice. The date is set now for the last week in august to do the walk and there is now 3 of us doing it.
After a little bit of research I did realise 3 days was a bit stupid and so we are going to do it in 5 days and leave a with day as a buffer just in case
We will be wild camping mostly but will hit a campsite halfway through to refresh.
Thank you for the train ticket tip and if anyone usable to give any tips on wild camping that would be great
We are a good bunch of lads who will leave nothing but footprints and start no fires so I don't think we will be any trouble to any public situations
Can't wait to start now though, I know it will be hard going but it will be an adventure!
Also thanks for mentioning water I have now found grid numbers for waterpoints as well
Picking up grid references for water points sounds like you're doing your homework so well done! Hitting a campsite halfway through is also a good idea. If nothing else it should boost morale as you take advantage of whatever facilities they have.
August should give you good weather but if it does it can be very hot so watch it. I've definitely had a touch of sunstroke doing that path. Also if the ground does dry out it can be hard on the feet, like walking concrete. Finally you'll be walking on chalk downland. In bright sunlight you'll get reflection back off exposed chalk so don't forget those sunglasses!
The inclusion of a buffer day is also a very sensible idea. Blisters, an upset tummy anything can happen but it sounds as though you're really getting in to this, so good luck and I hope you enjoy it!
Not so much fun hobbling along on massive blisters, but well done for keeping going. I guess you now reckon that six or seven days was better than trying to do it in three or four days.
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