The Sussex Ouse Valley Way – Day 3

I woke on day three to the pitter-patter of rain hitting my tent. I started my breakfast snacks and pulled on my smelly clothes, waiting for a gap in the rain to dash to the toilet block.

The toilets had a small area inside that I eyed up as perfect for packing my bag in, so I grabbed the contents of my tent, trying to protect them from the persisting raindrops, and ran back to the toilet block. I packed up my sopping-wet tent, returned to the mess of things, and hastily packed the remaining items into my bag. After struggling into my waterproofs, I decided to get going and started walking through a field towards the river. The campsite owner insisted I use their land to get back into Lewis, so I walked through their fields towards the curve in the river.

I find the path worn down by the local dog walkers and make my way towards the small housing estate over the hill. When I reach the estate’s road surface, the tarmac feels tough underfoot compared to the soft, malleable mud from the riverbank, making my movements a little rough. The change in gait shook me so much that my camera slipped from its holster and hit the ground hard. In a panic, I scrambled to pick it up, checking it for damage. The lens was fine, but the cover and plastic on the side had chipped. Damn! I was extra cautious and protective the rest of the day, meaning only a few quality pictures were taken this last day.

I snaked through the streets until I found a footpath taking me back to the Tesco at which I had finished the previous day. Once at Tesco, I popped in for a vegan bacon sandwich and a coffee and felt refreshed. Grabbing some snacks and painkillers for my aching feet, I started the final leg of my journey. I felt optimistic for the last day now that I was back on the trail with just 10 miles left.

The historic town of Lewes is bustling, and as I walk through the town, my large pack and muddy getup attract strange looks. The Harveys brewery towered on the other side of the river, and the town’s restaurants were packed with people. It’s not long until I’m back on the riverbank, wandering through the Railway Land Nature Reserve, where evidence of the railway can be found throughout the park, from old signals and signs to the sleepers lining the flower beds.

After passing under the main road, I can see the upcoming winds and bends in the path, and I don’t feel like I’m making progress. The rain picks up again, and walking along the river’s edge has become monotonous. It doesn’t help that I’ve not seen another person walking the other way to break up the sections.

Entrance to Railway Land Nature Reserve in Lewes.

After 2km of the same view through a miserable drizzle, I can see a group of hikers ahead of me turning off towards Monk House. When I reach the same point, I make the turn and consider the land around me as I walk towards the house of Virginia Woolf. She died by suicide, drowning herself in the river during a bout of depression. Found at the bottom of the river with rocks filling her pockets, she’s in my thoughts as I make my way to her final home and resting place. Her ashes were buried in the garden beneath an elm tree.

Her home is in a small village called Rodmell, which I’ve hiked from many times before with scouts or on assignment. I know the pub does fantastic food, but sadly, it’s also not open at this time of the day. I decide to carry on and make my way towards Southease. The path looks like it follows the road, but it seems fast and busy as I reach it. Thankfully, a handy trail runs through an adjoining field lined with wild rhubarb, separating me from the main road. The rain makes it feel miserable, but this is a sure sign of summer on its way.

The path soon joins with the South Downs way, and when I reach Southease church, I take advantage of the free water tap and the bench looking over the hill. I take this opportunity to call my dad, updating him on my location and today’s journey so far. He gives me words of encouragement, and the conversation refreshes me once again.

Just short of Southease station, I return to the riverbank, breaking off from the South Downs Way, taking the higher ground to ensure I don’t end up with even wetter feet; these boots have really had their day.

I’m sharing the footpath with cows again, having to move around them frequently. The rain is intermittent but cold and stings my exposed skin when it hits.

Walking along the river from Lewes with the miserable weather.

The river twists and turns until I rejoin the road. I cross and venture up a very posh driveway with no clear footpath sign. The map says I’m right, so I carry on at a quicker pace. I know there is a left-hand turn somewhere ahead, but with no clear signage, I check for worn paths. After I branch off confidently, I realise I’ve gone a little too early, as the worn path I follow has stopped taking me in the right direction, veering me off course of my compass bearing. I can see a slightly higher footpath on this small hill, so I battle stingers and thorns to make it up there. Compass corrected, I carry on.

While this may be the right path, the rain has turned it to mush, and my feet slip and slide with each step. This is also the first hill I’ve had to climb since reaching Lewes, and my tired legs, over 35 miles into the walk, are resisting. Finally, I descend into the village of Piddinghoe, a quaint little town filled with dog walkers and boat owners. I’m back on the riverbank as the rain starts coming down. Visibility is poor, and I don’t know if I’m close to Newhaven. I check the map and see I’m not very far at all, but the rain slows me down.

I know the marina is coming soon, but I can’t see it ahead through the mist. This 1km feels like 10 against the miserable conditions sweeping in from the nearing coast. I considered stopping in a pub marked on the map, but with the distance to the end shrinking with each step, I just wanted to finish. I don’t like walking when I feel down, and I think the weather affects my opinion of Newhaven.

The town of Newhaven is unremarkable and a little dismal in the rain. After circumventing the marina, I cross the river for the last time as it feeds Newhaven harbour and spills out into the sea. At the town train station, I take a right towards the harbour station, resisting the urge to barrel towards the golden arches of Mcdonald’s. From this point, I’m on ground already trodden – the harbour station marks the ending point of the Vanguard way, a route from East Croydon, 67 miles away, and a walk I completed last year.

The routes run together along the edge of the train line, out of the main town of Newhaven, and then through the historical Tide Mills, ending close to the Sailing club house. The path went from tarmac to mud, to grass, to gravel, and I finally crossed the finish line sopping wet with two aching feet.

At the finish! 3 days and 42 miles from my starting point at Lower Beeding.

After 42 miles within three days and no proper lunch today, I’m keen to get something real in my stomach. Reaching the end was a little anti-climactic. I call my partner and celebrate a little over the phone, stunned that I’ve reached the end and no longer need to walk, but the real celebration will come when I can take the sopping wet boots off my feet!

I hold off while eating my vegan sausage sandwich and drink the hot soy latte served by two very kind ladies at the Sailing club. After warming up in the clubhouse, my legs seize, and my feet feel damaged beyond repair, twanging like colliding saucepans. Still, I’m being collected from Lewes and need to take the train. I waddle over to Bishopstone station and catch a train back to my starting place this morning. The train line follows the river, and I look at the miles undoing as we fly past them.

On arrival at Lewes station, I scout out the nearest pub, walk in and order a pint of cider. The moment I’ve been waiting for has come, and I finally pluck up the courage to remove my boots. On removing them, I can see how sopping wet my socks are. Pulling my socks off feels even better, and after the swelling dies down, I can see the cracks in my feet where they’ve gotten wet and not dried for hours.

I examine my broken boots and see the offending cracks and tears causing water to leak into my previously functional boots. They’ve had a good run, but it’s time to retire them.

I slip into my flip-flops, pull out my book (Simon Armitage’s ‘Walking Home’), and read for the next few hours until I’m collected to return to my real life.

Distance Walked: 10.8 (+2) miles
Elevation Gain: 306ft
Time Taken: 4hrs 2mins

Day 1 –
Day 2 –



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