Friday, 12 September 2014

South Downs day 6: We have ourselves a swim to Amberley

Oh, the rain!  The papers would later call it "WETTEST BANK HOLIDAY EVER!".  Who am I to argue?

Despite the fact we did a pretty good clip the day before and we had been in bed and asleep by 9:30, we woke refreshed and ready to go.  The inn we stayed- The MoonLight Cottage- gets my raves forever as the woman who runs it is actually a good cook.  Not only was the cake excellent, but breakfast was spot-on, and she had lovely touches like plain, unsweetened yogurt and good organic ingredients.  The packed lunch was probably the best we've had on the trail as well.  

It made the morning all the more sweeter.     

We were carrying our light packs, which we don't have rain covers for, so we carefully packed up all of our stuff in big heavy-duty ziplock bags.  Including my camera.  I was phone-reliant for the day.

We headed back up the now slippery slope.  We passed a farm near the trail side.  A huge dog came running out- it had a face like a German Sheppard, but it was much bigger and had shaggy black fur.  It didn't bark or growl, but it came running at us very alert looking.  At the last minute, he stopped, and put his giant head on my leg and looked up with big brown eyes.  Thanks for making my wet pants wetter, you stupid sweet dog.

It wasn't so bad.  At first, anyway.  It rained, it drizzled.  We had crap visibility.  It's days like this where you get concerned about losing the trail.  We had very little view, of anything, making it really easy to get disoriented.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

It was beautiful.  It was still.  There was no one out at all.  It was other-worldly and calm and misty and magical.

Something we hadn't seen on the trail before:

Sunflowers!  A huge field of them.

This one made me laugh- it was the only one out of the whole bunch that was facing the wrong way, and it looked beat up because of it.  This is why I walk from West to East here.  You want the rain and wind at your back whenever possible!

We stopped really briefly to eat our sandwiches while standing under a big pine tree, which was about the driest place we could imagine finding.

The low visibility made you look extra hard at anything that you could see, and everything was eerie and ominous and beautiful.

At this point, we were up on the ridge with the rain pelting us ferociously.   Despite our waterproof jackets and trousers and boots, we were soon soaked to the skin.  I figured it was like a wetsuit, and my body heat was keeping a nice layer of water warmed up.  I don't think I've been out when it is raining so hard that your hooded rainproof jacket became useless- the wind was just blowing too hard for anything to be watertight.  As long as I didn't stop, I felt okay, but the moment I paused, I would start feeling really unpleasant.  I didn't mind so much, except my socks wicked up enough water to soak my feet, and I was squishing water out of my boots with every slippery step.

Rather hilariously, my shirt fell apart completely.  It was one of those merino layers that I love to wear on the trail so much.  I went to tug on the hemline and was surprised to find I had managed to tear a huge chunk off the back of my shirt.  Further poking and prodding revealed the whole shirt was easily persuaded to transform into tatters, and it was staying on only by adhering to my wet skin.  Something about the wet and the friction and the wool meant I was walking in nothing but my sports bra and a few mangy tatters of what used to be my shirt.  I...I had just never had that happen before.  


We went through a huge farm that was practicing lots of sustainability and organic methods, which seemed really cool.  We could barely stop to read all the signs they had posted at the gates, the water was just pelting us too hard.

We did encounter one other walker coming towards us.  We barely saw each other until we were almost on top of him.  "WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?" he yelled our way.  "BECAUSE IT IS FUN!" I yelled back.

And it was.

The only thing I remember seeing the rest of the day was a sign post at the old Roman Road we crossed.

This might have been the fastest we ever walked 13 miles before.  Despite that the trail was becoming a slippery white-chalk mess, we booked it and arrived at the pub less than 6 hours from when we set out.  With nothing to stop and admire, we made really good time.

We got to the pub in Amberley.  We were in desperate need of a change of clothes and a pint, I hesitated at the door.  I was beyond soaking, and I knew that every step I took would leave a huge pool of water on the floor.  I went for it anyway, and locked myself in the bathroom and dried up and put on clean clothes.  I ended up having to mop up the bathroom floor because I flooded it while wringing out my clothes in the sink.  Well, except for the shirt.  That just went into the bin once I figured out how to scrape every last bit of it off.

Dry clothes never felt so good.  The pub was really warm and friendly, and we could peer out the back and see the board at the train station, so I'm going to say it was convenient as well.  We got some drinks and some nibbles and relaxed by the late-August fireplace.

Oh, and the only real damage?  The phone that went for a swim in the Lake District a few weeks back and managed to survive.  A waterproof pocket ended up being not-so-waterproof, and the poor phone drowned for good this time.

Even after all that, we felt good.  It had been uncomfortable being so wet for so long, but we had walked nearly 30 miles over two days and we still felt fresh and energetic.  However, we wouldn't turn down a chance to sit down by the fire.  We're not that nutty.

I'm actually kind of sad that we only have two more days of walking on this trail.

No comments:

Post a Comment