Visitors Rides

CYCLIST'S GUIDE TO THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY


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VISITORS RIDES & COMMENTS

I have received several emails, and thought it would be useful to have a page to include comments about SDW, such as where to stay, technical, experiences and thoughts / reflections about your ride on SDW, things that you enjoyed or found useful, tips etc..

For rides, please send nr of days; miles per day eg 30/40/30; fitness avg, good; gender & age; bike full susp mtb, front susp, rigid, touring; b&b , camp etc; any other comments

I do not want to start a 'forum' as admin etc, so please email then I will include. Obviously, I must reserve the right as to what to include, and to edit, amend, remove etc as I feel right. I will include your initials only and date.

RIDES

Route: W: Winchester; E: Eastbourne; B: Brighton, Devils Dyke; Q: Queen Elizabeth Park, Petersfield. So W-B is Winchester to Brighton, W-E Winchester to Eastbourne

Miles/day: if 2 days, 60 miles then 40: 60/40. 

Below is summary, then I have 'pasted' parts of their emails beneath table. Some are quite long, so may have to scroll down few 'screens'. This 'page' is getting quite long now, but think best to keep together (I know websites only should have max 3 screens per page). Summary of rides below table is in order of how they are in table. I have added a number so easier to locate in text.

Thus, example below shows I have only done 65 miles from Winchester to Brighton, and on one day.

Name Age Gender Route miles / day time hrs fitness bike night comment
eg Anthony 56 M W - B 65 10 good avg front susp n/a BHF 2006 many puddles
1. Dick, Harry 37, 40 M A32 - Q 15 1.5 moderate     very wet and slippery came off a couple of times.

2. John, Stan 64, 71 M W - E   3 day     Cocking & Clayton; see 'where to stay'  
3. Rob, Graeme, Neil (RN&G) 40+ M W - E 30/40/30   road; some wkend mtb; fit but not cyclist various Cocking & Clayton; see 'where to stay'  3 punctures, cloudy, wet, misty, front mech 'fell apart'
4. Richard   M W - E   2 day     Washington mid- October
5. Peter   M W - E   2 day     Steyning June
6. Roy & his wife   M, F W -E   3     Cocking, Brighton,  
7. Ollie   M E - W   2 day     YHA, Truleigh Hill  
8. Hannah & husband   F, M W - E 40,30,30 3 good; cycle work 30 miles hard tail with rack; full susp camping, tent, stove etc camp Graffam (just north of SDW near Cocking; Pycombe
9. Emma & husband 47 F, M W - E 50,35,40   good, avg. hard tail & full susp B&B Midhurst, Bramber June, no punctures, got lost out of Winchester; se
10. Rob C, Tom 24 M E - W 65 / 35 2 good cyclo cross & hard tail Charlton (nr Cocking)  
11. Mike A       100 1        
12. Martin W                  
13. Tim C 20 + M E-W 35/35/35 3   full susp B&B  
14. Tim M 27 M W - E 50 / 50 2 good   Amberley B&b  
15. Sean G 36 M E - W 12/48/52 3 good rigid mtb YHA Alfriston, Arundel dry sunny March
16. Darryl S 36 M W - E 100 1 v good full susp   wet start, slippery, dried out
17.Russell   M W - E 65 / 35 2 good   B&b Fulking first day wet muddy
18. David & Fran

 

12 to 47 family of 5 W - E   6 varying   see below  
19. Simon W & H   M W - E 25 /40 /35 3     S Harting, Pyecombe good
20. Andrew S   3 M W - E 65 /35 2 good   Fulking  
21 Anna T   F W - E 60/40 2   front susp YHA Truleigh  
22. Mik M   group of 11 E - W   4     various see below  
23. Jon F   M & F W-E   3     Cocking, Fulking  
24. Chris T 37 M E- W 60/40 2     Gumbar Bothy  
25. Tom A     W- E 35 / 65 2        
26. Stuart H 31 4 M W - E 35/30/35 3   hard tail Graffham, Pyecombe  
27. Micheal P 47 -65 6 M W-E 35/30/35 3     Cocking, Pyecombe  
28. David G 58 M E - W   3     Fulking, Cocking  
29 Alan S 67                       M W to E  34/32/31  3 avg   Cocking, Hurstpierpoint  
30. Steve & Lesley 50,52 M F W to E   1 (12 3/4hr)        
31. Steve Ian Alex   M W to Alfriston            
32 Ros H 57 F W - E   3 new cyclist exceptional undertaking   Cocking, Fulking  
33 Dave & Peter                  
                   

3. From Rob N &G:

"As for our trip - we had a good laugh doing this over a long weekend starting Friday 28th Sept and finishing on the Sunday. There were 3 of us (Neil, Graeme and Rob) - and on the final leg a 4th guy (Pat) joined in. We are all the wrong side of 40.
None of them are cyclist enthusiasts apart from me (Rob) who does road work with a Southampton club and did the odd race this year after a 16 year gap. Graeme does a little weekend MTB and Neil is fairly active, but does little cycling.
 
Bikes: I have a cheap Avalanche GT bike with cable disc brakes - its very heavy; Graeme has a Rock Hopper with hydraulic brakes. Not sure what Neil had a Mongoose with full suspension, but no disc brakes.
 
Neil had been planning the trip for several months, and although not too challenging for me (although the climbs and descents always get the heart racing), was quite an achievement for the others. The idea was we could complete it comfortably enough for pub food and beers, which worked out reasonably well.
 
The legs were:
Friday: Winchester (St Alfreds statue) to Cocking.
Saturday: Cocking to Clayton
Sunday: Clayton to Eastbourne
 
The weather was cloudy, then wet and misty, and on the final leg we had a bit of sunshine. Fortunately it was not cold. I think there were about 3 punctures, and my chain broke 3 times (my fault - a shimano chain where I didn't use the special link) - fortunately my Alien II multitool had a chain link extractor. Also Graeme's front gear changer fell apart on the first day, so we had to lock him in the middle ring which didn't seem to impair him too much.
 
Nobody had any spills of note , although I found some of the decents on wet chalky ruts (or big flint loose stuff) a bit hairy (my back disc brake wasn't working too well).  There was also a big descent (I can't remember where) which was very grassy, but had an obscured ditch 3/4 of the way down running across. I bunny hopped it at the last moment and the other guys got over OK, but I bet it has caught some peoples front wheel.
 
