A perfect spot for the South Downs Way

by Julie Musk

It’s just over 14 miles walking west from YHA Eastbourne to YHA South Downs, along a lovely stretch of the South Downs Way, with far-reaching views and the sound of skylarks to keep you company; very liberating. As you crest the last hill, it’s good to pause and take in the final view – there’s the River Ouse, the railway line with Southease Halt, and just in front a collection of buildings that includes the hostel. At the bottom of the steep hill, passing the hostel’s campsite and some camping pods, you enter the yard. On the wall of the old dairy are some pictures telling the story of how this used to be a farm as far back as the Middle Ages and describing the family who ran it. It only opened in 2013 as a youth hostel, and still has the atmosphere of bygone days.

I was early but allowed to check in to one of the rooms in the yard – a dorm with sink (loos and showers separate). Across the yard is the communal area, which has some characterful features, such as beams, fireplaces and original stone walls; they could make more of this with better lighting (some lamps would probably do the job). The kitchen is quite basically kitted out (there were a few things I couldn’t find but regardless managed without). The dining area through the arch has the atmosphere of a small refractory, with its deep windows and tiny 13th-century font. I enjoyed a pleasant evening in the Quiet Lounge (the TV is in the larger lounge), engrossed in several books on art and artists from the well-stocked library. The large Ordnance Survey map on the wall was useful to consult for my route onwards tomorrow. There is also a handy train timetable, with trains to Seaford and Brighton.

Back in the dormitory, I spent a slightly restless night (the underfloor heating, although nice to start with, was rather too warm for me). The next morning, after a hearty cooked breakfast in the Courtyard Cafe (which is open to the public and must do a roaring trade with walkers and cyclists), I prepared to leave. There is a thoughtfully provided bike station with tools and a tyre pump, and also a lockable cycle store in one of the former stables/milking byres. Leaving the yard, I crossed the railway line and headed off down the quiet country lane. There are paths along the riverbank in both directions (to Lewes and Newhaven). Next stop for me though, YHA Brighton.

 Images: © Julie Musk 2019

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