The kit inspection at the hut prior to
the hike was very useful. It highlighted some pack and boot issues and was a
good opportunity for some extra training. I was also able to hand out extra
equipment and explain the perils of walking near cliffs.
The first section of the hike is a nice stroll along the beach front followed by a slight hill up to the start of the South Downs Way. The amount of complaining we got from that small rise from the coast I thought we were going to be in for a dreadful day, especially as the next challenge was the infamous Beachy Head climb. Fortunately they started to warm up a bit and started to get into it. Most people needed to be encouraged to get to the top of Beachy Head but everyone loved the challenge. They all still collapsed at the top though!
The next section was along the cliffs where there was a 'situation' going on. A woman was sitting on the edge of the cliff being talked to by a rescue officer. She was obviously considering jumping. This of course led to some serious questions and discussion from the Scouts which I think were productive. I assured the Scouts that now that people were on the scene the lady would most likely change her mind. We carried on.
The views across to Belle Toute lighthouse and the in-your-face geology started to interest them all and we were able to tell them much of what they wanted to know about the rocks and the formation of the landscape. Lunch was at Birling Gap where the Scouts brewed tea and hot choc and wolfed down lunch. The temperature was getting very low by now, around -1 but with wind chill too, so we soon got ourselves together and started the Seven Sisters to warm up again.
After what had been done already the Seven Sisters would be a real challenge to anyone new to hiking and so there was a certain amount of coaxing needed to keep some people going over this roller-coaster ride of small hills. The rest of the Scouts were doing better than expected and I think were surprising themselves with their new-found stamina. By the end they were all reasonably tired but feeling very proud of themselves.
The bad news was - this wasnít the last hill. Exceat Hill overlooks the famous meanders at Cuckmere Haven and Foxhole Farm where we camped last year. Itís also the next part of the South Downs Way and would take us to our finish point at Exceat. That last bit just about finished them all off! Whatís worse Ė we watched the ice-cream van drive away 5 minutes before we got there. Nooooooo!
We arrived at Exceat bus stop about 3 minutes
before the bus, took a very pleasant ride back to Eastbourne Station and got on
the train home 2 minutes before it left. Perfect timing or what! After changing
trains twice we were back at the hut for 6.15 and were able to pack away all of
the equipment and say goodbye to lots of sleepy people by 6.30.