In general I cycled most hills, while Neil walked most of them, and Graeme cycled a lot of them - in fact Graeme was awesome for a non-cyclist. The last leg was noticeably easier than the first two (a good thing because Pat had done next to no cycling preparation). Salt hill was frustrating because it is possible to cycle, but easy to come to a stop, especially in the damp. That decent into Cocking was pretty scary in the wet also.
 
When we started on Friday morning, the plan was to be guided by GPS, but the guys couldn't get it working. Fortunately I had bought the "Harveys" map and had a map holder, which got us through the directions for the next 3 days. You still had to have your wits about you, since its always so easy to miss a sign, despite everything. I wished I could memorise your website, but that is impossible, and printing it off and carrying it is impractical - however it was reassuring to recognise various locations from your website.
 
Our Friday pub stop was the "Five Bells" in Buriton which I can heartily recommend (we all had the Moule Marinere) with good beers. The Friday night stop in Cocking was the "Moonlight Cottage Tea Rooms" which was absolutely fantastic for hospitality - the (new) owners helped us clean up (we were very muddy), gave us a cup of tea and washed and dried our clothes. We also had dinner there, which was fortunate because the local pub was pretty poor. The price at the Moonlight Cottage Tea Rooms was good too. I would definitely go there again.
 
Our Saturday pub stop was in Washington - the "Frankland Arms" - the food was average but the sun came out while we ate in the garden which was nice. Saturday night we stayed at the "Jack and Jill" pub where the accomodation was very basic, but the evening food and breakfast were excellent. I probably drank too much alcohol that night.
 
On Sunday we stopped for lunch at Alfiston with some pasties from the shop and beers at the George pub, where we managed to persuade Pat (who joined us for the last leg) not to abandon (he was knackered). The final climbs overlooking Eastbourne gave us some great views in the sunshine. We met wifes and friends in Eastbourne and after cleaning up went home in the warmth of cars and vans.
 
I would like to do the ride again over 2 days, and also with more sunshine (on Friday and Saturday - many of the views were obscured by mist). I also need to buy a better mountain bike with working brakes, so that the descents aren't quite so scary."

 

5. Peter: I did the SDW in mid June (same weekend as the London -Brighton race).  Fantastic.  I've  never cycled so far or hard in my life, and have the fondest of memories of stretching myself and a real buzz of achievement.  I left Winchester first thing, traveling there by train, then overnight in an inn at Steyner.  Finished off the next day - despite a double forward somersault and landing on my face mid morning ouch.  No shaving for 3 weeks!  Weather hailed, shone and rained.  Bike survived just despite punctures and use of 3 (shoes?/boots

7. Ollie: we completed the ride a few months ago now over the 15th / 16th of June. We stayed in the Trueleigh Hill YHA – which was pretty good with an old garage out the back to store you bike and large clean dorms – however the breakfast could have been bigger.  

We set off first thing in the morning and made good time to Arundel dodging showers along the way.  We stopped under the bridge across the river Arun as it tipped it down for a good 20mins, we then cracked on but finished riding from Cocking to Petersfield on the road as we where all knackered  - possibly something to do with too many beers the night before and too much lunch under the bridge in Arundel.  Anyway over all it was a great success and something that we will defiantly do again.  

I think overall we rode 50 miles including the ride from Shoreham station to the YHA"

 

6. Roy:  we did the ride over 3 days, starting in Winchester, B&B in Cocking and stayed with my sister in Brighton. Overall, it was a bit harder than expected for my wife . Enjoyed it very much and had great weather. Found your site a great help and printed off a number of pages to take with us. Also bought the Harvey South Downs Way map, which used in conjunction with your notes makes getting lost impossible".

8. Hannah

 my husband and I cycled the SDW from Winchester to Eastbourne over the Bank Holiday weekend (3 May 08 weekend). 
 
Thankfully the weather was on our side and we had sunshine the whole way. We got the train from London to Winchester on the Friday night and stayed in a lovely B&B in Chilcomb (about 20 mins ride from train station) which is right on the trail. It was called Complyns B&B and I would recommend it - great breakfast to start the day off.
 
Had lunch stop at the Five Bells in Buriton. Great pub. We then stopped at Graffam campsite on the Saturday night, again a great place to stay though a bit of a drop off the Downs. Added an extra 20 - 30 mins onto our journey the next morning as we had to climb back up onto the ridge. Cooked our own tea and then crashed out.
 
Sunday lunch stop was in Washington at the Frankland Arms. Food not too bad and easy to get back on to the trail.  The Sunday night was spent in Pyecombe camped on the front lawn of a B&B there!(he White House) Again great breakfast to start the day. Had dinner Sunday night in the pub there which was ok. We then rode to Eastbourne with a quick stop in Alfriston for pasties on the green by the river and caught the train back to London on the Monday afternoon.
 
mileage: 40, 30, 30
Fitness - reasonable. We both cycle to work (30 miles round trip).
1 puncture and problems with chain (too loose) so had to take link out. No crashes thankfully!
 
No real incidences along the way. We were carrying all our camping kit (light weight tent, sleeping bags, small stove etc) so that slowed us down a bit though wasn't a problem. I have a hard tail bike to put rack on the back and strapped things there. My husband has a full suspension bike so strapped the tent to the handlebars. After a few adjustments along the way it was fine and would happily do it again!
 
Overall a fabulous weekend, beautiful views and a wonderful sense of achievement when we sped down into Eastbourne.'


9. Emma: We did SDW in 3 days, 9-12 June. Fantastic ride, great scenery, and a wonderful holiday. http://www.geocities.com/emmag1959/

 

11. Mike A:

We did our 3rd 'SDW in a day' jaunt on Sat and I've done a write up for our club site here - http://www.egcc.net/display-items.asp?intTypeID=150&intItemID=390

I use a Camelbak Mule on these sorts of trips as I usually commute with a rucksack so don't have a prob with 'carrying' the weight.

We passed 3 chaps doing the route over three days and I do have to say I didn't envy them with their panniers.

We only had 5 visits from the puncture fairies but did have a chain break.  Some other useful equipment for your list would be a chain tool and (most importantly) two pairs of chain powerlinks  - http://www.wiggle.co.uk/ProductDetail.aspx?Cat=cycle&ProdID=5300003847&N=SRAM%20Spare%20Connecting%20Pin

A bit of gaffa tape is always useful to have and can be stuck to something 'just in case'

Lights are also handy especially if you start hitting the wooded bits in the evening.  We did the ride in Aug in 06 and the final wooded section to Jevington was getting really quite dark come 8pm.  And of course you need lights for the run through the night time streets of Eastbourne ;-)

Timings wise we set off at 8:05, hit Whiteways/Amberley around 1 and Jack & Jill about 4:45.  We've had friends meet us with food and drink there but unfortunately there aren't any convenient shops or eating establishments nearby.  I'd probably suggest folk do a slight detour in to Lewes if they wanted a stop around tea time.  Would make a decent break point before the climb up around Kingston.

 

10. Rob C: 

Myself (Rob) and my friend Tom cycled the SDW over the weekend of 21/22

*Day 1*
Got the train before 9 from London which got into Eastbourne at 10.13 am. Set off just before 10.30 am. It had been raining overnight but
cleared up by the time we started so the route was fairly dry but still cloudy. However this did not stop me from getting sunburnt! With no
strong winds we made good time before lunch meeting some other (very friendly) cyclists along the way. In particular one guy cycled with us
part of the way and gave us lots of information which was much appreciated0. Stopped for lunch at Devil's Dyke then pressed on for
Cocking. Weather took a turn for the worse at this point in the day which was compounded by the frequent punctures. The cyclocross tyres
were being literally shredded by the sharp flints which resulted in many a puncture. In fact during the two days we had 11 punctures between us!
After leaving the SDW for Charlton got lost in Charlton Forrest which was very frustrating but eventually made it to Tom's Uncles where
bed/dinner/beer awaited.

*Day 2*
After a leisurely start to the day we eventually got going just after midday thinking we had just a quick cycle through forestry trails to the
SDW followed by a fairly leisurely cycle of 35m to Winchester. Indeed the omens were good as the sun was blazing and our spirits high. The
wind was at times troublesome but not to bothersome. However there was noticeable deterioration in signage of the SDW E-W especially in
Hampshire which resulted in many diversions off the main route. With no O/S map and only the Harvey's SDW map which provides little clues if you stray off the marked route, more often than not the only choice was to turn around and retrace our steps to the point where the SDW was
recovered. This made the second day mileage more like 50m which on the whole was not too bad due to the gentler terrain and tarmac sections
leading up to Winchester. The sense of achievement having out photo taken under Alfred was immense.

*Other Info*
I was on a Specialised TriCross with Cinder X tyres while Tom was on a Gary Fisher Hoo koo e koo hard tail with Panaracer Fire Pros. The cross
bike held up fairly well and on the whole was a good ride. However some of the descents were slowed significantly from the desire not the spend
my old age with arthritis. The gearing was a bit lacking on some of the more technical hills which certainly put undue strain on the knees.
While the cross bike was fun I will probably take my hard tail or full sus for the next SDW trip. In terms of other equipment we had the usual
(and frequently required) puncture repair kit. Park tools super patch was our best friend. Would emphasise the need for duct tape to make
running repairs to any ripped side walls (which is 100% an issue given the flint). With regards food we both took Isotonic drinks, muesli bars,
Clif bars and some Gel packs (which tasted terrible!). We both used  rucksacks with nothing on the bike other than bottles. Keeping overall
weight down is obviously key over a long ride like this, and neither of us suffered any discomfort from our rucksacks.

In terms of fitness we both commute to work, have been putting in some long rides in the weeks leading up to the trip, and laid off the beers
in the run up to the ride. Tom was certainly the fitter of the two of us which will have to be rectified for the next trip!

12. Martin W:

 Five of us of reasonably mature years have just done the Thames Path, Kennet and Avon Canal, over the Hampshire Downs to Winchester, and then most of the South Downs way from Winchester to Steyning.  

We found the web-site a great help, and I thought you might like some extra comments. 

HIGHLIGHT - Chanctonbury ring in a 50 mph gale! Everyone was delighted and the views were staggeringly beautiful. 

HARD RIDING - We had delays (see below), and we are all experienced touring cyclists putting in regular mileages of 60 to 70 miles per day on road, but we found our 3 days on the SDW tough and a real challenge. We rode up some of the hills you marked as very steep and found that satisfying. Some of the downhills, especially the one down into the valley at Amberley were fabulously high octane.  

PUNCTURES - Unbelievably we had 7 punctures between the 5 bikes in the 3 days we were on the SDW.  It slowed progress so much that we eventually called it off and turned to Brighton for a night on the town!  It seems the flints are notorious and we think that slime in the tyres might be a good idea to seal up all the leaks.  My bike with Kenda tyres was exempt, the Maxxis tyres often punctured, probably due to softer rubber. 

ACCOMMODATION -

We stayed at the Running Horse at Littleton near Winchester to start.  Very good rooms and very good food.  Recommended. 

The 2nd night was at The Bluebell at Cocking.  I find it difficult to write anything good about this place.  Awful rooms and beds, food terrible.  If I could find a way of getting it closed down I would and that would repay them for my stomach upset. (think have heard similar comments before about Bluebell at Cocking?)  (June 2009 CLOSED !) FEB 2010 REOPENED under new ownership  www.thebluebell.biz

FOOD - Apart from the Bluebell at Cocking it was great along the whole route.

 

14. Tim M:

We did it in 2 days (about 50 miles each day), from Winchester to Eastbourne
We are fit roadies, used to 100m+ rides and races, but relatively inexperienced MTBer
Male, 29 and 27 respectively
We both rode full sus MTBs
We stayed overnight in Amberley, at the Riverside Tearooms.
We carried rucksacks - one medium, one small.
 
On Saturday we rode from 10:45 until 16:45 with a leisurely lunch stop at the Five Bells, Buriton.
On Sunday we rode from 9:45 until 17:40 with a slight, ahem, detour around Newtimber Hill, a lunch stop at The Half Moon in Plumpton, and a contretemps with a bull on Itford Hill!
 
The detour we took was something like shown in the attachment; the bridleway descent through Newtimber Holt was excellent - even better than the Jevington one.
 
Because the weather was brilliant, and Sunday was Mothering Sunday, the world and his wife were out enjoying the great outdoors.  We would heartily endorse the recommendation for the Riverside B&B in Amberley and the lunch stops in Buriton and Plumpton.  The detour down off 'the tops' to get to Plumpton does, of course, mean an eye-poppingly hard climb after lunch, but that's what big sprockets were made for!
 
The preceding weather had been very dry, so the tracks were fast but the rutted parts were very bumpy.  I can well imagine that the going would be much slipperier and tougher if it had been wet.
 
We parked at the long-stay Chesil Car Park in Winchester (£5 for the weekend) and got the train back from Eastbourne to the start (£30 each and 2hrs 45 mins via Clapham Junction).  I bought a copy of the Harvey's map and found it pretty indispensible at the times when the waymarking became erratic!
 
All in all, we found it much tougher than we'd anticipated - each day perhaps equivalent to a lumpy 100-mile road ride.  It was a brilliant ride, though!  Next, the North Downs Way!

(Tim and Sean must have passed each other but going other way as same weekend ! Perhaps I'll have to start selling www.bikedowns cycling shirts !)

15. Sean G:

I did it in 3 stages, stopping at the YHA hostels: Eastbourne – Alfriston, Alfriston – Arundel, Arundel – Winchester .  Mostly okay without the front suspension, although my wrists felt a bit battered by Winchester and I was glad to see some tarmac.  I managed without the granny ring, although I did miss it and it would have made for a more relaxing ride.  

Logistically it seemed easiest to do the route E – W, as I was traveling down from Watford by train and wanting to keep accommodation costs down – there being no YHA hostel near Winchester for the Friday night.

The bike I used was an old Rockhopper Disc which had been doing service as a commuter – but it was all I had available at the time.  Hence, it had rigid forks, Marathon XR 2.0 tyres, a 12-25 cassette and 44/32 front chainrings with the granny ring removed.  

I did the route in 3 stages, stopping at Alfriston and Arundel YHAs on Friday and Saturday night, respectively.  I took 3 main deviations from the set route:  

1)  Following the footpath over Beachy Head by mistake between Eastbourne and Alfriston YHA, having started the ride with only a green OS roadmap (1:250,000) for guidance.  

2)  I cut into Lewes via the B- road intersecting the SDW at Southease to pick up some proper maps and a café stop.  The road was not busy and Lewes makes a pleasant stop.  I followed the bridleway past the prison towards Ditchling to rejoin the SDW proper.  

3)  I left the SDW again just before Arundel to follow a bridlepath which you can take pretty much most of the way to Arundel YHA (which is actually at Warningcamp).  Next day I followed the A284 North until the roundabout, where you can pick up a bridlepath to rejoin the SDW.  The road is quite busy even on a Sunday morning and not very pleasant, however the bridlepath through the forest is.

General observations:  I thought the route was okay without the front suspension, although my wrists felt a bit battered by Winchester and I was glad to see some tarmac.  I managed without a granny ring, although I did miss it and it would have made for a more relaxing ride.  

I used a backpack for luggage and traveled fairly light with just a change of underwear, spare base-layer, a waterproof and a fleece.  I took a big 750g bag of muesli and some dried milk, raisins, dried bananas for food – this was fine in combination with the “all you can eat” buffet breakfasts at the hostels which were great to set you up for the day.  Two 750ml water bottles between water points were enough, although I’d say not in summer.  I took a puncture repair kit and some duct-tape alone for repairs and luckily this was not needed.  The weight of this in the pack was fine and no bother to carry.

The trail was mostly very dry and the XRs and were plenty enough tyre for the conditions, although there was the odd shaded spot where the chalky soil was quite greasy.  

The route split-up as follows: Eastbourne – Alfriston YHA (12miles, 2hrs); Alfriston – Arundel YHA (48miles, 7hrs); Arundel YHA – Winchester (52miles, 8hrs). This is at a fairly ‘easy going’, ‘touring’ pace with 2 or 3 half-hour stops, and half a dozen short ones.  As has mentioned by others, each section very tough for a 50mile ride and some of the downhills can be quite hairy (I really advise carrying spare brake pads/blocks).  It’s a very enjoyable ride however, and I hope to have another go before the end of summer.

16. Darryl S:

I completed the ride in a day from Winchester to Eastbourne.   Setting off at 06:00 am from the King Alfred statue, it was lightly raining and grey skies, but the rain quickly stopped as I headed out of Winchester.  I found the first part of the ride quite easy, the hills more rolling and the surface fast with a good percent being tarmac.  The damp chalk was lethal though, with several ‘moments’ where the rear tyre stepped out.  I managed to keep it all above ground, but beware if you do this ride on damp ground!  I covered the first 34 miles averaging 10mph.   

I stopped half-way for lunch at Washington where I was met by my support crew (Mrs S!) with pasta, energy drink and provisions for the ride.  The ride gets tougher from there on, a fairly big climb out of Washington setting the scene. The average speed dropped over the second half of the ride due to the ascents, but the descents always brought a big smile to my face!  The weather had improved to sunny spells, and the temperature was a perfect 19c.

I set a target of 12 hours to complete the ride, and finished it in 11 hours 21 mins elapsed time (approx 10 hours 40 mins ride time).  It was a tough challenge, but one which has got me wanting to go back for more. A beautiful route, epic challenge and worthy of my fondest day of riding so far.

There are lots of reports of the SDW being quite prone to giving punctures.  Maybe I was lucky, but I chose Continental Mountain King Protection tyres because of their hardiness, and I didn’t get a single puncture.  The tyres gripped well, rolled fast and inspired confidence.  Having completed the ride, the tyres still look in excellent condition even after riding over so much flint and rock at high speed. 

To aid with the route, I have a Garmin Edge 305 GPS, which I could not recommend more highly for planning rides of any size, this one included.  Most of the SDW is well sign posted, but there are plenty of turns which could be missed.  The battery lasted the ride hence I did not need to refer to OS Explorer maps over the journey. I use TrackLogs software to plan routes.  

Training for the ride:  I live on the North Downs, nr Guildford which is perfect training territory for the SDW.  I tend to get out and do off-road rides 3-4 times a week, varying them in length and intensity.  I began proper training for this ride 8 weeks in advance, increasing the distance of the rides to be more endurance focussed.

My equipment/provisions: Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Full Suspension, Continental Mountain King Protection 2.2 tyres, 2 spare inner tubes, 2 packs of 8 self-adhesive puncture patches, 4 x large tyre patches, multi-tool, tyre lever, pump, Camelbak Mule 3L pack, High5 Isotonic drink, 8 x TorQ energy gels (strawberry yoghurt flavour) 4 x TorQ energy bars, 2 x Clif Energy Bars, 3 x Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Bars, 2 x Bananas, Pasta,  Garmin Edge 305 GPS device, TrackLogs Route planning software for PC,  I refilled my Camelbak twice with tap water en route and used the TorQ gels with the water to boost energy levels.  

17. Russell:

bulletSet off at 7:15 from Winchester
bulletArrived 6:15 in Fulking after 65 miles
bulletSet off from Fulking at 9:40 and arrived in Eastbourne at 3:40 which gave time to get back home by train
bulletWe used back packs which are harder on your body but don’t mess up the handling of the bike which is handy on the descents and twisty bits – just a personal preference
bulletThe back packs were heavy with a change of clothes for day two and clothes to wear that evening. Combined with the lousy weather on the first day, this slowed us down a bit.

  We found the 65/35 mile split worked well as it’s easy to set off early with fresh legs on the first day while more difficult on day two.

For your accommodation section I would like to heartily recommend the Four Acres B&B (www.fouracres.org.uk) just off the SDW in Fulking (just past Truleigh approx 65 miles from Winchester ). It is run by Sarah who was very friendly and welcoming even though we were utterly soaked and caked in mud. We were able to hose down our bikes and store them in her shed and dry clothes in her utility room. The house is modern and luxurious and the breakfast superb. All for about £30 per person. There is an excellent pub in the village, the Shepherd and Dog (www.shepherdanddogpub.co.uk) which does suitably hearty meals too. (David & family also used Four Acres and pub)

 

18. David & Fran and family:

(I think very commendable for a 12 yr old to ride complete distance of SDW)

Family of 5 with widely varying fitness levels, age range 12 to 47, took us 6 days, don’t think we could have done it quicker.  We had a great time and would recommend it.  Youngest would have rather have done it on horseback or with a dog.  2 punctures throughout.  We couldn’t find Buriton shop marked on map. Used Chesil St (Winchester) car park for the cars, £5 per car per day.

·         25.7.09 Winchester  to nr Hamilton Farm, Lane End ( SDW map 7b) 6.5 miles.

Accom – Mays Farm b+b, Longwood Dean. Comfy, clean, hearty breakfast.

·         26.7.09 Hamilton farm to HMS Mercury ( SDW map 7a ) 12 miles.

Accom – Wetherdown Sustainability Centre, Droxford Road, East Meon, Petersfield 01730 823549. Friendly  basic hostel, help yourself to large self-catering breakfast, envigorating shampoos and shower gels, secure bike storage.

·         27.7.09 HMS Mercury to Cocking, 17 miles. We couldn’t find Buriton shop marked on map.

Accom – Moonlight Cottage tearooms b+b.  Pricey, outside loo for family room, good food but didn’t live up to previous glowing write-ups.

·         28.7.09 Cocking to Amberley, 12 miles.

Accom – The Sportsman, Crossgates  Rd, Amberley. Clean, needed 3 rooms to accommodate family of 5 so was pricey,  food good.

Bus transport link to Amberley station  arrived one minute after connecting hourly train to Arundel  ie completely unco-ordinated public transport.

Afternoon party split:  4 to swim in open air pool at Arundel  and Dad to Littlehampton for laundrette and to buy replacement brake blocks.

·         29.7.09 Amberley to Fulking, 16 miles. Fulking full of expensive new  car makes much to eldest child’s delight.   And lots of horses to view today and next day to appease the other 2 children.

Accom – Four Acres b+b, Poynings Road, Fulking.  Very comfortable, very clean, excellent packed lunches ( 2 rounds of sandwiches, fruit  and cake )and thoughtful home comforts such as dvd selection.   Local pub ( Shepherd and Dog) very good food, huge portions. (Russell above also Four Acres) and pub.

·         Fulking to Alfriston, 25 miles.

Accom – Alfriston YHA. Clean, comfy, cosy  and good buffet breakfast.  Smugglers Inn  pub in Alfriston village, good food and served all day eg our evening meal was at 4.30 pm.

·         Alfriston  to Eastbourne, 7 miles.  Then various trains to get back to Winchester and luckily (yes I think that you were v lucky !) each train accommodated our 5 bikes.

Improvements:  Would like more water taps and existing ones to be marked on map (I have plotted on a Googlr map) and Harveys XT40 2006 map needs updating.

 

19. Simon W & Simon H

I have just completed the downs from Winchester to Eastbourne in three days (4-6 July 2009). Beautiful and exhausting. We road ‘hybrid’ Marins with off-road tyres complete with panniers. We left Winchester at 11, arrived at South Harting early evening. I recommend this town highly. The Ship does great beer and food. We stayed at The Pyramids B&B - £30, 2 minutes from pub. We then cycled all day to Pyecombe where we stayed at The Whitehouse – again £30. Great hosts, very friendly and accommodating. The Plough is 2 mins down road and does excellent food – with an M&S at the BP station next door  for riding provisions– it was another perfect place to stay. We then made Eastbourne by 3:00 in afternoon and caught the train back to Winchester to pick up the car.  

Seeming we planned this at the last minute I think we picked two perfect places to stay that split the whole route up very well. Good weather, no punctures, no crashes – excellent.

20. Andrew S

We ware 3 fairly fit men who play alot of sport but had not done alot of cycling.  We cycled the SDW over 3 pleasant autumn days of 10/11the September.  A few points we feel worthy of note to fellow cyclists -

We where very lucky no punctures or other bike problems.
The signposting over the first few miles (west to east) is very poor.  We took a wrong turn and someone had put up a home-made sign which we did not see.  Be careful so as to not add to much distance to an already long journey.
We originally where going to stay overnight at Washington.  However after reading comments on this ite we changed this to Fulking giving a 65/35 mile split instead of 50/50.  This was a very good decisions the second day can take it out of you.  Just start early on the 1st day as we set of at 8 and did not arrive at the Four Acres (Fulking) until 7PM with only 1 30 min stop.

Can heartily recommend the Four Acres, Fulking.  Very helpful, good breakfast and good local pub.

21. Anna T

YHA Truleigh Hill was good would stay there again. There is secure bike lock up in locked garage. I took my own lock to be sure - other folk are given the key to put their bikes in. Staff were friendly. There is an area with sofas and books, TV, mags etc. They provide all sheets and duvets which is good. Food was fine, dinner 3 courses for £10 which is good value. Especially welcome when town is a £10 taxi fare away. Breakfast was £5 I think - I had early cooked breakfast at 7.30 - Later breakfast from 8am is help yourself buffet, and there were croissants too, which I missed out on!
Times. Winchester departed 8am, YHA departed 8am, arrived Eastbourne 2.30pm. .

22. Mik M

Eleven of us did Eastbourne to Winchester two weeks ago
 
Friday  four cars from Nottingham to  Telscome YHA  then cycled to Beachy Head via South Downs and back along the Coast Road the first afternoon
 
Saturday Telscome to Amberley via South Downs then dropped down to Fontwell Travel Lodge the second day
 
Sunday Cycle back up to Amberley then South Downs to the Sustainability Centre East Meon third day
 
Monday   East Meon to Winchester then back to the cars and a drive back to Nottingham
 
Involved moving four cars back and forward each day all ways two at each end but saved a lot on hire cars and we wouldn't have got eleven bikes on the train
 
Fantastic weekend very lucky with the weather Sunshine and not a drop of rain
 

23. Jon F

Winchester to Eastbourne 3 days; We stayed in two excellent B&Bs, Downsfold in Cocking and FourAcres in Fulking; I would highly recommend them.

24. Chris T

did it over two days from Eastbourne to Winchester. Stayed at Gumbar Bothy which I can highly recommend to everybody.
-rode a old & heavy Claud Butler hard tail with a Topeak MTX rack and pannier set which worked really well. Used Schwalbe Land Cruiser tyres- no punctures until I got off the train in Eastbourne!!!! Taking spare brake pads would also have been a good plan.
I am 37, male, reasonably fit, but carry excess baggage. I had to push up quite a few of the climbs but thoroughly enjoyed the two days. I think the split was 60/45 miles & to be honest the first day was a bit long for me.

25. Tom A

Three of us completed the SDW over two days on the 17th and 18th July. Two of us had done the ride two years previously, also over two days. The third member of our group had not, but has a lot of experience cycling long distances having done a 7,000+ mile cycle in Africa a few years ago.

Day 1
Winchester-Charlton (near Cocking). Conditions were good with a light tail wind and temperatures around 21 degrees. We made good progress having set off from Winchester around 10, and got to Queen Elizabeth Country park for an early lunch. Knowing that we only had another 15-odd miles to do we took our time after lunch, and with a fair bit of faffing got to Charlton around 5. We stayed with relatives of mine, so bed and barbecue were laid on for us.

Day 2
Charlton-Eastbourne. The longer day, with approximately 65 miles to cover. We decided to do the split this way as we had cycled East-West last time so wanted to try doing it differently, and  more importantly the forecast wind was a moderate SW, so we didn't fancy battling into that for 100 miles...After a fairly easy first day and 8.15am departure, we made good progress in the morning and got to Devil's Dyke around 1 o'clock, and the wind was, as we'd hoped, mostly behind us. We pressed on as far as Ditching Beacon before taking a siginificant break, by which time we certainly needed it! After lunch was pretty gruelling, with long climbs, hot sun and rising temperatures, and an ice cream in Alfriston couldn't come soon enough. Two hard climbs remained after Alfriston (from the village up to Windover Hill- and again from Jevington up Bourne Hill) but knowing it was the last leg did help...We got to Eastbourne around 6, flying down the steep grassy hill into town. Fish and chips on the beach felt well-earned.

Other
I was on a Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo with upgraded (Rockshox Reba) forks and Panaracer Cinder tyres. Rob was on a Specialized Rockhopper Expert with stock tyres, and Steve was on a Kona Kula also with stock kit. In contrast to our last ride, where we got 11 punctures between us, this time we completed the SDW without a single one. The only mechanical problem we had was a brake pad failure on the first day (something Avid Juicys are prone to), but we had a spare set so that was easily fixed.

We all found it a tough ride, and some more substantial training runs would certainly have taken the edge off it. Doing the longer section on the second day may have made things slightly harder for us, but having the wind in our favour was probably more important. We all enjoyed it and are keen to explore some of the routes around the SDW, particularly in the Devil's Dyke area. Either that or put the training in and aim to do the whole thing in one day!

26. Stuart H

Four 31 year old blokes, one who lives in Storrington, cycles 3 – 4 times a week, the rest of us thought we were reasonably fit until we tried to do the SDW. 3 of us started in Winchester, at around 11:30am on Friday morning, two on hard tails, and one on full suspension – all had hydraulic disk brakes. We were aiming to get to Graffam where we were booked into the Forresters Arms. We thought we were making good progress, until we missed the left turn by the Millerry pub. We then got very lost in the Queen Elizabeth Park, as we followed a sign saying “Cyclists this way – Walkers Only Straight on” without realising it was taking us off in a big loop! Whilst the trails were great fun, when on a schedule we didn’t really appreciate ending up back at the start point 50 mins after we left it.

We eventually arrived in Graffam around 21:30, as by the end of the day we were all shattered. I estimate we did about 42 miles that day, but one cycle computer (I lost mine earlier that day) read 52 miles (but I doubt the accuracy) The Forresters Arms is a great pub, we had a triple room en-suit which was about £30 per person. We phone our food orders ahead at 21:00 so that was ready and waiting for us when we arrived, and the land lady was very welcoming. Breakfast the next morning was huge!!!

We headed back up onto the SDW form there, met our mate from Storrington up on the trail, and made our way to Devils Dyke for a few beers and then on to Pyecombe – stayed at Dolphin Cottage which was brilliant again.

We then did very well, until we reached Alfriston! We saw the two routes of SDW on the map, but failed to realise the coastal route (which on paper looks the better of the two for scenery) was a footpath. We hacked our way down to the grassy valley you mention in your photos, and up the other side to Jevington, to pick up the bridle path again.

All in all though, a great 3 days riding, and thanks again for all the great information on your site.

The bikes – all running off road MTB tyres

Felt Q820 hard tail, with hydraulic disks

Giant hard tail, with hydraulic disks

Cannondale full sus with hydraulic disks

Garry Fisher full sus with hydraulic disks

27. Michael P

June 2010: We were 6 casual cyclists, mostly unfit , aged 47 - 65. Started in Winchester on a Wednesday morning and completed in Eastbourne on Friday afternoon (3 days cycling). We all had MTB, mostly hardtails, but none costing more than £300. We carried minimal clothes in small rucksacks and all had spare inner tubes and at least 1.5l of water. Basic tool and first aid kits carried as well.

Day 1:  I live near Winchester, so everyone stayed with me before starting and we were at King Alfred's statue for 7.15pm. Early start because of the traffic and heat wave! Trail is well marked at the Winchester end at the moment. Used the official temporary route up to Old Winchester Hill (great views), but would imagine the old temporary route (through Warnford, up the road) is quicker. The charge down Butser Hill was wonderfully dangerous!

Lunch at QEP (good but slow service with long queue). Moonlight Cottage in Cocking (Sue and Steve very welcoming and helpful) is perfectly placed for first overnight stop. Pub just up the road does good food and limited accommodation.

Day 2: Lunch at pub in Washington, the Frankland Arms (simple, filling pub food, about a mile off the SDW). Evening at Hobbs Cottage in Pyecombe (perfectly placed for SDW, but noisy with the A24 close by. Comfortable and welcoming B&B). Evening meal at the Plough in Pyecombe. Interesting Spanish-themed menu.

Day 3: Lunch in Alfriston. Too hot to sit in the garden without shade! Good place to fill up on food and liquid before the final haul into Eastbourne. Had a celebration swim in Eastbourne (would have been on bikes, but the shingle won't let you!) and got collected by a local minibus (info@connectionsuk.eu -  good value and on time) on the seafront to stay at a friends in East Grinstead.  

Notes. We all really enjoyed our cycle although it was hard work for us. Cycling in the heat (around 24-28C) added about 2 hours to each day. We probably were on the bikes for 8 hours each day with a 1hr lunch stop. Will avoid June in the future!  We pushed up about 6-8 of the steepest ascents (a bit disappointingly). Knowledge of water points essential - thanks Anthony!  Used Paul Millmore's national trail guide 'The South Downs Way' for maps and other information.

Stunning views for most of the trail and mostly empty, apart from 200+ charity walkers near Rodmell! Polite bell ringing and tolerance required. The walkers said they preferred to have 'BIKE' shouted when approached from behind. Temporary bridge at Southease working very well. 2 punctures.  

Looking to repeating the journey next year, in 2 days. Did Eastbourne to Winchester (3 days) last year, and didn’t think it was  much harder or easier.  Choose your wind direction carefully!

28 David G.

cycled a bit of the South downs this summer, aged 58 a Sunday cyclist on a fairly standard bike, though with good quality tyres. On my own. Started 24th of July got to Winchester 27th
 
I cycled from London on the Downs & Weald cycle route stopping first at Salfords a few miles South of Redhill, far enough from my start at Kings Cross particularly as until I checked thought I was going to Redhill itself, stayed in Premier Inn very comfortable, everything needed on site -beer+ food. No problems about bringing bike into lobby.
Second night at Four Acres extensively reviewed already, great place to stop,lovely setting. Great pub in village but after a hot Sunday almost all food gone, only fish and chips left. Vey hard to get a phone signal ( t mobile) but there is a box in the village. Provided excellent packed lunch (but no drink which needed). Climbed to SDW at Steyning having cycled around Barber for a while -loosing my way a common theme. Perhaps someone can do a guide to easier routes up to the Way-because that one is a real hard climb. Found the route hard work was very glad that had arranged for next nights stay -Moonlight Tea rooms-to pick up my luggage. It's expensive but for me well worth it -you do need to watch how much you carry. Track much as others have described, hard, not always clearly marked, some serious ruts at least in July, tractor wheel sized in some cases, in others hidden by grass -fell off due to both sorts.
Moonlight lovely as described by others, the Bluebell in the same town does really good food but it is expensive, worth it if you can afford it, otherwise The Moonlighters will do food but it must be ordered in advance.
I had the Harveys map which is OK but if and when you stray off the SDW -and signage can be very vague (and navigation seems to be one of my weak points) it isn't much help.

29 Alan S

I am just writing to say I have just finished (23 – 25 August 2010) a ride to Eastbourne and thanks to the info on your site, and other research, it was trouble-free.

I downloaded and tweaked your GPS routes (to fit them better to my meeting points and to extend the end to Eastbourne Pier).  For your info I used www.maptogps.com to confirm and amend them and EasyGPS to file, edit and upload them to my Garmin eTrex H.  Although I carried the appropriate OS Explorer maps as back-up I never needed them en-route.

I did, however, go off track a couple of times.  The first was on day one on Harting Down were I missed the sharp right turn and tried to ride up Beacon Hill.  It was only when I stalled that I looked at the GPS and saw my error!  The second time was in the woods on the way down into Jevington where I just followed a deeply muddied bridle path for a couple of hundred metres instead of taking a left bearing down the official slippery, slidey route.

I also came off a couple of times without injury or embarrassment as there weren’t any witnesses!

You may be interested to know that the temporary bridge and route at Southease is quite efficient although a little daunting when seeing orange and white cones spread across the road before diversion signs are seen.

The track out of Littleton Farm was a sea of liquid mud but it was possible to ride on the “ledge” on the left side.

I thought Eastbourne Pier was going to be a more significant terminus but I did pause at Paradise drive for the obligatory photo.

30 Steve & Lesley (June 2011)

We travelled to Winchester by train for an early start, on what turned out to be a beautiful sunny day - although on the final 30 miles or so we struggled against really strong head-winds that threatened to blpw us off the bikes, and often blew us off the line we'd chosen, making things rather challenging to say the least. We took 12 3/4 hours from start to finish, just managing to catch the last train home. A very long and hard day, but the fantastic views along the way, and the immense feeling of achieving what was a serious personal challenge made it all worthwhile.

 31 Steve Ian Alex (June 2011)

Your website proved a valuable tool for our preparation to cycle from Winchester to meet our better halves at the campsite in Alfriston. We left at 5:40 am and lost Alex near Cheesefoot Head with a puncture and 5 broken spokes. Almost forgot to take the sharp right hand turn shortly after, but fortunately remembered the picture on your site. Fuelled up on Power Shot Energy bars, banana and 'chewybars' as well as water refills and the regular water taps from Cocking (by the way the tap at the River Adur has been dismantled above the water trough). Finally made it to Alfriston at 6:50pm (13 hrs 10 mins including a 45 min delay with Alex's wheel issue!). We travelled light on our front suspension HTs with just a 3 litre capacity saddle bag and relied on water from taps (with energy powder added), wind was an issue especially from SouthEase to Alfriston, by which time we were looking forward to a well earned pint!

32 Ros H (June 2011)

A girlfriend and I have just 'done' the SDW in 3 days and raised nearly £1000 for breast cancer research. I spent just 8 weeks training to get fit to do this after finishing surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy for breast cancer, so this was a great challenge for me at 57 years old! I started off pathetically unfit, 15 minutes on an exercise bike was enough, but built up my strength gradually until one day I could actually stand up on the pedals and push! The best training was spending time in the saddle around our local tracks, and this was helped by a long period of lovely dry weather. I pushed myself a bit in training on trails around the Winchester area but even then I wasn't fully prepared for some of those South Downs hills!! I managed to get up many of them in the saddle but was forced to walk at times, especially as it was very wet and muddy everywhere, following heavy rain.
 
Your website was really useful thank you - it helped us plan where to stay and decide on how many days to take. Three days was perfect for me, but I think stronger cyclists could do it in 2 days easily if they didn't spend too much time stopping for photos and coffees.
We cycled for 7 hours per day and arrived between 4 and 5pm at our accommodation. We saw very few other riders - probably owing to the poor weather prior to our trip - all the sensible people were waiting for the sun! Walkers were all very friendly and we were careful not to mow them down (much).
 
We stayed at Moonlight Tea Rooms In Cocking on the first night (approx a third of the way from Winchester) and had a warm welcome, tea and cake, hosepipe to wash our bikes, comfy beds, TV and a good evening meal and breakfast, with double yolk eggs from Steve's chickens. A great B & B.
 
We visited the Bluebell pub in Cocking - refurbished over a year ago and really stylish and pleasant without being flashy. The real ale (TEA) was excellent and fellow guests who ate there said the food was lovely. They also do B & B and the barmaid said the bedrooms had all been refurbished recently.
 
On our second night we stayed at 'Four Acres' B & B in Fulking. Again, great facilities for bike washing, tea and biscuits galore, huge bedroom and luxury bathroom and sooo peaceful (you will hear owls, foxes etc). Sarah has the house up for sale though, so not sure what will happen here in future.
 
We ate at the Sheperd and Dog in Fulking. Classy yet hearty food, but not cheap, especially the deserts. Worth it though for a good feed and a fine choice of ales. Friendly helpful staff too. It got suprisingly busy for a Monday night - obviously a well run place. They are so busy on Sundays that they don't even accept bookings!
 
We were confounded at the start of the trip because Southern Trains did not allow bikes on any trains due to the London to Brighton Bike Ride, until after 1200, so we couldn't get to the start at Eastboune. At the last minute we had to change our plans and start at Winchester (but that was good as we had the wind with us!)
 
A word of warning for those using trains via London or Brighton. Southern Trains will not accept cycles (unless booked) on trains arriving/leaving at peak times, so do check it out before you travel. This was not obvious from looking at their website and we did not book in advance as we weren't sure when we would arrive at the end of the trail. As it was, we worked very hard to reach Eastbourne by 1600 so as to get back home for a slap up supper, only to be told we could not travel back west along the south coast until 1900. How frustrating to have to wait 3 hours in muddy wet clothes - although we did enjoy the time in the pub in the end!! Southern Trains are very poor at communicating these restrictions. Other cyclists were caught out by this too and there was a very grumpy atmosphere at Brighton station!

Graham D:

Another comment I have is that the hills on the second day were a lot harder than the first and I don' think this is quite reflected in your site (although maybe I am being a wimp here!). Especially difficult I thought were the climbs out of Saddlescombe (although short) Alfriston (I walked up through the woods but cycled the path after crossing the road) and Southease.

The Hungy Monk at Jevington where they invented banoffee pie has closed down (now flats), but a plaque on the building remains.  As far as eating places go I recommend the Smugglers Inn, Alfriston for its large beer garden that you can take your bike into and leave without worrying about. Also very generous food portions!

 

33. Dave & Peter

I just arranged a last minute trip over August Bank Holiday 2015. Here's our experience:

I cycled with my son Peter from West to East. We drove down to Winchester on Friday, ready to start riding on Saturday morning. Tourist Information found a Bed & Breakfast for Friday and I used the "pay by phone" facility to leave the van in Chesil Street multi storey car park (£8 for 72 hours).

Lunchtime at "The Millbury's" at Beauworth, near Cheriton. It started raining as we approached Queen Elizabeth Park. Thanks for the tip to stay on the tarmac past the Visitor Centre. We missed a signpost in the woods and popped out near the church at Burriton. Used the OS map to follow the "B" roads to Graffam. We stayed at the Foresters Arms on Saturday night (Moonlight Tearooms were full). We arrived like two drowned rats with half an hour's daylight to spare. The landlord made us extremely welcome and took our wet clothes to the utility room where they dried overnight. We were travelling light, only had one pair of shoes each, so arrived in the bar barefoot. The landlord lent us dry socks! Food and beer was great Highly recommended.

Sunday was dry and 60km later we were at Brighton YHA (the hostel on the trail was full). Brighton YHA doesn't have a drying room, but just managed to dry washing on the heated towel rail.

Abandoned the trip on Monday when the rain returned and took trains via Southampton back to Winchester (cheaper than via Clapham Junction) to pick up the van and drive home

 

 

COMMENTS

 

1. Bar bag: could not manage without !  phone, camera, glasses, map, food, small bottle water, etc.all to hand, and on BHF ride, the tokens etc. Mine is 'creek 2 peek'. It has zip pocket at front as well ( I use that for phone, glasses), carry handle. Most also have a clear plastic map holder to clip on top, but make sure OS map fits when folded as mine did not. Other makes Altura, Ortileb. Bracket fixes to handlebar, then clicks on. I also use a Altura rack bag which fits to a 'bar beam' which clamps to seat/saddle pin . But I find have to fix at slight angle as my thighs foul it when riding, not enough to rub, but just annoying.

 

Please email any suggestions.